United we stand! (Jeremy Sansom)

Of course Scotty van der Tol, writing in last week’s Readers’ Views, is right. Shamefully we were not as engaged in the Scalloway closure debate as we should have been.

A determined and unified campaign, then, by all of Shetland’s junior high schools and their respective rural areas would have put pressure on the education department to rethink its blinkered, bulldozer approach to redesigning the delivery of education throughout the islands. United we stand, divided we fall!

The junior high schools are gems of educational excellence and are providing for Shetland, young people who are more than adequately placed to compete in an increasingly difficult global market-place. Ultimately it is they, not windmills, who are the future revenue stream that will keep these islands solvent.

Yes, it is not cheap to attain this high standard of achievement in a remote island setting like ours, with its unique geography and conditions. But is it really useful to compare pupil “production” figures with mainland Scotland, with its comparatively large concentrations of young people in urban and suburban locations?

This is not to deny the harsh economic reality we now face, but there are other ways forward that will modify the junior high system over time, rather than destroy it in one fell swoop, with a model that is untried and untested in the peculiar context which is Shetland.

“Moving teaching and not children”, for example, creates a paradigm to explore different ways of deploying staff and the much more creative use of already established school’s ICT – in itself a rapidly developing field. We are not being complacent; change needs to be made. But please not this draconian model that is the Refresh the Blueprint.

The logo for Curriculum for Excellence on the Education Scotland’s Parentzone website shows a heart composed of different coloured CforS buzzwords and phrases. Shining out boldly from the centre is the phrase “My Family”. To one side of this heart is the admirably aspirational slogan: “Be at the heart of your child’s learning”.

Again I ask, how does confining young children to a bus for well over two hours a day, or sending them off to board in Lerwick at 11 or 12 years old, enable the family – or community – to be at the heart of a child’s learning?

Jeremy Sansom
Aith Junior High School
Parent Council
Stove Buildings,


Add Your Comment
  • Christopher Ritch

    • September 13th, 2012 23:13

    Take a look at this review of Research on School Travel Jeremy:


    It confirms that you are entirely correct –

    “Long journeys to school have a negative effect on children’s educational performance. Long travel times in an uncomfortable bus or an inability to participate in extra curricular activities reduce academic achievement.”

  • Emma Ramsay

    • September 14th, 2012 11:22

    Well said. Another excellent letter. I wholeheartedly agree with a unified stance against the closures across Shetland, and as a member of Baltasound PC we also have agreed that this is of upmost importance. A key concern however, is that many SIC employees, as members of the effected communities, dare not speak up because of a very real fear that they may face disciplinary action or even lose their job. Certainly on Unst perhaps as many as half of working aged folk are employed by the SIC and have been advised not to comment on social media sites, express their views, or participate in some meetings about school closures due to this. This will hold back this vitally important unified response, and is of course against their fundamental rights. We need to support them, so that they can also play a part in our fight.

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 14th, 2012 13:17

    And after the meeting in Aith – the teachers got a letter saying they could not speak even if they were actually at that meeting as parents, not teachers.

    I think they want to shut us up.

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 14th, 2012 13:40

    so theyve just voted to carry on. A sad day for our bairns


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