April 12 | comments icon 18 COMMENTS     print icon print

9B-MAUREEN-HENRY

In response to school merger protest

By Councillor Maureen Henry

Over the past years, like every other local authority in the country, East Dunbartonshire Council has suffered huge cuts to its budget from the Scottish Government. We can argue all day as who is to blame for the unprecedented rafts of cuts, but, the reality is that Councils have to deal with the situation, ensuring that resources are distributed in a fair and equitable manner and that we are spending our budget that ensures best value for all our residents.

The reality is that East Dunbartonshire has too many primary schools and, while other councils have dealt with this situation by merging schools and building new schools, EDC is now dealing with schools that are under capacity or in a poor state of repair or both. It is gross misuse of resources to be spending huge amounts of money keeping open schools that are half full or need substantial repairs. It is much better to invest in new schools, and with the savings made, allow us to provide much needed resources to all our schools. By merging schools the ensuing savings will allow the council to borrow to build new schools.  A few years ago the council embarked on a highly imaginative programme of school improvement in the secondary estate and we now have six new state-of-the-art schools fit to deliver high quality education to our young people. EDC wants to carry out an improvement programme for our primary estate and we are determined to do all we can to secure investment education

As well as being vice convenor of education, I also sit on the social work committee and it is on this committee that the harsh reality of huge budget cuts is obvious; as a council we are determined to minimise the impact of cuts on our most vulnerable and needy residents. As the school population in East Dunbartonshire decreases, our elderly population is increasing. Many of them need support to stay in their own homes, surrounded by friends and families and many carers who look after our elderly and disabled residents need support. Some of our children and young people face horrendous family circumstances and we need to ensure that programmes that support them are resourced. In extreme circumstances some children and young people are taken away from the family home and are put into care. These children need additional resources to ensure their safety and wellbeing.  I could fill pages listing the competing needs for resources, resources that every year are becoming scarcer. Can I add that the welfare reform now in place will place many of our most vulnerable families in very serious difficulties.

St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie is 55 per cent under capacity with a roll of 127 and St Andrew’s Primary School in Bearsden (1.5 miles away from St Joseph’s) is also under capacity but with more than double the roll of St Joseph’s. When the council embarked on the consultation to look at options for primary school mergers, at stakeholders meetings, the merger of St Joseph’s with St Andrew’s, building a new school on the St Andrew’s site was put forward as an option worthy of consideration.

As with all proposed mergers, it was deemed more suitable for the smaller school to move to the larger school site. In this case St Joseph’s pupils would move to the new school on St Andrew’s site. The St Andrew’s parents overwhelmingly agreed to this option while the St Joseph’s parents overwhelmingly rejected it. However, before the consultation was carried out, residents were advised that the status quo was not an option and the council would need to make hard decisions in order to secure appropriate levels of educational funding that ensure our schools are meeting the needs of Curriculum for Excellence. At the council meeting on March 27 it was agreed to take the proposed merger between St Andrews and St Josephs to the formal consultation stage with a final decision taken in October.

In his article in last week’s SCO (St Joseph’s, a test case) Mr McFadyen, one of the St Joseph’s parents, suggested that a joint campus with a non-denominational school should be considered, an option I know that many parents in St Joseph’s would prefer. Archbishop Tartaglia has said his preference is that both St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s should remain on their present sites but, in my discussions with the Church on this issue, it accepts it is the role of the council to make the final decision and is very sympathetic to the financial plight of all local authorities. The Church will only consider a joint campus when there is no Catholic education in an area and I hardly think moving St Joseph’s to a new school 1.5 miles away from its present site can be considered as not providing Catholic education. I do accept that the children from St Joseph’s will need to travel by bus to the new school but many pupils across East Dunbartonshire and most areas in west Scotland travel to their Catholic primary and secondary schools. The other argument is that the children will lose the vital link with their parishes but both St Andrews and St Josephs have wonderful parish priests who will work with parents and teachers to ensure this will not happen.

I was a teacher in Catholic schools while my husband has recently retired as depute head teacher in a large Catholic secondary and my daughter teaches in a Catholic secondary. My children attended St Andrew’s in Bearsden and John Paul Academy in Summerston and, yes, they travelled by bus to John Paul. I have been criticised for not supporting Catholic education in Milngavie and, of course, nothing is further from the truth. St Joseph’s parents accuse the Labour Party of turning its back on Catholic education but at the council meeting we voted to build two new Catholic primary schools in East Dunbartonshire. However, over the last number of years the children from St Joseph’s do not progress in their faith development as the majority of them attend the local non-denominational secondary school. This is an excellent school but we have two excellent Catholic secondary schools in East Dunbartonshire, St Ninian’s in Kirkintilloch and Turnbull High in Bishopbriggs, both within easy travelling distance from Milngavie. Mr McFadyen advised me he would have sent his children to a Catholic secondary school if there was one in Milngavie. I make no comment as it is the parents’ right to decide where their children are educated.

Mr McFadyen suggested that there was a split in the Labour Group re school mergers; this is complete and utter nonsense and this remark has caused real anger among my colleagues. The group took a collective decision to go forward to the formal consultation on the mergers put forward and other Labour councillors had to take the hard decisions to merge schools in their own wards and they too have been accused of not supporting their communities. I am not sure if Mr McFadyen attended the council meeting on March 27 but, if he was there, he certainly did not see awkward body language. What he did see was very serious Labour councillors who were not shying away from taking very difficult decisions. Mr McFadyen is being disingenuous when he says that we are not merging some of the non-denominational schools in Milngavie. He is well aware that our primary school programme is a staged process which will take about fifteen years to complete. The non-denominational schools will be subject to the review programme after we complete the first stage of new builds.

