The re-organisation of school estates in Renfrewshire was discussed in the Scottish Parliament this week. The Cabinet Secretary for education, Mike Russell MSP, was questioned by Paisley’s MSP about the proper process that should be followed when local authorities are reviewing educational facilities.
After questioning the Cabinet secretary George said;
‘It is essential that full scrutiny and all relevant statutory processes are followed when reviewing local authorities educational estates. The Cabinet Secretary agreed with me and I have voiced my concerns on the record in Parliament about what is happening within Renfrewshire Council.
‘The review and council consultation being undertaken by Labour in Renfrewshire must ensure that correct procedures are adhered to. This is not only to ensure that parents and the children have full confidence in any of the proposed changes but to ensure that legal challenges do not emerge.
‘The information that I have had to gather myself from the council has raised some questions.
‘There are claims that shutting a school and moving the pupils to another school is not actually a school closure.
‘There are also concerns that the pupils being moved in to an existing school is not the model of shared campuses that we know. Here in Renfrewshire purpose built schools were built to house shared campuses, differing educational facilities with other shared aspects.
‘These concerns are troubling.
‘We must ensure that any consultation is a real consultation, I would advise every parent to follow what is happening to their school, do not get caught out by changes that surprise you when the consultation process ends.’
Extract from the Scottish Parliament’s Official Report.
3. George Adam (Paisley) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what statutory duties local education authorities must consider when reorganising school estates. (S4O-02344)
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Michael Russell): Under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, education authorities have a duty to ensure the
“adequate and efficient provision of school education”
in their area.
The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 sets out the consultation process that an education authority must—and I stress “must”—follow when it is proposing changes to its school estate, such as school closures, relocations and changes to catchment areas.
George Adam: Does the cabinet secretary share my concern about the rationalisation of the school estate throughout the Renfrewshire Council area and the Labour-led council’s strategy to avoid statutory requirements? Is that not a prime example of how Labour is determined to make the closure of schools a much easier process?
Michael Russell: I understand that Renfrewshire Council plans to carry out a preliminary consultation on a range of options for reorganisation of its school estate. I encourage George Adam’s constituents to respond to the consultation so that their views can be taken into account.
Where a council decides to take forward a relevant proposal under the 2010 act to close or relocate a school, there must be no doubt that there is a clear statutory consultation process that it must—I repeat “must”—follow.
I expect Renfrewshire Council—and every council—to follow the law and engage in an open and honest discussion with the community that it serves about any school closure proposal. I also expect educational benefit for the affected children to be central to any and every such proposal.