Parents’ vocal campaign for village school nears climax
West Dunbartonshire Council has gone into overdrive to impose its will on the future of Catholic education in the village of Renton.
While the parents of the primary school pupils of St Martin’s have put just two options in place since the replacement saga began in 2015, the council’s education department have prepared a document containing a massive 21 options for the school’s future.
The education committee is headed by Depute Provost Karen Conaghan and Director of Education Laura Mason, who inherited the project from her now retired predecessor, Terry Lanagan.
Mr Lanagan oversaw the debacle involving the re-siting of Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre.
The then director and then Labour administration had pushed hard for the new OLSP to be sited at Postie’s Park but gave way – after having squandered £1.5 million – to widespread public concern over safety and environmental concerns.
The council has since been suggesting that a new, non-denominational Renton Primary School should be built in the village, and that St Martin’s should close and the pupils and staff transferred to a refurbished St Mary’s PS at Ferryfield, Alexandria.
However, in 2015, St Mary’s was deemed “unfit for purpose” since the investment and an upgrade would not give the council value for the money they would have to invest in it.
Concerned St Martin’s parent, Drew MacEoghainn, asked this week: “How is it now possible that after three additional years of neglect from the local authority that St Mary’s has been ‘miraculously’ now deemed as suitable for investment?”
Additionally, he queried: “Even though St Martin’s school is in a state of disrepair, (responsibility for maintenance of which lies with the local authority), the educational attainment in our school is nothing short of astounding.
“This in part must be accredited to the teaching and other staff associated with our school and the personal pride and involvement all members of staff have with our children, but a major factor in the high attainment levels is due to smaller class sizes.
“How is the education department going to assure parents and staff that their decision [at the education committee on Wednesday, June 6] will ensure that the educational attainment levels and the sense of community our children and staff members will be retained?
“And that it will not only be sustained at the current level but will be enhanced for all children and staff members?”
He then made an impassioned plea on behalf of Renton which suffered from lack of major investment for decades from the local authority – “without local people taking control of the local housing association, I would hate to contemplate what our village would look like today.”
Drew MacEoghainn, Laura Mason, Karen Conaghan and Archbishop Tartaglia.
Mr MacEoghainn said the result of this lack of investment was a village which was just beginning to recover from poor housing; lower than average income; closure of the library, nursery, community centre and “what seems to be an annual crusade to close one of our two schools”.
Forcing St Martin’s pupils to go to Alexandria would mean them having to walk past the new non-denominational school to attend a school deemed unfit for purpose in 2015 at a time when there were plans for new houses – and more families – to move into the village.
There would be road safety and financial implications if there was a move to Alexandria – “Adoption of this proposal will result in primary children being unable to walk to school as they would need to share a pavement beside a main road with young adults going to high school in the opposite direction; to cross at least three roads, two of which have no crossing lights.
Grandparents would be unable to pick pupils up from school and there would be travel cost implications for parents. It was not fair.
The parents want a new Catholic primary beside the new non-denominational primary, but they have had no support from the Catholic Church and some fear that closing St Martin’s was part of a deal which led to the new OLSP being built.
Mr MacEoghainn said: “We have had an open meeting which saw 90 people in attendance, a questionnaire circulated which saw 90% returned, all of which agreed unanimously that the parents and pupils in Renton deserve a new build St Martin’s in our village.
“We also arranged a walk attended by over 100 people, whereas the education department has circulated letters, some of which they asked ‘children who could read, not to’ due to the absence of an envelope, a survey which will not now be considered due to it being declared ‘unsuitable’ and one which ‘should have never been circulated’.
“The council had to withdraw proposals from the last education committee after officials disobeyed a direct instruction from this committee to consider all options and circulated a letter stating that the parents’ proposal for a new build St Martin’s was ‘not an option’.”
The education committee has been asked to consider the dual absence option, which has been implemented in Balloch and Bellsmyre, and which means that all the children of Renton will continue to be educated within the boundaries of the village in which they live.
Mr MacEoghainn said: “We have had Catholic education in this village for the past 118 years and we are determined that it will remain here.”
A spokesman for Archbishop Philip Tartaglia and the Archdiocese of Glasgow said: “The Archdiocese will make its views known when the various options have been published in the consultation.”