Last opt-out school loses independence

PUPILS and parents from St Mary's Episcopal Primary in Dunblane, Scotland's only and last opted-out school, went to Edinburgh last week to see MSPs pronounce the end of their independence, writes Neil Munro.

The education Bill has now passed through its final stage in Parliament which means that Stirling Council will assume control of the school.

Executive officials reckon just under 50 amendments to the Bill have been accepted since its passage began in January, although around half of those were tabled by ministers.

During last week's lengthy stage three proceedings, ministers accepted or introduced further changes.

They backed an amendment from Mary Mulligan, Labour convener of the Parliament's education committee, to ensure that exceptions to the "presumption" that pupils with special needs must be educated in mainstream schools could be justfied if "unreasonable" rather than "significant" public expenditure was incurred.

This and the other two grounds for separate education, the suitability of the mainstream placement and adverse effects on other children, "shall be presumed (to) arise only exceptionally", the Executive agreed.

Peter Peacock, the deputy minister, also accepted a carefully-crafted addition to the Bill from Labour backbenchers, supported by the SNP, which will make it mandatory on education authorities "so far as is reasonably practicable" to have "due regard" to the views of young people on decisions that significantly affect them "if there is a wish to express them".

Other last-minute changes include a new right of appeal for excluded pupils against the decision and an obligation on education authorities to abide by any ministerial guidance on home education.

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