Sectarian claims hit Glasgow

9th January 1998 at 00:00
Glasgow looks set to kill off plans to force Scotland's only all-girls' secondary school out of its existing premises to become coeducational, as sectarian divisions threatened to erupt over the city's school reorganisation proposals.

The 830-pupil Notre Dame High has been the subject of a controversial "informal consultation" which envisaged it taking over the building occupied by North Kelvinside Secondary. North Kelvinside would have amalgamated with Cleveden Secondary as part of Glasgow's ambitious plans to reduce the number of secondaries from 38 to a maximum of 30 "strategically placed" schools.

This has enraged North Kelvinside parents who say their 470 pupils are being "evicted" to make way for a Roman Catholic school. Accusations of sectarian policies were repeatedly levelled during a highly charged meeting on Tuesday night, one of a series held this week to discuss the council's plans.

The North Kelvinside action group says in a statement that pupils "are being evicted to make way for Notre Dame. Our site is being sold to them as strategically placed and with buildings in excellent condition. Too good for us?" The theme was taken up at Tuesday's meeting by Hazel Dinnen, chair of the school's parent-teacher association and a member of the school board. "Why are you running a two-tier system instead of an integrated non-denominational system?" she asked Ken Corsar, the director of education.

The council's proposals would mean there would be three "strategically placed" Catholic secondaries in the north of Glasgow, Mrs Dinnen said.

She was supported by George Walker, another parent, who said that Notre Dame and St Thomas Aquinas Secondary each required more than Pounds 1 million spent on their buildings compared with Pounds 562,000 on North Kelvinside.

Commenting on the proposals to create secondary schools of 800-plus pupils, Jaimie Webster, a parent, urged Mr Corsar: "Be brave. Bring Notre Dame here to join us and you'll have your 800 pupils. Upgrade our facilities and you'll have your coeducational school."

While Mr Corsar was not prepared to anticipate any change of policy on the hoof, he was anxious to calm tempers by decoupling the Notre Dame and North Kelvinside proposals. "One is not contingent on the other," he assured parents.

It was "a perfectly possible scenario" that the Notre Dame consultations would be taken no further, he said. Mr Corsar hinted at some sympathy with the view that Notre Dame should remain where it was unchanged on the grounds that it represented choice and specialisation. The council wants to extend these values to all schools as part of "modernising the comprehensive principle", as its Pounds 71 million reinvestment plan is called.

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