Leader to join Rural Education Commission

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THE LEADER of Aberdeenshire Council is set to play a leading role in the Scottish Government’s Commission on Rural Education - little more than a week after her administration snubbed a request from the Education Minister for a year-long moratorium on rural school closures.

Cllr Anne Robertson is one of a number of leading figures in Scottish Local Government who will join the commission, which has been tasked with examining rural education and making recommendations on how it should be delivered. Parents, teachers and educational experts will also play their part in the Commission, under the Chairmanship of Sheriff David Sutherland from Tain.

The decision to establish the commission coincided with a call from the Scottish Government for a year-long moratorium on rural school closures across Scotland. As the Times reported last week, Aberdeenshire Council’s ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration has defied this call, with the Chair of the Education Committee, Cllr Richard Stroud, refusing to rule out the possibility of school closures before next June.

The Commission line-up was welcomed by Education Secretary Mike Russell and President of COSLA, Cllr Pat Watters. Describing high quality educational opportunities as being key to the sustainability of rural communities, Mr Russell said “The Commission on Rural Education is now tasked with looking at all aspects of education in rural areas. The individuals gathered together strike the right balance of all the interests at stake here, as well as being a knowledgeable group of experts on these issues.

He continued “I am very glad that the Scottish Government and COSLA have been able to agree on remit and membership, and commit to jointly support the Commission. It is very helpful that those who deliver education are fully engaged along with communities and parents to make sure we are getting it absolutely right for school pupils in rural areas.

COSLA President Councillor Pat Watters welcomed the fact that the Commission would include “some very experienced and knowledgeable people from across local government and beyond.”

“The task in front of the Commission is not an easy one, but I feel sure that with the expertise round the table it will produce a thoughtful report”, he said. “Along with the Cabinet Secretary I look forward to seeing the recommendations next year.”

In addition to reviewing the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 and its application, the Commission will examine and make recommendations on funding issues surrounding rural education, as well as examining the links between rural education and the preservation, support and development of rural communities.

The group is due to complete its findings and report back to the Education Secretary by next spring.