>> 6 April 2010

Gordon MSP Alex Salmond and Gordon SNP Westminster Candidate, Richard Thomson, have welcomed the introduction of a new consultation process, which will see a presumption against the further closure of rural schools.

The new regime, which came into force on April 5, provides an updated and strengthened consultation process. A new Scottish Government leaflet has been produced to explain the consultation process – which makes clear that when any changes to schools are being considered, education must be the key priority.

The leaflet also explains the role and responsibilities of local authorities - such as consulting for six weeks during term time, holding a public meeting and asking HMIE to prepare a report - as well as covering how parents can get involved and have their voices heard.

Crucially for the North East, when it comes to rural schools, local authorities must demonstrate that they have considered all viable alternatives and assessed the likely community implications of closure before even proposing closure of a rural school.

Mr Salmond said:

"The new law around proposed school closures, which came into force this week, brings in some important changes - putting education at the heart of the decision and giving parents more of a voice in the process.

"It is therefore vital that parents know about the new system and what it means for them, if any changes to their child's school are proposed. That's why a leaflet has now been published which explains the changes and provides information to parents.

"This also makes clear that there is a presumption against the closure of rural schools, meaning councils must show they've considered all viable alternatives and assessed the potential impact on the community before proposing to close a school in a rural area."

Mr Thomson added:

“Local schools, particularly in rural areas, are often right at the heart of community activity. This process means that for the first time ever, there will be a presumption against closure, with all decisions having to be justified on the grounds of educational benefit.

"I hope this leaflet will help make sure that parents are fully aware of the process that councils should follow, and what opportunities are available for them to make their voices heard, if changes are being considered to their child’s school."

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