Putting it bluntly (Jonathan Wills)
Gordon Dargie knows very well (from his days as a depute director of education) why Shetland has such high costs for educational administration, compared with other areas.
One reason is that we have so many small, rural primary schools. I suspect that the head teachers of these schools would be less than thrilled if they had to do by themselves all the administration and paperwork demanded by a well-meaning but sometimes burdensome Scottish education department, without any assistance from the staff at Hayfield House.
That’s what Gordon’s demand for savage cuts in administration would mean. And that’s why the economies we’re now forced to make must be proportionate.
There will always have to be small primary schools in islands that don’t have a bridge (or tunnel) to the Shetland Mainland. None of us wishes to see them close.
But it’s unfair to reduce the budgets for all Shetland pupils because some romantics insist on keeping open small schools that are educationally and financially unsustainable, not least because of their administration costs.
It makes sense to amalgamate small schools wherever practicable, because it helps us to make better use of public money, to cut administration costs (as Gordon suggests) and to benefit all pupils, not just a few.
The majority of Shetland parents recognise this and I can assure Gordon that parents at the three schools in my Lerwick South ward are not impressed by demands that their children should suffer lower standards in order to maintain an expensive rustic idyll for a minority. That may be putting it bluntly but it’s already happening.