20th August 2018
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Yell schools to get separate heads after impassioned council debate

By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS

THE CONTROVERSIAL period of shared headship of two Yell schools is to come to an end with the appointment of a new headteacher for Cullivoe Primary School, coun­cillors decided yesterday.

The pilot project of one head teacher for the Mid Yell Junior High and Cullivoe schools has provoked diametrically opposed views in the two communities, with parents and teachers in Cullivoe broadly in favour of the arrangement and those in Mid Yell against it.

The deadlock was resolved yesterday when members of the services committee voted by 11 votes to seven to reinstate the traditional model of a headteacher for each school.

North Isles councillor Laura Baisley, in an impassioned speech, said that shared heads may work in some cases but in this case the majority of parents, not just in Mid Yell, and the majority of teachers had made their views known.

They had been offered a two-year pilot scheme of a shared headship which had now come to an end – and what was the point of consulting the communities if their wishes were ignored? “Where [shared headships] work, ok, but where they do not, end it and stop putting the community through this misery and frustration on a whim.

She had not initially realised the strength of feeling in the two communities, she said.

Those at Cullivoe thought the set-up worked well for the benefit of the pupils, whereas those at Mid Yell said that there were problems when the headteacher was out of the school and his deputy had to leave the class in his absence. The greater size of the Mid Yell community meant that 80 per cent of the answers received in a consultation were against the pilot.

Councillor Gary Robinson said the council should be careful in ending the agreement because it could be seen as “preferential treat­ment” for Yell and other communities might want it. He recommended sticking to the status quo.

North Isles councillor Robert Henderson refuted the idea that ending the period of shared headship would open “floodgates” of schools wanting their own head. All it meant was that the trial period was up.

Councillor Bill Manson said that he also did not think it would open floodgates. Although shared head­ships work elsewhere (councillor Florence Grains cited Unst and Fetlar), the system did not work in Yell, possibly due to the disparity in the size of the schools.

Head of schools Helen Budge said that she had seen at a parent council meeting in Yell that the present arrangement would not work. For shared headships to work there must be agreement of both parties, and it would be difficult to continue if Mid Yell did not agree to it.

There was “no real concern” that the pilot had affected the education of the pupils, but feelings in Yell were running high and many people were upset.

To revert to the previous model of a headteacher would have no major financial implications, it emerged. A budget of £39,244 was approved for 2008-9 for a teacher at Cullivoe and additional funding of £14,000 would be required to meet the cost of a headteacher for the school. Recruit­ment and possible relocation costs could be up to £8,000.

The idea of the shared headship had come from the previous headteacher of Cullivoe, Mark Lawson, prior to his appointment as headteacher at Mid Yell.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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