Scotland: Parents occupy school buildings in Glasgow to stop closures

Invest in schools and local communities!

Parents at two closure threatened Glasgow schools have taken the bold and courageous step to occupy school buildings. Parents/grandparents have barricaded themselves in to St Gregory`s and Wyndford Schools (the buildings are adjacent to each other) in the Maryhill area of the city. They are determined to remain until the Council reconsiders their proposals.

The occupation is continuing and the protesters are receiving enormous support from local people and businesses with donations of food etc. A support rally was held on Saturday 4 April. Over a hundred people gathered outside the schools to show solidarity for the folk inside the schools and to salute their brave actions. The rally heard from speakers outside and inside the schools (by way of mobile phone and megaphone) reaffirming the determination to stop the closures of these local schools but also the demand to withdraw the City wide proposals.

A further march around the streets of Wyndford took place on Thursday 9 April as hundreds of families and supporters marched to highlight their opposition to this campaign.

Parent Debbie Watson commented:"If our schools close within the Wyndford community, our community dies.

It’s already in a bad state as it is, but our community will fight to the bitter end to keep our schools open. We will be here until the very end until Glasgow City Council and the Labour councillors wake up.”

As part of its so called modernisation programme, Glasgow City Council is proposing to close a further 13 primary schools and 12 nurseries throughout the city. Some 2000 children (and their parents/carers) will be affected by this proposal to move them to other accommodation. In many cases, the children will have a substantial extra distance to travel to their new school/nursery causing difficulties for the parents and possibly for some having to give up work to ensure that their children attend school on time.

High unemployment and social deprivation

When the Council`s proposals were put out for consultation earlier this year opposition to the closures became evident. Since then parents/grandparents and the local communities around the schools/nurseries proposed for closure have come together to voice opposition to the proposals. Some of the areas are blighted with unemployment, health problems, drug issues, poor housing as a result of low investment over the years and with the current economic circumstances facing working class people these problems will only increase. They argue that if their local school and/or nursery were to close this would only serve as another blow to areas already struggling. Schools are focal points for local communities and closure, along with other facilities like community centres, post offices and local shops could mean their communities will die.

As a result, local communities are fighting back with Action Committees coming together throughout the City. A well attended demonstration calling for a city-wide rethink was held only a few weeks ago in the city centre with a throng of adults and children gathering in George Square to hear speakers demanding that the Council withdraw their proposals and invest more funds in the areas affected.

The Council claim that the schools earmarked for closure are no longer fit for purpose. They claim that the fabric of the buildings are deteriorating and are under-occupied in terms of pupil numbers. This may well be the case but it begs the question. Why has the Council not spent money over the years in repairs to and upgrading the buildings? However the Council should be looking at ways of financing refurbishment of the buildings and taking this opportunity of reducing class sizes and also at ways of using the school for additional community use should be explored.

The Council say their school closure programme will save five million pounds. This is only a fraction of their overall budget and will not make much of a dent. But closing schools will make a large dent in local communities. Rather than close the schools they should find the money to invest in these schools and therefore in the local communities. After all, if New Labour can find millions to host the Commonwealth games, and many more millions to bail out greedy bankers, then surely the money can be found to invest in the city`s children.

Glasgow is made up of local communities. Schools/nurseries are part of the life blood of local communities. The City wide campaign deserves our support and the Council should rethink their strategy. It is time they listened to local people and save their schools from closure.