Saddened by decision

Last Saturday between 600 and 1,000 people paraded through Lerwick. This was a large and passionate expression of support for Shetland’s rural schools.

On Saturday the situation was that there were no planned consultations to close a junior high school secondary department.

We are thus very saddened that two days after this remarkable march there was a council decision to have closure consultations about all five remaining junior high school secondary departments.

We write on behalf of Communities United for Rural Education (CURE).

Gordon Thomson

Unst.

Sandra Goudie

West Side.

Brian Irvine

Whalsay.

Marina Thomason

Yell.

Hilary Burgess

South Mainland.

50 comments

  1. Shona Frsaer

    This is just completely ridiculous. Surely there should be no final decisions before the tally for the vote of no confidence has come in? Or maybe they’re trying to wreck as much as possible before the public step in.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      This wasn’t a “final” decision. Quite the opposite, in fact.

      Reply
  2. Ali Inkster

    Fed up, think we could do better well now we can, lets kick this lot into touch where they belong. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/shetland-islands-council-resign

    Reply
  3. Janet Dunnet

    I think this closures or possible closures are starting to get out of hand, this is totally pathetic they want to centralize everything and put the rest of the communities to ruin. How can they expect people to support there local communities if there is nothing for them. A lot of people come to the isles for better education with smaller classes but Shetland are going to be doing exact same as schools on the mainland too many for each class this is getting from bad to worse…..

    Reply
  4. Susan Williamson

    It seems that democracy is not allowed in Shetland anymore. Oh I know we have all heard Gary Robinson tell us due to the current financial climate they have no choice but to cut down the school estate and that if previous councils had just made the hard decisions then we wouldn’t be in this mess now. Maybe previous councils didn’t make those decisions because they listened to the people they represented and paid attention to the results of the consultations.
    Vaila Wishart has stated over and over again that the Junior Highs can’t work with the Curriculum for Excellence. Hayfield House has a duty to make it work until the new AHS is built, or are they giving up on the secondary bairns in Junior Highs until that time?
    I would like to see published in the Shetland Times, for all to see, a break down of the cost of education in Shetland. This information should be freely available and might help us understand exactly where the excesses are. Hayfield House must have this information to hand as that is what they have to be basing their projections on. I am very interested in finding out what expenses are put against education.

    Reply
  5. Adam Ramsay

    I’m against the march. What right do people have to peacefully express their opinion when they feel ignored. And what do they even know about raising children? Only the council and Hayfield are experts here.
    We all know that some cuts are essential, hence that proves that these cuts are essential.
    I think the council is right. Let’s shut all the isles’ junior highs. Too expensive, long standing catastrophic academic history, outmoded, unheard of across all other identical Scottish archipelagos: nothing of merit. And the simple solution is obvious to all but those idiots on the march – move every child away from his parents, family and community, and store him in a hostile, oh I mean hostel.
    And if the communities suffer, we may be lucky and they might all move to where they ought to live, and we can save on ferries too!

    From a parent (well, until my children are pied pipered away from me)

    Reply
    • veronica bellotti

      Well said Adam.

      Reply
  6. Adam Ramsay

    I was there on the march. I wasn’t listened to.

    Reply
  7. Vaila Thomason

    I couldn’t take part in Saturdays march, but I was there in spirit, however it seems, as usual, the council have not taken any notice. What is going to take?

    Reply
  8. Emma Ramsay

    I was at the march with my two children Thomas and Elizabeth, and I wasn’t listened to.

    Reply
  9. Cheryl Jamieson

    I was at the march and I was not listened to.

    Reply
  10. kathryn lomax

    I was on the March and it was amazing to see communities coming together, unfortunately the SIC are not interested in listening to the People that they are meant to represent and only interested to listening to reports that they have paid thousands for which turn out to be not quite the best information!!

    Reply
  11. john irvine

    What do people have to do?

    How would the council react if a large proportion of the population refused to pay their council tax?

    If everyone sticks together than we could bring this council to its knee`s, and why not? this council on the whole (there are some good guys) are a complete and utter disgrace.

