I am pleased to present the Report of the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education.
Since we began our work in August 2011 we have endeavoured to obtain as much evidence as possible relating to education in our rural areas. This has included a public call for written evidence, meetings with various stakeholders, and (perhaps most importantly) visiting schools throughout rural Scotland from the Borders to the Shetland Islands, meeting pupils, teachers and parents. These visits included holding public meetings for all those interested in our rural schools and their communities. In addition, we were able to visit Finland and the Republic of Ireland which gave us further insight into how countries with similar rural communities address the challenges of providing education in these areas.
Traditionally, great store has been placed on education in rural Scotland and these values continue to be very evident today. Government both national and local should recognise both the importance of education in rural communities and the place of the school in the wider social fabric, but should also ensure delivery of an educational process fit for purpose in the 21st century, meeting the needs and aspirations of these communities.
The work of the Commission has been carried out with great commitment by its individual Commissioners. I am grateful for the time and effort expended without any remuneration and often at great personal sacrifice. Obviously we did not agree on all matters and discussions reflected the various viewpoints represented in the Commission. However, the readiness to understand and learn from other people's viewpoints has been reflective of the Commission's work generally and of the individual Commissioners' commitment to the important work before them.
We have presented our Report having read Lady Paton's judgment in the appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session in the case of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar v. Scottish Ministers. We are mindful that this judgment is not a final decision but are grateful for the clarity contained therein.
Finally, I would wish to record my special thanks to Clare Morley of the Scottish Government's Learning Directorate, and Jane O'Donnell of COSLA, both of whom acted as Secretaries to the Commission. They have worked tirelessly for the Commission and much credit for the Commission's work and the preparation of this Report must be accorded to them.
David O. Sutherland