Opposition to rural closures;Opinion

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Highland Council wanted to close 10 schools. It has succeeded with only two. Once again an education authority has been thwarted in its attempt to concentrate resources. Councils have played the financial card - we need to cut costs and remove redundant places. And they have deployed the educational argument - small schools cannot offer a full curriculum and range of pupil experiences. Neither cuts the mustard.

Councillors have again proved unwilling to confront public and parent pressure, and the directorate is left to make savings in other ways. That does not prove the correctness of its policy. But it does show the gap between administrative initiative and democratic leadership.

The Education Minister gave succour recently to protesters about closures, especially in rural areas. Highland Liberal Democrat MPs have said there should be no change before the parliament is set up. No doubt both Brian Wilson and opposition MPs voice a general sentiment, and certainly the lesson is not that closures should be imposed by central government or administrative fiat. But impotence is undignified. If the community argument is to prevail, the financial and educational implications must be faced.

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