New rules of rural school closures

The closure of rural schools in Galloway will be subject to much more stringent guidelines from now on after new rules came into force this week.

The changes are part of the Children and Young People Act, passed in February and will give communities the right to challenge inaccuracies in council proposals.The new guidelines come too late to save SOrbie Primary, which is to be officially closed this year.

Learning minister Alasdair Allan said that local authorities will be required to carry out more rigorous consultation and that evidence for proposed closures must be provided. He added that consultations should include clear, accurate information including financial costs.

If closure plans are rejected, the school concerned cannot be considered for closure for five years.

Mr Allan said: “I am delighted that we have achieved our commitment to strengthen the rights of communities in relation to school closure proposals.

“In addition to providing important safeguards for rural schools, these changes will ensure that consultation is genuine and based on accurate information.

“Rural schools are at the heart of many of our communities in Scotland and the new legislation will give them greater protection and require councils to undertake more careful consideration before they can propose closure.”

The minister added: “Clearly, local authorities are best placed to consider how to deliver services across their communities and sometimes it is necessary to close a school.

“However, the new legislation will strengthen parents and pupils’ rights to clear information when these decisions are being considered.”