I want to say how appalled I am at the decision to close Burravoe and Uyeasound schools.
I have worked closely with both schools on educational projects since moving to Shetland and have been particularly struck by the standard of education, the attitude of the pupils and the imaginative teaching in both.
I have also been impressed by how firmly the schools are embedded in their communities, and how many activities they undertake with other members of their communities. I have never come across two other schools that I would praise so highly.
I appreciate that money needs to be saved but I strongly believe that this is not the way to go about it. This is not just closing two schools, it is damaging two communities.
In the case of Burravoe, given its isolation from other parts of Yell (in terms of the road link), I wonder whether it might not spell the beginning of the end of that community.
Sometimes it seems that people in Shetland don’t fully appreciate how good life here is in comparison with other parts of the UK. To my mind, being one of a warm, thriving local community is an important part of that quality of life, and as such it is something we should try to preserve at all costs.
We need to start from where we are now, with the communities we have now, and try to do the best for all of them, not sacrifice the wellbeing of some in the interests of others.
If cuts have to be made, cuts should be made across the board. Perhaps I am naïve, but I suspect that a small cut could be made in the spend on every school child without materially damaging their education.
Again, it’s a case of deciding what’s important. What do we actually want our children to get from school? To read, write, do arithmetic? To gain the skills necessary for learning and engaging with society? To develop enquiring minds? Surely these things can be achieved with a good teacher and some positive encouragement.
I’m not convinced of the necessity, nice though they are, of interactive whiteboards, large numbers of computers and all kinds of digital equipment. Yes, we need some of these things, children need to be able to contend with the modern world, but perhaps there is space for savings to be made.
After all, the most intelligent and well-informed person I know managed it through school with just a blackboard, chalk and books. (I suspect most kids gain most of their digital savvy out of school anyway – that was certainly the case when I was young).
Maybe there is also scope to save money at the top end as well as the “chalk face”. Could things be trimmed at Hayfield House perhaps? Could we reduce bureaucracy even by a fraction?
I question whether the (decidedly slim) savings resulting from the closure of Burravoe and Uyeasound schools will not be offset by increased spend in other areas anyway.
Community development work will be needed in order to mitigate the detrimental effects of the school closures. And surely the road from Burravoe to Mid Yell would need major work. I wouldn’t like to drive it every day myself, let alone send small children on it (with all those dips and bends I wonder how many of them will feel sick on the bus).
I extend my firm support to the schools and communities in Burravoe and Uyeasound and ask that our council has a proper, wide-ranging rethink.