Parents in Glasgow occupied yet another primary school this week; the latest in a series of school occupations which have taken place over the past year.
Taking action in response to proposals to close St. Matthew’s Primary School, five concerned parents barricaded themselves inside the school and announced their intention to remain there until their demands were met. Protests have also taken place at three other schools in the area set to close. These threatened closures are the most recent in a concerted campaign by councils across Greater Glasgow to shut of schools and nurseries.
In early 2009, Glasgow City Council announced plans to close at least 13 primary schools and 12 nurseries across the city. The consultations for these closures have been branded flimsy at best by angry parents who feel the decision had, in many cases, been finalized before the public consultation was even finished. Over the past year budget deficits have led to council cutbacks across Glasgow, with a £75 million shortfall in North Lanarkshire where St. Matthew’s is located. As the predicted cost of the 2014 Commonwealth Games soars to £454 million, it perhaps comes as no great surprise that the council is using the excuse of low pupil numbers and building disrepair to mask their attempts at cost-cutting.
Both Glasgow City Council and North Lanarkshire Council have responded to parents’ protests with threats and intimidation. During the Wyndford Primary occupation in early 2009, the school’s water and electricity was cut off after a council worker posing as a safety inspector gained entry. The protest was only able to continue thanks to donations of bottled water from local residents. In this latest occupation, the parents staging the sit-in at St. Matthew’s were threatened with the prospect of the pupils being sent to another school because two of the occupiers do not possess a Disclosure Scotland form.
The tactic of occupation now seems one which is more readily employed since the closures were announced, with a number of similar actions having taken place across the city over the past year. Various individual campaigns have been linked together under the ‘Save Our Schools’ banner and local parents have proved that they are unwilling to let these threats to their children’s future go ahead without a fight.