Editor's comment

30th July 2010 at 01:00
It can be tricky, picking one's way through the flurry of emotive language when a school is facing closure. Crossroads Primary was such a case this week: news of its demise was described, in the kind of understatement typical on these occasions, as being "the equivalent of the Highland Clearances".

Staff and families, with generations of emotional investment in a school, may be forgiven hyperbole, but it is less easy to accept the intemperate responses of politicians. Of course, Labour's outburst has nothing to do with the merits of this particular closure and everything to do with its harrying of the SNP Government over broken manifesto pledges.

Crossroads is the first high-profile casualty since the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act came into force in April. The legislation, lauded as the tool with which the SNP would make good on its election promise to protect small and rural schools, tightens up the handling of proposed closures and requires local authorities to undertake more than tokenistic consultations.

If a consultation fails to pass muster, the Government may investigate further, even to the extent of calling in the cavalry in the shape of HMIE to pronounce a purely educational verdict. What the act does not do is guarantee the future of a school. On this occasion, the Government ruled that East Ayrshire Council had fulfilled the terms of the legislation.

This could, as some have argued, indicate the Government's unwillingness to back rural schools to the hilt and saddle councils with unsustainable costs. Parents should certainly not hold their breath: after all, if new rules are introduced to make closures more difficult and local authorities up their game to comply with those rules, it is hardly surprising if ministers then give the decision a clean bill of health.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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