School closures are firmly back on the council’s agenda in the latest version of the document which sketches out a future for education in the isles. Members of next week’s services committee are due to discuss a number of options in the Blueprint for Education which could result in major changes to the school estate.
Parents and teachers will be consulted on the proposals, which are deemed necessary because of the forthcoming introduction of the Scottish government’s Curriculum for Excellence which splits secondary education into two parts, from S1 to S3 and S4 to S6. Falling rolls in some areas and the highest per capita expenditure on education of any local authority are additional factors.
Under the latest proposals Baltasound Junior High School is facing the axe, with youngsters moving either to Mid Yell or Lerwick at the end of primary seven.
Primary education will also be affected at Uyeasound, with a proposal that pupils there transfer to Baltasound, where a primary school would remain, instead.
In Yell, it is being suggested either that pupils spend the first three years at Mid Yell Junior High School and then transfer to the Anderson High School in Lerwick or that pupils move to Lerwick or Brae right after primary school.
The primary service in Mid Yell will be maintained, however Burravoe and Cullivoe primaries could be affected – with youngsters in those schools moving to Mid Yell. However, another possibility is that Mid Yell and Burravoe would continue, leaving youngsters from Cullivoe to transfer to Mid Yell. The final permetation for Yell primaries would see Cullivoe continue alongside Mid Yell, with Burravoe pupils moving on to the Mid Yell school.
Moving south, primary schools at Urafirth, North Roe and Ollaberry could be amalgamated. As part of that plan, Olnafirth primary could be closed with pupils transferring to Brae. Mossbank and Lunnasting primaries would remain open.
Secondary education is also likely to be reformed in Whalsay, with the suggestion that, as in Mid Yell, pupils either go to Lerwick from S4 onwards or after leaving primary school, which would mean the closure of Whalsay Junior High School. The Skerries secondary department, famously saved from the axe in 2007, is also facing closure. Primary services in both communities will escape closure, however.
In the West Mainland, pupils at Aith Junior High could be asked to transfer to Lerwick at the end of S3. Alternatively the secondary service there could stop altogether, with youngsters moving over to Lerwick at the end of primary seven.
Primary services at Sandness and Skeld are under threat. Happyhansel, Sandness and Skeld schools could be amalgamated into one site while services at Aith are saved.
Scalloway Junior High could be discontinued once pupils reach the end of S3, or closed altogether. There are no plans to close primaries in Scalloway, Whiteness, Hamnavoe, Tingwall or Nesting.
Lerwick schools will escape the threat of closure, although primary education in Bressay could come to a halt.
In Sandwick, pupils could transfer to Lerwick at the end of S3, or carry out their entire secondary education in the town. Primaries in Sandwick, Dunrossness and Cunningsburgh could escape closure plans however.
Councillors will be asked to approve the report at next week’s meeting, enabling a Shetland-wide consultation to take place on the proposals.
Chairman of the Blueprint member-official working group, Gussie Angus, said: “This opportunity to consider Shetland-wide options for change to the school estate has been brought forward as a result of work done by the … working group and the discussions held at briefing sessions held for members last Friday. There they requested a radical look at the whole school system in Shetland.”
Earlier this year The Shetland Times learned that at £34.5 million annually, spending on education in Shetland is far higher per pupil than in any other area of the country, including comparable areas like Orkney and the Western Isles.