21st October 2018
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Community councils urged to make their views known on school closure proposals

The importance of input from community councils over proposed secondary school closures was stressed today.

SIC head of education Helen Budge reminded representatives at the biannual Association of Shetland Community Councils meeting of next week’s informal discussion process.

As well as two public meetings, to be held simultaneously at Brae and Lerwick on Tuesday, various others will be held in different rural areas.

The importance of commuity council input was stressed by SIC head of education Helen Budge.

The importance of community council input was stressed by SIC head of education Helen Budge.

Mrs Budge explained the number of options the education service was looking at in order to make savings required by the council.

They ranged from keeping the status quo on junior secondaries, which could require serious cuts in library services, sports and leisure services and children’s resources, to the one-hub model, which would see all all secondary pupils transfer to the Anderson High School from fourth year onwards, or the two-hub model which would mean Brae continuing as a high school.

“We want community council input into the various different models,” Mrs Budge said. It’s really important that you attend these meetings next week.”

She said pupils from P5 up to S6 would be participating in the discussion process, along with teachers and parent councils. All the information gleaned would be passed to an independent consultant who would come up with recommendations.

The option of a “telepresence” model in schools, using video links, curried little favour. Mrs Budge told Bertie Black that although the system was used in further education there were were no examples of secondary school use, which prompted the Bressay representative to suggest it would be “inventing another wheel”.

Sandness and Walls representative Iris Sandison said she was “quite uneasy” about the whole consultation meeting process. “Sit in a huddle to discuss what?” she asked.

“[The members] are not going to have the information they need. I just feel there are going to be more questions than answers at this stage. [It’s] undue haste to rush everything through. Everybody needs to stand back and take more time.”

Mrs Budge said quite a lot of “extensive work” had already gone into considering the various options. For instance they had already heard “very strong views” on the telepresence idea.

“I take on board what you’re saying but what we have found so far is that people have been very keen to engage with us.”

“People are very keen to get the right answers,” Mrs Sandison replied. “There is 100 per cent backing for saving the Aith secondary and 100 per cent against [sending] under-11 age pupils by bus on a daily basis.”

Unst representative Laurence Roberson raised the issue of people moving out of rural areas if schools were to close.

“We’re sitting hearing about what’s best for bairns,” Mr Robertson said. “What’s going to be best for communities. Folk will end up moving to Lerwick.”

Mrs Sandison said she already knew of two families in the Walls area which would be moving to town if the Aith secondary department was to close, while another family had put the plans for their new house on hold.”

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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39 comments

  1. John K Smith

    My vote goes for maintaining the current school system and finding the cash elsewhere; it is best for the young people and for all Shetland communities.

    Reply
  2. Johan Adamson

    I agree with JKS, and I think you could find the money in the other budgets, by making efficiency savings and sharing between schools and from SCT to fund extras

    Reply
  3. John Tulloch

    Aren’t we missing something with the telepresentations?

    If, for example, high quality video presentations were produced and replayed by whatever means with high quality video and audio they could be used again and again, freeing the presenters to travel round schools doing follow-up tutorial work in direct contact with pupils.

    I’d imagine being involved in pioneering schemes like that would be quite attractive to idealistically-minded teachers and you might find inspiring people putting themselves forward for something like that.

    Also, the Open University pioneered the use of computer-marked assignments which I had some experience of many years ago and found them a useful learning aid for consolidating the course work as you went along.

    It doesn’t need to come in with a “Big Bang”, it could be done incrementally, progressively reviewing its success and modifying the approach for continuous improvement and growth of the service.

    There’s real potential for Shetland to lead the way with this and why not, it’s a damned sight better than breaking up families prematurely or depopulating remote areas?

    Reply
  4. Albie Redshaw

    I believe the above comments are on the mark, however I don’t think this would meet with Hayfield House ideas. How will we manage to bus all these bairns into and out of Lerwick when the Bus companies are struggling to bus the workmen to Sullom? Surely it makes more sense to move around the teaching staff. I do worry about the movement of all these bairns during the winter in view of the cut backs with the gritting, God help us if there was ever an accident. I believe again that this week is to short to make decisions that will affect Shetlands future. We are at a crossroads where we putting in place structures for the next 50 years with the increase in oil field and gas production. We should not be looking at the destruction of our local islands.

