February 9 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

6-ST-MARTIN'S-RENTON

Catholic education at risk from school closure plan, parents claim

Parents campaigning against the closure of their school have said the plans could result in children being lost to Catholic education – and have called for support from the Church — By RYAN MCDOUGALL

West Dunbartonshire Council have held informal meetings with parents about the future of St Martin’s Primary School, Renton; St Mary’s Primary School, Alexandria; and Renton Primary School.

Parents at St Martin’s said they have been told their school faces closure.

Drew MacEoghainn, whose children attend St Martin’s, said: “When you hear the archbishop talking about 100 years of Catholic education you really think about how important St Martin’s is—it’s been here for 118 years, way before the Act.

“There’s a chance that because of the distance to St Mary’s, a lot of the parents will send their kids to Renton Primary instead, which means that say 25-30 kids will be lost from Catholic education.

“My grandfather went to the school, my gran, my nanny, we’ve all been educated there. Although we don’t have a high school, it’s still 65 pupils. A few years ago there was only 50, but now we have inward migration so numbers are increasing.”

He urged the Church to back their call to keep the school open. He said: “If the Catholic Church in Scotland flex their muscles here, we will have St Martin’s for another 118 years. What we are fighting currently is the eradication of more than a century of Catholic education in our village.”

St Martin’s campaigners claim the council told them plans were in place to close and merge their school with St Mary’s Primary in Alexandria.

Parents have launched a petition to save the school, which holds 65 pupils, and set up a ‘Save St Martin’s Primary’ pressure group.

West Dunbartonshire Community Party councillor Jim Bollan said the council has not given any reason for the plans.

“It’s not the first time they’ve tried this,” he said. “It dates back to about 2009, and the second attempt to do this was in 2015.”

The closure could mean that pupils would have to travel to St Mary’s Primary in Alexandria. Mr Bollan said: “This would be a terrible journey for those without a car—it’s about a 30-minute walk. Also, a few years ago St Mary’s was said to be unfit for purpose, and now they want to send them there.

“Some of the parents have said there must’ve been a miracle in the last three years for it to now apparently be suitable.”

A petition to prevent the closure already has more than 250 signatures.

Mr Bollan said: “To say the parent council were devastated and gobsmacked is an understatement,

“On February 7 there’s a public meeting being called at St Martin’s Chapel Hall where the public can come along and have their say about the closure of the school.

“I think to lose St Martin’s Primary would be a major blow for Renton, and I think that coupled with the other closures such as the CE centre and library has had an effect on what people think of living there, but we’ve seen and done this all before and we’ll happily do it again.”

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman said: “Informal meetings are being held this week with St Martin’s, St Mary’s and Renton Primary School parent councils to provide advance notice of a proposal to consult with parents and carers on the regeneration of the Alexandria schools estate.

“It will be for the education committee to decide whether to take the consultation forward when it meets in March.”

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