Bressay school set to close

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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.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a reporter at The Shetland Times

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One comment

  1. Susan Edwards-Horton

    My husband and I have recently moved to the Islands and have watched over the past two years the slow erosion of services from the outer Islands to the mainland. I can only say that we are devastated at the lack of insight into the long term effects that this centralisation will have. We note from a recent comment that parents in Lerwick are already becoming concerned about the possibility of increased class size, but this is only part of the greater issue. What the council doing is breaking up families. We note that many of the families have decided to send their children to Lerwick already, but is this in anticipation of what was going to happen? they have probably observed what has been happening on the other Islands and have jumped before they were pushed, moving on their own terms such as keeping the children with their peers, looking at where their child is in the school curriculum so as not to disrupt their studying and exams. We agree that the children will be open to more variety of out of school activities, and a wider range of teachers – however, if the council is pushing for people to move to the mainland, then teaching staff and new families are hardly going to move to the outer Islands. The very large Anderson High School again will produce problems. Swanshurst School in Birmingham was the merger of two school in the 1980′s and became the largest secondary school in Europe at that time but the bigger the school the more problems that can arise -for teachers and pupils.
    The council needs to stop trying to gain a legacy and start thinking about the long term future – is anyone doing any kind of social research into this so that there is some form of justification and accountability for any problems that may arise – educational, social, health etc

    Reply

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