21st September 2018
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Battles set to begin over future of four primary schools

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Another four battles are about to begin to save closure-threatened primary schools in Unst, Yell, Northmavine and the West Side.

The statutory consultation process for Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe and Sandness begins on Monday and will run until 13th March. But the debate will drag on for nearly five months until the schools’ fate is decided by councillors, probably in May.

With the council having made the landmark decision last month to close Scalloway secondary department, the four communities can no longer rely on elected members’ infamous inability to force any school to shut. However, they will be hoping to persuade the council it should honour its core aim of keeping small rural communities alive.

The local authority is seeking closures to save £6 million from its £42 million-a-year education spend.

The detailed 40-page proposal papers for each closure, plus appendices, will be published on Monday morning although head of schools Helen Budge said those for Burravoe were being sent out this week for digestion prior to the first closed consultation meeting on Monday to hear the views of staff and pupils.

The reports will be available for download on the council’s website at www.shetland.gov.uk/education/blueprintforeducation.asp

In Unst, the council’s schools service proposes closing the 11-pupil Uyeasound primary, moving them to the 62-pupil Baltasound Junior High instead, where they already attend pre-school nursery and secondary school. Uyeasound parents have mounted successful defences of their school in the past and have been running a campaign which includes an online petition currently with 251 signatures.

Across the water in Yell, the 11-pupil Burravoe Primary School faces closure and transfer to the new 107-pupil Mid Yell Junior High, which is also already the destination for nursery children and secondary pupils.

In North Roe the consultation is more complicated due to the possibility that, if the eight-pupil school does close, pupils might go to either 14-pupil Ollaberry Primary, which is closer, or 20-pupil Urafirth Primary, which already has the nursery for all of Northmavine.

The Save North Roe Primary School campaign has 73 supporters on its Facebook page.

Sandness Primary School had eight pupils last term and its closure could see them transfer to the 59-pupil Happyhansel Primary in Walls, which already takes the Sandness nursery bairns, or the 177-pupil Aith Junior High, where they go for their secondary education anyway.

Meanwhile, there is no word yet from the Scottish government to indicate whether the Scalloway closure decision will be called in for ministerial scrutiny. The government has until 18th January to declare its intention.

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