Children deserve to have their views and opinions considered before any decisions are made to close schools.
That was the message from Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people Tam Baillie during a visit to the isles today.
Mr Baillie met council leaders to emphasise his belief that children should be involved in the decision-making process.
He said: “I don’t have a view about which schools may be affected or should be affected – that’s really a decision for the local community, decision-makers, parents, children and pupils.
“What I do have a strong view on is that the children and young peoples’ views and opinions should be part of the process.
“When I get the opportunity to meet council leaders today I’ll be giving the message that they should be looking seriously into how they involve children and young people in that process.
“Children and young people will have a diverse range of views and opinions, just like adults do, so it isn’t one voice.”
Mr Baillie challenged the council to demonstrate a willingness to listen to young people.
“When you are taking views and opinions there is a responsibility to demonstrate how you have taken that into account,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to follow the expressed view, but it does mean you have to show how that has been taken into account.”
Mr Baillie’s comments followed visits to Sandwick and Sound Primary School in Lerwick to meet pupils and explain his role.
One of his priorities is ensuring children are safe and respected in their communities and one of the main elements of his visit focused on the “pupil voice” within schools.
He said he was grateful to young people in the isles for helping to put together the commission’s “seven golden rules” for participation which promote young peoples’ rights.
Mr Baillie’s trip was organised as part of a national tour. It came two years after youngsters in the isles demonstrated strong support for the nationwide Right Blether campaign, which encouraged thousands of young people to vote over issues on which they wanted the children’s commissioner to take action.