Labour heavyweights attack local councillors over school

North Lanarkshire Council officals were given a rough ride at the public meeting in Taylor High last week with many feeling a decision has already been made.
North Lanarkshire Council officals were given a rough ride at the public meeting in Taylor High last week with many feeling a decision has already been made.

A civil war has broken out in the Labour Party over the proposed amalgamation of Our Lady’s High and Taylor High.

Motherwell and Wishaw MP Frank Roy, MSP John Pentland and Uddingston and Bellshill MSP Michael McMahon want the plans for a new merged school at Ravenscraig to be withdrawn.

However the Labour-run administration at North Lanarkshire Council has told the trio not to interfere in its business.

Following feedback from public meetings in Our Lady’s, Taylor and Bothwellpark Highs last week Mr Roy, Mr Pentland and Mr McMahon believe the proposals raise more questions than answers.

Mr Roy said: “I believe the proposals set out by the local authority are ill-thought and totally unwanted.

“I have spoken to staff, pupils, parents and grandparents from both schools who are extremely concerned that the proposals are being pushed through without their support and that the local consultation meetings left the impression that the council are paying lip-service to local views.

“I am not against investment in our local schools, but to do so the council must properly consult with the local community.”

Mr Pentland added: “Constituents have raised concerns about the weakness of the educational case for the merger, as well as questions about the proposed location of the merged school and the lack of options for alternative sites and schemes, especially possible ways to provide new buildings for both schools rather than merge them.

“The public meetings do not seem to have addressed these concerns.

“Indeed the meetings have raised other questions, such as the perceived inadequacy of consultation and involvement of parents in the process so far.

“People feel as if they are being railroaded into supporting a plan that has already been agreed rather than being given a proper chance to look at all the options and influence the outcome.”

Mr McMahon attended Our Lady’s back in the 1970s and is baffled by the council’s wish to create a school of around 1,500 pupils.

He said: “When I was at Our Lady’s it had the biggest school roll in Scotland and everyone knew that a school of that size created huge problems. I cannot understand why we would go back to having another huge campus.

“Taylor High was built to address the issue of pupil numbers at Our Lady’s and also to reduce the transport problems for pupils from the Brannock area.

“Taylor is now an integral and successful part of the local villages and its demise should not be the result of a flawed consultation process which appears to be riding roughshod over the views of the local community.

“North Lanarkshire Council should stop now and rethink.”

The council’s convener of learning and leisure, Jim Logue, accused the three politicians of being ‘detached’ from reality and insisted no decision has been made yet.

He said: “This is an outrageous attack from people who should know better.

“To suggest that decisions have already been made, or that people are somehow being railroaded by this council, is ludicrous.

“These parliamentarians appear to be so detached from recognising the reality of the condition of the schools and the level of under occupancy that they will do anything to manufacture a cheap headline.

“By interfering in an ongoing consultation instead of responding to that consultation through the proper channels they are calling into question the integrity of the council

“The consultation process has been followed to the letter.

“The proposals, if approved following consultation, will provide an opportunity for pupils to be educated in a modern, quality, learning and teaching environment and in addition would be another significant step forward in the regeneration of Ravenscraig.”

The consultation deadline has been extended to May 16.