Renton parents defiant in aftermath of decision to close school

Parents council chair Stephen Storrie and his children, who are pupils at St Martin’s; Cllr John Millar leaves the meeting with a teaching rep G Corrigan; Ellen McBride, Catholic Church rep; St Martin’s parents and supporters.

By Bill Heaney

Villagers in Renton were defiant today in the aftermath of West Dunbartonshire Council’s decision – in co-operation with the Archdiocese of Glasgow – to close St Martin’s Primary School.

St Martin’s Parents Council chairperson Stephen Storrie told me after the meeting in Dumbarton on Wednesday: “I won’t be sending my children to St Mary’s in Alexandria for their schooling. The council’s decision and the support for it from the Catholic Church is a disgrace.”

He added: “The outcome from today was to put a decision on St Martin’s back until 2020 and even if they decide to close us then, that’s when the consultation period with parents starts again.

“This means it will be roughly three years until closure – if that’s what they finally decide.

“Bearing in mind that will be coming up to local election time. Everything can change by then – it’s far from over folks.”

However, it is now generally accepted that closure is inevitable despite a long campaign and passionate pleas from Labour members, including Cllr John Millar who said his family’s connections with the school went back generations.

Community Party councillor Jim Bollan said: “The SNP [administration] are playing the long game. They know by 2020 the school role will probably have halved plus the withdrawal of the 120 nursery children places from St Martin’s will undermine its sustainability further.”

Riverside Nursery currently operates alongside St Martin’s at Place of Bonhill.

Marie Therese McGinley posted on social media that the committee decision was “not what we wanted, but in the meantime the school is staying open at least.

“Let’s hope SNP will not be in a position of power when the next time comes to revaluate this. [The decision] is an absolute let down.”

She said she would never vote for the SNP again.

Marie Dobbin pledged: “We won’t stop. We will keep fighting to save St Martin’s primary school for the weans in our village.”

Drew MacEoghainn, who worked on the campaign, turned on the two SNP councillor elected to represent Renton. He is pictured above left with Cllrs McAllister and Dickson.

He said: “These two so called Leven ward councillors never said a word, NOT ONE WORD apart from ‘motion’ when the education committee was discussing the future of a school in their ward!

“[They are] two total imposters who are bereft of ANY political ideology and hide under a saltire. Next election [we should] sack them they are not only politically inept but morally corrupt.”

Stephen Storrie said Labour and especially Cllr John Millar were “wholeheartedly” in agreement that St Martin’s should get a new build within Renton.

He added: “The SNP administration that voted today might not even be in power when this next comes round and Labour might be making the decisions then.”

He said the SNP decision had left the parents plenty of time now to mount a new campaign for a replacement school for St Martin’s.

It was up to parents as to what they did now – some said they would switch their children to the non-denominational Renton Primary.

Mr Storrie said: “It’s obviously a personal choice for each parent to do what’s best for their child, [I want you to] know we’ll not stop at this,

“We will now be more determined than ever to get our kids the school they deserve.”

Drew MacEoghainn said the consultation on the school’s future was a sham – “So Laura Mason [the director of education] was right when she stated in January that the SNP had told her to draw up plans to close St Martin’s?

He added that the only hope for St Martin’s now was “a vote of no confidence in the incompetent cabal currently inhabiting the husk of the SNP in West Dunbartonshire”.

Bollan JimCllr Jim Bollan (left) said this was “being worked on as we speak,” although he must know the chances of pulling that off are slim indeed given the ongoing support for the minority administration from the Tories and Independent Bailie Denis Agnew.

Drew Mac Eoghainn said the SNP were putting in jeopardy the national party’s campaign for independence “by their utter and complete incompetence”.

SNP education convener Karen Conaghan said the pupil numbers in the Vale of Leven did not justify a new Catholic school in Vale of Leven.

Ellen McBride, the Catholic Church’s representative on the committee, agreed and said the project would not be a wise investment.

The Catholic Church now had a policy, she said, of wanting to see their children placed in bigger schools.

The Labour leader, Martin Rooney, said that the committee decision meant that St Martin’s would definitely close.

Members of the committee and officials leave the County Buildings after the meeting. Pictures by Bill Heaney

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