Rural schools are under threat

7th May 2004 at 01:00
The Scottish Parliament's education committee recommended back in 2000 that national guidelines for rural school closures should be reviewed.

Here we are now, approaching four years since the initial committee recommendation, and we still do not have them.

All we have is the Scottish Executive wasting valuable parliamentary time and money on the Ministerial Powers Bill which they think they'll use a maximum of once a year.

At the same time, we have councils being forced to close and merge rural schools to proceed with PPP plans. The introduction of private finance into the system should never be the driver behind decisions about schools; those decisions should be taken on educational grounds alone. We are seeing 11 schools in the Borders being closed and merged, and Midlothian targeting schools in areas of growing population which would mean closing schools with 80 per cent occupancy rates.

This isn't about falling rolls and buildings in disrepair, this is about driving on with a discredited private finance scheme. Rural schools are a vital part of the communities they serve, they are often the focus for local groups as well as educational centres, and closing them puts the communities at risk.

The guidelines should be completed as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, we need a moratorium on proposals to close rural schools until those guidelines are ready.

Fiona Hyslop SNP education spokesperson

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