25 May 2006
Index Heading: Education Department

Richard Lochhead (North East Scotland) (SNP):

To ask the Scottish Executive whether the capacity threshold used by HM Inspectorate of Education and other authorities in relation to the viability of rural schools is 60%; if so, what the status is of this figure, what its origins were, what criteria were used in determining it and whether there are any plans to abolish or review this threshold.

Peter Peacock:

In 1995, the Accounts Commission published Room for Learning - Managing Surplus Capacity in School Buildings. One of its focuses was on assessing the potential for rationalisation of schools which were less than 60% occupied. At no time though has the Commission, HMIE, or the Executive suggested that this particular figure should determine the viability of any school. Indeed in its annual publication of performance indicators comparing Scottish Councils, the Accounts Commission shows school occupancy levels in five bands above and below 40%, 60%, 80% and 100%.

In September 2004, the Scottish Executive issued circular 2-2004 Additional Guidance on Local Authority Proposals for the School Estate, Including School Closures. Significant under occupancy of buildings is mentioned as only one of various reasons which might prompt an authority to consider a school's future. The circular emphasises the many factors which authorities should take into account before reaching a decision.