Parents need reassurance about Glasgow

22nd October 2010 at 01:00

I put on the record in this very paper, two years ago, when the last of my four children left school, that Glasgow schools will give your youngsters a very satisfactory education. But that simply doesn't seem to be believed by many parents, who might be seen as ambitious for their children, and keen for them to go on to university and professions after school.

You can see the result of that in the leaching of middle-class families to East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire or, in some areas such as affluent Newlands on the city's south side, to the private sector. And, no matter how you look at it, far too many parents don't appear to have faith in their local Glasgow secondary.

That's a great pity. For the city and its schools are losing the sort of pupils they need at the top end, to pull the whole up by demonstrating and celebrating achievement and attainment. Their loss means Glasgow is forced to over-concentrate on the social and educational obstacles pupils face, a message that does nothing to keep the families needed to pay council tax.

Glasgow schools do well by their pupils, but both they and the council need to do more to celebrate that success and regain the confidence of those who have upped sticks and left either by house move, placing request or flight to the private sector (the last category sometimes including the children of staff in Glasgow schools who, shamefully, seem loathe to endorse their own product).

The lack of faith in Glasgow schools by ambitious parents, you could argue, might be reversed if parents looked at the evidence. For, although it is clear that some secondaries are underperforming, as far as able pupils are concerned, the majority are doing extremely well. The problem is that many people don't believe it.

That's a factor never so far aired in the St Ninian's High (pictured) overcrowding issue, which is out for consultation until November 5. The underlying problem is never honestly stated, which is that parents of children in the three Glasgow primaries involved - and with which they are well pleased - would do anything rather than send their children to Glasgow's own St Paul's High. Some parents even spoke of their homes losing about pound;20,000 in value if their children could not access St Ninian's.

Worse still, some very unfair and un-Catholic insults have been thrown at St Paul's by a minority of parents, despite the fact that it received a very satisfactory HMIE report. It also caters well for its pupils, including the more able. With the addition of pupils from Glasgow's owner- occupier belt, it could easily blossom into a second St Ninian's.

It's therefore vital that the powers-that-be work to reverse this trend of unfair public perception of their secondary schools. I can speak for my own family, and for the experience of many families whose children attended our local Catholic secondary, Holyrood, and say, hand on heart, that they could not have experienced a better education anywhere.

That is the message that Glasgow City Council (and, I suspect, Edinburgh, too, where the rush to the private sector is even greater) needs to get out on behalf of all of its secondaries: that middle-class parents can have faith in their local secondary.

Hugh Dougherty is former public relations manager with East Renfrewshire Council.

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