Malcolm questions the educational benefit of schools closures in Edinburgh
Consultation on the schools closure in Edinburgh Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
Is the cabinet secretary willing to urge local authorities that are undertaking school closure exercises, such as the City of Edinburgh Council, to follow the proposed new arrangements that are set out in the first 12 sections of the bill? What would happen if HMIE were to suggest that no educational benefit would accrue from a proposed closure, as I believe is the case in Edinburgh?

Fiona Hyslop (The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning):

As the member will understand, the consultation to which he referred is a matter for the City of Edinburgh Council. He will note on page 19 of the bill and in schedule 3 the transitional arrangements for consultations that are in progress. Indeed, a number of local authorities have indicated that, as of now, they want to follow the best practice that is identified in the bill. Furthermore, bearing in mind the transitional arrangements and wanting to ensure that their decision making is carried out with due process, some local authorities are saying that they want to cover and embrace the new proposals in the bill.

The bill requires councils to explain in their proposal paper how they undertook their consideration of whether to propose a closure. It will therefore be set out clearly at the start of the consultation period.

In order to improve the consultation process that is required for all changes to schools, we decided to extend the bill to put in place a comprehensive consultation framework that will apply to all schools. By setting out the new requirements in legislation, we have underlined the importance to us as a Government of improving all consultations as well as providing clarity on how they should be carried out.

The main changes to the process are as follows:

increasing the minimum statutory consultation period; extending the list of statutory consultees; introducing a transparent mechanism for dealing with allegations of inaccuracy in council proposal papers; setting out a formal role for HMIE in every consultation; and allowing additional time to enable a community to respond to a council's report before the final decision is taken.

I recognise that there is good practice, but it is not universal. By way of the bill, we aim to build on existing good practice and create a robust, modern framework that will bring all consultations up to the standard of the best.
September 2nd 2009, (Column 19105-6)

Question to the Cabinet Secretary, scrutinising the average number of primary pupils in council areas across Scotland >>>
Answer received from Fiona Hyslop on July 21st