The Scottish government has left everyone involved with the Burravoe and Uyeasound schools “in limbo” and ought to “hang its head in shame” over the months-long delay in deciding whether to approve the proposed primary closures, according to Shetland’s MSP.
Shetland Islands Council voted earlier this year to close the two small primaries and transfer the pupils to Mid Yell and Baltasound following the October holidays. Both decisions were called in by education minister Mike Russell on 23rd June, but some 110 days later he has still not delivered a ruling – causing head of schools Helen Budge to push the closures back until after the Christmas holidays.
Mrs Budge said a letter had been sent out to staff and parents explaining the situation. In the meantime it is “very uncertain” for the two schools, and also “unsettling” for the three primaries – Cunningsburgh, Hamnavoe and Nesting – which have temporary head teachers at present, she said. Those posts are being held open in case the teachers at Burravoe and Uyeasound need to be redeployed.
“Because the Scottish minister has not yet made a decision, we are not closing the schools at the end of the October holidays,” Mrs Budge said. “We’ve had a conversation with the Scottish government and they have agreed to that.”
There is no statutory time limit before which the minister must to deliver a verdict, but MSP Tavish Scott said he was furious at the “ridiculous” and unexplained delay. He plans to raise the issue when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes on 24th October.
“It’s bad enough for the pupils, staff and parents of the schools concerned, but it also makes planning the education service across Shetland all but impossible,” he told The Shetland Times.
“I think the Scottish government should hang their heads in shame over the way they’re dealing with this. To leave parents and pupils in complete limbo without an explanation as to what possibly could be holding any decision up – it’s both unfortunate and deeply disappointing.
“I’ll take the first opportunity when parliament is back in 10 days’ time to raise this formally in the chamber, because I don’t think it’s acceptable.”
Shortly after councillors voted to close Burravoe and Uyeasound primaries, Mr Russell announced a year-long moratorium on rural school closures throughout Scotland. Earlier in the year, he gave the SIC the nod to close the secondary department at Scalloway and transfer its pupils to the Anderson High School in Lerwick.