The proposal to merge St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s in a new school on the St Andrew’s site has now gone forward to the formal consultation stage. Can I stress that the Council has not made a decision to go forward with the merger and the decision will be taken in October after the formal stages have been completed. I would plead with Mr McFadyen and the other parents to engage in constructive talks with local councillors, clergy and with the parents of St Andrew’s. I would plead with the Church to become engaged with this process to facilitate talks and negotiations. I want our children in Bearsden and Milngavie to have access to a new school with all the amazing educational, sport and social benefits that can deliver. Please do not allow our Catholic Faith to be defined by streets and narrow boundaries but, as the universal Church, let us work together.

 

n Maureen Henry was head of the Hospital Education Service before being election as Labour councillor for Milngavie in May 2012. She is a parishioner of St Andrew’s Bearsden and a member of the SVDP in the parish.

 

Comments - 18 Responses

  1. Andrew McFadyen says:

    One of the few points in this article that stands up to scrutiny is Cllr Henry’s acknowledgment that parents in Milngavie are overwhelmingly opposed to the closure of St Joseph’s Primary School.

    In fact the Council’s own questionnaire found that 96 per cent of St Joseph’s parents strongly oppose merger with St Andrew’s in Bearsden. We believe that our children have a right to a Catholic education in our own area and we do not want this to be taken away.

    It is not possible to walk safely from St Joseph’s to St Andrew’s because the country road that links the two communities doesn’t have a pavement.

    Furthermore, Cllr Henry is herself being misleading with her comments about the potential merger of non-denominational schools. None of the options that the Council looked at for non-denominational schools in Milngavie involved sending the children by bus to a different town. Why should Catholic children be treated differently?

    East Dunbartonshire Council currently has 29 non-denominational schools and only 8 Catholic Primary Schools. If these proposals go through, the number of Catholic schools will be reduced to 6. Closing Catholic schools is a strange way to support Catholic education.

    I am also puzzled by her confident assertion that the Church is not willing to support a shared campus in Milngavie. This contradicts the public statement made by the Archdiocese and, to the best of my knowledge, Cllr Henry has not actually met with the Church’s representative for education in East Dunbartonshire.

    As parents, we have worked hard to engage constructively with the Council. It has not been easy because one of our local councillors, Eric Gotts, cancelled his surgeries to avoid meeting parents. But perhaps they would reflect on the fact that the response rate from St Joseph’s parents to the Council’s informal consultation was the highest in East Dunbartonshire.

    My plea to Cllr Henry is only that she listens to what people are telling her.

  2. Paula Speirs says:

    As a St Joseph’s parent and active member in our local community, I continue to be outstanded at the determination our own Milngavie Councillor has to remove catholic education from the community of Milngavie. We have worked so hard, and been successful, in achieving real diversity in our community. Not only does St Joseph’s regularly join local non-denominational activities, but we also house the largest out of school care provider, which brings children from a number of primaries across Milngavie into our school. We believe that our children have a right to a Catholic education in our own area and we do not want this to be taken away.

    As parents, we strongly believe that our children have the right to a Catholic education in our own area. East Dunbartonshire Council discounted mergers of non-denominational schools, such as Baljaffray Primary School and Clober Primary School, because they crossed geographical boundaries. To apply a different rationale to our children is clearly discriminatory.

    Life for children at St Joseph’s revolves around the school, St Joseph’s Church and Milngavie precinct and parks. Removing our children from their local community and bussing them to Bearsden means they will lose the ability to walk to school and the opportunity take part in after-school activities. Parents and grandparents, who also value the social contact, would be out of reach.

    All along, Councillor Henry has refused to recognise the impact of removing Catholic education from Milgavie. This has provoked huge local opposition in Milngavie. Not only did 96% of our parents state their opposition to the plan to merge the schools onto St Andrew’s site, yet 69% of our entire community in Milngavie (incl non-denominational schools) wanted us to remain in Milngavie. It is also clear that the community as a whole values our presence. You can get a sense of how strongly people feel just by walking through the town centre and looking at the shops displaying our posters in their windows. 600 letters of protest were hand delivered to Council Leader Rhondda Geekie and, in only three weeks, over 1000 people have signed our online petition. 

    Furthermore, Cllr Henry is herself being misleading with her comments about the potential merger of non-denominational schools. None of the options that the Council looked at for non-denominational schools in Milngavie involved sending the children by bus to a different town. Why should Catholic children be treated differently? 

    I am also really confused by her statement that the Church is not willing to support a shared campus in Milngavie. This contradicts the public statement made by the Archdiocese and, to the best of my knowledge, Cllr Henry has not actually met with the Church’s representative for education in East Dunbartonshire. As parents we have engaged through our formal channels and also directly with the Archdiocese. We did receive a statement from the Archdiocese which firstly reiterated that EDC had never formally proposed a shared campus. It went on to say however that, although they would rather that catholic education continued to be provided independently in Milngavie, they would consider exploring a shared campus, if that option would allow catholic education to be provided. 

    As parents, we have worked hard to engage constructively with the Council. It has not been easy because one of our local councillors, Eric Gotts, cancelled his surgeries to avoid meeting parents. But perhaps they would reflect on the fact that the response rate from St Joseph’s parents to the Council’s informal consultation was the highest in East Dunbartonshire.

