Bressay school set to close
Bressay Primary School will close this summer following a sharp drop in pupil numbers, should Wednesday’s full council accept recommendations agreed by today’s education and families committee.
A report outlined how the school roll had dwindled in recent years, with only four of the possible 16 youngsters who could attend classes there actually doing so.
That meant 75 per cent of parents in the isle had chosen to take their children to Lerwick instead.
Councillors unanimously accepted that lessons in Bressay should end from 4th July. The few remaining pupils who do attend the school will move to Bell’s Brae Primary School in town as a result.
The question was raised over whether the school could be “mothballed”, rather than closed outright.
But members were told the school could not be mothballed unless its pupil roll stood at zero.
Solicitor Kristen Johnston warned doing so would effectively be “closing by stealth” because the council would not have gone through the statutory consultation process. She said the council would leave itself open to a legal challenge if it did.
Instead, councillors were advised a new consultation process should be gone through if there was a desire to open a school in the isle again.
SIC ferries manager Ken Duerden said pupils would be taken by taxi to Bell’s Brae after the school closed its doors. He warned that the 8.30am sailing from Bressay was the “most heavily subscribed”.
However, Mr Duerden said the service could look at putting an additional ferry run into the timetable to deal with the extra pressure.
Michael Stout, who lives in Bressay, accepted the report, albeit reluctantly. He said the community in the isle was doing its best to turn round its flagging fortunes, with the creation of the island’s development group.
“We have a responsibility as a committee to be aware of the big picture,” Mr Stout said.
Closing the Bressay school had not been considered as part of the recent series of school closures which have been discussed. It only began to be considered after pupil numbers started falling to such an extent.
Director of children’s services Helen Budge said closing the school would save close to £75,000. Pupils would receive a better quality of education if they moved to the town.
Mrs Budge pointed to a report by Education Scotland which said youngsters would benefit from a wider peer group if they made the move.
The report stated: “They [pupils] will have the option of learning in a variety of different groups, they will benefit from teachers who have a range of different backgrounds and interests, they will have access to a wider range of musical experiences and they would be able to take part in a wide range of team sports.”
If approved the move will also mean the end of nursery provision in Bressay. No parents in the isles have applied to put their younger children there for pre-school education.