Save the important things in life (Hazel Spence)

As with many parents of children in Shetland, I am astonished at the council’s new proposals for education in our islands.

Previous councils have fought hard to achieve a new Anderson High School, which has not yet lifted a bit of turf, and again they are speaking about closing schools outwith Lerwick and feeding into an inadequate Anderson High School with poor catering and dining space, already cramped social areas, dated buildings and a poor, untrustworthy heating system.

Centralising secondary education is not the answer. The Anderson High School has excellent attainment at Higher level, but could this be because of the percentage of children who are coming from rural schools with an outstanding level of secondary education, with no major transitions? Where the pupil has had a sense of identity and been valued in a smaller educational setting? Encouraged to blossom in their home environment into a well rounded individual? Ready, at higher level, to learn in a mature and settled way?

All we hear is the “cost” of education, but maybe it is the higher levels that need to be looked at. Not the cost of education but the cost before a child ever gets taught. Head teachers get paid a good wage, so let them take their responsibility that comes with the job and have them directly answerable to the director of children’s services. Cut out the middle jobs, for example why do we need three quality improvement officers below the quality improvement manager? This is just an example of where the level of staff in higher paid jobs really needs to be looked at in the short term before closing our school which would be a devastating blow to any rural community in Shetland and is permanent.

Our junior high schools should be prized possessions, which we will fight hard to retain. It is the backbone of the high standard of education in Shetland. Please think hard SIC before making a detrimental decision for our bairns and communities while you sit in offices lining your pockets. Don’t take away from the solid foundations which education sits on to save a few pennies. Take time to reflect that many other councils do not have the reserves we have and maybe we should be dipping further into them to save the important things in life.

Hazel Spence


Add Your Comment
  • Cheryl Jamieson

    • August 29th, 2012 17:30

    Excellent points Hazel! Da council needs to realise that once it’s gone it’s gone. Making rash decisions now will be so detrimental to the whole of Shetland.

  • Dione Paul

    • August 30th, 2012 11:50

    I wonder if the SIC realise that once Unst school has gone the Leisure centre is likley to reduce its hours because not enough people will be using it, people will start moving away and we won’t have many people on the island. It seems like the Shetlands Island Council is more or less turning into the Lerwick Islands Council.

  • Stewart Mack

    • August 30th, 2012 13:39

    I agree 100% on all but the last bit. I dont think we should be dipping into the oil reserves any further as that is not a cure, its not even a band aid, after a few years the reserves will be gone at current spending level then tough decisions will need to be made without any safety net at all – even tougher even deeper cuts can be the only outcome of that.
    This council has never had any joined up thinking, is as top heavy as a local authority can possibly be – there’s probably enough senior staff to run an authority 2 or 3 times the size of Shetland. I believe there needs to be swift and decisive cuts, but before they do – we all need to priorities what we MUST save and what we would LIKE to save – there is a huge difference in my mind.

    I only hope the Council make the right decisions, but given the track record i would probably get better odds on a euro millions lottery win than i would on that

  • Leona Gear

    • August 31st, 2012 12:21

    Islands are so little thought about they think that it is OK to close down emergency services! They think it is fine to take away services. it is total discrimination and it is a disgrace, as I said in another comment what makes the people on the islands less valuable than everyone else? why is it ok to take the fire service from foula and skerries and why is it ok to take all but one of the junior highs?

  • Ron Stronach

    • August 31st, 2012 12:54

    The council need to reduce costs in order to prevent further dwindling of the oil reserves, these cuts can only come from waste reduction, closures or headcount loss. Oh and stopping spending money on stupid time wasting activities such as shall we shant we build a bridge, or lets give an Islandic Shipping line a few million and maybe they will call in here every 3 or 4 years.
    But the real crux comes when you are faced with job losses, can Shetland handle severe cuts in jobs? The only industry in Shetland is the Council, if you have a manager, assistant managers, supervisors charge hands and then finally a worker, money will be wasted, but the negative of the money save, will be someone in that chain will become redundant. But the analysis does need to be carried out, the council is far too top heavy and also far too many buildings and people in general. Sell the buildings that are not needed, or knock them down and build living accomodation for those that need it i.e. council homes which in turn will provide a regualr income from the rent. .
    By all means prioritise what’s important, start from zero spend, rising up to what ever the income is. Then if anything more is required, look elsewhere.

  • Hazel Spence

    • September 5th, 2012 13:55

    Ron, I do not agree that the ‘only idustry’ in Shetland is the Council, this is simply not true. There are approximately 600 people who walk through the gate at Sullom Voe every morning, a thriving Salmon industry, a fishing industry, construction industry and many other small industries withing Shetland. The employment within the Coucil is top heavy and could be running a constituency with double the numbers that exists currently in Shetland. The point is that jobs can be made redundant and reinstated at a later date but to close a school or care facility is a permenant move with a wider effect on a community than job loss.

  • Ruth Zapasnik

    • September 5th, 2012 23:40

    It’s not exactly rocket science – you close those schools then the communities die. Is that really what Shetlanders want for themselves? The Council ARE Shetlanders (well, you know what I mean), because they live amongst you, are related to you, are your neighbours. If Shetlanders don’t want those schools to close, then Shetlanders have to get together and stop them. As has already been pointed out, the Anderson can’t accommodate the pupils it already has. I loved teaching at the Anderson, and I think Shetland schools give their pupils a great education. That’s one of the many reasons why Shetland is so special. There have to be other ways of saving/making money, than cracking apart the fabric of the islands.


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