OFFICIAL RESPONSE 997
SUBJECT: Consultation on the proposed Rural Schools (Scotland) Bill (pdf)
REQUESTED BY: Murdo Fraser MSP, Member for Mid Scotland and Fife
DATE SENT: 1 April 2008
REF: OR 997
Dear Mr. Fraser
This response is made on behalf of, and in consultation with, the Scottish Executive Committee (SEC) of Voice – the union for educational professionals (formerly The Professional of Teachers Scotland).
SEC determines Association Policy with regard to pay, conditions, and all other educational matters in Scotland.
Voice is in favour of the proposal to introduce a presumption against the closure of rural schools. It is felt that the advantages to pupils’ education, the smaller class sizes and the benefits to the community outweigh the budgetary demands that tend to drive forward such closures.
Question 1: An appropriate appeals mechanism would be providing sufficient time for parents to put forward their case. There should be a right of appeal to the Scottish Government.
Question 2: Local authorities should write to the parent and/or guardian of children who attend (or are due to attend) the school concerned, as well as to the church/denominational body and school council. The local authority should provide detailed proposals and give a response period of 12 weeks instead of 28 days. The consultation should be meaningful, not simply an exercise to tick a box. At least one public meeting should be held, with adequate notice and at a suitable time, to allow parents and/or guardians to attend. The points made in Paragraph 5.4 are certainly worth considering in drawing up a model for Scotland. A more formal basis for consultation should be mandatory.
Question 3: Capacity figures should only play a small part in reaching closure decisions. There should be a standard method of calculating the capacity of a school and not be left to the discretion of individual local authorities in the interests of fairness. It is very difficult to estimate future occupancy needs accurately and once closure has taken place, there is no turning back.
Question 4: If a Scottish Rural Schools Support Fund were established, care would have to be taken about what the money was spent on – clear guidelines would have to be laid down, but the idea has merit.
Question 5: There is a great emphasis on the benefits of community from all quarters, quite rightly so, and therefore considerable weight should be given to the effects of a school closure. A community can "die" if its hub is taken away.
Question 6: Every effort should be made to ensure that pupils, wherever they live, are treated equally.
Question 7: An unknown quantity.
Senior Professional Officer
1-3 St Colme Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6AA
Tel: 0131 220 8241