Downright unacceptable (Ann Clark)

I am deeply saddened by the SIC schools service’s consultation report after supposedly listening and taking on board comments and concerns voiced in responses from the public.

What is the point in consultation if the concerns of parents and the public are not listened to. The whole process has been a total waste of time and a huge waste of money. All concerns regarding safety and children’s wellbeing have been completely ignored. Parents are worried about the length of day young children will be subjected to – the schools service answer to this is to give them an extra break in the afternoon. How will this shorten the length of day?

The report states that: “Burravoe Primary School is part of the primary proposal, as its closure would not generate unacceptable travel times for primary aged children to attend Mid Yell Junior High School primary department.”

I can assure you it does generate unacceptable travel times. Picking up primary children at 8.15am and delivering them home at 4.20pm is completely unacceptable. The day is as long for these primary children (some as young as 4/5) as it is for someone who lives in Lerwick working from 9-5pm.

While talking about bus driver responsibilities it states: “They are required to ensure pupils are conducted safely on and off the vehicle, and give them enough time for this.”

With additional primary pupils travelling on the bus to Mid Yell the travel time would be much greater as stated as small children cannot get on and off a bus as quickly as secondary pupils. Young children get sick in a car let alone a bus bobbing along a winding single track road. Concerns are raised about ensuring young children are belted up, manage to get off at the right stop etc.

Almost everyone who responded to the proposal paper mentioned the dangerous road which young children are expected to travel on especially in wintry conditions.

The consultation report referring to this dangerous road states: “There is a low accident rate on this road. The risk of accidents increases if several additional cars travel on it as opposed to one additional bus. One additional bus is safer.” I’m sorry but this one bus is carrying some rather precious cargo.

Island communities and rural areas are what makes Shetland the place that it is – without these communities and everything becoming more centralised we may as well rename Shetland and call it “Lerwickland”.  Shetland needs its rural/remote areas and it needs its rural schools.

All Shetland parents should be standing united against the cutbacks being proposed by the schools service and the council to keep education as it is. Our children are the future of Shetland.

I was very disappointed to see Lerwick primary schools supporting the closure of our rural schools. I challenge any parent in Lerwick to stand up and say that they would be happy to wave their five year olds off on a 45-minute bus journey every day, see them some eight hours later and feel okay about it. This type of journey may be acceptable for a secondary pupil but definitely not for primary pupils.

Anne Clark


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