D-Day in the fight to save St Joseph’s in Milngavie

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 have urged the council to heed warnings from Milngavie Community Council about the plans.

Today marks D-Day for the school - as councillors will vote on whether to merge it with St Andrew’s in Bearsden.

Parents hope administration councillors will break ranks and help save Milngavie’s only Catholic school.

In a letter to Milngavie councillors, the community council argues that closing the school will be detrimental to the community.

It said: “We’d like to reiterate that St Joseph’s Primary School is part of the fabric of the community of Milngavie, with the pupils of the school making a positive contribution to our local area.

“We are concerned that the arguments for the closure of St Joseph’s are focusing almost entirely on the financial arguments, with lip service being provided to the impact on the pupils and the community of the school being closed.”

East Dunbartonshire Council is due to vote on controversial proposals to close St Joseph’s and move the children to a new build in Bearsden at a special meeting, in East Dunbartonshire Council’s HQ in Kirkintilloch, tonight (Thursday, May 15).

The community council also hits out at the local authority for failing to give serious consideration to alternatives to closure that havebeen proposed by parents, such as a shared campus with another school in Milngavie or redeveloping St Joseph’s as part of a community hub.

They said: “We are disappointed to note the lack of meaningful ongoing engagement and consultation with key stakeholders and hope that this can be rectified.

“We seek reassurance that a genuine analysis of these alternatives to closure will been undertaken in terms of cost, educational benefits and impact socially and emotionally.”

Laureen McIntyre, chair of St Joseph’s Parent Council, said: “We welcome the intervention of Milngavie Community Council. This is another example of the support St Joseph’s has received right across the community.

“As the community council recognise, shutting us down will take away facilities, such as wrap-around care, that parents at other schools rely on and if this proposal goes through it will be detrimental to the community as a whole.

“It is worth recalling that the number of pupils at St Joseph’s has risen faster than any other school in East Dunbartonshire over the past three years. We are a popular and growing school and we want to stay where we belong.

“There are alternative options on the table, which councillors need to look at in a much more meaningful way.”

Parents were due to stage a protest at the council headquarters as the decision was made.

Gordon Currie, director of East Dunbartonshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services, said: “To suggest that this proposal has not been thoroughly researched and analysed is simply not true.

“Many options, including a shared campus, were considered but the proposal that is being considered provided the best balance of educational and financial benefits.

“It is discussed at length within the public consultation report.

“Education Scotland has provided an independent assessment of the educational benefits of the proposal and stated that it ‘addresses the under capacity issues in the current primary schools and clearly offers upgraded facilities’.

“In terms of cost, the Primary School Improvement Programme for East Dunbartonshire is set to save around £1million per year and the savings from this proposal would play an important part in achieving that figure.

“This proposal, to build one new school to replace two very under-occupied schools is an opportunity to provide a more efficient and effective service.

“St Joseph’s Primary School roll has dropped 23 per cent in the last decade and the current joint roll of St Andrew’s Primary School and St Joseph’s Primary School is 424, the equivalent of the roll of St Andrew’s alone in 1999.

“Having said all that, the consultation report we published three weeks ago outlined some of the issues raised throughout the process - that was its purpose. “At their meeting, Councillors will consider all aspects of the proposal together with everything raised in the consultation responses.”