Government calls in council’s north Skye schools decision

EDINBANE-PS---2

Pupils at Edinbane Primary School

MICHAEL RUSSELL
michael.russell@whfp.co.uk

The Scottish Government’s decision to “call in” Highland Council’s plan to close three primary schools in north Skye “vindicates” what campaigners have been saying for two years, one parent said this week.

Tim Spencer, who has a child at Edinbane Primary School and is a member of the parent council, was speaking as Ministers decided to refer the closure of Knockbreck, Struan and Edinbane to the School Closure Review Panel, which was introduced earlier this year. The council also want to build a new 100-pupil school at Dunvegan to serve the whole area.

He added: “This decison is to be welcomed as it vindicates what we have been saying all along about the weaknesses in the council’s processes and reasoning.

“It is vital for local democracy that consultations should be genuine rather than just an exercise is box-ticking. The council never listened to us and the document produced by their consultants, Caledonian Economics, is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

According to Mr Spencer, the Scottish Government’s decision to call-in the closure is in itself an indication that they think the council might have fallen foul of legislation.

The Schools Consultation Act of 2010 states that a call-in will be issued “where it appears to the Scottish Ministers that the education authority may have failed— in a significant regard to comply with the requirements imposed on it by (or under) this Act so far as they are relevant in relation to the closure proposal, or to take proper account of a material consideration relevant to its decision to implement the proposal.”

The decision was welcomed by local MSP David Thompson, who has supported parents since the beginning of their campaign.

He said: “I am glad that sense has prevailed and the concerns of parents have been listened to as the Scottish Government take the decision to call-in the proposals for an amalgamated school in Dunvegan.

“This matter has been running for some considerable time, but given the consequences of the new school would mean closures to Struan, Edinbane and Knockbreck Primary Schools, it is extremely important that we ensure due process has been followed.

“I recently wrote to the Minister for Learning, Alasdair Allan, asking that the decision be called-in, so I am pleased that the Government are listening and I look forward to further developments on the issue.”

Local councillor Ian Renwick also voiced his support. He said: “I am delighted the parent’s campaign to have the decision by Highland Council called-in by the Scottish Government has borne fruit.

“I would like to congratulate the parents for all their sterling campaign efforts and I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has listened to their concerns and called the decision in.”

Councillor Alasdair Christie, chair of the education, children and adult services committee commented: “We note that the council’s proposal to establish a modern new community school for north west Skye has been called in. This is due process to ensure that there has been full and proper consultation in relation to the Act, and we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that this has been the case. The council will co-operate fully with the School Closure Review Panel to allow a final decision to be reached. The council remains firmly of the view that there are strong educational and community benefits from the proposed new community school.”

The review panel could make its decision by 8th July. If it requests more time that decision will be known on 2nd September.