    Reply
  5. Robert Duncan

    John and Johan, do you mean finding the money from elsewhere in the education budget, or finding it from elsewhere in the council’s overall budget? If the latter, where?

    If you mean the former, I have to ask if you’ve read the information that was published on the council’s website today. The savings required are so steep that it would have an extremely detrimental effect on education in Shetland – much more so, in my own view, than if children had to move to a school further away. Becoming the only authority in Scotland to no longer provide school meals is rather worse than having children travel to a shiny new school each day.

    As for telepresence, I’m far from convinced on both the financial viability and the educational aspects of its delivery.

    The document released today (admittedly a very brief summary) suggests an up front cost and an insufficient ongoing saving on only £350k. It just cannot happen without further money shuffling. Even if it did, it’s an entirely untested model at this level of education. It works well with willing participants in higher and further education, because they have the motivation to sit down and get on with it. Try that with 13 year olds who a) aren’t that interested in the class and b) don’t have the power to choose where and when they learn. It’s simply not comparable.

    Add in that children in rural areas would have only a classroom assistant to supervise them and it becomes incredibly complicated. Lack of one to one teaching is a common complaint about moving children to larger schools, but there will be even less of that should telepresence be brought in.

    Mr Tulloch, I’m not sure any teaching professionals would agree with pre-recorded lessons being churned out in that manner. You’re losing all the fluidity of teaching. Ironically, it’d be making use of modern technology to send teaching back a few decades to unempathetic lecturing.

    Reply
  6. John Tulloch

    Robert,

    Since you ask, I’m not necessarily calling for cuts to come from education. My personal view is, if there must be cuts, I’d rather see almost any cut you could offer than closing the rural schools which I believe will be very damaging for the areas they serve and, by implication, Shetland as a whole.

    We have recently heard that SIC has five times the number of people on salaries greater than £50,000 pa than has Orkney. How do the Orkney and Shetland education departments compare in that respect?

    I think you’re unduly despondent about the ability and motivation of kids in secondary school being any different than that of college students. I studied at college myself and didn’t see any difference between my class-mates then and when I was at school – some wanted to study and were conscientious, some didn’t and mucked about, both in and out of lectures.

    Why would the schools in question only have a classroom assistant to supervise?

    I would envisage a core of generalist education staff there who could guide the kids from accompanying notes, the saving here would be a reduction in specialist teachers like, say, languages, science, etc., for qualification purposes. These core staff would be pretty fully occupied with the advantage of knowing the local kids and their families well i.e. no loss of empathy and the “experts” would visit the schools, say, a day per week to pick up on issues at tutorial periods.

    What educational value do you put on kids’ empathy with their bus drivers whom they will be seeing from 2 – 4 hours per day? When will they do their homework?

    In any case, when I was at school – and college – I would have much preferred a video by some teachers with a computer-marked assignment to a lesson delivered live by some others; quality is king.

    If the quality is good the lessons could be marketed to provide income.

    And why shouldn’t they be high quality, we have Mareel to produce them in – and market them!

    I deliberately emphasised an incremental introduction with monitoring of performance and steady development and growth – neither “Big Bangs” nor blanket coverage.

    The objective here isn’t to balance the budget at all costs, it’s to provide the best outcome for Shetland, overall, within the constraint of limited financial resources.

    Shetland will be badly-served by closing the rural schools and depopulating the country districts.

    Reply
  7. Suzy V Jolly

    “The importance of input from community councils over proposed secondary school closures was stressed today.”
    Why? Since when were community councils parents?

    Reply
  8. John Tulloch

    Community councils, I presume, purport to represent their communities, many of whose members will be parents. We also live in what purports to be a democracy in which community councils will, quite rightly, kick up merry hell if their views are consulted in far-reaching local issues like proposed school closures.

