20th August 2018
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Crunch talks on future of secondary schools delayed following anger from teaching union

SIC councillors will not discuss fresh proposals to overhaul the structure of secondary education until September. The rethink comes after Scotland’s largest teaching union voiced disquiet at the changes being unveiled during the school holidays.

Earlier on Tuesday the Shetland branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) had called on the local authority to delay making major structural changes to “allow for proper and meaningful consultation with parents, teachers and the wider community”.

Councillors had been due to debate the planned revamp, which would see pupils in Yell, Unst and Whalsay continue receiving secondary education until the end of S3 before transferring to the AHS, on Wednesday 7th August.

But the report, entitled “Blueprint for Education: The Next Steps”, will now go before the education and families committee on 11th September instead.

There has been a cautious welcome for the proposals in Whalsay, which had faced losing its secondary department altogether, but renewed anger in Aith and Sandwick. Both remain set for consultations on outright closure.

Children’s services director Helen Budge said the revised timescale “will allow the comments of teachers and others to be taken into account prior to the report being presented”.

She said the changes were “developed on the basis that transitions between schools during secondary education should be avoided if at all possible. If this cannot be avoided then it must be managed carefully.”

Shetland EIS assistant secretary Valerie Hughson said the “timing and content of a recent announcement by the education department… regarding changes to the structures of Shetland’s schools has caused anger amongst Shetland teachers”.

The EIS had feared councillors were set to take a decision during the school holidays before everyone had the chance to have their say.

Ms Hughson said teachers were “extremely disappointed that no meaningful consultation on this fundamental change to the delivery of education has taken place”.

After Hayfield House announced the four-week delay on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Hughson said the EIS was “happier with the timescale than we were because it allows everybody more time to have discussions” on the proposals.

The SIC’s statement said that the “concepts” within the draft report were “shared with secondary head teachers just prior to the holidays and a report was subsequently distributed to all schools staff including teachers and parent councils”.

When the idea of an S1-S3 model for smaller secondaries was debated in the past, concerns were raised about how attractive such schools would be for secondary teachers given they would not get the chance to teach standard grade and higher syllabuses.

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