Putting it bluntly (Jonathan Wills)

Gordon Dargie knows very well (from his days as a depute director of education) why Shetland has such high costs for educational administration, compared with other areas.

One reason is that we have so many small, rural primary schools. I suspect that the head teachers of these schools would be less than thrilled if they had to do by themselves all the administration and paperwork demanded by a well-meaning but sometimes burdensome Scottish education department, without any assistance from the staff at Hayfield House.

That’s what Gordon’s demand for savage cuts in administration would mean. And that’s why the economies we’re now forced to make must be proportionate.

There will always have to be small primary schools in islands that don’t have a bridge (or tunnel) to the Shetland Mainland. None of us wishes to see them close.

But it’s unfair to reduce the budgets for all Shetland pupils because some romantics insist on keeping open small schools that are educationally and financially unsustainable, not least because of their administration costs.

It makes sense to amalgamate small schools wherever practicable, because it helps us to make better use of public money, to cut administration costs (as Gordon suggests) and to benefit all pupils, not just a few.

The majority of Shetland parents recognise this and I can assure Gordon that parents at the three schools in my Lerwick South ward are not impressed by demands that their children should suffer lower standards in order to maintain an expensive rustic idyll for a minority. That may be putting it bluntly but it’s already happening.

Jonathan Wills
Town Hall,


Add Your Comment
  • Christopher Ritch

    • May 31st, 2011 10:13

    Putting it bluntly – what ARE the administration costs?

  • Johan Adamson

    • May 31st, 2011 10:23

    Please tell me Mr Wills are there plans to cut staff at Hayfield House when Scalloway and other schools close? How much does Hayfield House cost to run? Head teachers who come here from south are used to running budgets et al but have this done for them here. When hearing about things like Curriculum for Excellence would it not be better to cut out the middle man, ie speak straight to teachers and not to Hayfield House staff first for them to translate it?

    Rural idyll? Sorry, rustic idyll. OK lets all move to Lerwick, the centre of the universe and let them build us more houses and cause social problems and overcrowding in schools there. That will be much better surely.

  • Gordon Dargie

    • May 31st, 2011 11:19

    I am not demanding anything by way of cuts, savage or otherwise, but feel I should persist until I get an answer to a pertinent question.

    The question, again, is how much does it cost this council to administer its schools? The answer I am looking for is a number. There is no good reason why that number is not readily available.

  • Alan Skinner

    • May 31st, 2011 17:53

    In only seven words ,”An expensive rustic idyll for a minority”, Councillor Wills reveals his narrow centralist thinking. One can only presume that he believes we should all live in Lerwick.
    I believe it was Oscar Wilde who wrote “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

  • Colin Hunter

    • May 31st, 2011 20:57

    Perhaps Jonathan would like to compare the performance data from Uyeasound & Burravoe schools with those from the three schools in his Lerwick South ward before he starts going on about lower standards. If you want your children to have the best education you send them to the best schools. Unfortunately for the isles residents, the SIC is busily removing that choice and enforcing moves to other schools that the parents do not want to send their children to. If they did, the children would already be there. If Jonathan cares to cast his mind back, it’s not so many years ago that he chose to live the rustic idyll in Unst himself. Perhaps if he was still there he might be singing off a different hymn sheet.

  • Paul Ritch

    • June 1st, 2011 3:53

    ‘An expensive rustic idyll for a minority.’ Smacks of patronizing self-indulgence rather than bluntness. An ill-considered derisive comment which means I have to question any sincerity in the rest of your arguement. Keep it blunt. The people struggling to maintain the fabric of their communities have enough to suffer without your condescending flowery wise-cracks… which sadly truly reflect what they’re up against.

  • Christopher Ritch

    • June 1st, 2011 10:10

    Where is the public outcry from these Lerwick parents? I don’t see any comments under Jonathan’s letters supporting his mercenary views, nor have there been any letters in the local media these past few months in support of school closures. Except the ones Jonathan has written himself, of course. I know a few parents with bairns at school in Lerwick and they are all smart enough not to swallow the divisive nonsense Jonathan promotes. There will not be any extra funding for Lerwick schools by closing rural primaries, and snatching back the 21 pounds or whatever it was for keeping Skerries open is a cheap political trick. Concentrate on the real issues Jonathan or you will lose what little credibility you have got left.

  • Marina Thomason

    • June 1st, 2011 11:21

    Justin Willey from the Scottish Rural Schools Network was up in Shetland a couple of years ago and was at a meeting that I attended. Someone gave him financial information regarding schools. He spent along time studying it with a much perplexed expression on his face. He finally said that he was having difficulty understanding it and he advised that we get the help of an accountant. He said that the only thing that did stand out for him was that the Quality Assurance figure for Shetland seemed to be grossly inflated.


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