Parent takeover plans in First Minister’s hands

St Joseph's parents with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
St Joseph's parents with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

St Joseph’s Primary School parents have submitted final plans about running the school themselves to Scottish ministers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to examine the proposals drawn up by families after the council’s decision to close St Joseph’s Primary, which is the only Catholic school in Milngavie.

East Dunbartonshire Council plans to build a new merged Catholic school in Bearsden in the grounds of the current St Andrew’s Primary School.

The detailed business plan submitted by the community group claims that significant savings can be made by removing the school from council control.

This includes using volunteers for administrative roles, local businesses for maintenance and by attracting more income from private enterprises and charities.

Helen Williams, Chair of the Parent Council, said: “St Joseph’s is a beloved and successful school. When this process began it was the fastest growing school in the whole of East Dunbartonshire and it should never have been a candidate for closure.

“The council administration that pushed this proposal through against overwhelming opposition from the community has fallen apart. It is time for everyone to think again.

“Giving parents a bigger say would be good for children, good for schools and good for democracy.”

Terri Colpi, Business Development Director at Colpi’s ice cream shop, the oldest shop in Milngavie, said: “St Joseph’s Primary plays a vital role in Milngavie.

“In fact it’s a lot more than a school and is at the heart of many good things going on in our community. Milngavie without St Joe’s would be simply unthinkable.

“Many people are excited about the concept of St Joe’s becoming a community school. This would ensure its future and embed it within the town even more.”

There are already schools which are not run by local authorities, such as Jordanhill in Glasgow.

Gordon Currie, the council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, said: “It is our understanding that there is no legal mechanism in Scotland that would enable the school to be transferred to parental or community control.

“The Scottish Government has given us unconditional consent to establish a new £10 million denominational school in Bearsden to serve the school communities of St Andrew’s and St Joseph’s.

“This is part of a multi-million pound programme across East Dunbartonshire, to improve the educational experience of primary school pupils and address under-occupancy, improve learning environments and ensure that best value is achieved for the tax-payer.

“Consultation around the design of the new school is now underway and an interim parent council has been established with representatives from both schools and the Catholic Church. Design and building works project an opening date for the new school session 2017-18.”