Iain Nisbet, the Convener of the School Closure Review Panels, has today launched his first annual report.
The Convener has submitted the report to the Scottish Ministers in line with the requirements of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 (“the 2010 Act”) (as amended). The report covers the exercise of the Convener’s functions during that year, and the exercise of the functions of any School Closure Review Panel which has carried out a review under the 2010 Act in that year. The first report prepared by the Convener covers the year 2015.
School closure proposals from local authorities that were called in under the 2010 Act were previously determined by Scottish Ministers, who reviewed whether or not the statutory obligations had been met and determined the school closure. Amendments made to the 2010 Act by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 changed that process so that school closure proposals that are called in by Scottish Ministers are now referred to the Convener of the School Closure Review Panels, a body independent of Government. The Convener is required to constitute a School Closure Review Panel, a body also independent of Government, to determine each individual case.
A constituted Panel reviews the school closure decision by considering whether the local authority has (i) failed significantly to comply with the requirements of the 2010 Act; and (ii) whether the Council has failed to take proper account of a material consideration relevant to the decision. The Panels do not re-take the local authority’s decision or consider any aspects of the closure apart from the two considerations set out above. It is a local authority’s right to make a school closure decision, and a Panel’s role is to ensure that the decision has been taken in line with the 2010 Act.
Introducing the report, Mr Nisbet said:
“As the first holder of the post of Convener of the School Closure Review Panels, I am reporting on the commencement of a new jurisdiction. The task has been a challenging and rewarding one.
My first responsibility was the appointment of individuals eligible to serve as a member of a School Closure Review Panel. I am pleased to say that our pool of panellists represent an impressive range of skills, expertise and professional backgrounds.
During the course of this year, two closure decisions have been called in by Scottish Ministers for review by Panels. Both cases have been determined by the respective Panels within the statutory timescales.
School Closure Review Panels were introduced in order to provide an independent and impartial review of school closure decisions in line with statutory criteria. The Panels I have constituted have delivered exactly that, and have done so in a timeous and well-reasoned way.”
The full report can be found at the following link: http://scrp.scot/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SCRP-Annual-Report-2015-Final.pdf