Glasgow & West Scotland

Council consults on Catholic school entry

St Ninian's Image copyright Google

A council is contemplating moves which could make it harder for parents to get their children into one of Scotland's most prestigious state schools.

St Ninian's Roman Catholic Secondary School in East Renfrewshire enjoys an enviable reputation.

Many parents who live outside the catchment area and are not Catholics want their children to go there.

The council said it wanted to help ensure Catholic children get a place in its Catholic schools.

It said it might not have enough places in its RC schools to meet demand if current trends continued.

A plan for a consultation on the admission arrangements for schools will be discussed by councillors on Thursday.

One idea is to ask parents who want to send their children to one of its Roman Catholic schools to produce baptismal certificates - this would not be a condition of entry, simply a factor in prioritising places if there were not enough.

Teacher numbers

An East Renfrewshire council spokeswoman said: "Parents of any faith or none could still apply for a place. This is about how we prioritise the places if supply does not keep up with demand."

The council has a number of Roman Catholic primary schools as well as St Ninian's secondary in Giffnock.

The council said an increasing number of parents are choosing a Roman Catholic school for their children - in recent years the number has increased by about one-fifth in the east of its area.

Many of its RC schools are now at, or approaching, full capacity.

The effect of the new proposals would be to help ensure priority was given to Roman Catholic children.

The council's director of education, Mhairi Shaw, said: "The education department reviews its school estate annually to ensure enough places for East Renfrewshire's children.

"We have already taken action to address increased demand at our schools by creating additional accommodation, increasing teacher numbers and classes where necessary, and are also in the process of investing £77.6m over the next three years to provide even more new and extended education facilities.

"However, despite these significant measures, the rate at which demand is now increasing means these actions will still not provide the capacity needed to meet the appetite for Roman Catholic school places in future years.

"We also know that we have space in our very high-performing non-denominational schools in the east of the council area and as such we must seek to use all available capacity across our full school estate to achieve a fair and equitable solution.

"As more families want a place at a Roman Catholic school for their children it is essential that we either create more capacity for Roman Catholic education or change admissions arrangements for our existing schools."

Local row

Although the proposed arrangements affect all Roman Catholic schools in the council's area, there will be a particular interest in the impact on St Ninian's as so many parents ask to get a place for their children there.

It currently takes in children who attended three RC primaries and considers placing requests from across East Renfrewshire and beyond.

Until five years ago, children who went to two primary schools in Glasgow were also automatically entitled to a place there. A local row brewed up when this changed.

The council said: "Longer-term, the council said that if the current P1 intake for Roman Catholic schools continues at its current trajectory in the east of the council area - and all the signs are that it will - it will not have sufficient capacity in St Ninian's going forward to meet demand from the resident 'catchment' population under current arrangements.

"St Ninian's has historically been the ERC secondary school with the highest levels of demand both inside and outside of its catchment area."

If the new policy is introduced, it would have no impact on current primary or secondary pupils. But it would affect new pupils where demand exceeds the places available.

More on this story