19th October 2018
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Parents vow to challenge Olnafirth school closure

Parents in the North Mainland will meet tomorrow to plan an appeal against a vote by councillors to close Olnafirth Primary School.

A special meeting of the school’s parent council has been scheduled to discuss how proposals to end lessons in the small primary from next summer can be brought to the attention of education secretary Mike Russell.

Olnafirth parents Elisabeth and David McDowall outside the Town Hall. Photo: Stephen Gordon

Olnafirth parents Elisabeth and David McDowall outside the Town Hall. Photo: Stephen Gordon

Members of the SIC’s education and families committee voted 9-2 in favour of bringing lessons to a close on 4th July next year when it met this morning.

Doing so will save £97,239, which will make a small dent in the council’s ongoing bid to slash £3.3 million from its education budget.

The decision is expected to be ratified during a special full council meeting this afternoon.

It comes as the latest of a number of discussions in the last 10 years over the school’s future, although this was the first time closure had gone through the full consultation process.

The move means Olnafirth’s eight remaining pupils will move to Brae for their classes from next August.

A report before members told how Olnafirth’s school role had been steadily dwindling in recent years.

Children’s services director Helen Budge told councillors that of the 25 youngsters who could attend classes in Olnafirth, only eight actually did.

That was set against a background of primary schools operating at less than half the possible capacity.

Twelve of the 17 placing requests out of the school are for Brae High School’s primary department.

The report said children would receive better opportunities for learning in a larger environment. The schools are five miles apart on a “well maintained” road between Voe and Brae.

Chairwoman Vaila Wishart reluctantly moved the motion. However Andrea Manson called for it to be saved. She said the parents would be more willing to send their children to the school if the “Sword of Damocles” had not regularly hung over it.

Speaking after the meeting, parent David McDowall said the parent council would have to work fast before launching an appeal. But he added: “Education is something that really matters in this school. It would be wrong for us to let this school close without a fight.”

More reaction in this week’s Shetland Times

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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One comment

  1. John Tulloch

    Cynics may be tempted to think it’s handy for the closure programme that Skerries’ reprieve is only temporary because that means it can be used as a distraction again and “given back” to everyone’s relief as yet another less contentious closure is waved through.

    Whalsay could be a similar, situation – will it not be spared when the closure of Aith and Sandwick goes through?

    I hope not because neither Skerries nor Whalsay – the same argument of “net contributors” holds for both – can be closed so there’s no point putting the islanders through the wringer every time the school you really want to close is somewhere else.

    Reply

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