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When proposing school mergers, local authorities must undertake a consultation, using the updated and robust processes that are set out in the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.
Is the cabinet secretary aware of plans by South Lanarkshire Council to close and merge a number of rural primary schools in the South of Scotland? Will he confirm that the council is obliged to follow the robust procedures that are set out in the 2010 act, which the Scottish Parliament passed?
Is the cabinet secretary also aware that the council is proposing significant changes to the school day in some secondary schools? What consultations and procedures are councils required to carry out and adhere to on such proposals?
There are statutory requirements in relation to school days and, in particular, the amount of time for which children are taught through the year.
I am aware of South Lanarkshire Council's proposals and I confirm that the council, like every other council, must follow the robust and updated procedures that the Government laid out. There is also guidance under the 2010 act, which is very clear and suggests that, when such matters are being considered, local communities should be encouraged to come forward with ideas and alternatives.
I stress that there should be a process of consultation and dialogue, not of dictation, as South Lanarkshire Council—and every other council in the same situation—moves forward.
Is the cabinet secretary aware that North Lanarkshire Council is considering closing Abronhill nursery school? Will he confirm that, when local authorities are consulting on closures or mergers of nursery schools, they are required to meet the same
That consultation would normally have to be undertaken. The general principles also apply.
In the difficult circumstances in which a proposal is made for any closure, it is important that there is a genuine process of consultation, that the process is open and transparent, that the views and representations of parents and the community are taken into account and that alternatives are considered in a constructive and imaginative manner. Those are prerequisites for moving forward.