Glasgow's future vision;Letter

10th April 1998 at 01:00
As the father of two children who will one day benefit from state education within Glasgow, an English secondary school teacher for 13 years and the leader of Scotland's largest education authority, I can assure John Cairney (March 13) and all our opponents of my unwavering commitment to provide the best education possible for Glasgow's pupils.

It was precisely for that reason we decided to embark on a rationalisation programme: closing six secondary schools and reinvesting the money in Glasgow's remaining schools. It was a decision taken reluctantly, only after extensive consultation. To explore and clarify the many relevant issues raised by justifiably concerned parents, this exercise lasted two months - considerably longer than the period required by statute.

During that period, 27 meetings, attracting 3,097 members of the public, were held, 328 written submissions were received, and eight petitions, containing 6,201 signatures were accepted. Hardly a "sham" or "pointless exercise".

We want to have 28 strategically placed, quality secondaries by 2001, each providing a six-year curriculum, including the new Higher Still. Schools will also be encouraged to develop specialisms: performing arts, sports, languages and technology-based courses linked to FE.

We're also working to secure around pound;100 million of public and private finance to refurbish those 28 schools, and provide them with the most modern facilities. In the current bleak economic climate, this is a very substantial sum of money, every penny of which will be spent on the schools.

It was also explained to parents that any pupil affected by closure would have a high-priority placing to any Glasgow school, and receive free transport (bus, train, or school bus) if two miles or more from home. This is extremely generous because Scottish Office guidelines state that a school should be three miles away before any such assistance is granted.

What appears to have been conveniently forgotten by our opponents is the prohibitive cost of keeping schools open that are grossly under-occupied. In the case of St. Leonard's, there are 540 pupils on roll for a capacity of 1,581! That discrepancy is alarming enough; but the real scale of the problem is revealed by the fact that two of the remaining five secondaries are only one-fifth occupied.

My council cannot - and will not - continue to plough scarce resources into expensive-to-maintain buildings, to the detriment of our pupils. And, again, all of the pound;7 million saved by this ambitious rationalisation programme will be spent on education exclusively.

Father Bob Gardner's claim that "once again it is the poorer areas that are being hit" is completely inaccurate. On the contrary, our consultation document emphasised that the eight schools in Glasgow's seven regeneration areas - the most deprived areas in the city - will get additional teachers from August 1998.

These are the policies that Glasgow City Council, under my leadership, will continue to pursue; creating an education system for the new millennium that is second to none, one in which every child is given the best possible start in life.

Frank McAveety, Leader, Glasgow City Council

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