    Just now, we feel hurt and angry that our local councillors have ignored our views.  St Joseph’s is a highly successful primary school that is well supported by its community and has a growing roll. It would be a travesty if it was to close. My plea to Cllr Henry is only that she listens to what the people, who elected her, are telling her. There is still an opportunity for East Dunbartonshire Council to change the terms of its consultation. If Cllr Henry wanted catholic education to remain in Milngavie, she could revise the scope of the Statutory Consultation to include the option of a shared campus in the consultation, in order to retain a Catholic educational presence in Milngavie. We have given other options, such as establishing St Joseph’s as a community facility, with wider local public services included. 

    If Cllr Henry continues to ignore the views of 96% of St Joseph’s and 69% of her entire Milngavie electorate, I fail to see how she is representing her constituents…

    We also need the whole Catholic community across Scotland to recognise the significance of removing catholic education from a community. Please sign our epetition( link to petition is http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-st-josephs-primary-school/ )  or write to your Johanna Lamont to state your opposition to the plan being pushed through by Labour in East Dunbartonshire. 

  3. Susie McRobb says:

    Do not understand that you do not accept children will need a bus to move to St Andrews.
    I live @ end of Clober Rd and would not even attempt to walk my children to St Andrews.
    Think this is a crazy, stupid comment!
    Of course a bus would be needed.
    Maybe you should get out walking and try it our for yourself and then with a five year old and then with a couple of kids and then see what you think.
    Would you want your grandchildren to walk such a distance??
    Morning and evening???
    Yes put your reasons forward and of course there must be reasons for the merge but don’t put stupid statements like you have on transport, personally that statement has now made me question you on a whole new level.
    Look forward to seeing you out walking!!!

  4. Fraser McGuire says:

    I’m left somewhat baffled by Susie McRobb’s contribution. The councillor clearly stated “I do accept that the children from St Joseph’s will need to travel by bus to the new school”, Susan McRobb’s comments appear to completely contradict this.

    I’m not taking sides on this issue, I just wish to establish accuracy otherwise the argument may become distorted.

    • Susie McRobb is right! You will beed a bus to fet the children to school safely but do we really want our children jumping on buses to school, there and back? Of course not!

      We should all be doubg more walking together as families, walking to school may be the only excerise a child gets with its parents. Not only that it allows time for the busy mum to do that crucial, family bonding, talking to her kids, and of course allows walking to school with your friends.

      Don’t take the “walk to school” away from our kids. Let them be “kids” for as long as they can. To hear their chatter on the way to and from school is childhood and it’s a pleasure to watch young lively, chearful kids walking, not sitting yelling the loudest on buses…great start to an educational day that is…hyper kids for the teacher…lovely? No, nightmare, a bullies paradise!!

      Plus, what is going to be built on the beautiful spot? Masses of houses? What about the play area…gone too. So we have even fatter kids? What about the bigger kids who use the field area for football and play? Tough luck for them…yes let them and everyone else we enjoys that little bit of fresh air, yes let us all get fat!!

  5. Anne-Marie Young says:

    I would like to dispute Councillor Henry’s figures stating the under occupancy of St.Joseph’s. Time and again the council use out dated numbers, not taking into account the use of the huts by Time Out and IT companies, bringing in revenue to East Dunbartonshire, and the Nursery providing pre school education. Using only the school building, I would like Councillor Henry to visit St.Joseph’s and explain where she is going to shoe horn in another 130 children? Our school roll has increased year on year, and any uncertainty regarding the school’s future can only have a negative impact on prospective parents or young families looking to move into the area.

  6. Suzanne Gibson says:

    Can I pick up on one of Mrs Henry’s comments?
    “it is the parents’ right to decide where their children are educated”
    It was our decision to send our kids to St Joseph’s but if Mrs Henry has her way our kids will go to the school of HER choice.
    We parents at St Joseph’s were told regularly to fill in the questionnaire, make our feelings known, come up with alternative suggestions, all of which we did and to no avail. No one can convince me that this decision to merge St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s was not made a long time ago.
    St Joseph’s is a fit for purpose school, well equipped for Curriculum for Excellence and housed in a building in excellent condition. Other schools ‘saved’ in Bearsden and Milngavie can not make these claims.
    Mrs Henry should also go back to her source at the Archdiocese as there seems to be a difference of opinion here. The Church have told us that they would be happy with a shared campus if it was that or no Catholic school in Milngavie.
    And is it really important to us what school Mrs Henry’s children attended? The fact is there are many Catholic families in Bearsden who don’t send their children to St Andrew’s as it is just too far from their home. I am not suggesting building another Catholic school in Bearsden here just in case Mrs Henry is reading this!
    When it comes to secondary education many families in Milngavie send their children to Douglas Academy but how many St Andrew’s pupils go on to Catholic secondary education? It is important for kids to be in their own communities and mix with other kids that live close enough for them to socialise outwith school. Perhaps Mrs Henry’s children would have been happier with this. I can’t believe that Mrs Henry’s faith is that important to her when she is fighting to close Catholic schools in East Dunbartonshire thus bringing the number down from 8 to 6. How is that supposed to encourage parents to send their children to Catholic schools?
    Mrs Henry, the time has come to listen to the people who voted for you and put an end to this.

  7. Pam Hughes says:

    I am an active St Joseph’s parent within our wonderful school and the Milngavie community. Our parents have tried to fully engage with the Council to come to a suitable agreement within the budget restraints the council and the whole country faces but the councillors seem determined to close a fantastic school that is in great repair and has brilliant results despite only 1% agreeing to the merger.

    St Joseph’s is not 55% under capacity as wrongly quoted by Cllr Henry, as she has included old huts that were originally built years ago for the overspill of the school. One is now being used for the school’s library during the day and then after 3pm houses St Joseph’s After school club and another hut is used for St Joseph’s nursery.

