Scalloway parents are turning to the Scottish government in a final attempt to save the village school’s secondary department after councillors today ratified Tuesday’s decision to close it.
In a short statement, Scalloway’s parent council said it had identified “flaws, inaccuracies and omissions at every stage of the council’s handling of this process”. It will be asking Scottish education minister Mike Russell to call in the decision because of a belief that the SIC has not complied with new legislation on school closures brought in this year.
A spokesman for the Scottish government said a final decision should be taken before the end of January. Civil servants will consider whether the council has followed the correct consultation procedures and whether a strong enough educational case has been made.
The spokesman said: “There is a recognition that councils are best placed to take decisions locally, but if we are concerned then we will take action.”
At this morning’s Full Council in Lerwick Town Hall no attempt was made to revisit Tuesday’s services committee decision, where members had voted 13-9 to shut Scalloway. The decision has prompted widespread outrage within the community.
With the same 22 members present, councillor for the area Iris Hawkins said her colleagues had been “very clear” about how they wished to vote and she saw no point trying to overturn the decision. But she felt there were “enough flaws” in the process to merit the decision being called in.
Under questioning from Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills, SIC convener Sandy Cluness insisted he still retained confidence in the schools service staff despite having voted against its recommendation to shut both Scalloway and Skerries’ secondaries. “I am entitled to vote the way I did,” Mr Cluness said.
But services committee vice-chairwoman Betty Fullerton, who represents the central ward, said she would spend the next few weeks considering her position having voted against the closures. “It will need a lot of careful thought,” she said. “It’s not a decision I would take lightly.”
Scalloway parent council is to spend the next few days putting together a submission in which it will argue that the SIC has not followed to the letter the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 and the special provisions for rural schools contained within it.
The parent council will meet in the school’s staff room at 7pm on Wednesday 15th December to agree the terms of its request to Edinburgh. Vice-chair Karen Eunson said: “Everyone who is concerned about the future of the school is welcome to attend this meeting. We have every reason to believe that our request will be successful.”