Funding fears postpone Newlands Junior College plans

Jim McColl: 'Frustrated'. Picture: Robert Perry
Jim McColl: 'Frustrated'. Picture: Robert Perry
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ONE of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen has postponed the opening of a new skills college for disaffected teenagers amid continuing doubts over who will fund the project.

Jim McColl, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers, had hoped to welcome the first students to Newlands Junior College in Glasgow this August.

But he has now admitted the facility is not expected to open until August 2014 amid growing “frustration” at how long it is taking to bring the idea to fruition.

Glasgow City Council, which had initially pledged £500,000 of funding, said it had not seen any further progress on the scheme since McColl’s decision to set the institution up as an independent school.

However, the council said its money remained “on the table”.

The entrepreneur, who left school at 16 with three O Grades, has always said the project will only work if it is a partnership between the public and private sectors.

“Things are still progressing,” he said. “We were hoping to start in August, but it will probably not be ready until January now, with the first entrance a year in ­August.

“Glasgow City Council are involved. Clearly, we have to have a relationship with local schools, and the council are strongly supportive of it but, technically, it has to be classed as an independent school.

“It’s frustrating that it has taken longer than I thought. We don’t want to go off half-cocked. We have had total support from the Scottish Government. We have not quantified any funding from them, but will be getting ­towards the finalisation of that package in January. That’s my target.”

McColl had previously blamed “negative” bureaucrats for delays in opening the college. But last year the city council said the businessman’s “failure to commit” funding was the only reason the project had not already gone ahead.

McColl, Scotland’s fifth-richest man, worth an estimated £1 billion, had already put back by a year the opening of the facility, which will offer courses in engineering and construction alongside traditional subjects.

Under the plans, 30 S3 pupils would be selected from ten secondary schools in the southside of Glasgow to attend the college.

It is expected they would continue to study for Standard Grades, taking five subjects. There will also be a ­vocational strand, with ­students receiving classes in engineering and construction as well as life skills.

Asked if Glasgow City Council was still part of the project, McColl said: “I’m hoping they are. I’ve not had any personal feedback on that.”