School staff have voiced concerns about Lerwick’s proposed new high school being on a split site, with a seven-and-a-half minute walk between the main building at the Lower Staney Hill and the leisure facilities at Clickimin where physical education is to be taught.
All 23 of the Anderson High School’s principal teachers and the five members of the management team have written to councillors pointing out that this will have major ramifications for the school timetable and potentially be very disruptive to pupils’ education.
The letter has also been sent to HM Inspectorate of Education as part of the consultation process currently being carried out into the educational impact of moving the school from the Knab to Clickimin. Councillors voted to abandon the Knab last year, days before work was to begin on a new school building.
But officials failed to advise them that the public had to be consulted on any proposed move. Inspectors are in Shetland this week carrying out work on this and the proposed closure of secondary departments in Scalloway and Skerries.
The split site issue was raised at a public meeting at the Anderson High last night attended by around 30 people.
However head of the schools service Helen Budge replied that sharing facilities with the leisure centre was just one option being examined.
She said: “In respect of the site there are two possibilities – one is that we share facilities with the Clickimin, while the other option is that we build PE facilities in the new school.
“With Clickimin facilities being as and where they are it would seem an opportunity [for the school] to share them.
“Some of the points being raised, as we are going through the process, are from people concerned about the time and distance, and what it would mean to share the Clickimin, and that’s what this process has been all about.
“At the moment SRT [Shetland Recreational Trust] knows there’s a possibility about sharing of facilities. The balance is between how much it would cost for us to use those, as opposed to building them in as part of the new school.”
She admitted there were other complications such as pupils from other schools relying on the leisure centre, as well as demand from the general public.
Mrs Budge said she had hoped for a bigger turnout at the meeting, and said the debate had meant to be about the school’s new location.
“Some folk are saying at the moment they know where the site is, they just want to get down to the nitty-gritty.”
Mrs Budge said that while people were concerned about some issues they apparently had no objections to the preferred site on the whole.
“It appears from the meeting that, generally, there wasn’t a lot of concern about the Lower Staney Hill site as a preferred site, but there seem to be questions about the length of time and why it’s going to take seven years to build a new school.
“We’ve listened to what the public want to tell us, and at the moment we don’t have great opposition to the site being proposed.”
Head of the council’s services committee Gussie Angus said the message had been made loud and clear about shared PE facilities, but he reiterated the point that the meeting was only meant to be about the school’s location.
“There hasn’t even been a sketched plan for the school,” he said.
Regarding the relatively low turn-out, he said many people had already shown their support for the proposed site.
“We had a meeting over a year ago in the Town Hall. Everybody in Lerwick who, in some way, had something to say, said it at that meeting and made it abundantly clear their preferred site was, almost unanimously, the Lower Staney Hill.”
Further public meetings on the future of education are planned for next week. These will take place on Monday in Skerries and in Scalloway on Tuesday.
A further meeting will be held, again in the existing Anderson High, next Wednesday to discuss the possible impact of moving pupils from Scalloway to Lerwick should the village’s secondary department be closed.
The schools service is gathering in responses to the consultation on the Anderson High project, which can be sent by email or letter by 10th October.