The Commission for the Delivery of Rural Education was established in August 2011 by the Scottish Government and COSLA to examine both how the delivery of rural education could maximise the attainment, achievement and life chances of young people in rural areas, and the link between rural education and rural communities. The Commission was also asked to review the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 (the 2010 Act) and its application and make recommendations on the delivery of all aspects of education in rural areas.
The Commission comprised people from all key stakeholder groups including parents, teachers, local authority officers, elected members, academics and representatives from partner organisations. 1 The Commission members worked together to consider the balance between the preservation, support and development of rural communities, the provision of rural education, and keeping the needs of school pupils at the heart of decision making.
The Commission's remit was as follows:
- To review the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 and its application;
- To examine how the delivery of rural education can maximise attainment and outcomes to give pupils the best life chances, and to examine, where appropriate, how this can be applied more widely;
- To make recommendations on how to reflect best practice on the delivery of all aspects of education in rural areas (pre-school through to higher and further education);
- To examine the links between rural education and the preservation, support and development of rural communities and to make recommendations on how these links might be strengthened if necessary; and
- To examine and make recommendations on funding issues surrounding rural education.
The Commission agreed at the outset that it was vital to visit rural communities and to discuss these matters with local people, including pupils, parents and business people. In total, the Commission visited 12 local authority areas, including all those with large proportions of rural schools. The local authorities and schools involved in these visits were unfailingly helpful and generous in their time and the Commission would like to take the opportunity to thank them for their support. During these visits, the Commission held public meetings, to engage with a wide range of interests in each area. The thoughtful and passionate contributions at these meetings gave Commission members a clear understanding of how the delivery of education impacts upon all people in a rural community.
In addition to listening to the views of people living in rural communities in Scotland, the Commission also visited rural areas in Ireland and Finland and has considered how the similarities and differences in the approaches of these countries have impacted upon their educational outcomes.
The Commission also sought written evidence, from October 2011 to January 2012, and received almost 400 written responses from organisations, councils, parents and other community groups. The Commission also held formal evidence sessions where key stakeholders were invited to provide further information and to answer questions. All of this evidence has played a key role in helping the Commission to identify its recommendations. A summary of the written evidence has been published on the Commission's website www.commissiononruraleducation.org.
Finally, the Commission's work was significantly delayed when it became clear that the Commission would better serve Scottish rural communities by awaiting the judgement in relation to the case of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar v. Scottish Ministers and reflecting on this judgment within its recommendations. This was highly significant in interpreting the 2010 Act and assisted the Commission in making clear recommendations for the future.