SNP leader faces parents’ wrath at Saturday surgery

Loggerheads – MacEoghainn, McColl and Conaghan.

February 25, 2018 – Is something rotten in education department of West Dunbartonshire Council?  This question was put to Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, by the parents of closure-threatened St Martin’s PS in Renton at his surgery on Saturday.

The parents apparently hit a raw nerve when they spoke with Cllr McColl.  And they claim to have received assurances that any proposal being brought forward on the future of Renton and St Mary’s primaries, language unit and Riverside nursery at the education meeting in March will have a caveat concerning the future of St Martin’s.

This will be that St Martin’s is not left out of the equation.

Community activist Drew MacEoghainn said: “Basically, if the decision is taken to build a new Renton primary inclusive of a new language unit and nursery at the March meeting, sufficient space is allocated on the site to accommodate a new St Martin’s.

“If it is agreed that a new build stand-alone St Martin’s should have the nursery as part of the development, these options can be considered at the education meeting in June.

“And that any decision in March will not be an impediment to these options being discussed.”

Mr MacEoghainn asked: “Is something rotten in West Dunbartonshire’s education department?

“The reason I ask is the highly questionable conduct of the education department in this whole affair.

“The first the parent council heard about new plans for St Martin’s was when the kitchen staff at St Martins requested a surplus to requirement cooker from the old Our Lady and St Patrick’s only to be told no because the education department had plans for St Martin’s.”

He added: “When we spoke to the SNP about this, they informed us that they had no idea about any new plans for St Martin’s, and this was the start of this debacle.”

Cllr Karen Conaghan, Convener of & Spokesperson for Educational Services, is said to have requested a background report on the history of St Martin’s from official but rejected it as an “unacceptable document”, which didn’t give any background but instead contained a “proposal” on the future education provision in Renton.

The parent council were then invited to attend a meeting with Laura Mason and Craig Jardine from the council, said Mr MacEoghainn.

He added: “At this meeting we were categorically told by Laura Mason that the SNP had asked that a proposal to close St Martin’s be brought forward to the education committee.

“And that this option be the only one relayed to parents.”

He contends the content of this meeting was repeated to the parent councils from St Mary’s, Renton and the language unit.

“The SNP have gone to great lengths to deny that they gave this instruction to officers, he added.

The following week, according to Mr MacEoghainn, parents received a letter from the education department stating that there was one option and that the only option for St Martin’s was closure.

He said children were given this letter, which had no envelope, and were told “if they could read not to read it”.

The leader of the SNP and the leader of the Labour party both deny they were aware of the letter or its content until it was brought to their attention by parents.

It was then – and only then – that the campaign to save the school began.

The parents contend that like the closure of Our Lady and St Patrick’s in Dumbarton, which was moved to Bellsmyre, council officials have gone beyond their remit.

They allege incompetence, a lack of frankness, a cover-up in relation to their plans for St Martin’s, which were only revealed when the enquiry was made about the school cooker, and placing stress on the parents on pupils by eventually revealing what was going on in an open letter circulated to parents and carers through the pupils.

Mr MacEoghainn said the parents want meaningful talks on the future of St Martin’s – “As anyone who knows anything about the educational history of Renton will know, Renton has fought and defeated the education department’s officers’ proposals on three separate occasions over the last 10 years.

“It would seem that even with Laura Mason replacing Mr [Terry] Lanagan, who retired shortly after he was humiliated by parents from Renton in 2015, that the education department continues to be at best incompetent and at worst continues the vendetta towards the people of Renton.

“The SNP must not get caught up in this potential vendetta perpetrated by the education department towards all things Renton and must stick by their promises to listen to the people of our village and build us the two new primary schools that will see education being delivered in our village in schools fit for our children.”

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