    Reply
  9. John Tulloch

    Correction: “…merry hell if their views are NOT consulted….”

    Reply
  10. Robert Duncan

    “Why would the schools in question only have a classroom assistant to supervise?”

    That is what is being proposed, if you read the council documents. Even that barely makes a saving, so to have telepresence AND maintain teachers would have even less effect.

    Your personal experiences were still at a level of optional further education, unless I’m mistaken. You’re talking about people in at least their late teens who have – to some degree – chosen to remain in education and expressed at least some interest in the chosen course. An S1 classroom would be very different.

    “What educational value do you put on kids’ empathy with their bus drivers whom they will be seeing from 2 – 4 hours per day? When will they do their homework?”

    No journey on the mainland is going to reach 4 hours a day, to my knowledge, and any journey much over 2 hours a day would require the child to stay in the hostel. Children from outer isles have managed that for many years, and many of the older generations from the isles did likewise. It’s far from ideal, but I’d certainly see that as preferable to the substandard education the proposed telepresence option would bring.

    Reply
  11. Robert Duncan

    Why? Since when were community councils parents?

    – Suzy V Jolly
    October 8, 2013

    Because they represent their communities, I’d hope. They shouldn’t be going there to speak for themselves.

    Reply
  12. Marina Thomason

    Mr Duncan, can I ask you a couple of questions?

    Firstly, do you live on an island with a ferry to the mainland of Shetland (Not including Bressay)
    Secondly, did you stay in the hostel during your secondary education?

    Mr Ryan Arthur speaks from experience and this must count for a lot and not just allowed to be swept aside by counter-arguments by schools services. He obviously feels that his concerns have not been properly addressed and that must be respected.

    Of course (rightly or wrongly) these consultations on school closures is open to everyone and everyone is entitled to their opinions but I sometimes feel that people get involved with arguments who have little knowledge of how a fragile remote community works and even less empathy towards it’s people.

    Reply
  13. John Tulloch

    @Robert Duncan,

    Whether the existing council proposals lead to only a classroom assistant being present is irrelevant to my own (above) argument which is offered as an alternative. An alternative with potential to make its own financial contribution while providing opportunities for people to develop their own skills producing and marketing high quality education materials, making full use of the good offices and expertise of Mareel.

    My own education didn’t begin at further education level, I started school at Bell’s Brae in 1960 and experienced all levels of education, including S1, travelling to school daily by school bus.

    That being the case I would be amazed if there were not instances of children from, say, Skeld or Sandness who, if travelling by to school by bus, would spend protracted periods travelling on single track roads, stopping every few minutes to pick someone else up. The alternative, as you correctly point out is for them to stay in a hostel in Lerwick.

    Wouldn’t that mean they would have to be supervised and catered for “24/7” during term times? How much will that cost? How much will it cost during the holidays?

    Wouldn’t that mean that rural families will be prematurely broken up?

    Wouldn’t that mean that many rural parents would consider moving (closer) to Lerwick?

    Wouldn’t that mean that rural districts would be starved of young people to keep them alive leading to yet more depopulation?

    Wouldn’t that be very damaging for Shetland?

    Wouldn’t any other cut be better than that?

    You seem well-researched on the proposals but I didn’t hear you mention the number of education “professionals” in the Shetland Education Dept., earning over £50,000pa, compared to their equivalent in Orkney?

    I’m not for cutting people’s pay however I’m even more for NOT closing the rural schools.

    Reply
  14. Johan Adamson

    I believe that we could give priority to education, as a community, and that the SIC needs to draw up their vision of the future and their objectives and then re-allocate budgets accordingly.

    I also do think there is money elsewhere in the SIC that can be saved. This saving 10% across the board is leading to strange decisions, like closing public toilets while the 6 (?) staff in that department still exist – but hey they’ve given up their 10%. They are not going to give up themselves, are they? Someone else must force them to do that, like the Chief exec or some of the consultants employed.

    As JT says, we still have so many staff at £50k and over. We also still have so many employees. We have vast numbers of support staff in finance because we run private enterprise (tugs, planes, ferries, quarry, etc). We know the council low-ball IT and construction contracts which they cant possibly do at a profit because they pay more in salaries, pension, holidays, admin.

