Past Times: One school for Ness area?

From The Shetland Times, Friday 25th March, 1959

A school inspector has suggested to Shetland Education Committee that they should consider combining Virkie/Quendale/Boddam schools into one new three-teacher school, sited probably at Virkie.

When the suggestion came before the committee on Monday night, a cautious attitude was adopted, and it was agreed in the first place to send a five-man deputation down to the Ness to meet the local education Sub-Committee to test local reaction.

The letter from Mr Dryburgh pointed out that Virkie, Quendale and Boddam schools lay within a circle of diameter about 3 1/2 miles. Since Levenwick and Bigton were not far distant there was unlikely to be a large hinterland.

The roll at Virkie was likely to continue a little above the one-teacher level.
Boddam might be slightly greater than that of Virkie. Neither school had a general purposes room, and both had sub-standard infant rooms. Dining at Boddam took place in the classroom, and there were no amenities for teachers at either school.
The roll at Quendale fluctuated greatly. At present the room was far too small for the numbers, and the second room was far too small to act as a general purposes room for free movement exercises. There was a dining room at Quendale, but no solid teacher’s room.

Mr Dryburgh had noted several different firms running service buses in the area, so transport was available.

He suggested careful examination of all the points which could be made by centralisation.

The total roll would be well within the three-teacher level; at present there were five teachers, three of whom received responsibility payments. There were two meals kitchens with staff, plus transport costs to deliver meals to Boddam.

Virkie would have to be planned as a two-teacher school, and it would cost only a few thousands more to make it a three-teacher school.

Against the saving would be extra transport costs and the wishes of the parents.
The separation of classes should lead to increased efficiency, especially when the classes were small.

If it was decided to centralise, Mr Dryburgh suggested that the new school be placed in a centre of population, not some isolated spot mathematically equidistant from Virkie, Quendale and Boddam. Virkie seemed to be the natural centre of population. If that was selected, care should be taken to keep it well clear of likely aeroplane paths.

The chairman said this was something that would require a good deal of consideration.

Mr R.A. Anderson said that the county architect had mentioned this possibility to him six months ago, when they were discussing new building projects. Mr Conway had advanced the theory from the point of view of the effectiveness of building a new school, rather than trying to take three other schools and spending a lot of money on them, and perhaps in the end not being quite satisfied.

At that time, Mr Anderson thought if they did anything like this, perhaps this was the one part of Shetland where it might be done with the agreement of the local people. The whole area seemed to be populated – there were no long stretches of uninhabited ground between one house and another, and one village and another. It was not difficult for a Yell man to regard it as one very complete parish where an arrangement of this kind could work profitably.

There would not be the feeling that the local people had been robbed of their school because the new school would still be comparatively near to the children involved.

Be that as it may, it was still a very difficult decision to make, and one that would have to be made in agreement with the local people. The first thing should be to have representatives of the Education Committee meet the local Education Sub-Committee, so that they could have a full discussion of facts and figures, and to get full agreement in the area. He would move accordingly.

Mr Tom Henderson said that seemed to imply the Education Committee had agreed in principle that this was a good thing.

Chairman: Oh no. This is the first I have heard of it.

Mr Henderson said he would most definitely object to that. All three schools named were not old dilapidated buildings. Quendale was brought up to a very good standard about 1946; there was a canteen and dining facilities there. Virkie fell somewhere in between the two. Boddam had a considerable amount of money spent on it last year. All three were of very good standard.

“Are we to condemn two of these buildings for the sake of centralising the whole thing at the most distant point of the population in the district?” he asked.

It was a fair distance from Vanlop to somewhere down in the Sumburgh area, especially when dealing with young children in wintry weather. This was a matter that wanted considerable thought.

The architect said the canteen and kitchen at Quendale were in a HORSA building, now in a very rough state. The only thing he disagreed with Mr Dryburgh about was the site – he thought it should be nearer Boddam than Virkie.

The director suggested the best thing to do would be to prepare a memorandum on the question, showing possible things for and against, and send a copy to the representatives of the local Education Sub-Committee and members of the Education Committee, if it was agreed there should be a joint meeting.

The committee decided this was the best method of approach, an appointed Messrs Ollason, R.A. Anderson, W. K Conochie, Tony Anderson, and R. B. Blance to meet the local Sub-Committee.


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