School Closures

71732-parents-protest-at-school-closure-proposal-200Glasgow City Council has just announced a major program of school closures. These will allow the Council to save £3.72m estimate per year eventually, less the £0.25m extra cost of bussing children to the surviving schools, a net saving of £3.5m per year.

Campaigns of parents, workers, community at those schools have already started.

Here we will give details of the closures and the campaigns – including a lot of information which has not made it into mainstream media.

Stop Press – the Executive Committee of Glasgow City Council on Friday 23rd January at 11:00 voted for the school closures to go ahead:

  • Labour – all 12 Labour councillors present voted for the school closures (one other Labour Councillor was not present at that part of the meeting and so did not vote). Labour has an inbuilt majority of 13 out of 20 councillors on the committee, so that meant the closure program was passed regardless of how the other parties voted.
  • Liberal Democrats – abstained, did not vote.
  • Scottish National Party – voted against the school closures.
  • Scottish Green Party – voted against the school closures.

See the ‘Key Dates’ section below for timetable of the next set of Council votes on this.

Why is this being done?

Glasgow City Council has just ran into a £6m budget overspend for financial year 2008/09. That is not much money: representing only 0.5% of the total budget, but it is still enough to cause a panicky last minute search for services to cut quickly. Schools are the biggest target, but hefty cuts in the overtime shift rates paid to council workers in other departments are also planned.

The school closures are especially a mark of desperation because the Council just went through a planned primary school closure program two years ago. That was mostly uncontentious – except for Carnwardric Primary which put up a real fight – partly because it included new school buildings and investment in many of the cases.

The Council expects Glasgow primary school rolls to rise for the first time in decades, from 60% capacity now to 68% in a few years time. So everyone expected the primary school estate to be essentially stable after the impact of the most recent closures and construction worked its way through.

This time, its a pure financial cuts exercise.

What caused the budget shortfall?

Poor financial management from Glasgow City Council – they are meant to keep a contingency fund in their budget to deal with emergencies and cost overspsends. That fund has been raided over recent years allowing no room for the unexpected. In the year before the last elections, the Labour administration of Glasgow City Council froze its council tax rates as a pre-election giveaway/bribe. Then, since the elections, the SNP Scottish Government has continued to freeze council tax rates across all Scotland. Council Tax, despite the name, counts for only a small proportion of council income, but the ongoing freeze still adds up.

When the recent rises in fuel prices – gas, electricity, diesel – hit the Council, they had no spare cash left. Amazingly, ordinary householders have been working out how to deal with the fuel price rises for many months, but the Council had continued on blissfully unaware of the impact until now. That seems to be a real failure on the part of the very senior (and very well paid) Directors and Chief Executive of the Council.

Communities need Primary Schools

Genuinely empty schools should not be kept open. But healthy schools at the heart of communities – such as these in this list – they should not be closed.

In two areas in the North West of Glasgow, Wyndford and Ruchill, both of their primary schools are to be closed. In both areas, very young children will need to be bussed to school because the replacement schools are 1, 2 or more miles away across busy roads.

This will cripple the education and community spirit of a whole generation of our young people. The long school journeys will damage the employment prospects of their parents. People who we ought to be investing in the future for, not scrimping £3.5m from.

Major regeneration – with large mixed private and social rented housing developments – is being planned for that area. Some of the proposals are so well developed that construction is expected to start in the next few months. The large scale demolitions initially considered by the Glasgow Housing Association have now been ruled out and refurbishment is about to commence on the housing in that area.

This housing will require a local primary school, along other facilities. It will need that, and will be given that eventually and it is wrong not to prepare for that now.

Close Just to Re-open Again

We would ask why this area is at long last to have its long derelict swimming baths and Burgh Halls re-opened, at great Council expense, only to have its schools swiped away from us with the other hand. We would ask why we have not learned from the lessons of Milton, where the imagined savings from closing St Augustine’s Secondary and its playing fields turned to nothing, and in the end cost the Council far more in refurbishing and reopening those facilities – after a generation of neglect and damage to the local youth and community generally. Will Glasgow City Council keep repeating its mistakes over and over again in similar communities across the City? The waste of closing facilities, then reopening them a few years later, is outrageous. And it is both a financial waste and a human and social waste.

Shared Campus

We would ask why no consideration has been given to the shared campus idea successfully worked out in Lanarkshire and elsewhere. Wyndford Primary and St. Gregory’s Primary actually back on to each other, they are divided only by a high fence. It would be an easy matter to have them share some buildings and facilities together while still retaining separate identities for education. The same could be done in Ruchill and elsewhere.

In fact, the Council plans to go back the way on this idea in Ruchill and Possil – see the ‘secret’ section below.

Weasel

Just 9 months ago Glasgow City Council tried to weasel out of its promises to provide free bus travel to the children suffering from the closure of St. Augustine’s in Milton. That was stopped after a local campaign, but few people will trust them not to at some point try the same thing on the many primary school children who will need bus travel after this.

Key Dates:

  • Executive of Glasgow City Council meeting to discuss Friday 23rd January at 11:00
  • And then full meeting of Glasgow City Council Thursday 29th January at 13:30
  • Executive of Glasgow City Council meeting to make decision 17th April 2009
  • And then full meeting of Glasgow City Council to confirm that 23rd April 2009

Council meetings open to public, although notification to City Chambers of attendance in advance may be required for access to be granted.

Secret

North West Glasgow is especially badly hit, with both Ruchill and both Wyndford
primary schools to be axed:

  • St Agnes Primary, 21 Tresta Road, Cadder
  • St Gregorys Primary, 186 Wyndford Road, Wyndford
  • Wyndford Primary, 116 Glenfinnan Drive, Wyndford
  • Ruchill Primary, 29 Brassey St, Ruchill
  • Our Lady of the Assumption Primary, 431 Bilsland Drive, Ruchill

This is especially curious for Ruchill. Just two years ago, the Council went through a consultation program to move those two primary schools, plus two others, into a proposed brand new super shared campus school. With that supposed to start in 2012, just three years away, it would seem to make no sense to be closing the Ruchill schools now.

But the dirty little secret within the Council is that the proposed new shared campus is now dead, due to lack of money. The Ruchill schools are just going to be plain shut instead, and the Ruchill kids bussed off into Hamiltonhill forevermore. Which will be bad for them, but good for the Council finances.

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