Council votes to close St Joseph’s - but parents vow to fight on

Photograph Jamie Forbes 26.4.14  MILNGAVIE Oakburn Park parents protest march to Milngavie precinct to keep St Joseph's PS open.
Photograph Jamie Forbes 26.4.14 MILNGAVIE Oakburn Park parents protest march to Milngavie precinct to keep St Joseph's PS open.

Parents fighting to save St Joseph’s Primary School have pledged to continue their campaign after East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC) voted to end over 140 years of Catholic education in Milngavie.

Councillors agreed to spend £8million on building a new denominational school in Bearsden on the site of St Andrew’s Primary.

This sounded the death knell for St Joseph’s - where parents have mounted a vigorous anti-closure campaign.

Today, they vowed they would not give up.

Laureen McIntyre, chair of St Joseph’s Parent Council, said “Our message to councillors is that we are not going away and our fight will go on.”

EDC voted by 14 votes to 10 to push ahead with the closure. They also voted to merge St Flannan’s and St Agatha’s in Kirkintilloch.

Parents protested outside the meeting and over 500 people in both Milngavie and Bearsden took part in the formal consultation with 87 per cent opposed to closure.

A petition to save the school has now soared past 1,700 signatures and celebrities including actress Dorothy Paul and former Scotland star Murdo MacLeod have backed the campaign.

Parents will now ask the Scottish Government to call-in the decision.

Lawyers have also been consulted about a possible legal challenge.

Ms McIntyre said: “Throughout this campaign we have been overwhelmed with support from across the community and we want to say thank you.

“Our message to councillors is that we are not going away and our fight will go on. Parents, pupils and teachers at St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s all disagree with this merger and we have the full support of our church.

“We have proven that St Joseph’s primary school is a cherished part of our community and we will now be asking the Scottish Government to call-in this decision and overturn it.

“East Dunbartonshire Council’s refusal to listen to the people they are supposed to represent shows an outrageous level of arrogance and unaccountability.

“The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors who voted this through should hang their heads in shame. They need to understand that our community is united, they cannot divide us and we will not be defeated.”

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “Building these two new schools represents the best option by far in terms of the educational benefits they bring to our young people. They will provide an excellent learning environment that will better support and enhance the Curriculum for Excellence.

“For example, more flexible learning spaces that provide more teaching capacity for areas like music, science, drama and the arts, while the sports facilities, including the outdoor MUGA (multi use games area), will enable dedicated quality physical education for every pupil.

“The buildings will also be equipped with excellent WIFI facilities to enable access to computer technology for every pupil, advancing their skills and learning in this important area.

“These educational benefits have been recognised by Education Scotland, the national government body responsible for supporting quality and improvement in learning and teaching, and have been our priority in making this decision. However, they have not been our only consideration. We also looked closely at the financial implications, given our responsibility to ensure that we provide value for money to taxpayers.

“We must achieve £20 million in budget savings over the next three years and pouring money into old, out-dated buildings rather than using that money to enhance our education provision is not cost-effective.

“We have carried out in-depth consultation with all stakeholders, including the local community, school community and the Catholic Church and we have taken all of these views into consideration and our consultation report details our response.

“This is a complex issue and we have taken all the evidence and feedback from our consultation on board in making these decisions. We will continue to work with all of our stakeholders in delivering the new schools which we believe provide the best educational outcome for these young pupils.”