    Why close a perfectly good school with a Grade “B” rating and that has no outstanding repairs and borrow millions to build a new school that isn’t needed or wanted? Does this not totally contradict their budget cuts and savings?

    There were 104 options for the whole of the primary school estate review and St Joseph’s were given only one!

    Our faith encourages parents and children to engage with the school, the Parish and the whole community. How can we fully engage with the Bearsden community when our children will still be attending St Joseph’s Parish every week and also for their sacraments with a St Andrew’s uniform on? Our Parish priest, Father Currie, attends school every week and knows all our children by name. Our Parish will be suffer if this appalling decision goes through.

    We have put several varied options forward and not one has even been considered by the Council including a joint campus, so our children could remain within our community and our Parish.

    Why is ONE Councillors opinion, Cllr Henry, being forced onto 96% of St Joseph’s parents and 69% of the whole Milngavie community, is it maybe so she can say she got the Council to build a shiny new school in Bearsden?

    Why is the Council even considering bulldozing a perfectly good school and getting into millions of pounds worth of debt, when there are other schools within the authority that are falling apart and are in desperate need of the money spent on their repairs?

    There is no link between a new built school and good grades. What educational benefits are there to moving children out of the beloved school and community on a bus to another community? We walk to school which is why we moved to Milngavie 3 years ago and St Joseph’s came highly recommended to me as it has great teachers and a wonderful ethos. Our school also has a play park at the back of it which is full come 3pm and all the children play together.

    We will continue to try and work with the Council to hopefully come to a solution but things are difficult when Cllr Gotts refuses to meet with us and Cllr Henry has called off several important meetings.

    Please help and join our campaign to save St Joseph’s, our whole Catholic community will suffer if it does. Thank you!

  8. Maire Freel says:

    I would like to point out that 53% of all the respondents stated that this proposal was unacceptable. Only 30% agreed that merging the 2 schools was acceptable. What is the point of a consultation where the results are ignored? East Dunbartonshire Council have however listened to parents from some of their schools and have voted not to proceed with the closure of Bearsden and Milngavie Primaries. The arguments put forward by the parents of St Joseph’s were almost identical. In addition St Joseph’s has the outdoor space the other schools lack. I can only conclude that the council have been hell bent on closing our school for quite some time (They tried to close the school a number of years ago but had to reverse the decision)and continue to pursue this obective despite the opposition of the people they represent. It is my firm belief that East Dunbartonshire Council is determined to erode the provision of Catholic education in its region.

  9. Laureen McIntyre says:

    Several points have been raised which require to be addressed.

    There are other primary schools within East Dunbartonshire which have similar under-occupancy figures but have been dropped from formal consideration. Some are undergoing further informal consultation process while others have simply been dismissed and are not presently being considered. Any school not presently bring considered will not be looked at again until after the term of this Council’s administration (2017).

    The under-occupancy figures have changed considerably during the period of informal consultation. In fact the projected school roll for 2020 over the whole of East Dunbartonshire Council rose by 1000 pupils. In the Milngavie area, despite the projected roll in the area remaining unchanged (932 to 940) the under-occupancy figures for one non-denominational school has been altered from a projected 63% under occupancy to 49% under occupancy. If the sole reason for considering St Joseph’s Primary was its under-occupancy rate, then why were other schools ignored? Perhaps it was because the Council recognises that there are other issues to be considered other than occupancy rates when deciding the future of a school. One of these issue should have been East Dunbartonshire Council’s duty to provide sufficient denominational provision for an area. Does a councillor, elected to represent the ward of Milngavie who acknowledges the importance of St Joseph’s Parish Church, not recognise Milngavie as a separate area to Bearsden? What is the future of denominational education if councils across Scotland can arbitrarily decide what constitutes an area without any regard for the views of the populace?

    This proposal would result in the number of catholic primaries in East Dunbartonshire dropping from 8 schools to 6 schools. There would still be 27 non-denominational schools.

    For clarity, St Joseph’s Primary school roll is projected to remain roughly the same as it is presently. The Council has continually stated our roll to be 127 whereas our roll is 137. The school roll has in fact been rising steadily over the past few years. The councils calculations puts the projected under occupancy at 53%. This calculation includes out- buildings, alternative uses for which the parent council had suggested in proposals submitted to the council during the informal consolation process. These were discussed at meetings attended by Maureen Henry. Please note that the Education Convener, another Milngavie councillor, cancelled all his surgeries during the informal consultation process.

    Both schools involved in this proposed mergers are in good condition. In fact, as far as we are aware, St Joseph’s has no outstanding repairs to be completed. East Dunbartonshire Council would have us believe that savings would be achieved by consolidation of site staff and costs of upkeep of buildings. Such savings can be achieved in a shared campus. If the aim is to save money by significantly increasing average class sizes and reducing teacher numbers, then perhaps they should be open about this and allow parents to have their say on this issue. As it stands, it is our understanding that any savings made by the council in a merger will be on the basis of repaying interest only on the loan to build the new school. At the end of this period they will not have repaid the capital amount and therefore not own the building. Further more, in all informal consultations respondents stressed that any money saved must be ring fenced for education. The council intimated that this would be the case. Closing schools will not release money for additional social services spending, and to imply so is misleading.

    East Dunbartonshire Council has failed to provide a catholic secondary school on this side of the authority. Had it done so, many parents would have chosen to send their children to a catholic secondary. However for various reasons there is no Catholic Secondary provision in the immediate area. As a result, the majority of parents from both St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s Primary Schools tend to choose a local secondary. This lack of secondary provision does, in fact, increase the need for a truly local catholic primary school not diminish the requirement.