    Lets support education and kill some of the other excesses. You cant sit there in the SIC and allow the schools to close whilst holding on to your little empire which contributes nothing to the daily lives of residents.

    I was told the other day that it is not possible to stop this as every dept has to save 10%, so councillors cant go to another dept and say – you need to save not me – but if it is the right thing to do then it must be made possible – isnt this why we have a cheif exec and a political leader, over and above all that?

    Reply
  15. John Tulloch

    If it’s the case that Skerries has the highest number of fishing boats per capita in the UK and given that the Shetland fishing industry is worth over £300 million a year, isn’t it just possible that Skerries is a net contributor, not only to Shetland but to Scotland and the UK as a whole – does anybody know the answer to that?

    It makes a nonsense of depopulating the area for £70,000 a year.

    Reply
  16. Robert Duncan

    @Marina Thomson

    I shall put my cards on the table and say that, no, I have never lived in an area that would have required me or any future children to live in the Halls of Residence. I have lived in rural parts of Shetland, but recognise the major differences.

    Of course, I’d question how relevant that is to anything I’ve said. I have never claimed to hold first hand knowledge of the situation. I assume your comments about Ryan Arthur refer to my comments on another article, where I questioned the Shetland Times choosing to print certain points unchallenged. My issue with this was that some facts had already been rebutted in the publicly available consultation report. It was evident again this week with Readers Views letters commenting on things such as the council refusing to make exam results public – Skerries exams results were certainly in the report I read.

    My comments did not even necessarily have to come from the point of view that Skerries should close, it is a simple issue of facts and what I felt was careless misrepresentation by the newspaper.

    Reply
  17. Robert Duncan

    @ John Tulloch

    As far as I’m aware all issues with catering, accommodation etc have been included in all the costings published by the council, so these are represented in the estimated savings.

    For children in Sandness it was mentioned at public meetings that they would have the option of hostel accommodation. Others would apparently meet the council’s maximum travel time of 65 minutes per single journey (so 2 hours 10 minutes per day). I assume that requires a complex system of feeder buses but, again, that has apparently been considered within the financial models.

    I cannot comment on the salaries of staff within the education department but I expect the majority or on national terms and conditions, as is generally the case in education.

    I of course sympathise with the rural communities who fear they would be broken up with the removal of their school, but I have my own significant fears that without school closures, the diminished education budget will lead to people not only leaving rural communities but leaving Shetland altogether.

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  18. John Anderson

    Many of the staff on salaries of 50k + will be head teachers – over 30 of them, to cover our 30-odd schools. Nationally agreed rates, I’m told, and there are also statutory standards of education to uphold, so you cannot do education on the cheap in remote schools. The idea you can do it by ‘technology’ is nonsense. Videoconferencing, webinars etc all have their place but not to provide such a large part of a secondary education that it allows us to dispense with teachers.

    Many departments of the SIC have already cut more than 10%, I hear. I am not content to lose yet more services while meantime keeping open a range of under-occupied schools. Arguments about the inability of children to cope with bus journeys or the hostel are losing credibility the more vociferously they are made. A district may depopulate for various reasons, but the education budget should not be used to patch up the cracks.

    Reply
  19. John Tulloch

    @Robert Duncan,

    I expect the council has access to the details of which pupils would currently be affected by the changes so a “dry run” experiment could be held – perhaps, with councillors on board the bus – to see how long it would take to travel from Westerskeld to AHS Clickimin.

    Maybe someone from the Shetland Times and the Police could be there as well to ensure speed limits were adhered to.

    Apart from that, being a reasonable human being who was fortunate to be born and brought up in Lerwick, NOT WESTERSKELD, 2hr 10 min per day on a school bus is unacceptable, even in the unlikely event it will be proven possible to achieve the journey in that time.

    Those were the two hours-odd per day I spent in bed for an hour and played football or whatever, after school.

    And I left school OVER FORTY YEARS AGO!

