Education chiefs removed Mid Yell Junior High School head teacher Mark Lawson from his post this week for “confidential” reasons, to the bewilderment of parents and the wider community.
Stunned parents received a letter from the education offices in Hayfield House on Wednesday, saying that current deputy head Lindsay Nisbet would be acting up into the role of head teacher from Tuesday.
The letter stated “the reasons for this decision are confidential in nature” and that Mrs Nisbet would be in her new post “until further notice”.
The letter continued: “You should be assured that the school service consider your child’s education to be of prime importance and that the service has every confidence in Mrs Nisbet’s ability to fill this role.”
The letter was signed by quality improvement officer for the North Isles Jerry Edwards who said: “This is an internal staffing matter. No comment. It is a confidential matter and I can’t discuss it.”
Head of schools Helen Budge is currently away from work but her deputy, quality improvement manager Audrey Edwards, also refused to discuss the matter.
Mrs Edwards agreed Mr Lawson was no longer working as headteacher at Mid Yell, but would not say whether he had been suspended or sacked or whether he was receiving full pay.
Mr Lawson himself directed all inquiries to Hayfield House.
The news of the removal came “out of the blue” according to parent council chairwoman Rosie Briscoe.
Dr Briscoe said: “I don’t know what this is about – I haven’t been aware of any problems.”
North Isles councillor Laura Baisley was shocked to learn the news when The Shetland Times asked her for a comment. “I’m astonished,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”
Another member of the community said they were “gobsmacked.”
“I thought he [Mr Lawson] was a well-liked member of the community, very much on the ball and heavily involved in the plans for the new school. The family are well thought of and active in the community.”
Mr Lawson, a father of seven children ranging from teenagers to a toddler, came to Yell with his family around six years ago to become head teacher of Cullivoe Primary School, which currently has 18 pupils. Around three years ago he was appointed head teacher at Mid Yell, which now has 85 pupils and 27 in the nursery.
He continued, at his own suggestion, to be head teacher of Cullivoe in a two-year trial period of shared headship. That proved controversial: parents and teachers at Cullivoe were broadly in favour of the arrangement while those at Mid Yell were against it.
Feelings ran high in the two communities, with Mid Yell parents and teachers saying that there were problems when Mr Lawson was out of the school and his deputy had to leave the class in his absence. This was partly explained by his being in meetings regarding the new school.
A consultation with the communities showed 80 per cent of responders were against the shared headship, which was deemed not to work because of the disparity in size of the two schools.
At a meeting of the services committee last October it was agreed to reinstate the original model of a head teacher for each school.
Mr Lawson’s wife Clare was recently appointed as head teacher of the Cullivoe Primary School.
Meanwhile the new £8.5 million Mid Yell school could be ready by late next year. It will comprise blocks built in Denmark and shipped over in separate sections to be assembled in Shetland.