ONE of Scotland best-performing education authorities in considering plans for the country’s first joint faith school for Catholic and Jewish pupils.
East Renfewshire Council, home to many of Scotland’s leading secondary schools, hopes to build a £9.5 million shared primary in Newton Mearns, near Glasgow.
Councillors have backed the plans, which would see a new school replace an existing Jewish primary and bolster provision for Catholic pupils.
The council is consulting the local community before its makes its final decision on the school, which would be built next to Mearns Castle High.
If the plan goes ahead, the new school will replace Calderwood Lodge Primary – the only Jewish school in Scotland – which is managed and owned by East Renfrewshire Council, but is in Newlands, Glasgow.
Catholic provision would add to that provided by St Cadoc’s Primary, the only Roman Catholic primary serving the area.
Councillor Elaine Green, education convener, said: “There is a pressing need for a second primary school for Catholic faith children in Newton Mearns. Also, our Jewish school community has for some time wanted to relocate to East Renfrewshire, where most of its pupils live.
“That’s why we have decided to carry out this informal consultative exercise with groups of both faiths.
“We are going into this with very positive soundings.”
Rabbi Moshe Rubin, of the Giffnock and Newlands synagogue, said the Jewish community would need to know full details of the plan before it could lend its support.
“We would have to know exactly what this means, but we are very supportive of the council, who provide unbelievable support for Jewish education,” he said.
“The idea [for a shared school] has not been rejected, but we need to know exactly what it means and how it will work.”
While there have long been shared campuses between Roman Catholic and non- denominational schools at primary level, the East Renfrewshire school would be the first to house Catholic and Jewish pupils on the same site.
Scotland’s first shared campus high school, St David’s Roman Catholic High School and Dalkeith High in Midlothian, opened in 2003.
The Rev Thomas Boyle, who is representing the Catholic Church during the East Renfrewshire Council consultation, said the Church had been “wary” in the past of campuses being shared with non-denominational schools. However, he said the proposal for two faith schools on one site was a “good idea”.
“Two schools from different religious traditions, each with their own ethos, headteacher and staff, both based on the commandments, cannot but complement each other,” he said.
The council said Jewish pupils attending the new school would go on to Mearns Castle High, while Catholic students would progress to St Ninian’s, in nearby Giffnock.