North Ayrshire Council’s decision to discontinue the Early Learning and Childcare provision at Garnock Valley Early Years Centre and relocate the provision to St Bridget’s RC Primary School Early Years Class has been referred to the School Closure Review Panels by the Scottish Ministers.
The School Closure Review Panels is a statutory body, independent of Government, which has been created to enhance and strengthen the process of local authority school closures in Scotland. This will be the third 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. The Panels took over the responsibility from the Scottish Ministers of reviewing and determining certain local authority school closure decisions. If the Scottish Ministers decide to call in such a local authority decision, they then refer the decision to the Convener of the Panels. The Convener appoints a Panel of three Panel Members to review and determine the closure decision.
In a letter to North Ayrshire Council the Convener of the Panels, Iain Nisbet, has confirmed that a Panel of three has been convened consisting of:
- Forbes Mitchell (Chair)
- Catriona Waddington
- Sally Wainwright
The Panel will review the school closure decision by considering whether the Council has (i) failed significantly to comply with the requirements of 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.
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 4 September 2019. 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 North Ayrshire Council will receive the School Closure Review Panels decision no later than 30 October 2019.
A letter from the Scottish Government to North Ayrshire Council setting out the grounds for the call in is available here.