Exclusive:Exclusive: Huge demand for Catholic schools and top secondaries as placing requests soar in Glasgow and Lanarkshire

Parents in Glasgow City and South Lanarkshire lodge more bids to switch schools than any other areas

Parents in the Greater Glasgow area are flooding councils with bids to get their children into Catholic schools and top performing secondaries.

Figures released to The Scotsman suggest demand is rising for out-of-catchment places at schools in parts of the country.

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But thousands of families are being left disappointed each year after having their applications rejected.

Mearns Castle, in Newton Mearns, has a success rate of 73 per cent for pupils achieving at least five Higher exams.Mearns Castle, in Newton Mearns, has a success rate of 73 per cent for pupils achieving at least five Higher exams.
Mearns Castle, in Newton Mearns, has a success rate of 73 per cent for pupils achieving at least five Higher exams.

In Scotland, local authorities assign pupils to a nearby state school based on catchment areas, with parents able to request a different school if they wish.

According to a new report, Glasgow City Council received 3,928 placing requests for the start of 2023/24, of which 47 per cent were for P1 and 53 per cent were for S1.

The total number of P1s registered for the year in the city was 5,675 while for S1 the total was 5,794.

The number of requests for the new school year are significantly higher than figures released by Glasgow City Council for previous years, with freedom of information (FOI) data showing 3,239 applications were made in 2021/22 and 3,097 in 2020/21.

two children sitting in a bookstore, looking at shelves filled with books, and talking about the bookstwo children sitting in a bookstore, looking at shelves filled with books, and talking about the books
two children sitting in a bookstore, looking at shelves filled with books, and talking about the books

The city’s Notre Dame High School, a Catholic secondary which regularly features highly in school league tables, is one of the most popular in Scotland, with placing requests hitting 174 in 2021/22 and 207 last year, although the majority were rejected.

Hyndland Secondary School and Hillhead High School, both also among the nation’s top 30 schools in terms of exam results, have routinely been the subject of more than 100 placing requests in recent years, as have city Catholic schools, John Paul Academy and St Andrew's Secondary School.

In South Lanarkshire, which had the second highest placing request figures for a local authority in Scotland, there were 3,095 bids in 2022/23, up from 2,818 in 2021/22, 2,722 in 2020/21, and 2,550 in 2019/20 – a 21 per cent increase in three years.

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According to responses to freedom of information requests, East Renfrewshire Council has the third most placing requests, hitting 1,551 in 2021/22.

The area hosts several schools which regularly perform well in exams, including Woodfarm High, which was the subject of 196 placing requests in 2021/22, Eastwood High, where there were 170, Mearns Castle High, with 143, Williamwood High, with 140, and St Ninian's High, with 129.

Data also shows that many parents in these areas are left disappointed each year.

In Glasgow, a report to a meeting of the city administration committee last week said 55 per cent of requests for this year were approved, with 30 per cent rejected and 15 per cent withdrawn.

A total of 545 appeals against placing request refusals were received by Glasgow City Council for P1 And S1 in August 2023.

New caps for Glasgow schools were agreed at a meeting of councillors on Thursday.

In previous years, it has been a similar story in East Renfrewshire, with 376 of the 1,551 bids rejected in 2021/22, and another 309 withdrawn.

In South Lanarkshire last year, 214 of the 3,095 requests were rejected, while 453 were withdrawn.

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Applications can be withdrawn if parents change their mind, a house move falls through, or a pupil becomes a catchment area pupil, following the completion of a new-build housing development, for example.

Patrick McGlinchey, executive director of Connect, which was formerly known as the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “It’s critical that local authorities consult parents, carers, and families when devising catchment areas and developing criteria for placement request.”

Glasgow University professor Roisín Coll, a director of the St Andrew’s Foundation for Catholic Teacher Education, said that parents were attracted to the “distinctive nature” of Catholic education in Scotland.

"The view that each person is made in the image and likeness of God is at the heart of Catholic education and, as a result, Catholic schools should be inclusive places of learning and love that honour the life, dignity and voice of every pupil regardless of their personal beliefs,” she said.

"It is committed to upholding moral teachings and the faith tradition of the Church which includes being rooted in the principles of Catholic social teaching and the promotion of social justice and opportunity for all.

"There is a shared understanding of this distinctive nature and vision by teachers, pupils, parents and the wider parish and faith community.

"Strong Catholic school leadership enables Catholic schools to achieve their goals, supporting young people to flourish and ultimately contribute to the common good.

"For this reason many parents of other faiths and none, choose a Catholic education for their children.”

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Meanwhile, despite recent increases recorded in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, the number of requests has been more consistent in much of the rest of the country.

In Edinburgh City, the level has remained at between 1,300 and 1,400 in each of the last five years.

There has also been little change in North Lanarkshire, which has regularly recorded about 1,150 placing requests in recent years.

Numbers have been fairly stable in Dundee City, which received 1,082 applications in 2021/22, while there was a slight increase in Aberdeenshire, and a small drop in East Dunbartonshire, with both also getting just more than 1,000 requests.

In 2021/22, there were 640 requests in South Ayrshire, 102 in Shetland, 37 in the Western Isles, 802 in Highland, 384 in Midlothian, 164 in East Lothian, 552 in the Scottish Borders, 586 in Stirling, 388 in East Ayrshire, 572 in Angus, 42 in Orkney, 747 in Falkirk, 785 in Perth and Kinross, 265 in Argyll and Bute, 416 in West Dunbartonshire, 688 in Moray 126 in Clackmannanshire, 787 in Renfrewshire, and 539 in West Lothian.

Fife Council only provided partial data, three councils did not respond, including Aberdeen City, and figures from some local authorities for 2022/23 were incomplete.



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