Single mantra (Catriona Waddington)

The idea behind the Refreshed Blueprint for Education is that the mass-proposal to close 11 schools is voted through and then individual school closures are discussed a few at a time for the next three years. There are two basic problems with this.

Firstly, it condemns hundreds of pupils and scores of teachers to years of uncertainty. How will morale be maintained in the intervening years? How will schools retain staff and attract new pupils and staff? After all, the pupils still need to be taught in these schools.

Secondly, such a drastic step needs to be based on a credible document with sound foundations. We can only speak from our local knowledge – from the Unst perspective, this document is riddled with problems. A couple of examples:

1. The document says that Unst pupils will be ferried from Hamars Ness on the 7.50am ferry to Yell and the maximum journey time will be 75 minutes. But to get a 7.50am ferry Baltasound pupils would leave the house at 7.30am and school doesn’t start until 9.05am. That’s 95 minutes from leaving home to starting school – more for pupils in North Unst. (And Hamars Ness is in Fetlar, not Unst.)

2. The savings from Uyeasound are exaggerated by a factor of almost 100 per cent – and not for the first time. Paragraph 4.3.9 claims recurrent savings of £209k – but Uyeasound only cost £140k to run and the school building hasn’t been sold. How reliable does this make the other figures?

In general, we are receiving contradictory messages from the council. The ferry review tells us that ferries will become more expensive, less frequent and less reliable as they age – we should stop regarding them as just a road extension. But the education review tells us that a twice-daily ferrying of pupils will be quick, reliable and frequent enough to allow for after-school clubs etc. They simply both can’t be true.

Finally, in more than 50 pages of text, something which we regard as very important simply isn’t mentioned. In order to justify the closure of Uyeasound school at Christmas, the council told the Scottish government last year: “By closing Uyeasound Primary School children from the Uyeasound catchment area would be able to attend the same school (Baltasound Junior High School) from age three to age 16.”

In two years’ time, when it is Baltasound’s turn for the consultation, the ferries and buses won’t be any quicker than they are now and the school will inevitably have lost morale, pupils and teachers. So what’s to be gained by that?

Most frustrating of all, we do understand the financial situation and have tried to engage with Hayfield House about savings – but we have never got any further than the single mantra of close/close/close.

The birth rate here in Unst is rising; tourism is thriving; community life is strong. The parent council looks forward to one day writing a cheerful letter about our cost-effective, successful school.

Catriona Waddington
Baltasound Junior High School Parent Council
Ordaal House,


Add Your Comment
  • J Sandison

    • September 12th, 2012 16:04

    The letters from Catriona Waddington and Christopher Ritch illustrate the lack of joined up thinking and inward looking mindset that appears prevalent through the various SIC departments.
    I don’t think they could organise a p— up in Sonny’s Unst brewery, never mind sort out the education of our children.
    There needs to be some sorting out of priorities, to differentiate between the “must have” and “nice to have”.

  • Hazel Spence

    • September 12th, 2012 16:13

    The children would have to get the 8.20 ferry from Belmont which means leaving Norik at 7.50 for a straight 60mph drive to the ferry. This time will be greatly increased due to picking up all the children on the way and icy road conditions during winter. This council is expecting our 11/12 year old children to do a 40+ hour week when council employee’s only do a 38 hour week. It is disgusting.

  • Jane Haswell

    • September 13th, 2012 1:12

    I agree Hazel. Sleep is a key factor in a childs education ,their growth and health. This proposal would have children catching buses across Shetland at times when the majority of the working population are still asleep. They would arrive in school after a stop start protracted journey and less sleep than they are having now. They would have no choice. Many studies & indeed the forthcoming Children & Families bill emphasises the need to look both beyond the school gates as well as within the school to improve the achievements of every child. The guidance form Scottish Government is to see the whole child and their circumstances & work to improve their lives. This proposal is detrimental to children on all levels. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep children safe , to be their protectors – here we have a proposal which seriously threatens safety as well as health .These proposed journeys & travel times are way beyind the Scottish norm way beyind aceptable.

    Lets not stop there lets go for real cheapness – the Scottish average per pupil cost is lower so for best value – lets fly every child down to Aberdeen ( max journey 65 mins & travel costs comes out of another budget) pop them in a hostel & bring them home at weekends! It’s the stuff of spitting image.

    This proposal goes against child welfare & protection on so many counts – how can any one support this proposal in the name of anything.

    Fundamentally this is morally & ethically wrong.

  • Christopher Ritch

    • September 13th, 2012 19:52

    “morally & ethically wrong”

    I agree. But the fact that they shut down Uyeasound School at Christmas proves there are no morals or ethics at Hayfield.


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