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Parents make audacious bid for community-led school

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​Parents in Milngavie bid to run their own Catholic school after council announced plans to merge

They call it parent power and if one group of mums and dads have their way they will take the concept to a different level.

For a group of parents have formed a campaign bidding to run the first community-led school in Scotland.

The move is being made after it was announced by East Dunbartonshire Council that St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie near Glasgow is to be amalgamated with another primary in nearby Bearsden.

Concerned by the prospect Milngavie won't have any Roman Catholic primary, the group of parents want to remove the school from council control so it would be funded directly by the Scottish Government in an attempt to keep it open.

It is being driven by the fact the parents want their children to have a Catholic education in their home town.

St Joseph's Parent Council Chair Laureen McIntyre explains: "Our children have the right to a Catholic education in their own community.

"If East Dunbartonshire Council is unwilling to provide Catholic education in Milngavie then we as parents, as a parish and as a community seek support to do it ourselves."

However, their audacious bid seems to have already hit the buffers.

Both the Scottish Government and the local council have all but disregarded the idea while the largest teachers' union, the EIS, remains decidedly unimpressed at the proposal.

Our children have the right to a Catholic education in their own community

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Local authorities are responsible for the provision of education in their areas. The Scottish Government supports local authorities to provide appropriate schooling to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

"The current governance arrangements have served, and continue to serve, Scotland's schools well and there are no plans to change these or extend the current number of grant-aided schools funded by the Scottish Government.

"Any decision on individual land and assets is a matter for individual local authorities."

A spokesman for the EIS said opting out of local authority control posed a number of risks and would, in its view, be unfeasible.

"While we appreciate the concerns of parents and understand their commitment to their school, there is no basis in Scottish statute for any school to opt out of local authority control."

Another potential option could be for the parents to set up a brand new independent school.

This, however, could not rely upon the government for funding.

While the parent teacher council has voted overwhelmingly to back a move to opt-out, it has very little room now to manoeuvre unless it goes down the independent school route.

This won’t stop the group, however. The parents are planning on holding a public meeting at which they’ll decide on their next plan of attack.

Parent council vice-chair Helen Williams believes the fight is worth taking on because East Dunbartonshire Council has walked away from its responsibilities to the Catholic community in Milngavie.

"The results of a survey issued by the parent council found that not a single family supports their plan to relocate our children to Bearsden," she said.

“That’s worth fighting for.”

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, during First Minister's Questions, that she would be happy to hear the parents' arguments.

East Dunbartonshire Council’s director of education Gordon Currie said: “We have not had any approach from the parent council about proposals to run St Joseph’s as a community-led school.

“However, it is our understanding that there is no mechanism in Scotland that we are aware of that would enable the school to be transferred to parental or community control.”