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Commission appointment for Institute researcher

Rural buildings
The Commission will examine how the delivery of rural education can maximise the attainment and life chances of young people in rural areas.

A senior researcher from The James Hutton Institute has been appointed to the Commission on Rural Education it was announced today (7 July 2011).

Professor Bill Slee, Head of the Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group will join parents, head teachers and Council chiefs as a member of the new commission that will investigate the delivery of education in rural areas.

The Commission will examine how the delivery of rural education can maximise the attainment and life chances of young people in rural areas as well as the links between rural education and rural communities.

Professor Slee is an experienced researcher in the field of rural development with particular expertise in the balance between the social and the economic dimensions of rural communities. He has worked extensively in exploring the economic impacts of forestry, the restructuring and transformation of the farming sector, the impact of new food supply chains on rural development, and on rural tourism and recreation.

Announcing the appointments, Education Secretary Michael Russell said, "Access to high quality educational opportunities is key to the sustainability of rural communities.

"The Commission on Rural Education is now tasked with looking at all aspects of education in rural areas. The individuals gathered together strike the right balance of all the interests at stake here, as well as being a knowledgeable group of experts on these issues. I am very glad that the Scottish Government and COSLA have been able to agree on remit and membership, and commit to jointly support the Commission.

"It is very helpful that those who deliver education are fully engaged along with communities and parents to make sure we are getting it absolutely right for school pupils in rural areas.

"The group will report back next spring with a number of recommendations on the way forward for the delivery of education in rural areas."


Additional information:

The current membership of the Commission on Rural Education is:

  • Sheriff David Sutherland (chair)
  • Stephen Hagan - Leader of Orkney Council
  • Anne Robertson - Leader of Aberdeenshire Council
  • Terry Loughran - Education Convener of Inverclyde Council
  • Peter Mackenzie - Education Convener of East Lothian Council
  • Malcolm Burr, Chief Executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, representing SOLACE
  • Glenn Rodger - Director of Education at Scottish Borders Council, representing ADES
  • Peter Ferguson - Headteacher at Auchterhouse Primary School in Angus
  • Sandy Longmuir, Scottish Rural Schools Network
  • Anne Baird, Argyll Rural Schools Network
  • Professor Cara Aitchison, Head of Moray House School of Education
  • Professor Bill Slee, The James Hutton Institute
  • Bob Cree-Hay of the National Parents Forum
  • Two additional members are still to be nominated. One will come from the third sector and one from a rural background

The Commission's remit is:

  • 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 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
  • To examine and make recommendations on funding issues surrounding rural education

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.