Pope Francis may be asked to intervene in school closure row
Pope Francis and Archbishop Tartaglia will be asked to intervene.
Exclusive by Bill Heaney
February 11, 2018 – Archbishop Philip Tartaglia has been asked to give his support to parents who are battling with West Dunbartonshire Council to save St Martin’s Primary School in Renton from closure.
However, no one from the Archdiocese – the unelected archdiocesan representative on the Education Committee is retired teacher Ellen McBride – turned up at a parents’ council meeting in St Martin’s church hall on Wednesday when the 90 people present decided unequivocally to write to the SNP administration demanding that their school should remain open.
Now one angry woman, Claire Gallagher, has suggested the parents should take their case to the Vatican. Another woman, Eileen McCaughey, wrote on social media: “I went to a Catholic school as a child and fully support how special the ethos is. As a parent I have supported Catholic schools by sending my children there and the people they have become is a credit to the schools.
“However, as a teacher I have not been supported in any way to fulfil my desire to teach in a denominational school [Catholic] so the question as to why they should survive is important. To survive they need to not only attract, but openly seek, teachers who see themselves as helpful in promoting the ethos as well as being skilled teachers.”
Ironically, 2018 is the centenary year of the Education (Scotland) Act, drafted and campaigned vigorously for by Monsignor Hugh Canon Kelly, parish priest of St Patrick’s Church in Dumbarton, which gives Catholics the right to their own schools in perpetuity.
Community activist Drew Mac Eoghainn replied: “I could not agree more Eileen. Catholic education is seen as a positive throughout the world and if more people in power had the same ethos as the Holy Father the population attending both Catholic schools and churches would increase rather than be in decline
Mr Mac Eoghainn revealed that a letter from Claire Gallagher has gone to the Archbishop – “the letter to the archbishop is away but I’ll not hold my breath on a response,” he said.
He added: “If Renton had an affluent population, rest assured the Archdiocese of Glasgow would be fighting the closure of St Martin’s primary and the potential closure of St Martin’s church, which is the natural consequence of not having children associated with the chapel.
“What those in power must understand is that it’s the people’s church not theirs.”
Meanwhile, the parents have asked the council to discard their plan to close St Martin’s and move the pupils to St Mary’s Primary School at Ferryfield in Alexandria, which was declared unfit for purpose three years ago.
However, the council appeared to have turned a deaf ear to public opinion and written a long letter signed by Education Officer Laura Mason containing their own proposals to the parents and carers of the St Martin’s pupils.
Their three-point proposal, which is contrary to what the parents want, will be presented to the council’s education services committee meeting on March 7.
The council are sticking to their original plan which involves building a new Renton PS and childcare centre in the grounds of the existing school.
They want to extend St Mary’s and, remarkably for a primary school, include a new science, technology, engineering and Maths facility.
The council also want to relocate Riverside early learning and childcare centre to Ferryfield.
But Drew MacEoghainn, whose children attend St Martin’s, called for the Catholic Church to help safeguard the schools’ future.
He said: “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 up to 30 pupils will be lost from Catholic education.
“If the Catholic Church in Scotland flex their muscles 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.”
West Dunbartonshire Community Party councillor Jim Bollan said the council has not given any reason for the plans.
He said: “To lose St Martin’s would be a major blow for Renton and I think that, coupled with other closures such as the library, it will have an effect on what people think of living there.”
Another community activist, Bruce Biddulph, asked: “Has no-one bothered to point out to the officer Alexandria is a separate town from Renton? I know this is me being a historical pedant these days, but I think it is important that officers of the council don’t perpetuate this error. It is to my mind a bit creative to say the least.”
A 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.”