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.
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