    We are now in a situation where we are fighting for the very survival of the Shetland isles as we know it, if the council are allowed to have their way the isles and most communities outside Lerwick will be dead within 2 decades.

    If you want to help then please go to the link below and sign the petition.
    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/shetland-islands-council-resign

    Reply
  12. David Spence

    I think the Council, like many politicians, do not really represent the people they are supposed too.

    If you put into the equation the reasons why the SIC is having to make such drastic cuts, look no further than Edinburgh, but even moreso, Westminster and this vile Tory Party, whose sole purpose is to totally undermine (by forcing cuts in the budgets for Local Authorities but having a enough of the tax payer’s money to give to the equally vile private sector in preparation for the privatisation of all state run services (eg vile Tories giving £400 million of tax payers money to private schools, plus an estimated £1.6 billion towards the construction of 150 new academies)).

    I cannot see how people cannot make the connection between these forced cuts by this vile Tory Party and what the Council is having to do…………and please……do not say it is Alex Salmond, The Scottish Office etc etc their strings are pulled by those vile Tories down in Westminster for the greater good of themselves and very much to the detriment of everybody else (typical trait of Capitalism) as we are beginning to see.

    Reply
  13. Ruth Grainger

    I was on the march. I wasn’t listened to. Councillors – please understand that your constituents are ANGRY. Do not treat us as you yourselves hate to be treated by Edinburgh and Westminster – LISTEN to the peripheral communities! We are important!

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Ruth,

      If they didn’t listen to you and others on the march, you all have only one option – ‘man the barricades’!

      By which I mean, each and every one, must sign Ali Inkster’s petition.

      Forgive my language, but these people in SIC are bloody determined to close your schools.

      I recall a very tough old chargehand – salt of the earth – asking me as an apprentice if ‘it was hard going’ when I was digging a hole for an electricity pole among what he knew fine was rocky ground.

      When I answered “Yes, it XXXXing is”, he said “well, you know the answer, if the going’s hard, GET HARD WITH IT!”

      I never forgot that and forty-odd years later, I still value “Thin Will’s” advice.

      Reply
  14. Ali Inkster

    This council has no intention of listening to you and the few good men/women who will are too ineffectual to make their voices heard. It’s time to clear the lot of them out and start again. This time with folk that are going to stand up to Edinburgh, Westminster and the oil companies and keep our money to pay for the things we want and need. To the councillors that think they are doing their bit I say if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem resign now and save us all a lot of time money and grief. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/shetland-islands-council-resign

    Reply
  15. Hazel Spence

    I am with Susan on this one, detailed costs of education now, this year and the next 10 years class sizes taken into consideration. I think our Junior highs are more than adequate to deliver curriculum for excellence till the end of S4 as it is now. Also detailed costs of educating wir bairns including ferry fares and hostel fees & bus costs, weighed up against cost per pupil at their current school. It most cost more to send them to lerwick! Teachers also will need to be relocated son this is not a saving that should be taken into account.

    Mother, Junior High School graduate & member of a fantastic rural community.

    Reply
  16. Cheryl Jamieson

    I was on the march. I wasn’t listened to.

    Reply
  17. Johan Adamson

    I wasn’t on the march and should have been. Taking bairns to fiddle lessons and to see granny. I am sure that there were other parents busy parenting who couldn’t be there either. Me and my bairns were also there in spirit and wanted to celebrate Shetland’s rural schools.

    Reply
  18. veronica bellotti

    I am devastated about the rural school closers, both my children (who are now grown adults) went to two rural school, and it was the best education anyone could ask for their children. Shetland has the best schools I have experienced, I have also worked in two Lerwick schools.I no longer live in Shetland.I would hate the children to miss out on what my two children had.

    Reply
  19. Yvette carnell

    I was on the march and I wasn’t listened to. More importantly though, my bairns were on the march and they weren’t listened to either. My bairns are growing up in an era where the council is like a dark force that threatens everything they love, my eight year old is living in fear of being taken away from her family in a few years time. These proposals/consultations may be a paper exercise to our councillors but they are having a profound effect on our bairns now.

