Parents fighting to keep St Joseph’s Primary in Milngavie have published proposals for a community hub that save the school and mean a new library and improved sports facilities that would benefit the whole community.
A paper drafted by Paula Speirs, a management consultant with almost 20 years experience working with the public sector, has been sent to all East Dunbartonshire councillors ahead of the formal consultation, which is due to start next week.
Campaigners say a Freedom of Information Request to the council has revealed that a shared campus with St Joseph’s and a non-denominational primary in Milngavie would produce savings of at least £91,000 per annum.
Laureen McIntyre, Chair of St Joseph’s Parent Council, said: “St Joseph’s Primary has been at the heart of the Milngavie community for well over 100 years. We are the fastest growing school in the whole of East Dunbartonshire and we want to stay where we belong.
“We were very disappointed when the council ignored Archbishop Tartaglia’s personal plea for them to bring forward alternatives to closure, but we have used the time over the summer to do the job ourselves.
“A shared campus or a community hub would be a very popular option for the whole of Milngavie because it brings with it the opportunity to develop new sports facilities, a baby clinic or a new library on a single site.
“Gordon Currie’s comments in last week’s paper that a shared campus is ‘neither financially sustainable or the best way to support the values of Roman Catholic education’ show he is out of touch.
“East Dunbartonshire Council has been forced to admit that a shared campus would produce savings of almost £100,000 a year. We believe that they could actually be much greater if officials looked at the issue with more imagination.
“Furthermore, the idea that the council is supporting the values of Catholic education by trying to close the only Catholic school in Milngavie is just laughable. We are offering them a solution.”
Ms Speirs said: “Our paper is intended to show that there are alternative options available to East Dunbartonshire Council that will provide an affordable and sustainable solution, whilst at the same time, enabling the Council to boost services across the whole community of Milngavie.
“Look what Midlothian Council have just agree to develop with Newbattle Community School. Facing the same challenges as East Dunbartonshire, they were considering closing a local school, library and leisure centre. Instead, they have now brought them all onto a single site. This isn’t a new idea, in fact East Dunbartonshire are the last local authority in Scotland to consider this.”
Susan Lavrie, Tuesday Club Leader, said: “Our Tuesday Club has been running since 1975 and for more than 20 years within St Joseph’s Primary School. The only Club of its kind in the area it caters for adults with additional support needs. F
“orty members and friends weekly attend this happy club with suitable facilities, supportive school staff and a central location. Loss of this site is unacceptable to us as it would result in loss of members.
“East Dunbartonshire Council have this wonderful site with extensive facilities including much needed football pitches which should be utilised and I would urge them to consider the excellent proposals offered.”
Gordon Currie, Head of Education, said: “East Dunbartonshire Council is widely recognised for both its investment and support of religious education in Roman Catholic schools and we remain committed to providing high quality denominational education.
“It is worth remembering that before reaching this point in our Primary School Improvement Programme (PSIP), with this particular proposal for St. Joseph’s, many options - including that of a shared campus - were considered but ruled out following assessment.
“It is also worth remembering that one of the main aims of the PSIP is to address issues of under-occupancy at schools like St. Joseph’s. Despite an increase in the roll over the last three years, it is currently 52 per cent under-occupied and forecast to remain so for the next decade. It is about providing first class schools where they are needed.
“I have been sent a copy of the Alternative Options Paper, produced by the group and will of course read it thoroughly. As we approach the statutory consultation process there will be an opportunity for all views and suggestions to be aired.”