    On a personal note, I attended St Joseph’s Primary and then St Ninian’s High School. St Ninian’s is a great school, but due to its location I missed out on many after-school activities, had to make a two hour journey through Glasgow had I missed the bus and felt isolated from my peers in my local community.

    The Archdioceses already released a statement advising that the Church has in the past considered a shared campus model where the alternative is the loss of catholic education in an area. East Dunbartonshire Council were in receipt of this statement before the vote to proceed to statutory consultation was held on the 27th of March. Furthermore, the Church’s response to the informal consultation stated that they required a catholic primary educational presence in Milngavie. There have been no formal discussions with Church representatives about this subject. How can all this translate into some kind of tacit support for the merger by the Church? The Church is clearly opposed to the closure of St Joseph’s Primary. The Church has written to the Council administration asking officials to consider other options and enter into further dialogue .

    There has been a catholic school in Milngavie since 1873. The Parent Council of St Joseph’s Primary has attempted to engage fully with the Council administration and are still more than happy to discuss any alternative option which would result in the retention of catholic education in Milngavie .

  10. Lorraine Glen says:

    In response to Cllr Henry’s article, I would like to make the following points:

     I fully understand that EDC has suffered huge cuts to its budget and that changes have to be made. Why is it then that other options have been shelved, while the only one moved forward to statutory consultation, is the only one which sees primary children being moved right out of their community?
     The figure of 55% under capacity quoted for St Joseph’s has been questioned and never explained. It would appear that accommodation on the school grounds, which is no longer used by the school, is being counted as teaching space. Other schools in the area appear to be more under capacity than St Joseph’s (unless their figures are also skewed) not to mention in a far worse state of repair.
     NONE of the six new Secondary builds (quoted by Cllr Henry) forced pupils to be educated in another community, not even the one merger option. Nor was there any controversy encountered in their proposed builds. The schools are indeed “state of the art” but none are operating to their full potential due to, dare I say it, a lack of funding. They have the potential to be great, fit for purpose buildings, but at the moment, they are in your words, Cllr Henry, simply, “shiny new buildings.” The Wi-fi quoted by Cllr Geekie at the meeting on 27th March is a long way off and let’s not forget that EDC will not take ownership of these buildings for more than 20 years.
     Cllr Henry makes mention of “the harsh reality of huge budget cuts” in social work. This is, of course, a very serious issue but surely these are very separate budgets or are we saying that we must choose between making the right decisions in education, against the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our society?
     The school population in East Dunbartonshire may well be decreasing overall but it is a fact that our roll has been increasing in the past few years and we have evidence to suggest a fair few families have come to Milngavie precisely because it offers the option of a Catholic Primary education, within the Milngavie community. With the new housing planned for the Kilmardinny site, surely the council should be anticipating an increase in our school population, as EDC is a well respected education authority?
     At the early stages of the consultation, I am led to believe that merging St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s on the St Joseph’s site was also cited as a possible option. This was apparently rejected due to a lack of financial viability from the capital to be earned from the sale of the land. Not (as Cllr Henry suggests) because “it was deemed more suitable for the smaller school to move to the larger school site.”
     We, as parents and major Stakeholders, did listen very carefully in the early stages and were therefore well aware that the status quo was not an option. That is why we spent so much time and energy offering imaginative and worthy, workable solutions to the problems faced. Why will our elected councillors not listen to our voices and at least give due consideration to the options we have put forward?
     On the 27th March, it was agreed to take forward the St Joseph’s/St Andrew’s merger to Statutory consultation, despite the fact that 96% of St Joseph’s parents disagreed with it (the highest return of all) and 69% of Milngavie residents also voted against it. What exactly was the point of wasting money on a consultation, the results of which would be largely disregarded? Surely this money would have been better used by putting it towards the social work budget?
     Of course, like Archbishop Tartaglia, we would prefer to keep both schools on their present sites but as the Archdiocese has publicly stated, a shared campus would be a considered option to keep Catholic education in Milngavie. Surely Cllr Henry is aware of this by now?
     The location of a “new merged school” may not be far from the present site of St Joseph’s, but then some houses in Westerton have an East Dunbartonshire postcode while some have a Glasgow postcode. We have to draw a boundary somewhere. In any case, hardly any of our pupils live right beside the school. Many of us already travel (to some extent) to our chosen school. The point is that we do not want to be forced to travel to another community, which Bearsden is, whether Cllr Henry agrees or not. That is why we have separate Churches, libraries, town centres and ….oh yes …Councillors! Perhaps we could merge a few Councillors, as only half of them are operating to full capacity at the present time! No other school was, or is at the moment being asked to move to another community.
     Some (not all) pupils are bussed to St Andrew’s at the moment. Their parents have made that conscious choice. All of our pupils would require to be either bussed or driven by their parents. All parents that I have spoken to stand by their view that Primary aged children should not require to be bussed to school.
     I agree that many Secondary age pupils are bussed to their Catholic secondary but we are not discussing Secondary schooling and it is an entirely separate issue. We have never been afforded Catholic Education on this side of the authority and now you want to remove 50% of our Catholic Primary schooling? I hardly call that being in support of Catholic education.
     Cllr Henry is very right to state that we have two parishes in Milngavie and Bearsden. This is because, at the risk of repeating myself, they are historically two very separate communities. We have a thriving parish community in St Joseph’s, well supported by our young people and we need our school to remain a part of that.
     I am struggling to understand the relevance of Cllr Henry’s family members’ past and present roles in Catholic education to the future of my child’s education. However, since she has mentioned it, surely with all of that experience of Catholic education, our Cllr understands the importance of the triangle of the Church/Home/School to the development of our children’s faith at the Sacramental stage in Primary education? We need our school to operate alongside our parish.

