‘Encouragement for Bute’ from rural schools meeting

THE Bute contingent at last week’s public meeting on the delivery of education in rural areas have told The Buteman they were encouraged by what they heard.

Reeni Kennedy-Boyle, from North Bute Primary School’s parent council, and local Argyll and Bute councillor Isobel Strong attended the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education’s public meeting in Lochgilphead on Tuesday evening, along with representatives of many other areas affected by Argyll and Bute Council’s proposals - suspended last June - to close 11 primary schools.

Tuesday’s meeting followed a visit to Rothesay Joint Campus and North Bute Primary earlier that day by three members of the commission - Inverclyde education convener Cllr Terry Loughran, UHI vice-principal James Fraser, and chair Sheriff David Sutherland - to talk to pupils, staff and parent council members.

“I came away from the meeting confident that the commission fully understands the value of rural education,” Reeni told us, “and will not make it easier for councils to pursue a school closure policy which is based on cost cutting and centralisation rather than educational benefit.”

Councillor Strong was Argyll and Bute Council’s spokesperson on education until the SNP group, of which she is a member, left the authority’s ruling coalition in November 2010, when its members decided they could no longer support the closure proposals, which at that time affected 26 schools.

“I felt the commission’s members were really quite supportive of the views of the parents present, and towards the idea of rural schools in general,” Cllr Strong said.

“They came across as much more positive than the questions which were put forward in the consultation, and although some people were asking hostile questions, it was clear the commission wasn’t just backing the council side.

“More than once they said there was no evidence that there was a benefit or a disbenefit when comparing a small school to a larger one.”

The commission is due to report in August.