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Notre Dame High: Councillors move to final vote on all-girls school

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland education correspondent

image copyrightGlasgow City Council
image captionNotre Dame High is a Roman Catholic school but it admits pupils of other faiths and none

Scotland's last-remaining state school for girls looks closer to admitting boys after options on its future were published.

The high-performing Notre Dame High School in Glasgow has only taught girls since its inception in 1897.

However calls have increased in recent years to make the school co-educational.

Glasgow City Council has published an advisory document for councillors ahead of a final vote later this month.

It spells out three options for the future of the school.

Pupil protest

Councillors will discuss whether to start letting boys attend Notre Dame on 28 November.

The SNP - which is the largest party on the council - backs this idea but they do not have a majority.

Two other options proposed would keep the school as a girl's school - one with the current catchment area, another with a changed catchment area - but it is the proposal to allow boys in which will provoke wider interest.

On Monday, students from the school held a protest against the idea of taking in boys.

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The paper says that if Notre Dame started to take in boys, the school would gradually become "co-educational" over five years.

There would be boys in each fresh S1 intake but boys would not join other year groups. This means that all the current students would still be educated in girl-only classes.

About £750,000 of work would be needed on the toilets and other facilities to make them suitable for boys.

The catchment area for Notre Dame High would include Notre Dame Primary School, St Patrick's Primary School and St Joseph's Primary School.

This means the catchment areas for three other nearby secondaries - St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, St Roch's Secondary School and John Paul Academy - would also change.

'Intense debate'

The likelihood is that any changes would come into effect in August 2021.

The future of Notre Dame has been the subject of intense debate in the west end of Glasgow and among the families of students.

Some in the local community have argued that the current catchment areas are not appropriate. Some also believe that an all-girls' school is an anachronism.

image copyrightThomas Nugent
image captionNotre Dame High School has only admitted girls since 1897

However, some parents and current pupils want the school's unique character retained. A sizeable proportion of the students come from outside the catchment area but their families actively requested a place at Notre Dame.

The consultation by Glasgow City Council highlighted how divided opinions were.

The single most popular option was for the school to start admitting boys with 45.9% backing the co-education option with a change to catchment area.

The status quo was supported by 39.9% and 13.4% wanted the status quo plus a change to catchment area.

'Hugely disappointing'

Supporters of the school's current status are likely to mount a passionate campaign over the next few weeks.

Campaign group NDH4ALL said: "We are delighted that Glasgow City Council has recommended changing the entry criteria of Notre Dame High to one of full inclusion of all children.

"We hope the city administration committee approves the recommendation and brings to an end exclusion of children from their local catchment school because of their gender. "

But a spokeswoman for Girls for Notre Dame said: "This is hugely disappointing, particularly for the 700 or so families from across Glasgow who send their girls each year and want the school to stay. The further negative impact on ethnic and faith communities with no alternative options set out is very worrying.

"It is scandalous that the 49% of Muslim girls who attend also appear to have been forgotten. There is no firm evidence offered to back up the need for change and lots of questions remain unanswered. "

Related Topics

  • Scotland Education
  • Schools
  • Glasgow

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