Editor's comment

10th April 2009 at 01:00

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Glasgow City Council's proposal to shut 25 primaries and nurseries, the protesting parents have made a hugely important point this week (p4). Their sit-in is a timely reminder that local authorities should not expect communities to roll over and submit when schools are threatened with closure. There is probably no such thing as a robust case for closing a school, unless it has no pupils. But local politicians must ensure their cost-benefit analysis in each case is thorough - and persuasive. To be fair, the SNP Government's Bill overhauling consultation on closures is designed to ensure the process is "open and transparent".

But the real contribution of the Glasgow parents is to raise the question: what is a community? Although the Bill ostensibly applies to all closures, there is a clear "presumption", if we may coin a phrase, in favour of the proposition that rural schools are rather more important to their communities than urban schools. Ministerial rhetoric also focuses on the former.

Although the original pledge in the SNP's election manifesto to introduce a legislative presumption against rural school closures has been ditched, the subsequent consultation paper noted: "The presence of a school in its midst can be important in helping a local community to thrive and, particularly in rural areas, to be more viable and resilient. A rural school is often the 'hub' for such communities and their activities." Glasgow parents would say Amen to that and could be forgiven for wondering why such sentiments, indeed sentimentality very often, are confined to rural schools.

The Government must be even-handed in its treatment of closures and ought not to convey the impression, explicitly or implicitly, that schools in towns and cities are of less educational and community value than those in the SNP's political heartlands.

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