     I am surprised that Cllr Henry feels that she can confidently state that, “over the last number of years the children from St Joseph’s do not progress in their faith development as the majority of them attend the local non-denominational secondary school.” If she knew or were part of our parish, she would then be aware that our young people who now attend Douglas Academy, still, in their majority, attend St Joseph’s church by choice. Their parents have the right to choose to educate them in their community while encouraging them to continue their faith development in their church and in their homes.

     It is true that most of our pupils now move on to non denominational education in the secondary sector, but this is also true of the pupils of St Andrew’s.

     Finally, we the parents of St Joseph’s have tried very hard to engage in constructive talks with our councillors from the very beginning of this consultation. We have been denied the right to engage directly with one of our councillors, as he has cancelled all of his surgeries and only replies to certain e-mails with a standard reply. Cllr Henry has attended surgeries but it would appear, as evidenced in this article that she is not yet really listening to what we have to say.

  11. I Scott says:

    How can Councillor Henry put forward a balanced view that she really believes is in the interest of the Milngavie residents whom she was elected to represent when, as a Bearsden resident and member of the St Andrew’s parish she clearly has her own personal agenda?

    This consultation has been one sided since the beginning, St Joseph’s Primary School was given one option in the EDC questionnaire – ‘merge on St Andrew’s PS site, Bearsden’.

    It is apparent that the overwhelming majority of Milngavie residents who oppose this merger are being completely ignored by their Councillor Henry.

  12. Mick McGinley says:

    I would like to point out a few things

    Firstly, as Cllr Henry has mentioned education and social work budgets, I would like to point out that it is the councillors that set the budgets, each are separate. I would have thought she would be aware and know a saving in one means nothing to the other, as both are cutting budgets. The only reason that I can think she is trying to link the two is to weaken support. Maybe questions should be asked on costs of report, especially as responses are ignored.

    The huts adjoining the school are not operational classrooms. I feel figures are inaccurate and that no clarification on occupancy figures have been given by EDC.

    Like many I am concerned with impact of buses to school for my children, my daughter will be 4 and the thought of putting her on an unescorted bus concerns me greatly. Also issues are around about after school care – will I even have a straight choice of faith or community when I need to consider wrap around care? The road is not suitable for walking but how would we manage to get a sick child home on public transport? Or even could they participate in after school activities.

    We are again looking at a form of funding that leaves our children paying off schools that they don’t own. A false economy just look at some hospital trust in England to see pitfalls.

    The most disturbing part of this for me is the lack of representation that our elected officials give – they have effectively ignored the wishes of those people who elected them.

  13. Alasdair McIntyre says:

    It appears Cllr Henry seems to believe a lot of things, for instance…

    [“1.5 miles away from its present site”]

    it’s 1.9 miles by road and 2.5 miles by the only year-round safe walking route via Mosshead Rd – google it!

    [“roll of 127″]

    it’s currently 137.

    [“The Church will only consider a joint campus when there is no Catholic education in an area and I hardly think moving…can be considered as not providing Catholic education”]

    well the Church clearly disagree and define the area to be Milngavie, according to Archbishop Tartaglia’s letter to the council last week – the Church are now pushing the council to consider alternatives within the town, including a shared campus.

    [“55 per cent under capacity”]

    only if you include the outbuildings as teaching spaces, which are currently already occupied by the Nursery, IT Unit and School Library / Time-Out.

    [“invest in new schools, and with the savings made…”]

    the savings made by the school closure merely finances the new build, and I’m yet to hear of a public sector building contract finishing on budget.

    [“school population in East Dunbartonshire decreases, our elderly population is increasing”]

    surely the social work and education budgets are correctly separate, unless Cllr Henry is announcing a change in council policy here…always assuming there are actual savings to re-use!

    [“need substantial repairs”]

    St Joseph’s is rated “B” by the council’s own survey, and needs only minor maintenance in the mid-term

    [“children from St Joseph’s do not progress in their faith development as the majority of them attend the local non-denominational secondary school”]

    quite an assumption…

    [“access to a new school with all the amazing educational, sport and social benefits that can deliver”]

    I can assure Cllr Henry that St Josephs currently delivers all this and more, without the help of new bricks and mortar.

  14. Judith Farrell says:

    In response to Cllr Henry, it would be nice if she could at least get the facts right. Please be aware of the following points:
    1. Under capacity – many schools in EDC are under capacity. Why where the non-denominational school who were under capacity removed from consideration?
    Re under capacity, the figures used to calculate St. Joseph’s stats always include outside buildings. These outside buildings currently accommodate the Time Out club (used by all schools in the Milngavie area), and a nursery, also accessed by the whole Milngavie area. Unfair I would suggest.
    2. St. Joseph’s school in NOT in need of repair.
    3. The council has to borrow money to fund these builds. They can only borrow by selling off assets, i.e. schools on prime land.
    4. I understand that the Social Work budget is separate to the Education budget. You cannot steal from the Education budget to fund Social Work.
    5. The school role is 138.
    6. Our students have to be bussed to another area because we are smaller than St. Andrew’s. So our 138 pupils are less important than pupils at St. Andrew’s, or could it be that the St. Joseph’s site would generate more money in a sale than the St. Andrew’s site.
    7. The Catholic Church has issued 2 statements supporting St. Joseph’s school. Both statements indicated they would engage in talks re a joint campus. This has been deliberately ignored by Cllr Henry and co.
    8. Please note that some areas in Milngavie are TWO miles away from St.Andrew’s…
    9. Milngavie and Bearden are TWO DISCTINCTLY DIFFERENT areas, hence the reason we have different councillors.
    10. If parents choose to allow their children to travel by bus, that is their decision. We are NOT being given a choice. We are being dictated to.
    11. There is no safe walking route to St Andrew’s, nor is there a means to get there by public transport. How do you suggest parents, grandparents or child minders reach the school, i.e for school plays, parents evenings, after school events etc? Will EDC be paying for taxis? I doubt it.
    12. I don’t care what schools Cllr Henry chose to send her children to. This is irrelevant. We are also NOT debating secondary school education, this is the PRIMARY school estate. For the record, the residents of Milngavie and Bearsden campaigned in the 1970’s for a secondary school in the area. Again, they were ignored. A new school was built in Summerston (of which I attended but who cares!).
    13. We have been engaging in constructive talks with the council since last year. Where has it got us – nowhere! We have provided numerous alternatives to the status quo. Where has is got us – nowhere!