    Reply
  20. John Tulloch

    @Robert Duncan (2),

    Why can’t you comment on the salaries of the staff in Education, are you one of them?

    It’s perfectly reasonable, apparently, for “education professionals” to comment on the disparity in cost per child in Central Belt towns and cities however there seems a marked reluctance to compare the performance in cost per head of the Shetland Education Dept., relative to other island situations – like Orkney!

    As for your bizarre comment about “people leaving Shetland”, don’t you read the news, there’s an oil boom going on; the oil companies will set up private schools for their own staff’s children if SIC can’t educate them adequately, just as they do in the Third World – or pay for them to go to Gordonstoun, or wherever!

    Cut anything else, just get on with saving a reasonable amount of money without closing these excellent schools!

    Reply
  21. John Anderson

    ‘Bizarre’, John Tulloch? Are you seriously saying it’s ok to end up with a third-world education system that oil companies won’t use, just as long as we keep a school in each village? That does sound bizarre.

    Reply
  22. John Tulloch

    @John Anderson,

    You know fine that’s not what I’m saying.

    My particular concern centres around Aith, Sandwick and the isles. We don’t have to have “a school in every village”, it’s reasonable to look at the situation to see where sensible adjustments can be made that will benefit the kids education AND the well-being of their communities.

    Joined up thinking is needed, we can’t simply close Aith and Sandwick JS schools without that having a knock-on effect on the communities they serve so well, an effect which will not be registered in the savings figures supplied by Dept of Education.

    Will the council tax paid in the Westside and South Mainland be reduced to compensate for the removal of the local education service and accompanying loss of amenity?

    Reply
  23. Robert Duncan

    John, I do not work for the council. My reason for not commenting is simpler even than that – I do not have sufficient knowledge of the salaries in question.

    As regards your comment on Orkney, all the comparative figures provided at last week’s meeting centred on Orkney, the Western Isles and Argyle & Bute. The other island authorities provide secondary education at about 75% of Shetland’s cost per pupil (crudely rounded and hazily remembered, it was £9.5k to our £13k per pupil per year).

    Reply
  24. John Tulloch

    Robert,

    Doesn’t Shetland have more inhabited islands than the others so the overall cost per pupil is bound to be higher?

    I’m asking the cost of the educational bureaucracy per pupil i.e. that part not incurred directly by schools, versus the same cost elsewhere.

    We can’t just look at the cost per pupil and say “oh, that means we must close schools.” We need to look at why the costs are higher and if it’s because Shetland has more inhabited islands we may have to accept that.

    Likewise, if we have a relatively high number of Education Dept. employees who don’t work in schools that, too, would be a concern and we would need to look into why that might be the case.

    Closing schools is crude, blunt instrument and should be the last resort, not the first.

    Reply
  25. Robert Duncan

    As I recall, the Western Isles has 15 inhabited islands to our 16. The geography might be a little easier, and they have several islands with populations of over 1000 that would probably make schools a little more sustainable than here (I think the mainland is the only place with that many people, although Whalsay may be close).

    I’m not sure it’s fair to just say, “…so the overall cost is bound to be higher”, though. It certainly doesn’t account for the disparity we can see.

    I believe the Western Isles have their own equivalent of our “Blueprint” and that this has already brought 3 secondary school closures so they’ve gone from 11 schools to 8 – the same number as Shetland.

    Again, I couldn’t comment on central management figures, although I know that almost all of our schools are overstaffed, particularly for roles such as principal teachers, and having head teachers in the junior highs will certainly bump up the total. Whether that is the same in the other islands, again, I couldn’t say. It’d have to be some fairly substantial compensation to account for upwards of £3,000 per pupil though.

    Rest assured, school closures have not been the first port of call here. The education department has already cut £5 million from it’s budget. I was told recently that the operating budget per pupil at one of the Lerwick primary schools has fallen from £200 to about £50. Budgets have been slashed and slashed and slashed as we try to maintain a secondary school estate that just isn’t providing value for money.

    Reply
  26. Robert Duncan

    And to clarify, I never raised cost per pupil as a direct reason for school closures, I posted them in direct response to your (false) claims that there was reluctance to discuss them.