    Reply
  20. Emma Ramsay

    I was on the march with my family and friends. I wasn’t listened to.
    Well done to CURE for uniting our communities and letting the council know loud and clear that we are more than just a “foot stamping rabble.” What a joy it was to stand alongside almost a thousand people from across Shetland to shout out how much we love our schools. The council are threatening to take away the children for our homes and communities. We must not let this happen. We will continue to fight this as one unified voice.

    Reply
  21. Karen Hannay

    I was on the march and I wasn’t listened to.

    Reply
  22. Ingrid Pottinger

    I was on the march. I wasn’t listened to! :(

    Reply
  23. John k Smith

    I was at the march and cannot believe the council refuses to listen to the will of the people, saddened by their constant, unnecessary threats.
    The SIC should be constantly improve all schools not keep running them down. Make all high schools fair and target S1-S6 for all. Until we can afford that leave the current JHS S1-S4 with a near future to S6. It fits CfE and is the only fair thing to do.

    Reply
  24. Caroline Kay

    Myself and my family were very proud to be on the march. We were not listened to. We will continue to do all that we can until we are. In any event our children will not be sent from home to school until they are ready.

    Reply
  25. Lorna Moncrieff

    We will not give up! This is what the people of shetland want, and you represent us as councillers, so it is your job to find a way of making it happen. I am sure our teachers are perfectly capable of teaching our children up to fourth year in curriculum of excellence with a smooth transition to lerwick in fifth year. This is not rocket science and I’m sure it is no more difficult than what they are already having to deal with.

    Reply
  26. Marie Mair

    I was at the march and wasn’t listened to by most councillors and the education department. S1-4 works perfectly well with cfe, alot of prior learning is done in S3 and uprooting our children at the end of that year, expecting them to settle in to a new school and totally different environment is ridiculous. They wouldn’t have time to get used to new teachers etc before having to sit exams or do assessments through what could be their final year. We have an excellent school with excellent teachers, leave it be!!!

    Reply
  27. Steven Brown

    I couldn’t get to the march but my family were there, and they weren’t listen to. But I am a parent council chair of a rural primary school where we have been under constant threat of closure for near on 10 years plus, that’s a decade of wasted constant consultation.
    Luckily for us we have taken the SIC Education Authority to the Scottish Government and WON our argument that there was no educational benefit for closure, unfortunately some friends have fallen, but we must keep the pressure on, they haven’t worn me down yet.
    Fossils out, there is a way to run the authority!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  28. Ali Inkster

    They are not going to listen to you, or anyone else for that matter except their political masters in Edinburgh an Westminster. if we can’t afford to keep the schools open then why the hell are they not fighting to get more money from Edinburgh and if they are fighting for more money then surely they need to bring out the big guns and play the oil card. It’s not rocket science. This council is an abject failure and we don’t have time to wait for the next council election for by that time the damage will be done and will be irreversible. Sign the petition shout out your message loud and clear THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/shetland-islands-council-resign

    Reply
  29. David Spence

    ‘ Gary Robinson tell us due to the current financial climate they have no choice but to cut down the school estate ‘

    It does not surprise me that Councillor Gary Robinson, is taking his party’s line and justification (as he see’s it) for the Council ‘ being forced ‘ to make cuts due to Mr Robinson’s affection for the vile Tories and his stance on supporting them and their agenda of cutting the budgets of All Local Authorities to totally undermine what they can do, due to the biggest rooks in society (totally endorsed by the vile Tories no doubt) becoming too greedy and causing much of the problems we are having today. I would seriously question Mr Gary Robinson’s allegiance, and whether or not it is to his Party (the vile Tories) or to Shetland?

    Reply
    • Ryan Thomson

      I’m not sure how anyone cannot question Gary Robinsons allegiance, as it’s certainly not with where it should be, his constituents.

