Catholic Church may pull out of school-share deal in Scotland

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The Independent Online

A £150m plan to help stem sectarianism in Scotland by encouraging Roman Catholic and non-denominational schools to share facilities was in jeopardy yesterday after the church threatened to pull out.

Senior Catholic Church officials have said they will to call a halt on the project to use seven primary school sites in Lanarkshire unless they get written assurances that there will be separate entrances, staff lavatories and nurseries for the different faiths.

Under the scheme, to be completed in 2010, the seven schools with Catholic and non-denominational pupils will attend a shared campus but with separate accommodation. The project is supposed to help tackle Scotland's sectarian problem but the church is concerned it could mean the end for denominational schools.

Already one campus, which hosts St Andrew's and Cumbernauld primaries, has been created but the church feels planners ignored calls for separate entrances for Catholic pupils and have reneged on previous agreements.

The church has said while it was happy for the schools to have shared dining rooms and playgrounds it would prefer separate entrances, staff lavatories, staffrooms, gyms and nurseries. Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said: "Initial suggestions from North Lanarkshire Council indicated this was acceptable; subsequent developments have led the diocese to believe that these early indications are no longer being honoured."

The church is particularly concerned that contracts to build the new campuses were being put out to tender without any attempt to specify the requirements and criteria requested by the church. There has been escalating violence at Scotland's only shared secondary campus of Dalkeith and St David's RC high schools outside Edinburgh. Parents called an emergency meeting last week after a boy of 15 was taken to hospital after being set upon by a gang and a girl had glass removed from an eye after a school bus was stoned.