20th February 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Hundreds support CURE march

Organisers estimate close to 1,000 protesters joined the CURE march. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Organisers estimate close to 1,000 protesters joined the CURE march. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Anyone straying near the Market Cross at 11am on Saturday could have been forgiven for thinking the World Cup had arrived early and been relocated to Lerwick.

Close to a thousand people – double organisers’ expectations – enjoyed a samba atmosphere before taking part in the CURE (Communities United for Rural Education) march against education cuts that will, organisers say, devastate rural schools and communities.

Dozens of banners representing, mainly, rural sports clubs, colourful outfits and sounds pumping from High Level Music, made the demonstration an eye-catching, if brief, example of the strength of feeling against the council sanctioned closure of schools and secondary education cuts.

If the atmosphere created by the hundreds of parents, children and grandparents from all over rural Shetland was festive, their purpose was deadly serious: the vast majority of people in the areas affected by the proposals are dead against them. That gives a council, one of whose core commitments is the preservation of rural communities, a seismic headache. It also calls into question the point of the extensive consultations that have surrounded the exercise.

Gordon Thomson2

Gordon Thomson rallies the troops.

One of the march organisers, Gordon Thomson, who is also a member of Unst Action Group, said that it had been a “tremendous day out” and that he was “very pleased the march had exceeded our expectations”. He said that that the proposal to limit secondary education at rural schools to S1 and 2 was “dead in the water” according to the opinion of Education Scotland.

Mr Thomson, who was clad as a Viking for the day said: “The march today shows the tremendous strength of feeling in rural communities to keep schools open from secondary one to four and also to keep the primaries open.”

Chairman of Sandwick Parent Council Raymond Mainland said: “The philosophy of the way these cuts are being made is wrong. We need to see this [education] as an investment in these rural communities, not an expense.”

The demonstrators remain deeply concerned that closures are still on the table for Monday’s town hall meeting.

According to grandparent and ex-headmaster of Aith Junior High School Jim Nicolson closing secondary departments will have a very damaging impact on rural economies. Two of Mr Nicolson’s three grandbairns could be affected by changes to Aith school.

“We have real concerns about it. Folk would inevitably not build houses in rural areas but would move closer to Lerwick.

“There’s no good grounds to say there is any educational advantage. On the HMI website (Education Scotland) they say that they have no preferred option on the curriculum.”

Father of two children who will soon be entering the school system at Dunrossness, John Robertson, said that the council’s plans would be damaging rural communities when they should be “doing the opposite.”

 He added: “Councillors and officials show hypocrisy when they criticise the government for centralising when they do exactly the same within Shetland.”

Among the host of ill-effects opponents of the school plans say will be wrought on rural life is the decimation of many sports and recreational clubs that have sprung up around rural secondary school departments.

Father of six Ian Walterson said that the original plan to save £5million from education had ben achieved some time ago and that figure had been increased to £7 million. Now another three and a quarter million had been tagged on to savings.

 “Every time a saving is made they move the finishing line,” he said. “I think the head of education should turn around and tell the elected members it is impossible to do what they are saying they want. This is doing serious damage to education in Shetland.” 

 

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.

View other stories by »

9 comments

  1. Leona Gear

    surely it was 1pm?

    Reply
  2. Jack Brunton

    Two big events in town today celebrated things from bygone times that were, in there time, the best models available. Whilst remaining just about serviceable, as time passes, these become unreliable, not really fit for purpose in the 21st century, high maintenance and simply too expensive to run on a day to day basis.

    I was at the classic car show, however the parallels with the CURE march are there to be considered.

    Reply
    • Duncan Burgess

      This isn’t true. The Junior High model still works and S1-4 is STILL the best option.

      Reply
    • Duncan Burgess

      The Junior High model still works and S1-4 is still the best option.

      Reply
    • Susan Williamson

      The SIC are suffering from beetle mentality.
      A beetle has six legs, so you take one off for economy,
      then it doesn’t walk straight, so you take off another to even things up.
      Now of course, it walks too slowly, so you say it doesn’t work,
      might as well kill it off!
      They are doing this to all rural services, not just education.
      They seem to think the rural areas are a drain on resources that they want to keep for the toon.

      Reply
    • Stuart Hannay

      Sadly all of the vehicles at the motor show were lovingly maintained and cherished and the whole thing was organised by a professional and knowledgable team. Unlike our current education system. Still, an amusing enough comment, kind of Jeremy Clarkson-lite.

      Reply
  3. Brian Smith

    I hear a rumour that Vaila and Jonathan are planning a counter-march next Saturday, from the post office to Jamieson and Smith’s knitwear shop.

    Reply
  4. Tajina Bain

    Hi! The closing of rural schools is not right at all and I fully support the march against this. I was a Governor of Mossbank Primary School for 2 years and that little school was one of the best in Shetland. I was delighted when I had to moved to Shetland to find that both my Children would be attending the school. My son started there when he was in the Nursery section and my daughter attended the junior part of the school. They were happy and contented children and learnt so much there with the amazing help of the staff at the time. Mossbank School is a necessary, as its a large area especially with the comings and goings of the Terminal/Airport staff. Mossbank had an almost a one to one teaching system which helped many of the kids with learning difficulties. My children are now 26 years old and 34 years old, and both have fond memories of the school. The Council should think carefully about their financial budgets when making this decision, children from the more rural areas will have to board out and many of the Parents are either on benefits or low incomes, how do they expect to financially support this and other expenses that will arise. Will children get the same level of Education as well, who knows I personally don’t think so. As usual the Councils never think for or about the person/s involved only how good they look themselves in the media, and to be very frank they should employ more outsiders that have a better knowledge of the current UK Education system.

    Shetland hass had a lot of money poured into it and I personally think that the Council do not spend the money on what is most need, good individual rural schools, decent housing and the NHS. They have to put their house in order. No doubt someone from the Council will make strong comments about this letter but the old saying “those who shout the loudest……” Today my Children have good prospects, my daughter works in Security a responsible job, and my son is in advanced French at a College in France.

    In France they would never close rural schools, there are bus swervices for them (as in Shetland) and I know of at least two school here that have a max of 20 kids between them. France has similar financial problems but is dealt with by Canton to Canton, Children and the low income folks here have the help and support they need from the Socio-médicos (social workers).

    With help from people such as Thelma Georgeson, Betty wardrop and Linda Davis etc, I have two well balanced children and I would personally like to thank them. Don’t Close your Schools, spend the money on good teachers, books etc OK. With many kind regards Tajina Bain. S.W.France

    Reply

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

Win a £20 Voucher Complete our survey today
10 Winners will be drawn at random from completed entries
No thanks Take survey No thanks