School closures would save SIC more than originally envisaged, says new report

The SIC would save more than £3.5 million from closing five secondary departments and five primary schools – even when the cost of transporting the children elsewhere is factored in – according to the latest figures from the schools service.

The updated picture will be presented to councillors on the education and families committee on Friday.

They requested more detail on transport and other costs at a meeting on 29th August held to seek approval for a series of consultations from next year on shutting secondary departments in Aith, Baltasound, Sandwick, Skerries and Whalsay and primary schools in Burravoe, North Roe, Olnafirth, Sandness and Urafirth by 2016.

The original estimate of the savings in the £46 million children’s services budget stood at £3.25 million, but the latest “indicative savings” figure, based on new and more detailed information, is £3.59 million. That figure is net of a transport budget of £391,408.

However, these figures do not include the costs of making “alternative transport” for children in remote places where bus services would not be able to get them to school within maximum journey times of 65 minutes (secondary) or 40 minutes (primary). That, according to an appendix to the report for councillors by head of children’s services Helen Budge, would be required for some Aith, Baltasound, Urafirth and Sandwick pupils.

In her report, Mrs Budge states she recognises that previous school closure proposals have caused “great upset” in the community as it is a “very emotive” topic for everyone involved.

At a meeting of Aith Parent Council on 27th August education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart said the proposed closures were about saving the council money.

But during a visit to the isles that week education minister Mike Russell reminded the council that it had to make a strong educational case for any closures.

Mrs Budge says that were the service to retain the existing number of schools, it could not afford to continue resourcing and staffing existing schools to meet the requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence, in other words failing to close the earmarked schools would have a detrimental effect on the education of all children.

The council says it saved more from the closures of Scalloway secondary department and Uyeasound Primary School than it had envisaged.

The revised savings figures for the secondary departments are as follows: Aith £715,941 (up from £690,000 and net of transport costs of £114,000); Baltasound £520,371 (down from £580,000; transport £15,200); Sandwick £907,790 (down from £1.1 million; transport £165,300); Skerries £81,404 (up from £70,000; transport £2,820); Whalsay £704,784 (up from £570,000; transport £13,860).

And for the primaries: Burravoe £78,220 (up from £50,000; transport £0); North Roe/Urafirth/Urafirth nursery class £259,670 (up from £85,000; transport £39,900); Olnafirth £167,098 (up from £80,000; transport £22,800).

The figures will be debated on Friday before committee members decide whether to recommend to the Full Council going ahead with the closure consultations.


Add Your Comment
  • Mark irvine

    • September 11th, 2012 20:47

    There are many aspects that have not been looked at here one of which and foremost is the safety of the children,the SIC have stated that they are going to be making cut backs on road maintenance in general and in the winter time (Snow ploughs and Gritters) Cutting back on these will increase the risk of accidents that coupled with children having to travel a sixty five minute journey maximum to get to school is lack of thought and care for their safety.Obviously if the weather is to severe the buses will not run so this means the children will be missing school more so where as if they were closer to the school walking there would not be a problem.Class sizes will be bigger which means less time will be able to be spent by the teacher per pupil which will result in poorer grades.Yes closing the secondary units will save £3.59 million but they are putting peoples lifes at risk to do so childrens lifes is that right?

  • Stuart Hannay

    • September 11th, 2012 22:19

    “Mrs Budge says that were the service to retain the existing number of schools, it could not afford to continue resourcing and staffing existing schools to meet the requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence, in other words failing to close the earmarked schools would have a detrimental effect on the education of all children.”

    The implication of this being that those of us living in our ‘rural idyll’ are bringing down the education standards of those who live where? Nearer to Lerwick? Less than 65 m inutes away by bus? Closing schools is what will have a detrimental effect on the education of all children. Stop this divide and rule.

  • W Conroy

    • September 12th, 2012 3:49

    How much would it save if we close all the schools? I’m sure kids could just learn at their own pace from friends and the internet.

    Maybe we should turn all the street lights off too.. that would save some cash! (maybe the council could sell batteries for torches – think of all that extra income)

    How about we do away with the binmen and their trucks? I’m sure the smell would be fine once we got used to it and think of all the cash we would save!


  • Christopher Ritch

    • September 12th, 2012 8:39

    Why is there a new proposal to close Burravoe? “Great upset” has already been caused, only for Mike Russell to rule that closure will have no educational benefit to the bairns there. Why inflict more extreme distress on a community where it is already known that the bairns will get a poorer education if their school is shut?

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 12th, 2012 9:11

    Where exactly are these savings? Getting rid of janitors and dinner ladies? Do they still include recharges to these schools from the centre (which would be moved not saved)? Are the schools service just getting the figures to say what they want as these are not finance dept figures but their own? Even the minister said that school closures save very little, does this not make us a laughing stock? Do the figures also include money to pay out for the existing Aith school transport contracts which have a long way to run? Do they include costs of the buildings which will be empty but SIC will still be liable for? Do they include proper busing of the pupils since secondary 5 pupils just get the scheduled bus and dont get a lift home in some cases, they are just dropped by the bus at the central point – can’t do that to 12 year olds.

