So here we go again … Yet again the SIC is looking to close schools in the remotest and most vulnerable areas of the Shetland Isles without a thought to the big picture.
Why can the SIC not understand that the effect of closing a school can actually cost them money in the long run. If the Baltasound secondary department is closed we will lose jobs, families, young people.
This will eventually lead to a dramatic loss of services and yet more people will leave and there will be no reason for anyone to move into the island. It will also result in a rush of people trying to move to Lerwick, taking up houses, jobs, childcare places, and adding to class sizes.
It’s claimed that the SIC is looking at radical ways to save money but destroying the rural areas isn’t radical … the council has been doing that for years.
A radical form of thinking would be to use rural areas as an asset and decentralise – dare I suggest not building a new Anderson High School and instead bus pupils out of town to make rural schools more cost-effective? (Not so nice when it’s your school that’s suggested for closure is it?)
There are many other arguments against sending Unst pupils to Yell: the ferry often doesn’t run and is very busy; the dangers of high winds and icy roads; the cost of transport; the distance away from home if children get ill or have doctor’s appointments; implications for ferrying families to and from parents evenings; Christmas events, sports days and community events; the ability of children to take part in after school activities and even to do homework if travelling for two hours every day.
Before the SIC starts closing our schools and destroying rural communities maybe it should take a hard look at its own wages, and the expense of luxuries such as the skate park in Lerwick and Mareel, to name but a few.
I just hope that the councillors of Shetland see past the education department’s tunnel vision and look at the big picture of the Shetland Islands as a whole – what you save from closing rural schools you pay for much more in other departments.