COUNCIL bosses wanting to axe St Matthew’s Primary School in Wishaw could face problems in the future.
For there are plans to build over 5000 homes in the area.
And, if the Wishawhill primary school is shut down, then at least some children will be sent to St Thomas’ Primary in Pather – and North Lanarkshire Council have detailed plans for around 1500 homes to be built in that catchment area.
Closing St Matthew’s would also mean St Thomas’ catchment zone stretching to the edge of the new £1billion Ravenscraig development – which could hold 3500 properties, according to the council’s own website.
It raises the prospect that if St Matthew’s is closed there could be a catastrophic effect on Roman Catholic education in the area as denominational schools would be stretched to the limit.
If St Matthew’s is axed then the nearest Wishaw denominational school to the Ravenscraig development would be St Thomas’ in Pather. However, the three nearest denominational schools on the Motherwell side of Ravenscraig are expected to be either over or near full capacity next year.
That raises the prospect of St Thomas’ eventually having a potential 3500 properties on its doorstep plus another 1500 homes in its own patch. In December the council approved a planning application for 130 homes to be built in Gowkthrapple, which is in St Thomas’ catchment area.
The council’s consultation document on the closure of St Matthew’s only mentions one of the denominational schools on the Motherwell side of Ravenscraig – St Brendan’s in Muirhouse which had a surplus of 97 places in September 2009.
However, the Wishaw Press has discovered that the other two nearest denominational schools – Cathedral Primary and Our Lady and St Francis’ Primary – are expected to be bursting at the seams soon. Council figures projected for 2010 show Cathedral will be three places over capacity while Our Lady and St Francis’ will have a surplus of just 27.
In September of 2009 St Thomas’ had a surplus of 198, but the council’s plans for closing St Matthew’s involves either sending all those 100 pupils to St Thomas’ or splitting them 25/75 between St Thomas’ and St Brendan’s primary schools.
The nearest denominational Wishaw primary to St Thomas’ is St Ignatius’ which had a surplus of just 12 in September 2009. After that the nearest denominational schools are St Aidan’s in Coltness (surplus of 115 in September 2009) and St Brigid’s in Newmains (surplus of 119 in September 2009).
Irrespective of the Ravenscraig development, if St Matthew’s is closed then up to 100 pupils could be sent to St Thomas’ while plans are going ahead to build at least 1630 homes in that catchment area. Factor in a potential 3500 properties in Ravenscraig and the question becomes – where are all the children to be educated.
Murdo Maciver, head of educational resources with North Lanarkshire Council, said: “This rationalisation is about the immediate issues, namely under-occupied schools and their poor condition. Closing such schools would allow us to preserve the delivery of a high quality educational service without the loss of jobs.
“Given the housing plans for south Wishaw and Ravenscraig, there will need to be a review of educational provision, including building new schools. However, neither the location nor condition of St Matthew’s Primary School would justify it being part of the long-term provision.
“At the moment there are no confirmed plans in place for large scale housing developments within St Thomas catchment area and we cannot speculate which developments will or will not go ahead or the timing of them. We continually monitor educational provision to ensure best value and should any developments take place then we would carry out a further review.”