Slump in pupil numbers prompts review of Bressay primary’s future

SIC councillors are being asked to back a consultation on shutting Bressay Primary School following a drastic slump in pupil numbers.

Of 15 primary-aged children living in Bressay, only four attend school there. Hayfield officials point out that placing requests, almost all for Lerwick schools, have been coming from parents in the island “for a number of years”.

As recently as a decade ago, 40 children attended the school. Since last year, when there were 10 pupils at the schools, numbers have more than halved.

Councillors are to be asked to review Bressay Primary School's future due to the falling school roll. Photo: Charlie Umphray
Councillors are to be asked to review Bressay Primary School’s future due to the falling school roll. Photo: Charlie Umphray

And despite the council’s policy of providing primary education in every inhabited island, the sliding pupil roll has resulted in children’s services director Helen Budge pen­ning a report asking elected members to sanction a statutory closure con­sultation. It would begin on 23rd September.

Her report emphasises that, while there would be as-yet unspecified sav­ings if Bressay did shut, the proposal “has not been influenced in any way by financial considerations”.

Parents in Bressay met SIC officials and councillors on 8th August to examine how the predi­cament had come about.

A summary of that meeting, written by community work officer June Porter, sets out how many Bres­say residents believe the school’s perilous position is “sympto­matic of a number of long-standing wider community issues”.

The lack of suitable housing and land to build new homes, restrictions posed by the ferry timetable and increasingly costly fares, the lack of childcare for working parents and the need for residents to access major services in Lerwick were all cited.

If those issues were addressed it “could be part of a package of measures which may make Bressay an attractive place” for young fam­ilies to settle, in turn boosting the school roll.

But parents fear that if the school is closed, or even mothballed, it will never reopen.

Mrs Budge’s proposal would see Bressay shut its doors in July, with nursery and primary-age pupils all attending Bell’s Brae in Lerwick from August 2014. At last month’s meeting, parents again suggested that families with pupils going to Bell’s Brae and Sound (both with rolls of around 300) might be offered the option of sending their children to Bressay instead.

More in this week’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • September 5th, 2013 19:53

    If there was a tunnel from Lerwick to the Ham area or nearby Bressay would be a very attractive place to live and the SIC would be able to claw back the ferry costs.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • September 6th, 2013 6:38

    When is this mythical tunnel going to appear? If this was any Scandanavian country, Germany, Holland, France ….. The list goes on …… We would have had a tunnel decades ago.

  • Chris Erwood

    • September 6th, 2013 12:55

    With regard to the tunnel comments above: I suspect that the major reason is that we have a significant budget shortfall already and it would be significantly cheaper to buy every family on Bressay their own helicopter, such is the cost of a tunnel.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 6th, 2013 15:37


    Your view is a tad myopic if I may say so.

    1. I realise Bressay isn’t Yell however SIC’s Mr Gray pointed out that a previous council had spent over £30 million on the Yell ferries in a very short period of time.

    2. If there was a tunnel it would open up Bressay for development by the Harbour Trust and encourage businesses to invest there.

    3. If there was a tunnel it would be infinitely more convenient for more prople to live there and instead of the moribund school they have there at present you would more likely be seeking to extend it.

    Given the expected oil and gas business alone over the next 10 years there will be demand for more of everything that Lerwick has to offer and why shouldn’t the Bressay folk get a share of it?

    How many Burra folk would vote to demolish the bridges and go back to the “Tirrick” and the “Hirta”?

    It’s a “no-brainer” and we need a low-cost trial, SIC, please get on with it.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • September 6th, 2013 19:19

    Chris, I don’t know where you are planning to buy these helicopters but I think your math may be a bit off. Also a tunnel is a one time investment, it doesn’t need fuelled up regularly (like ferries and helicopters), doesn’t need 3 shifts of crew 24/7, doesn’t need to worry about the weather, doesn’t need dry docked (although of course would require maintenance). In the long term a tunnel is better value for money. With a bit of clever planning it could probably be powered by tidal/solar/wind energy and so be carbon neutral once completed. As John says, get on with it.


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