Move to protect rural schools

Legislation has been passed by the Scottish Government that gives rural schools greater protection against the threat of closure.

Changes to the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 that strengthen the protection for rural schools threatened with closure, came into effect on Friday August 1.

The news will be welcomed across Carrick who saw the closure of Pinwherry Primary School in 2011 whilst in 2009 Sacred Heart Primary School and Invergarven Primary School in Girvan faced uncertain futures.

The legislation was introduced through the Children and Young People Act in February,and the changes will require local authorities to carry out more rigorous consultations on all school closures, but in particular on rural schools.

The requirements are a result of the Report from the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education which said the Scottish Government should clarify the presumption against closure for rural schools and consultations must reach higher standards.

Under the regulations, communities will also have a right to challenge any inaccuracies in council proposals and if a school closure is rejected, it will be protected from closure for five years.

Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said: “I am delighted that we have achieved our commitment to strengthen the rights of communities in relation to school closure proposals. In addition to providing important safeguards for rural schools, these changes will ensure that consultation is genuine and based on accurate information.

“Rural schools are at the heart of many of our communities in Scotland and the new legislation will give them greater protection and require councils to undertake more careful consideration before they can propose closure.

“Clearly, local authorities are best placed to consider how to deliver services across their communities and sometimes it is necessary to close a school. However, the new legislation will strengthen parents and pupils’ rights to clear information when these decisions are being considered.”