David Henderson reports from Aberdeen on the British Council's conference on rural and remote schools.
Budget cuts threaten to undermine an innovative approach to staff development in a rural area.
Chris Shirley, quality standards manager in Argyll and Bute, said that extra management time for seven staff and curriculum development co-operatives had been "drastically reduced" following a cut of Pounds 1.7 million in the council's Pounds 45 million education budget.
Mr Shirley said the co-ops were an attempt to end the isolation of small rural schools and support teachers' professional interests. Each cluster school contributes an element of its budget to a common pool and each headteacher takes over a specific curriculum area.
Martin Mulholland, information technology support officer in Argyll and Bute, said the co-ops helped teachers share the burden of curriculum development and work towards a common curriculum.
The council had begun its innovative approach to IT, "an essential management skill", in 1991 by installing Apple Macs in every school and had moved on to setting up video conferencing in half the primaries and a third of secondaries. Phones and faxes have been established in classrooms and all schools are now "on-line" and linked by e-mail.
Mr Mulholland said that the results of a study by the SCRE would confirm improved interaction between primaries and increased collaborative working. Specialist itinerant teachers were able to use the video conferencing facilities to reach more schools.