    Judith Farrell

  15. Angela Nicol says:

    I write with great sadness that our wonderful school of St Josephs is at this stage of being considered for closure.

    I would like to put my views to Cllr Henry.
    I am a parent of 2 children who attend the school and a strong member of the Milngavie community, I’m appalled that our own councillor of Milngavie is wanting to remove the only Catholic school in the area and wanting to bus our children 2 miles away from their homes, friends, family and community. Cllr Hendry believes putting a 4 year old on a bus is acceptable, I’m sorry I strongly disagree with this, like most of the other parents do too. In your day Cllr Hendry as a mother and my day of attending primary school this may have been acceptable but not now. I’m horrified to think how my very active five year old would be getting on and off a bus herself. Unfortunately the society we live in has dramatically changed over the last 30 to 40 years and us as parents feel we are putting our children at unnecessary risk travelling on and off buses at a very vulnerable age.

    EDC and most other councils up and down the country are needing to tighten their budgets and reduce the amount of spending, and I’m sure as a country and a community we understand that, however to close a school which is on the land of the least value than the other schools (non denominational schools) that were up for consultation too, certainly doesn’t make much business or financial sense to me, or are there other reasons why you want this land. Do you intend to go ahead with the other schools at a later stage or when the dust settles and use this site? Cllr Henry you state in your article “He is well aware that our primary school programme is a staged process which will take about fifteen years to complete. The non-denominational schools will be subject to the review programme after we complete the first stage of new builds”, are we the first stage and the other schools are the next stage once you have the St Josephs site, after all it’s not worth much as Clober Primary and Milngavie Primary. Bussing our children apparently will cost £76,000 a year, does this take into account the rising fuel costs that I’m sure will hit the country again and again and YES I would expect another adult on the bus with the driver, to supervise the children, that’s another cost per year to pay a wage, OH or haven’t you and the council considered that.

    Over the past few years our school of St Josephs has increased in numbers, I’m sure this would continue to increase if we were not always threatened with closure. When choosing a school for my daughters yes I was worried of the future of St Josephs, and yes who could blame me or other parents for having those thoughts, however I decided to send my daughters and I’m extremely pleased and glad I did, I’m sure if other parents made the same decision as me our school numbers would be higher. However we wouldn’t want our numbers to get too high as I don’t think we would get approx another 135 children into the school like Cllr Henry said we could. As for repairs in the school I do not believe there are any outstanding repairs to be done in the school.

    I feel you are being very short sighted on this, you have stated you have been criticised for not supporting Catholic education in Milngavie, YES you are being criticised for this as YES you are not supporting the school, the parish or our faith. If you take our school away in years to come our parish will suffer from this, as generations grow up and have families of their own if they chose to live in the North of the city, Bearsden or Milngavie, I’m sure Bearsden will be first choice for them as they have a SHINY NEW CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL and a parish that is joint to the school, however unfortunately Milngavie would no longer have this. We already have a FAITH that is reducing in numbers all over the world for various reasons; however you appear to be helping this along the way by closing Catholic Schools. Cllr Henry can you tell me please do ALL CHILDREN FROM ST ANDREWS GO TO KIRKINTILLOCH OR BISHOPBRIGGS FOR THEIR SECONDARY CATHOLIC EDUCATION, NO I THINK NOT. Remember we don’t have a Catholic Secondary school in Milngavie or Bearsden, oops sorry that must off escaped your memory.

    We appreciate that the Catholic population numbers in Milngavie are small, however with 69% of the Milngavie population wanting St Josephs School to stay, does this not show that our caring community is behind us, regardless of what faith we are. People in Milngavie recognise the importance of a community spirit and we stick together.

    My husband’s family and many other families in Milngavie go back many generations even back to the time of 1856, when the Catholic Mission was established in Milngavie, living and supporting the parish and its community, they cannot believe that this is happening to our school and are completely over whelmed with sadness that it has come to this. They too like many have supported the faith through its ups and downs and the Labour party through their voting life’s and now come a time like this, feel extremely angry, disappointed, let down, hurt and asking questions, loads of questions to why this is happening and how can Cllr Henry not see the destruction this is causing on our community.

    Cllr Henry, I thought your position and role in the council was to listen and work together with the community, however this appears not to be the case as 69% of Milngavie are against you closing the school, please, please, please Cllr Henry tell us your reasons WHY you are not listening and why you are not discussing other options. We have tried to discuss with yourself and other council members and given ideas, but YOU CHOOSE TO IGNORE US.