      Reply
  30. Annette Gear

    I was on the march, and sadly it seems that we were not listened to. Surely if it is educational arguments we are looking at, the best case would be to continue to allow our bairns the option of gaining at least some qualifications without being forced to leave home. Historically this has never been imposed before, and the damage it will do to rural Shetland is truly unimaginable.
    Parent, ex- Junior High and AHS pupil.

    Reply
  31. Elizabeth Johnson

    I was on the march and I was not listened to. We have four bairns all educated to degree level who went to the Anderson for their Highers and that was best for them. We need to keep the option there for all parents/bairns. Closing schools means closing communities. Da Council has as much of an obligation to secure the social viability of Shetland (rural areas included) as they do the financial viability. Councillors have a hard time and it appears to be the case that they are scaremongered by officials into making decisions which are not well thought through. There have to be other ways of getting the cash required to keep the schools open. What a brilliant piece of publicity it would be for the oil companies if they were approached again (given the actual size of developments we hear about now) and asked to contribute more with a view to keeping the rural areas of Shetland alive.

    Reply
  32. Haydn Gear

    Yes, Annette Gear should be disappointed but not surprised.Deaf to public wishes and reasoned opposition , mini dictators spring up on councils throughout Britain.As a retired Welsh teacher, I’ve seen it happen time and again and it’s sickening.Having visited Foula I just wonder how long it will be before councillors decide that the school’s small numbers make it unviable.Pig headed stubborn people are always difficult to persuade but my hope is that determined tenacity will prevail and that Shetlanders will secure the educational rights for their children.Councillors are not gods. They are merely very ordinary people.

    Reply
  33. Michael Bilton

    There is only one way to defeat the SIC over the closure of rural schools – by resort to the courts. There is a clear abuse of process issue that should be argued in a Judicial Review. Also, it is arguable that an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg could succeeds on the grounds that all Shetland citizens – including children – are entitled to a family life. Forcing children to board in Lerwick would deny them that right to family life, a situation made worse to the winter time when pupils at an important stage in their life, could not see their parents because flights could be grounded, ferries might not be able to sail. As an outsider who has visited Shetland with his family on many occasions, and has travelled to most of the outlying islands – it seems utterly extraordinary that the only way SIC can fill a financial black hole is to penalise young kids and their parents. It’s quite shameful really, given the money that is wasted on bureaucracy.

    Reply
  34. John N Hunter

    As someone who spent six years boarding in Lerwick from the age of 12 I find all this hysteria about the rural JHS’s closing a bit over the top. In my day (the 1960′s) Lerwick was a far away place about which I knew little. If you wanted to phone home you needed a twopenny bit to phone from a public phone box (assuming your family had a phone in the first case). Nowadays almost every teenager has a mobile, they are on Facebook, they can use Skype. They needen’t be cut off from their families if they don’t want to be.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Johnson

      Its a very different world we live in nowadays and in many ways not for the better. Onwards and upwards and not backwards!

      Reply
  35. Linsey Nisbet

    To reply to John N Hunter, if I may. I too spent 6 years away from my home as a hostel bairn in the 60s. I don’t think that Skype, Facebook or a mobile ‘phone, had they been available then, could possibly have compensated for the fact that my parents and my two brothers were able to sit down for tea together every evening. Words cannot describe the homesickness and feeling of isolation from my family at the age of 12, something that we should not be forcing on our children. There was a choice back then. This MUST remain a choice for our schoolchildren and their families.

    Reply
  36. Jane Haswell

    My family and I marched, with hundreds and hundreds of other people, all coming together to celebrate rural education and to highlight the very real dangers of the Blueprint proposals.
    Were we listened to??
    The new school closures legislation has at its core the principle of working with parents and communities to develop alternatives to closure. The CURE march will stand as evidence that our communities are united in our desire to develop meaningful alternatives to closures. It is then up to the authority to demonstrate they have listened.
    Home and away we have been listened to. Who has actually heard and understood our arguments will become clear in July and beyond. To proceed with consultations with the emerging backdrop of discredited financial comparisons on pupil costs is an extremely disingenuous and high risk strategy.
    A strategy which would clearly demonstrate we have not been listened too.

