Changes to school closure law welcomed

Proposed changes to the law on school closures have been welcomed by local campaigners.

The Scottish Government this week said in response to recommendations by the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education  that parents and communities would be able to take in decision making over the future of their schools in future.

The Argyll Rural Schools Network (ARSN), formed to campaign against plans to close 25 primary schools which  Argyll and Bute Council was forced to shelve in 2011, this week welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell.

A spokesperson said: “ARSN commends the Cabinet Secretary for implementing many of the commission’s recommendations and believe they will provide a more honest dialogue between parents and local authorities.

“We look forward to a better standard of consultation with clear and accurate information, much of which has been lacking in the past.

“Clarification of the presumption against closure will ensure that authorities see closure as a last rather than first resort.

“ARSN is delighted that educational benefit will remain the priority.  This remains true to the original debates in parliament which attracted cross-party support.

“Given the considerable disadvantages of travel for young children – lost daylight play times, longer hours, detachment from community input, loss of access to after school activities – it is the very least authorities should offer.”

Changes to the law will include clarifying the presumption against closure of rural schools, requiring clear financial information to be set out for a school closure proposal and Ministers will be able to draw on additional advice from Education Scotland when considering closure proposals.

Mr Russell said: “Our commitment to making these changes to the consultation process for school closures underlines the Government’s belief that education authorities must give extremely careful consideration to a range of matters when bringing forward any closure proposal.

“I am absolutely determined that educational benefit should remain an important part of any proposal – and I am convinced these amendments we will bring forward will ensure this remains central to the decision-making process.”

The analysis of the consultation is available here and the Scottish Government response is here.