Council’s ‘sinister’ move to close school

Protests
Protests

Education chiefs have been accused of “manipulating conditions” to justify their decision to close St Joseph’s Primary School.

The claim came after a Freedom of Information request by the school’s parent council revealed that a number of children were refused entry into the school in 2015/16.

The figures released seem to show that four children were unsuccessful in gaining a placement request at the school, although the council say there were only two.

Save Our School campaigners claim the unsuccessful placing requests are part of a wider scheme to reduce pupil numbers - backing the council’s argument that there are not enough pupils to sustain the school.

However, according to the council these pupils were refused a place because it would have increased class sizes to the point where more teachers would be needed.

Paula Speirs, a spokeswoman for the school’s parent council, said: “We are concerned East Dunbartonshire Council wants to run our pupil numbers and our school down.

“We believe this is sinister behaviour by a council which will apparently stop at nothing in their quest to end Catholic education in Milngavie, even when there are no revenue savings to be gained.”

SNP group leader Ian Mackay said: “The Labour/Tory and until recently Lib Dem administration are so determined to close St Joseph’s before the council elections in May 2017 they will manipulate conditions to justify their position. There were three main reasons for their original proposal, one of which was under occupation so what better way to engineer this by refusing placing requests? The other two criteria for closing St Joseph’s were revenue savings and educational benefit to the pupils. Everyone now accepts there will be no revenue savings from the proposed merger and no educational benefit for the displaced pupils.”

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “It is insulting to suggest that East Dunbartonshire Council would deliberately manipulate the places given to pupils at St Joseph’s Primary School in order to achieve a political goal.

“The council always grants placing request where it can and has a clear policy describing the limited number of circumstances in which we would not grant a request.”

She continued: “Unfortunately, across all our 44 schools we sometimes need to refuse requests - although we granted 821 requests last year, 126 requests were refused.

“The most common reason to refuse a request is that the school would be required to employ an additional teacher to accommodate the additional pupil, which is exactly what happened at St Joseph’s last year.”

Jacqui MacDonald, the council’s chief education officer confirmed a small number of placing requests were refused this year for St Joseph’s.

She explained: “To have accepted these requests into year groups that were already full would have exceeded national class size limits and would have required the council to have employed an additional teacher to accommodate the additional pupil.

“The same criteria are applied to all schools across East Dunbartonshire and this decision was not influenced by any other factors. Although individual classes are full, latest figures show the school building is 58 per cent under-occupied. It has capacity for 289 pupils and currently has only six classes.”

For more reaction visit www.milngavieherald.co.uk