    Reply
  27. John Tulloch

    Robert,

    1. You seem to be conflating yourself with the Education Dept., it’s them my quarrel is with, not you and it’s they or someone else in the council who has the information that we need to be reassured is being considered, just so we know we are comparing all apples with apples.

    2. “The Western Isles has 15 inhabited islands to our 16.” Really?

    And how many of those inhabited Western islands are joined to other islands by short causeways with roads over them? All of them.

    How many of these islands are directly accessible by road from associated major island groups? All but 2, Barra and Vatersay and they are linked together by road causeway, too.

    How many Shetland islands are linked by road? Three.

    And yet the Western Isles, you tell me, has reduced to the same number of secondary schools as Shetland? Why, then do we feel a need to reduce farther when we have palpably more onerous circumstances than the Western Isles and how do you or the Education Dept., explain the disparity in cost per pupil?

    Can we compare apples with apples, please, Robert?

    It’s possible that schools are overstaffed and you tell me that they are. That would be a reason for pruning the staff numbers, not for closing so if you are right then we are resorting to closure before pruning, say, the number of principal teachers (I’m not calling for that, I have no direct knowledge of this). In other words, closure has not been the last resort, far from it.

    And could we look at the bureaucracy, too? We’re all happy to proclaim the schools are “over-staffed, over-expensive and over ‘ere”, yet we seem exceedingly reluctant to discuss relative levels of bureaucracy openly. Exceedingly so!

    Reply
  28. Robert Duncan

    I don’t think I’m “conflating” myself with anybody, simply stating an opinion on an issue that affects every one of us.

    Your comments on fixed links are perfectly fair. I already acknowledged the comparatively simpler geography of the Western Isles.

    Reductions in central staff, principal teachers, school support staff and some depute head teachers was already laid out in “Option 1” in the Strategy for Secondary Education documents. Those changes, in my own view, have to and almost certainly will happen. Unfortunately, they looked to be grossly insufficient in meeting the required savings. In fact, they only made up one of a number £500k chunks.

    I do agree with you, however, that the figures in question should be made clearer and we should have had a comparison of central costs against other local authorities. I have to apologise I misread your earlier post regarding cost per pupil.

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  29. Ian Tinkler

    Regarding knitting classes, Robert Duncan, to quote you, “I know I’d personally have liked to take back all the time I was forced to waste on knitting in school and spend it in on actual classes” What a subjective comment. Now Robert, I understand you are advocating closing Rural Schools to save funds. Is it not a bit ironic you protest an hour or so a week, of your time was being wasted in school out with real classes, yet are quite OK with West Side children having to spend two to four hours a day being bussed to school? Is that not a bit of a hypocritical double standard?

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  30. Johan Adamson

    There is something wrong with the numbers quoted above. How come if head teachers are the reason for the SIC having more staff over £50k, do none of the other councils have the same numbers? You say the Western Isles have the same number of schools. Are we on a different pay scale for teachers?

    Also, how come we are still spending so much as a council if all the other departments have lost all the staff they can? Education is not all of the problem. Can we compare staff numbers and departments to Orkney and analyse the extra we are paying for?

    You have to spend money to educate a bairn however you do it. You have to have a local school or hostel or bus the furthest away. How much did shutting Scalloway save? They still have the buildings, the teachers and the bairns, and on top the cost of the buses, and small scale redesign of the AHS, so how much?

    Reply
  31. Sheila Tulloch

    John, the ‘dry run’ experiment with councillors & some ‘central staff’ has already happened, in December last year. Illustrating problems of a larger capacity bus on a single track road, the number of stops that would be required along the route, if pupil numbers go up, travel sickness(!), pupils arriving (and leaving) home in the dark in winter, as well as the journey time.
    Robert, the ‘complex system of feeder buses….apparently been considered within financial models’? You would expect so, wouldn’t you? But, as confirmed on Tuesdays meeting, the cost figures used are ‘as they are now’. That is, 7 years out of date! (with no allowance for inflation) As that is the last time school transport contracts were awarded. Where is the common sense??

