Public’s views sought on rural school report

North Bute Primary School in Port Bannatyne was threatened with closure in 2010-11 - a threat which was removed when education secretary Michael Russell MSP described legislation set up to protect rural schools as "defective".
North Bute Primary School in Port Bannatyne was threatened with closure in 2010-11 - a threat which was removed when education secretary Michael Russell MSP described legislation set up to protect rural schools as "defective".

A consultation on proposals to improve the delivery of education in rural areas has been launched by Scotland’s education secretary Michael Russell.

The consultation exercise follows the publication of a report by the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education, which was set up by the Scottish Government in 2011 following concern expressed across Scotland at the level of protection given to schools in rural areas threatened with closure.

The establishment of the commission led directly to the suspension of Argyll and Bute Council’s hugely controversial proposals to shut 11 primary schools across the area, including North Bute Primary in Port Bannatyne, and merge them with larger neighbours.

The new consultation seeks views, by September 2, on:

• the presumption against closure;

• providing financial information on closure proposals;

• clarifying and expanding Education Scotland’s role;

• the basis for determining school closure proposals;

• establishing an independent referral mechanism;

• views on a five year moratorium between closure proposals for the same school.

Mr Russell - who told the Scottish Parliament in 2011 that he believed legislation set up to protect rural schools from closure was “defective” - said this week: “School closures are an emotive issue for all communities and it is important that they are dealt with in an open, effective and transparent manner.

“Rural schools have particular importance to the local economy and the viability of rural communities. I want to ensure we have measures in place to protect and enhance that, while still providing councils with the flexibility they need.

“The Scottish Government and COSLA set up the Commission to examine the delivery of rural education and review the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010. I am committed to working closely with relevant stakeholders, parents and communities to tackle these difficult issues.

“The Commission suggested a number of changes to the legislation on school closures. I encourage everyone with an interest in schools to consider this consultation and ensure their views are reflected in new legislation which delivers for education, economies and communities.”

The Commission’s report can be found here, and the consultation document, and details of how to respond, can be found here.