    Is it that they need the bairns from the country to justify high teacher numbers at the Anderson? But this wont work because there isnt enough room for all the bairns that would take. And they still have not costed additional hostel facilities, which will cost a fortune – would probably mean creating a new one somewhere, since the old hostels will not be good enough.

    And the minutes a pupil should now spend traveling have increased from 55 all of a sudden? They will be wrecking the community for very little in savings.

  • Judith Dumont

    • September 12th, 2012 9:29

    I’m pretty sure they haven’t factored in the vastly increased costs in transporting children with ASN to their new schools. It costs a fair bit for a taxi and escort even to their local school: imagine how much it would cost for that same taxi and escort to travel 65 minutes or more, twice a day, 5 days a week.

    Something else that bothers me: where kids have to get a ferry to go to school, what happens when the weather is good enough for them to get to school, but deteriorates and they can’t make the crossing back? Will SIC set up temporary hostels for the children in case this happens? How much will that cost? Will there be the level of overnight supervision needed for ASN kids who are similarly caught out? This only has to happen once or twice a year to be a real problem.

  • Mark irvine

    • September 12th, 2012 10:38

    Suddenly the council has looked at the cost of gritting the roads for the school buses for all the runs they are going to have to make very coincidential isnt it? The fact that the Grit isnt stored under cover up here so they rain washes the salt from the grit making it less effective on the roads so they are having to use more of it (more cost) Long term having a shelter built would mean it is more cost effect (seems to have been overlooked). Only a couple of years ago i can remember the snow ploughs only treating the main roads as it was a harsh winter,i remember it well as my parents where stuck where they live for nineteen days,how is this going to effect children in rural areas? There is so much lack of thought and not looking at the bigger picture with the SIC in many different categories.Money not spent in some areas where long term it will save money

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 12th, 2012 11:01

    I have had a look at the figures and these do not really tell you anything. Please go to SIC website and have a look at the committee papers. Do the councillors get more detail and are they allowed to probe the figures? Looks like Aith closures will save £1 million but it costs additional £4k. This cannot be correct – unless ofcourse there are spare teachers at the AHS to take the 100 bairns.

    Also in Appendix 1 the closure of Hamnavoe, Tingwall and Whiteness is point one but there are no figures for these on the table or mention of these elsewhere. Maybe someone can explain.

    The councillors do not have enough time between now and Friday to really do their homewark

  • Marina Thomason

    • September 12th, 2012 16:23

    I’ve looked at the figures as well, Johan, and it does look like all the savings from Aith are due to the fact that none of the staff will be taken on at AHS (unless of course there is a vacancy). So no extra teachers. Where exactly are all these specialist secondary teachers going to go?
    The long and the short of it is that any potential savings made from school closures is because some poor souls have to lose their jobs.

  • Alistair Tulloch

    • September 12th, 2012 20:48

    I fear that we must all conceed that if the SIC are not to go bankrupt, then cuts will have to be made. If the recently published figures are to be believed, then cuts in the order of 30% to 40% across the entire spectrum of SIC activities are required.
    The other night I heard a councillor stating that a few £million had been highlighted as potential savings. The thing I dont get is why is it mainly the schools that are being targeted- what about all the other SIC empires, sorry departments that have sprung up over the years. The clue to finding savings may be to look at the SIC pre-Sullom Voe and make comparisons. We have entire departments that never even existed then, and I believe that may give us a clue how to save some real cash without hitting on our children, who, lets not forget are Shetlands future.

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 13th, 2012 9:13

    Exactly Alistair, why have the schools come out first in the firing line? They are cutting schools and OAP services instead of looking at these empires. And Marina yes, I think it will mean redundancies, but the question is where. They seem to be targeting country schools instead of the Anderson when it would be more honest just to come out and say we need to lose teachers. Several letters on here have said it would be better to lose the back office than the front line teachers and social services.

    I dont see why wir bairns are going to now face the longest journeys to school in the whole of Scotland. Is this because the figures would just not work out? They have finally realised it takes more than 5 mins for the Westside to get to the 8.10 bus from Bixter.

    The costs of busing and the hostel would be £200k for busing now plus £100 for additional busing plus about £200k for the hostel and additional gritting = £500k.
    Cost of Aith £300,000. None of these figures include teachers which you need whichever school you are talking about. So where is the saving?

    Would it be possible to have composite classes up to 16? With all levels of maths for example taught by one teacher (who could travel)?

    Oh but we could sacrifice the bairns in favour of the extra gritting and ferries ofcourse, thats the incentive we are being offered by the latest plan.

  • Sheila Tulloch

    • September 13th, 2012 13:24

    And apparently they have included a figure of £56,233, which is the ‘extra cost of gritting the roads where new school bus runs would be needed’. How can they come up with anything accurate, when the gritting review has not been completed?
    When you consider that Westside pupils would probably need to leave about half an hour earlier in the morning, cost is not even the issue! There is no way for the gritters to cover the route by 7.30am.

    S. Tulloch


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