The Highland Council’s decision to close Dunvegan, Struan, Knockbreck and Edinbane Primary Schools and Nursery Classes has been referred to the School Closure Review Panels by the Scottish Ministers.
This will be the first school closure decision which has been “called in” for review by the Panels since the commencement of the Panel’s statutory responsibilities on 30 March 2015.
In a letter to Highland Council the Convener of the Panels, Iain Nisbet, has confirmed that a Panel of three has been convened and that the Panel Members concerned will be:
- Patricia S Quigley (Chair)
- Charles Bestwick
- Helen McGhee
The Panel will review the school closure decision by considering whether the Council has (i) failed significantly to comply with the requirements of the the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 (“the Act”); and (ii) whether the Council has failed to take proper account of a material consideration relevant to the decision.
In carrying out its review, the Panel will consider all documentation available, including all representations sent from members of the public to the Scottish Ministers. The Panel may request further information from the Council, and advice from Education Scotland (HMIE) or any other person as it may reasonable require for the relevant purposes.
The Panel will not be re-taking the Council’s decision or considering any aspects of the closure apart from the two considerations set out above. It is the Council’s right to make a school closure decision, the Panel’s role is to ensure the decision has been taken in line with the law.
Mr Nisbet has also written to the Chairs of the Parent Council’s involved. In this letter, he said:
“I appreciate that the pupils, parents, staff and the wider community of each of these schools has been in a period of uncertainty for some time. The Panel is keen that this is not prolonged any further than necessary and will endeavour to reach a decision as swiftly as possible – and certainly within the deadlines set out in the Act. That said, the Panel will take the time they need to conduct a thorough review to enable them to take the right decision.”
The Panel has a duty to take a decision within 8 weeks from the date on which it was constituted, so, in this case, the decision will be made on or before 2 July 2015. If for any reason the panel is not able to reach a decision by that date, the Panel can issue a notice to the Council setting out reasons for not taking a decision within that time period. In such cases, the Panel has the option to take up to a further 8 weeks. If an extension period was required, it would mean that the Highland Council will receive the School Closure Review Panels decision no later than 27 August 2015.
A letter from the Scottish Government to the Highland Council, setting out the grounds for the call in is available at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0047/00476228.pdf