Candidates were asked if they would endorse ARSN’s statement:
I support the call by ARSN for the withdrawal of the consultation list of possible school closures and the opening of dialogue between Argyll and Bute Council, ARSN, SRSN, political parties and other appropriate bodies with a view to drawing up a new vision of rural education in Argyll & Bute. I believe there should be a presumption against rural school closure and that the Council should adopt such a presumption as a foundation policy for education in the area.
The candidates were also invited to provide a short statement, 100 words or fewer, of their own. These are copied below, in the same order in which they were received:
Labour: Mick Rice
“With regard to educational policy, it is clear that the Council believes that “bigger is better”. It is for this reason that it wished to “merge” schools in Lorne into the Benderloch campus, merge North Bute into the Rothesay Campus. It also has ongoing plans to merge the Dunoon Primaries into one new school.
“It is clear that there is no education benefit from bigger schools per se and that the Scottish Rural Schools Network has cited research to that effect.
“Keep up the fight! ”
SNP: Mike Russell
” In the last twenty years Argyll & Bute Council has closed a quarter of it’s schools. That self defeating policy has to stop. Rural schools are not only good schools they are a key part of the infrastructure which attracts and retains a viable population. We need a new vision for our area which is about growth – in houses, jobs and population – and retaining rural schools has to be at the heart of such a vision. ”
Conservative: Jamie McGrigor
“Rural primary schools are a focal point of the disparate communities which make up the socio economic mosaic of counties like Argyll & Bute. These schools inspire pride in and recognition of each community. There is also indisputable evidence that individual attainment levels of the pupils in rural primaries are high compared to larger schools. This in itself should point to the small rural primary as a role model of excellence. Politicians continually encourage small class sizes. Rural primaries DO have small classes. I support a presumption against closure of rural schools.”
LibDem: Alison Hay
“Thank you for your email. I will start by saying that I agree with much of what ARSN stands for but rather than sign your statement which you must know I cannot, I would rather give you a statement from me which I would like you to publish.
“My views on Rural Education are as follows;
“The aim of our schools must be to maximise the abilities of all our 5,800+ pupils. The service also needs to ensure the resources the public give the council via the Scottish Government are wisely, fairly and efficiently spent for the benefit of all our school children and their communities.
“We must ensure that all our children get the best education possible, particularly at the early stages as they are vitally important to successful learning in later years. We must also ensure that all aspects of our educational service are fit for purpose, back room, Quality Improvement officers, teachers, managers at all levels need to be performing to their best, if not then the children are the ones who suffer and their future careers threatened, and finally.
“We must be able to deliver a high quality service across the whole of Argyll and Bute regardless of the geographical difficulties. It is vitally important that children in remote or island locations are given the same educational opportunities as pupils in more heavily populated areas.
“The council has been criticised by both Audit Scotland and by HMIE for wasting resources on half empty schools which is why we embarked on the current review of the school estate. The quality of education of all Argyll and Bute’s children is the most important theme of the review and the preconsultation will allow us to consider all aspects that contribute to our pupils’ educational experience.
“I hope you understand my position and accept this view on Argyll and Butes’ rural school service.”