In an open invitation to consider fully the heavyweight Argyll issue of the role of rural schools, the Argyll Rural Schools Network (ARSN) is sending the following statement to all candidates standing in the Argyll and Bute local authority election on 3rd May 2012. They are asking candidates to respond to it by 23rd April.
The future matters more than the past. The important thing is that elected members in Argyll and Bute, come to agreement on a cross party basis on the issues of the nature and value of a rural primary education and of the contribution of rural schools to community sustainability and to local economies. They could valuably distil together an agreed policy for gauging when a rural school actually should be closed and when it should not.
For that reason, we will make no comment of any kind should candidates who, as elected councillors voted to close rural schools in the 2010-11 fracas – but commit to supporting the position advanced in this statement.
It is important that we all make room for people to choose better than they may have done in the past.
The ARSN statement
Argyll Rural Schools Network requests that council candidates consider the statement below and indicate whether they are happy to support it. We will be publicising the results among our members and in the media so they can take this information into account when they vote on 3rd May. We have attached a copy of our mission statement so that new candidates can see our aims.
‘I support the call by ARSN for the opening of dialogue between Argyll and Bute Council, ARSN, councillors and other appropriate bodies with a view to drawing up a new vision of rural education in Argyll & Bute. I believe there should be a presumption against rural school closure and that the Council should adopt such a presumption as a foundation policy for education in the area.’
ARSN Mission Statement
‘Argyll Rural Schools Network is committed to protecting and promoting all of Argyll’s rural and island schools, and to bringing Argyll and Bute Council to a clear understanding of their importance.
‘Schools are more than just venues for our children’s education; they are vital community assets. As such, they are fundamental to the Council’s responsibility to secure the social and economic sustainability of its diverse rural communities for the long-term benefit of Argyll & Bute’s whole population. ARSN believes that Argyll & Bute could take a national lead in the delivery of rural education by forming strong links with communities to obtain mutual benefits.
‘Specifically, ARSN believes that our rural schools:-
‘Offer an excellent education, effectively delivering the Curriculum for Excellence.
‘Underpin the communities they lie in; without schools there is little prospect of our communities retaining or attracting families, potentially exacerbating demographic trends towards an ageing population, particularly in rural areas.
‘Are essential for the long term sustainability and growth of our communities, both as direct employers and as important local services that attract businesses to locate in Argyll and Bute.