School Closures (Consultation of Children and Young People)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 26 June 2013.

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Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government whether there is a mechanism for insisting that local authorities follow Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People’s guidance on consulting children and young people on school closures and other significant changes. (S4O-02292)

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

It is important that children and young people who will be affected by a school closure proposal, or other significant change, understand what is being proposed and have the opportunity to express their views. That is why the legislation in this area already requires that children and young people be consulted. The statutory guidance for those consultations explains how local authorities should go about consulting children and young people. It also makes reference to best practice, as set out by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People. Local authorities are not compelled to follow the commissioner’s best-practice guidance, but I certainly encourage them to do so.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for that answer. Can I draw his attention to an aspect of yet another saga of East Dunbartonshire Council’s informal consultation on school closures? The council is sending local authority officers into classes of children as young as primary 1, which directly contradicts the advice on page 18 of the commissioner’s guidance, which states that

“a genuinely independent person is essential for the process to be respected by participants, parents/carers and other relevant adults.”

I add that I have recently found out that officers are handing out forms to pupils with a pre-ticked box against the statement, “I agree with this”.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I am certainly aware that East Dunbartonshire Council has been looking at options for making changes to the school estate, and how it does that is a matter for the council. Obviously, I expect it to do so sensitively.

Fiona McLeod will appreciate that I cannot comment on the specific concerns to which she referred or on specific schools, because ministers might be involved at a later stage in the statutory process. For that reason, it is not appropriate for me to comment on individual schools.