    Reply
  32. Robert Duncan

    Mr Tinkler, since we are crossing conversations, and since my initial remarks were somewhat glib, allow me to expand on where I would like to see something like knitting fit in a school curriculum.

    I think schools under Curriculum for Excellence should offer the flexibility for pupils to learn about what interests them and what they deem to be useful. In an ideal setup I would want to see those who were interested in knitting given the chance to learn it, but not by forcing the entire class to take part on a weekly basis. My comments WERE subjective and never intended as anything else: I hated knitting, as did several classmates, yet we had no choice but to take part. Given it is far from a core skill, I see that as a problem with the system.

    As regards your claims of hypocrisy, I don’t see it. Long travel times have obvious disadvantages but none of those are loss of hours within the school day itself. Had I required a lengthier travel to school I’d have been even less enamoured with then having to waste my time knitting.

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  33. ian tinkler

    Robert Duncan, how about a little less of your own self and highly subjective opinions about the education of our children. The use of the word I in virtually every sentence you write adds little to the argument and says much about yourself… Your personal preferences about your knitting experience are of little importance. The welfare of our children is, clearly that is something you feel is of little consequence.

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  34. Robert Duncan

    Mr Tinkler, these opinions were only ever framed as personal opinion, I’m not sure why there should be issue with that.

    It is, in my view, an extracurricular activity to be supported by external interest groups or by schools where there is sufficient demand for it. As it is not an integral part of the curriculum, I do not see why it should be included at the expense of an education department that is struggling to make ends meet, and I certainly do not see why it should be forced upon all children.

    It is to my further bemusement that the same people opposing rural school closures are also asking for superfluous activities like this to be bundled back into an already stretched budget.

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  35. Robert Duncan

    @Johan Adamson

    I’m not sure if your comments are aimed at me? I did not say that head teachers were the reason costs were so high, nor do I believe that to be true.

    I think part of the reason that the Western Isles cost per pupil is so much lower is to do with their schools – for reasons no doubt helped by different geography and population density – having much more sustainable numbers. The Nicholson Institute is bigger than the Anderson High, their second largest school is larger than Brae, and I do not believe they have any schools as small as Skerries or Baltasound. Our setup inevitably leads to more teachers per pupil and therefore higher cost; that is why pruning staff from the existing school estate can only ever save so much.

    I do agree central staff need to reviewed and I think we should be better informed on how figures there compare, but again the proposals do not suggest there is a lot that can be saved from that area.

    Shutting Scalloway was estimated to save around £700k, as I recall. I recently heard actual savings had exceeded that but could not say for sure. The NHS have recently agreed to take on the old primary building with the primaries moving into the secondary building, and with other childcare providers possibly joining them. All in all I’d say it’s worked out quite well for the community, although I don’t think it would be too contentious to say that closure was a lot less complex than the likes of Aith and the North Isles.

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  36. Sheila Tulloch

    Robert. Transport! How far Scalloway to Lerwick? How far Aith (& its catchment) to Lerwick, or the Isles to Lerwick? Or Isles pupils to the hostel? Scalloway pupils wouldn’t ever need a hostel. Common sense again.

    Reply
  37. Sandy McDonald

    Knowing a few folk from Lewis, I believe that the main school in Stornaway caters from S1 to S6 (and has approx 2000 pupils). For the kids that live too far from Stornaway they attend junior highs from P1 to S2. I know a lad that lived in the south of the Island and traveled 90 minutes each way every day to get to school from S3 onwards, he, and presumably the others with him, thought this was normal. I don’t think we can claim rougher winters than Lewis either.

    Now, I would not have been happy if I had had to change to this from my pleasent 20 minute school run. But if I had been doing it from the start I suppose I would have known no different.

    I guess in 10 or 20 years no one will think twice about a longer school run.

    Reply
  38. Sheila Tulloch

    Sorry Robert, misread the last line!

    Reply
  39. John Tulloch

    Yes, Sandy, good idea, let’s set wir clocks back twenty years!

    Reply

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