    Reply
  37. Sheila Tulloch

    I, along with 3 generations of my family marched. I don’t think we were listened to. Although credit must go to the 3 councillors , Theo Smith, George Smith & Andrea Manson. who turned out themselves to gauge first hand the strength of feeling. Shame on the rest. The ‘costs report’ due on 1st July will make interesting reading…..

    Reply
  38. Hannah Boden

    It will be a real Shame if they close Aith Junior high school. I moved to the area 3 weeks ago and what attracts me to the west side of Shetland (apart from it being the sunny side) is the welcoming community and the reputation of the school. I would like my child to have an excellent education and for me that means smaller class sizes. I’m sticking up for rural education.

    Reply
  39. Stuart Hannay

    I am genuinely concerned that we have not been listened to properly. I do think there has been a response but it seems irrational – I’m confused, it feels like pick a number between s1 & s6 and hope it meets the curriculum for excellence just to get a decision made. As for the potential costs and savings, well……

    Reply
  40. ross gazey

    I was on the march and I wasn’t listened to.
    If I, and everyone else, were listened to the option for complete closure of all the JHS’s would be off the table and put in the dust-bin where it belongs. I note that our senior educational department executives are back to trying to comparing apples with bananas – again! (http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2014/06/23/alternatives-to-closure-jacqueline-johnston/) its little wonder that some of our elected members think the only thing that’s good for Shetland is school closures when the departments that are meant to provide transparent information simply do not do this. If elected members choose to follow the education department’s plan of school closures it will be a disastrous move for the whole of Shetland and will not save the SIC the money they currently think it will. I can only appeal to them to see sense, and retain the JHS system that has served us all very well, and continues to serve Shetland very well.

    Reply
  41. Leanne Johnson

    I was at the march along with my family. We felt very proud and humbled in the way our communities united to celebrate, support and fight for education to remain in our rural schools.
    Its time that closure be taken off the table and that officials fully engage with us as parents and with communities to discuss viable alternatives to closure before rural Shetland, as we know it, is damaged beyond repair.

    Reply
  42. Paula Goddard

    I was on the march ,with my 6 Shetland based grandbairns,I and they were not listened to.

    Reply
  43. Anita Orheim

    I don’t understand why local politicians can decide to close even more schools in Shetland. Don’t they grasp the impact this will have on the local communities? I speak with frustrated friends in Shetland over the phone regularly, and hear how things has worsened just the past three years since I moved back to Norway. It saddens my heart to hear that Junior High bairns will be forced to leave home when there is nothing wrong with their excisting school and curriculum. How can the costs be less when all the children need accomodation in hostels, transport and more staff (hopefully S.I.C. has planned for more staff) at hostels to look after them? First of all there is all the emotional stress for children missing their families, secondly, who will look after their well-being, emotional needs and support in the afternoons and evenings at the hostels? A phonecall or skype chat with mum and dad will not be enough adult support for most children – because children are different with individual needs. This combined with the cut of staff at schools and at the Anderson High worries me. I used to work there at the ASN dept. My former colleuges there do a fantastic job for the kids that needs extra support, both as teachers, assistants and most of all as caring adults that reassure and motivates. I cannot understand how S.I. C. can cut valuable teaching staff both at the Anderson and in the Junior Highs while shipping in more pupils to the big schools thinking it will be all right?! The long term effects will in my eyes be: communities with few people under 50, local shops and buisnesses closing or moving and families moving away from Shetland to be able to have their kids living at home. My greatest consern is young adults growing up feeling disconnected to their local communities that might lead to them moving away, and a great risk of leaving them emotionally neglect and trauma after living away from their families against their own will. How can this comply with The Childrens Act and Childrens Rights? I suggest you all to get together and make a protest video and plaster it on all sorts of social medias and send it to the Scottish Government. Show everyone around the globe what is happening in Shetland and what consequences this will lead to. Show everyone that Shetland is a great community that stands together! Best of luck to you all and keep fighting! Warm wishes fae Anita Orheim in Bergen.

    Reply

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