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.
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.”