1. This statutory guidance is issued under section 19 of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the 2010 Act’) and replaces the guidance which was published on 31 July 2014. The guidance also reflects recommendations made in the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education’s Report  , and that Report is a useful source of further information, discussion and advice on many of the issues arising from this guidance or in managing the school estate.
2. The 2010 Act was amended by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, and most of those amendments came into force on 1 August 2014.  The final part of those amendments, relating to the School Closure Review Panels, came into force on 30 March 2015.  This guidance provides advice on those new requirements, and on transitional arrangements for consultations on closure proposals which were underway on 1 August 2014 or 30 March 2015.
3. The 2010 Act’s principal purpose is to provide strong, accountable statutory consultation practices and procedures that local authorities must apply to their handling of all proposals for school closures and other major changes to schools. These consultation processes are expected to be robust, open, transparent and fair, and seen to be so. They are also expected to be consistent across Scotland.
4. The 2010 Act makes special arrangements in regard to rural schools, establishing a procedural presumption against the closure of rural schools. This requires education authorities to follow a more detailed set of procedures and requirements in formulating a rural school closure proposal and in consulting on and reaching a decision as to whether to implement a rural school closure proposal. These are set out in sections 11A to 14 of the 2010 Act and sections 2.5, 3.4 and 4.2 of this guidance.
5. The 2010 Act applies to a wide range of changes to the school estate, referred to as “relevant proposals” (see section 2(1) and paragraphs 1 to 10 of schedule 1 to the 2010 Act). There are additional requirements for education authorities to comply with, both in carrying out the consultation process for school closure proposals and when the authority decides to implement the proposal. When the authority makes such a decision, the 2010 Act requires this decision to be referred to the Scottish Ministers and the proposal cannot be implemented in full or in part until the call in period is complete and, if the proposal is called in by Ministers, consent has been granted by the School Closure Review Panels in terms of section 17C.
To whom is this guidance addressed - who should read it?
6. Section 19 of the 2010 Act requires an education authority to have regard to any guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of, or in connection with, the Act. This guidance is therefore issued to local authorities and is intended to assist local authority officers who are involved in overseeing the consultation and decision making processes around proposed changes to their school estate, as set out in the 2010 Act. It is intended to help ensure that full, fair and rigorous consultations are undertaken and does so by providing guidance and illustrative examples of the good practice which is expected to be the norm.
7. This guidance will also be of interest to parents and carers; school pupils and staff; members of the local community; and anyone else with an interest in how authorities undertake consultations on proposed changes to schools. It is important that these stakeholders are reassured that the consultation and decision making process and procedures are fairly, fully and rigorously carried out by the local authority.
8. The structure of this guidance follows the timeline of a consultation from initial preparation, through formal consultation, decision and, where applicable, possible call in of the proposal by the Scottish Ministers. The specific areas covered, and the level of detail offered on those areas, reflect the debate on these issues in recent years. Comments on this guidance are very welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org .