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About as surprising as your inability to comment …

Comment posted Argyll Rural Schools Network puts all candidates to the test on rural schools by Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll.

About as surprising as your inability to comment on the actual story.

In their submission to the Rural Education Commission COSLA claim that rural schools only have a limited contribution to community life and that they are not aware of any evidence to support the claim that schools should be continued simply on the grounds of the role it places in the community. First and foremost this is a misrepresentation of the arguments and views expressed by parents and campaigners across Scotland. ARSN have no knowledge of any campaign which argues for school retention solely on the grounds of community impact, campaigns focus on all relevant factors with community impact being just one of them.

ARSN recognise that there is limited research on the impact of schools on community sustainability however disagree with COSLA’s claim that there is none. Two such studies, the ‘Outer Hebrides Migration Study’ and ‘Factors Influencing Rural Migration Decisions in Scotland: An Analysis of the Evidence’ should be well known to COSLA as they were erroneously referenced by Argyll & Bute Council as providing evidence that the existence of schools were not of significant importance to the sustainability of rural communities. The author of the Hebrides study wrote to ARSN and stated that ‘ Overall I feel that using this report as a basis for concluding that schools are less important in sustaining rural communities is wholly unjustified. The report clearly states that business, jobs and housing are the factors that will help to sustain local communities and that retaining primary school rolls is an explicit desirable outcome of doing so.’

Equally the researcher of the second study stated ‘“My research did not recommend the closure of rural primary schools. It highlighted the importance of rural schools in enhancing the social and economic sustainability of some areas.”

We would welcome more research into this area find it disturbing that COSLA are seeking to reduce the importance of this issue. COSLA have specifically asked the Commission to provide clarity on what is expected and proportional for authorities to evidence during their consideration of community impact and expressed a clear dissatisfaction that communities expect Councils to undertake unique research and reports into every closure proposal. Whilst ARSN recognise that some generic research may be applicable to all closure proposals it is quite clear that each community will have local issues that are specific to their community and their community only. We consider COSLA’s desire to minimize the requirement for community impact assessments of closure proposals as having questionable motive and contrary to the Commission’s remit.

COSLA’s letter also dismisses the impact of GAE, questions the ability of campaigners to understand the complexities of local government finance and appears to take offence that officer’s competence is questioned. This assumption that the public has neither the capacity nor experience to challenge is symptomatic of a culture that fails to recognise the abilities of the Scottish public and conveniently ignores the proven errors made by Council officers in a number of closure proposals. The Scottish Rural Schools Network has, on numerous occasions, highlighted fundamental errors in Council’s calculation of GAE with proposal papers having to be revised as a direct consequence.

COSLA further highlights their concern about delivery of the CfE in rural schools. This is an argument that has been repeated, practically verbatim, in numerous closure proposals despite a lack of evidence to support it. ARSN can highlight many examples of small rural schools delivering CfE and receiving ‘Excellent’ classifications in their HMIE/Education Scotland reports in this category. If individual councils are struggling to deliver CfE in a small school then they should identify the root cause of this rather than blaming it on school size. School size has been proven not to be a limiting factor and the Rural Education Commission confirmed this during its visit to Lochgilphead Joint Campus in March 2012. An analysis of the submissions to the Commission’s call for evidence highlights that teachers do not believe that school size is a limiting factor in the delivery of CfE despite council claims. That the opinion of practitioners appears to be being ignored by elected members is of great concern to ARSN and makes us sceptical about COSLA’s claim that ‘Councils want to do the best for Scotland’s children.

Just as COSLA are claiming small schools will struggle to deliver CfE it is also possible to construct a counter argument that small schools will be more effective in implementing CfE than larger schools. Mixed age classes are more common in rural primaries than in urban schools with studies demonstrating that mixed age learning tends to have a positive educational effect on pupils and that small class size has beneficial effects on group learning, largely through better discipline when there are fewer groups and also the ability of the teacher to give time to each group rather than having to police discipline.

Given that the rural education commission is still to complete its work it is strange that COSLA choose this particular time to issue this letter to the national media and we can only conclude that it has been done in an attempt to inappropriately influence the commission’s conclusions.

Or, in shorter terms, COSLA are talking twaddle!

Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll also commented

  • Not according to COSLA – they believe that there really isn’t much of a correlation between the closing of a school and impact on the surrounding area.

    Of course they have no evidence to support this claim – but then again nor did Ally McLeod when he claimed Scotland would win the world cup and…. oh yeh.

  • There may be an occasional update to the list as responses come in so do check back prior to election day.
  • Just a quick update on this. Excellent response so far (from candidates across A&B) with still a week to go before we publish the list of candidates.

    Things are being arranged with the media as well.

  • Well if we get a new Administration then it will a SNP led coalition meaning the leader will be an SNP councillor however George would be an excellent canidate to be deputy leader.
  • oh and also George Freeman obviously.

Recent comments by Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll

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