Council Leader's response to Education Secretary's proposal

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Published Date: 

1 Jun 2011 - 12:16

Argyll and Bute Council leader Dick Walsh has issued a response to Education Secretary Mike Russell’s call this morning for a year-long moratorium on the closure of rural schools.

Councillor Walsh said: “We have only just received this information, which we are currently assessing and considering.

“On the basis of the limited details we have at present, one obvious question regards finance. If this is a Scottish Government policy, then the Cabinet Secretary needs to give Scotland’s local authorities clarity regarding whether there’s likely to be any additional funding which will enable councils to protect their education budgets.

“Argyll and Bute Council is currently facing unprecedented financial challenges which are impacting on every service area. 

“At the same time, the diminishing economic activity in some of our rural communities is affecting the number of families living there, which has obvious implications for school rolls.

“The result is that Argyll and Bute currently has a primary school capacity of some 11,500 pupils, but a primary roll of only around 6,000 pupils. This is an unsustainable situation, and one which predictions suggest will get worse in the future if no action is taken.

“It would be irresponsible of the council to fail to address this level of under occupancy and its impact on all the area’s pupils. Indeed, this is something which the authority’s external auditors have highlighted as an area for action.

“We are committed to providing an equitable and sustainable high quality education for all of our pupils, and have a duty to ensure that our resources are targeted towards achieving this in the most effective way.

“If the Scottish Government intends to prevent local authorities from considering their school estate, then it needs to provide additional funding to meet the resulting budget shortfall. Otherwise, this restriction will see less money for all schools as well as other services.

“We look forward to receiving further details from the Cabinet Secretary regarding his proposal, in order that we can properly assess its implications.”