Cosla's role in rural affairs

20th April 2012 at 01:00

In light of recent media coverage about the Commission on Rural Education, I write to clarify the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' interest in its work. Cosla is committed to the commission and hopes that its findings produce an outcome that everyone can support.

The strong views held by communities about their schools are acknowledged. But many rural communities now have more roads, better public transport options, more merging of settlements through housing development, and consequently increased numbers of placing requests.

Campaigners also have strong views on financing rural schools. There are many myths about this, with some commentators seemingly questioning the professionalism of local government staff who deal with budgeting for education. We cannot overemphasise the complexity of managing a council's budget. Education, however, is just one element of it and our communities want councils spending public money wisely, not using funds on unviable schools that cannot give children a quality educational experience.

All councils are committed to the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence across all schools, including those in rural communities. We are concerned that remote rural schools may struggle to deliver the necessary peer-contact opportunities.

Both Cosla and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) have been accused of seeking to disadvantage children through rural school closures. This misrepresents the valid concerns that respected educationalists hold and diminishes high-quality debate on rural education.

We have no hidden agenda on rural education. Councils want to do the best for Scotland's children, regardless of geography. In the current financial climate, that means they can no longer afford to be sentimental about schools and their location that do not deliver the quality of education for which we all strive.

Councillor Isabel Hutton, Cosla education, children and young people spokesperson.

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