Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010
A council has to consult with parents, children, young people and the wider community when it proposes changes to its school estate. This includes changes such as proposals to close schools or change a school’s catchment area.
The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 sets out the process that councils must follow when they do this. The Act also gives HM Inspectors a role in the process. The Act was amended in 2014 in part 15 of The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
HM Inspectors continuing engagement with school consultations
Scottish councils are required under The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 to have a formal consultation process when they intend to make changes to their school estate. For example, proposals to close schools or change a school’s catchment area. Councils have continued to bring forward consultations since the original period of lockdown in March 2020.
HM Inspectors of Education have a statutory duty to produce an independent and impartial report on these proposals. Education Scotland has maintained our consideration of councils’ proposals since March 2020. HM Inspectors continue to undertake a number of activities - currently these are virtual rather than in person. HMI attend virtual public meetings and make virtual visits to the schools affected by relevant proposals. HMI engage with parents, staff, children and young people. Following virtual fieldwork, HM Inspectors send their independent reports to councils, thereby fulfilling our statutory duties
Council consultation process
When a council begins a consultation it must produce a proposal paper. The council must then consult for at least six weeks. This must include at least thirty days when schools are routinely open for children and young people. During this time the council must hold a public meeting.
After the consultation period is over, HM Inspectors of Education have three weeks to write an independent and impartial report on the proposal for the council. When considering a proposal HM Inspectors undertake a number of activities. They attend public meetings and visit the schools affected by the proposal. They meet with parents, staff, children and young people. They consider any submissions made to the council during the consultation. They also consider any written representations made directly to Education Scotland. HM Inspectors send their report to the council by the end of the three weeks.
Once it receives the report the council must review the proposal. In reviewing the proposal the council must consider points raised during the consultation and in the report from HM Inspectors. The council must then produce a final consultation report. The council must include a copy of the report from HM Inspectors in its final consultation report. The council has to publish its final consultation report three weeks before it takes its final decision.
If the council decides to close a school, it must notify Scottish Ministers within six working days of taking its final decision. Ministers have a power to call-in a closure decision. They can only do this where it appears to them that the council has failed in a significant regard to comply with the Act’s requirements or, in coming to its decision, has failed to take proper account of a material consideration relevant to the proposal. Ministers have eight weeks to decide whether or not to issue a call-in notice. Representations can be made to Ministers during the first three weeks of this period. The council has a duty to inform consultees of this right.
Education Scotland has prepared advice to councils on the Act.
Education Scotland has prepared a guide to the role of HM Inspectors within School Consultations.
Scottish Government and Education Scotland have prepared a parent's/carer's guide to the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 as amended.
Where can I find the report from HM Inspectors?
Reports are published on our website on the same date as the council publishes its final consultation. All reports can be found in our school consultation reports section.
What do I do if I am unhappy with a council’s proposal?
During the consultation, councils will publish details of any proposals on their website and hold a public meeting. If you are unhappy with what the council is proposing you should contact the council directly to let them know about your concerns during the consultation period.