Parents say state-funded community schools “cheaper” than council education

Andrew Denholm / 01:10 Monday 18 January 2016 / News

PARENTS have submitted final plans to ministers to take over the running of a state-funded Catholic primary school.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to examine the proposals drawn up by families from East Dunbartonshire after the council moved to close St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie.

The detailed business plan submitted by the community group says significant savings can be made by removing the school from council control.

The group, which says the current cost per pupil is £4,683 a year, believes it can reduce this by the third year of the new school's operation to £3,194 – with overall savings amounting to more than £100,000 by the second year.

Potential savings include using volunteers for administrative roles and local businesses for maintenance as well as attracting additional income from private businesses and charities.

Paula Speirs, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said: "There is a compelling case for a school model which brings the headteacher, teachers, parents and the local community closer together.

"Such a school allows the local community to have a significant say in its effective running whilst meeting national expectations and delivering higher standards.

The work we have done on the development of a baseline financial model demonstrates that not only does this proposal present a huge potential to transform the delivery of services across the community of Milngavie, but also to deliver the services at a lower, more sustainable cost."

The group believes the only way to preserve Catholic education in the area, on the outskirts of Glasgow, is to set up a community-run school directly funded by ministers.

Under the proposal the school would be funded by the state with the ability to attract further investment from third and private sector organisations.

It would be non-selective and would seek to become a beacon school for research into initiatives such as closing the attainment gap, improving literacy and numeracy and tracking pupil performance.

It would be run by an independent board comprising key figures in the community likely to include parents and representatives from business, education, the community council and the Catholic Church. The group said it would adhere to current council pay guidelines for teaching staff.

The Scottish Government already funds several schools which are not run by local authorities including Jordanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, and a number of specialist schools such as Donaldson's School, in Linlithgow, which caters for deaf pupils.

However, the move would be highly controversial because a previous attempt to allow schools to opt-out by the Conservative Party has been seen as a politically-motivated attempt to undermine the power of councils.

The detailed business plan has been developed with advice from the Scottish-based Hometown Foundation charity, which believes the St Joseph's model is an opportunity to explore an alternative way of delivering education.

Bill Nicol, director of the Hometown Foundation, said: "Parents and community groups are now showing a high level of interest in more effective models to deliver education. The St Joseph’s proposal demonstrates what can be achieved when a community led approach is taken."

However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union sounded a warning.

He said: "There is no basis in Scottish statute for any school to opt out in this way and we continue to believe there would be significant risks and broader policy implications in removing any school from local authority control. is the online edition of Scotland's favourite newspapers, that brings you your Daily news. Every day we bring you the best in Scottish news, sport, entertainment and opinion, including breaking news, picture galleries, videos and live blogs.

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