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by Tom Freeman
30 March 2015
School closures to be reviewed independently

School closures to be reviewed independently

Final decisions on whether schools should close will be taken by an independent panel from today.

The School Closure Review Panel will review cases where a local authority has earmarked a school for closure but has been called in for review by government ministers. The panel will be able to give consent, attach conditions or refuse outright.

Many rural schools with low rolls have been under threat, but parents in areas like Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen have also campaigned against the closure of local schools over the past year as local government budgets have been squeezed.

Decisions at local and central government levels have also been criticised for being politically-motivated.

The SNP Government has been criticised by councils in the past for interfering with school closure decisions, but the Scottish Government claims referral of decisions to the new appointed board will remove any suggestion of political influence.

Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said it was a perception which “despite the reality, is hard to refute.”

“From today these decisions, rightly, will be taken away from the political spotlight and at arm’s length from Ministers. This should be a further reassurance to parents, carers, teachers and pupils about how this important issue is dealt with,” he said.

The convener of the new panel is Iain Nisbet, who is the Head of Education Law at Govan Law Centre. He said the panel represented a “new phase” in consultations on school closures.

“I am pleased to begin the work of the school closure review panels. This is an important issue for education authorities and local communities alike, and I am looking forward to working with the panel members to deliver a fair, transparent and independent review process,” he said.

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