Glasgow & West Scotland

Catholic Church concern over North Lanarkshire school changes

The Catholic Church has expressed "significant concerns" about North Lanarkshire Council's commitment to provide Catholic schooling.

The new Bishop of Motherwell, Bishop Joseph Toal, spoke out against current proposals for change.

The council wants to house two Catholic secondary schools at a £36m building at Ravenscraig in Motherwell and merge schools in Airdrie and Coatbridge.

The council says it is fully committed to investing in Catholic education.

In its submission to the council, the Diocese of Motherwell lists a series of "significant concerns about what some of these proposals might suggest about the council's commitment to provide Catholic schooling on an equitable basis".

'Inequitable treatment'

The submission points out that at public meetings, council officials claimed that larger secondary schools were necessary to ensure adequate curriculum provision.

Yet, it says, the officials were content to have non-denominational schools with rolls as small as 414 in one case and fewer than 700 in four other cases.

The submission says that across the authority area, Catholic secondary school rolls would be on average one third larger than non-denominational schools.

This is highlighted by the diocese as "inequitable treatment of pupils attending Catholic schools."

In asking for a reconsideration of the proposals, the bishop said: "The diocese will always be keen to work in partnership with the council to ensure the best provision of services to the community."

'Fully committed'

Councillor Jim Logue, convener of the council's Learning and Leisure Services, said the authority was "fully committed to both investing and supporting Roman Catholic education".

"The new £19m school Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral Primary School in Motherwell and £44m St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge alone demonstrates this commitment.

"Since 2006, the council has invested over half a billion pounds creating new schools and nurseries, including two new denominational secondary schools, nine denominational primary schools with eight of these on shared campuses.

"Within the shared campuses we have worked closely with the Catholic Church, schools and local communities to retain each school's unique identity and ethos while enjoying the benefits of the shared facilities."

Cllr Logue said the authority would continue to consult with the Church on these and other school projects.

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