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New Cosla exorcises the demons of closure

New Cosla, but (pace Messrs Saatchi et al) Any Danger? The newfangled "education and cultural services forum" (including sport) of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had its second meeting in Edinburgh last Friday under the chairmanship of a chap from leisure and recreation.

The new kid on the educational block, in the absence of Alec Thomson of Fife who had far more important business attending his daughter's wedding, was George Urquhart, Cosla's sports spokesperson (try saying that in a hurry).

Urquhart chairs Aberdeen's leisure and recreation committee but presided over last Friday's Cosla's business in preference to Elizabeth Maginnis, the convention's previous education convener. New councils, old districts?

The meeting was chiefly concerned with Cosla's "workplan" which includes four "objectives" and 29 "key tasks". These will be fleshed out either by rapporteurs, task groups, working groups or focus groups. Quite.

Nomenclature rapidly became an issue of the day. David Ferguson, head of policy development, said how much he disliked the word "testing". Sylvia Murray, the policy officer, suggested "assessment". This wasn't good enough for Gordon Jeyes, Stirling's director, who preferred "raising pupil attainment".

Bob McKay, the Perthshire and Kinross director, wanted closure decisions to be presented as "best school provision". But Yvonne Robertson, who chairs education in Inverclyde, said her council would opt for "educational enhancement".

Parents will no doubt spot a rat. As John Kemp, Dundee's education chairman, pointed out, the people who have often to be convinced are fellow elected members.

The forum pressed on regardless and decided to find out what lessons should be learnt from the anguish over school closures in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Malcolm Green, the man in Glasgow's hot seat, said he would be willing to share his experiences. "Although perhaps not all of them," he added on reflection. "We'll need our hankies," Elizabeth Maginnis quipped.

As George Urquhart remarked, "it's good to talk". The new-look Cosla gives every indication of doing so very nicely.

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