17th August 2018
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Olnafirth primary to close in the summer

Scottish Ministers have decided not to “call in” the SIC decision to close Olnafirth Primary, thereby severing any chance of a lifeline for the school at Voe.

This means that Olnafirth will shut at the end of the school year on 4th July, following last month’s council closure decision. Pupils will continue their education at Brae High School Primary Department from 20 August 2014.

The children’s services department received a letter outlining the government’s decision today.

Olnafirth only has one class of eight pupils and is said to be operating at 10 per cent capacity. After summer, three were due to go to secondary, which would have left only five pupils at the school.

A transition group will now be set up, led by the “quality improvement officer” for Olnafirth primary, and including relevant school staff from both schools. The role of this group will be to plan the effective transition of pupils. It will ensure pupils are supported in getting used to the new school environment at Brae.

The SIC’s education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart said: “I know that staff, parents and pupils of Olnafirth Primary School will be very disappointed but this decision will end any further uncertainty about the future of the school.”

Head of children’s services Helen Budge last month pledged that six part-time and ancillary staff would be relocated “within the department” wherever possible, although they might be offered jobs in social care. Head teacher Pat Brown is likely to move full-time to Mossbank, along with at least some of the Olnafirth pupils.

More in this week’s Shetland Times.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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9 comments

  1. Ted Knight

    “Operating at just 10% capacity means, in these straightened times, no case to answer…but, nonetheless, a sad day for all concerned.

    Reply
  2. David McDowall

    I would suggest that Children services and the council as a whole have chosen to misinterpret the advice of their own finance chief James Grey. In a report he produced that was reported in the Shetland Times on 6/5/13 it was clearly identified that;

    “The main factor causing spending to rocket was staff costs, which rose from £54 million to £93 million between 2003 and 2012. That was mostly a result of taking on more staff in education and social care.”

    If this is main factor that the councils own finance chief identified I would like them to clearly demonstrate exactly how much Olnafirth contributed to the taking on of more staff over this period.

    Reply
  3. Robert Duncan

    That’s not the only factor, though. Whilst this is obviously very sad for the staff losing their jobs, and difficult in the short term for the families directly affected, I think this was about as clear cut as a school closure case could get. The school had become unviably small, almost entirely because parents were choosing to send their children elsewhere.

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      If it’s the case that the parents who sent their kids to Brae instead of Olnafirth did so because they thought Brae would provide a better education then that’s all well and good. If, however, they chose Brae because of the threat of closure at Olnafirth then the school has effectively been killed off, needlessly.

      As I mentioned on the other education thread the Scottish Government is proposing to introduce a five-year closure moratorium for schools where attempted closure has failed to avoid the demoralisation of small communities by continuous threat of closure so that, worn out by campaigning, they give up their objections and capitulate.

      Threat of closure in this latter case thus, ultimately, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      The tide is turning nationally in favour of rural education and if parents want their local schools to remain open they need to support them if the service is satisfactory.

      People need to hang on and not fold when victory is in sight.

      Reply
      • Johan Adamson

        Part of it was that the nursery is in Brae and once the child goes there it is easier to stay, part of it was the closure threat, and once it goes under a certain number of bairns, you do worry as a parent how good the education experience is. Maybe when a school gets to about 20 bairns, it should be looked at with the parents to see what they want to do. Part of it is also that both parents work in lots of cases. The availability of early morning and late afternoon childcare at the local schools might make it easier for parents (I think they have this in Lerwick, which makes it more attractive)

  4. Robert Duncan

    I see Mr Tinkler’s wild overreaction has now been deemed inappropriate but given I read it before it was removed, I would like to clarify my above comment, lest further failures to understand induce further aggression.

    My main sympathies ARE with the staff, as they now face an uncertain future and possible unemployment. As clearly stated above, I recognise the difficulty of the upheaval for children and families. However, I view it as a short lived issue. Children will adapt to the chanhe very quickly and thrive in their new environment.

    Olnafirth has 8 pupils, with none in the first three years. Three would have moved to Brae for S1 at the end of this year anyway, and a further three are only moving a year early. That leaves one in each of the remaining years, for whom I see a big advantage im getting to knkw some of jeir peers before the transition into secondaey school.

    If Mr Tinkler believes that view warrants the personal attack he directed at me, that says more about him than me.

    Reply
  5. Ian tinkler

    Sorry if I have upset you, Robert Duncan. I have made no comment about you at all on this Olnafirth primary blog. For that matter no comment at all on this closure. I would love you to enlighten me on what I am supposed to have said.!!

    Reply
  6. Robert Duncan

    You must have an impersonator then, Mr Tinkler – somebody using your name had made some strongly worded points on the matter before they were removed.

    Reply
  7. ian Tinkler

    Not me Robert. My comments on education were aimed at saving Aith JH (on another blog) where my own children went before Anderson. I would always use strong words but save my insults for those in authority whom abuse their position or distort the truth to further their own agendas. I have not known you do that. I have not commented on Olnafirth Primary as I know nothing about it and have no personal experience of it.
    My e-mail is public knowledge, Facebook and last council elections. Further to the above your comments were hardly contentious.

    Reply

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