  16. Clare Bremner says:

    I would like to give you, Councillor Henry, the benefit of the doubt, I can be confident that you entered local government to do good and furthermore that you share our Catholic values and support Catholic education. I think you believe that what you are proposing is for the best, or is at least the only way forward. I would like to ask you, as Andrew McFayden and others have asked in their own words, to really look at what we, the St Joseph’s parent are saying – in detail, point by point, with an open mind.
    Among other objections we have pointed out that in reality many families, especially low-income and/or no car families, as well as many one-car families would be so discriminated against (in terms of being unable get to the school quickly if there was an emergency or their child became ill, missing out because of all the events parents, grandparents etc. would not be able to attend or support, the inevitable affect on attendance which I have detailed to you, the activities their children would have to forego, or if their child had a medical condition which meant they shouldn’t be on a bus with no adult who could help if need be)that they would have to choose to send their children to a non-denominational school in Milngavie rather than a Catholic one which cannot feasibly be reached by public transport. Your very point about the secondary schools backs this up as I am sure you remember the years of dedicated campaigning for a local Catholic secondary, proof of how much the majority of Catholic parents desperately wanted one and yet when those campaigns went unheeded a great number of those same parents felt they had to choose the local non-denominational secondary. I think we all know that’s what would happen again, if St Joseph’s is closed then many families would feel they had no real choice but to opt for a local school with very, very heavy hearts.
    It was surely unintentional but the point about the pupils not continuing their Catholic education could be quite offensive to the parents who fought so hard for a secondary and who felt so bitterly let down, as well as those who do their best under the circumstances. As I have said to you, and others here have mentioned, please come along any weekend to our wonderful parish and see all those pupils who come along to Mass, many taking very active roles either during Mass or in the Fairtrade stall or cafe or youth action group after Mass.
    To go back to the point about where pupils would actually go if St Joseph’s closes, if a significant number felt they couldn’t transfer to St Andrews, at what point would the council decide it wasn’t worth building a new primary? What would the combined role have to be to justify demolishing a good building, let alone one covered in solar panels which should last another 20-25 years? And if the role didn’t reach that, then what? Would you go ahead and build a new school anyway, which could be scandalously “under-occupied”? Or would councillors use the fact that a number of families had “chosen” to send their children to non-denominational primaries as a reason to question whether any Catholic provision should be left?
    You mention that the majority of St Andrews’ parents said the proposal was acceptable. Again, I’ll assume that their parent council really believed they were doing the right thing when they advised parishioners, in effect, that if there wasn’t a strong vote in favour Bearsden might end up without a Catholic primary. When it comes to the formal consultation I sincerely hope that, in the interests of Catholic education, they will rethink this position and I would ask them to consider if the question had been the other way around, and the proposal had been to close St Andrews and rebuild on the St Joseph’s site, what would they have wanted our position to have been?
    As for bussing children, again many varied and detailed argument against this have been given, I would only add as you mention your children going to secondary by bus, I think we would all agree there are many things which would be fine for 14, 15 or 16 year olds but not so for 4, 5 or 6 year olds.
    I can’t really see how the “two parish priest” idea would work out either, would our parish priest, normally seen walking to and fro in the village, drive over to Bearsden and see only the St Joseph’s children or what?
    As many others have said we have tried to engage constructively with the council and I think we would all appreciate more respect in return – for example the statements (not from you as far as I know) about us just being afraid of/not wanting change have been deeply offensive. We would also welcome more transparency and honesty, for example especially around how the saving to be made, under-occupancy rates and projected roles have been calculated.
    Finally I would like to invite you to come to our wonderful school any dryish morning around 8.55 to watch all that goes on, then follow the parents, grandparents and others after the school goes in, to note how many head for the local shops. Then come back at 3pm and see what happens when school comes out, watch all the families who go to the swing park for all that vital exercise and social interaction, or follow the families who go down in the village to the local shops and cafes. Our school is wonderful, and a VITAL part of our community. You could still change your point of view before the formal consultation, and when we win be there with us, your constituents.

  17. Natalie Moore says:

    The definition of consultation is a discussion between people or groups to come to a decision, this process has not been a ‘consultation’ it has been an exercise of non objective Councillors looking after their own interests, bulldozing their way through this sham of a procedure.
    According to the schools act 2010 the consultation process should be ‘coherent, open and transparent’, Maureen Henry’s reply above is a prime example of the kind of nonsense we as parents have had to listen to. I don’t need to reiterate all the inaccuracies that Cllr Henry has reported above from the school roll numbers to the church’s stance on this issue just to name a few, other parents and residents have done this in great detail, conciseness and passion.
    What we are seeing is the powers that be moving the goal posts to suit themselves, we have reaped the benefits of walking to school SAFELY which EDC promote with gusto (that is of course unless they want to boot a perfectly good school off their grounds so this cash strapped council can BORROW to build another perfectly good school in an area where it is impossible for our children to walk to and already has a horrific traffic problem….. yip it is that ridiculous). So when you take into account that there are no Educational, Health or social benefits to our children we can be forgiven for thinking it must be the fact that EDC would just like to eradicate another catholic school?????
    I could understand the idea of closing St Josephs if this was a school that was in disrepair, it wasn’t seeing any academic achievement or was unable to adhere to the CfE aims but none of these statements apply, St Josephs is a thriving Primary school in the heart of the Milngavie community, producing confident, happy, intelligent kids of faith, we have great links with our parish and fabulous parental involvement.
    EDC has a duty to listen to the residents they serve and our councillors have a duty to represent the constituents that put them there, 96% of the Milngavie community are AGAINST this proposal, on that basis alone it should be a no brainer, KEEP ST JOSEPH’S IN MILNGAVIE !!!!!!!!

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