By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
FOUR Shetland schools are in unsatisfactory condition, according to a government survey.
The four are Hamnavoe, Olnafirth and Uyeasound Primaries, which have been classed as “poor”, and Anderson High School, which the survey described as “bad”.
Head of schools Helen Budge said she was not surprised by the results of the survey. Mrs Budge said: “This won’t be a surprise to anyone. We know the Anderson High School building is in a poor state and that it needs to be replaced in the near future.
“Some schools are older than others and we have a rolling programme of maintenance trying to maintain satisfactory standards. Capital funding has been approved for the Anderson High School and Olnafirth and we’re delighted that the 29 other schools are of a high standard. We’re very comfortable with this survey as it confirms what we knew.”
Mrs Budge insisted the schools identified in the survey can still be used safely.
The condition surveys of Shetland’s 33 schools was carried out by the council’s building services unit.
Building services manager David Williamson said that the survey looked at various elements of the buildings such as roofs, ceilings, windows and doors. He added that surveyors the council had engaged to come up from south found Shetland schools to be in “significantly better” condition than comparable buildings on the mainland.
Around a quarter of all Scottish schools were found to be in either poor or bad condition in the survey.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock said he would be contacting local authorities to get an overview of the situation and pressing the Scottish government to give them the resources to tackle “this unfortunate situation”.
He said: “It is a tragedy that the SNP government has brought the school building programme to a shuddering halt. They promised they would match Labour’s commitment to building new schools but so far have failed to have a single new school developed anywhere in Scotland. With the momentum on school buildings having been lost, pupils, teachers and whole communities are not getting the improvements they need and were promised.”
The plan to build a new AHS has been dogged by controversy.
The original design with a curved roof and underground car park had to be scaled back in the face of escalating costs, and a new design with a flat roof and without the underground car park was eventually approved.
However the project has been continually revised to save money. Originally the arc-shaped complex was to be built at the Knab before pulling down any of the old teaching blocks. Then consideration was given to demolishing the A-block of the existing school and moving the new building lower down the hill, where it would be more sheltered and building space would be less restricted.
Another cost-cutting suggestion was to scrap plans for the multi-million pound games hall and refurbish the old one instead.
It then emerged that the cost of the school was partly due to the fact that it was half as big again as had been originally planned, thanks to additional open and recreational space.
Councillor Jonathan Wills has argued that other sites for the school should be looked at, including a green field council-owned site at Seafield. This suggestion was quashed by a meeting of the Full Council recently. Dr Wills estimated that the cost of the new school could be £58 million, with another £16 million for a new hostel.
Speaking at a meeting of Lerwick Community Council recently, executive director of education and social care Hazel Sutherland said that it would be another three months before a basic picture of the future AHS would emerge, and would show whether a school at the Knab would be affordable and technically buildable.
Meanwhile building costs for the 1,000 pupil school are escalating and the prospect of it being open in 2011 seem to be receding.