Children deserve the best (Jane Cooper)

I’m now on my third Shetland Wool Week, and very much enjoying Shetland’s unique wool and heritage, the usual warm welcome from the people, and meeting other Shetland wool enthusiasts who have travelled from all around the world to be here.

This year I’ve stayed on for the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference. Yesterday we had a most interesting trip to the mart and abattoir. It was great to hear how the community has been able to ensure Shetland islanders can easily obtain locally produced meat, especially meat from pure Shetland hill sheep with all its undisputed health benefits and ‘good’ fatty acids due to the diet of the sheep. I have to say that eating the very tasty hill lamb is one of my treats when I visit.

I was not the only person on the tour to be shocked and saddened to hear that Shetland hill lamb isn’t a part of school meals in Shetland. I don’t know what’s behind this decision, but for a place that so obviously cares about its children, their future and the future of Shetland, I can’t understand them being denied the best that Shetland has to offer in their school meals.

Jane Cooper


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  • Marina Thomason

    • October 14th, 2013 9:46

    Knitting isn’t taught in schools to the bairns any longer either. I’m beginning to think that our local authority doesn’t value our culture and heritage. They might try to tell us different but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.

  • Harry Dent

    • October 14th, 2013 12:05

    I’m no expert, but I’ll wager the answer to both ladies’ concerns is hard cash.

  • Robert Duncan

    • October 14th, 2013 13:05

    I think luxuries like this were quite rightly first on the chopping board with recent cuts. It’d be wildly illogical to continue things like knitting lessons while struggling to find the funds for text books. Parents can take the responsibility for maintaining cultural heritage if it is important to them, while voluntary organisations and great schemes like the wool week can pick up some of those who slip through the net.

  • David Spence

    • October 14th, 2013 14:01

    I agree with Harry.

    Probably one of the main reasons why the young in Shetland are not taking up knitting is because the pay is far too little. (nowadays, I think, most people are of the ‘ quick buck mentality ‘ and are not prepared to do any work unless it involves a large amount of money e.g. machine knitted a jumper for no less than atleast the minimum of £100.00……..this price or more due to the ‘ Designer Label mentality)

    I have a friend who finishes jumpers for a local trader, and in proportion to the time it takes to do the work to what she gets paid, it works out quite a bit below the minimum wage. Then again, this is quite the norm within the craft industry.

    As for feeding da bairns Shetland lamb, I doubt that Shetland would have enough lambs to cope with the demand from our schools (albeit some are closed or being closed).

    Doing a very quick assessment. The Anderson High School has around 900 pupils, say 450 of them have school dinners. That would be, roughly, around 50 lambs x this by once aweek, this would be, just for 1 school remember, 2,600 lambs.

    I do not think, as mentioned, Shetland crofters could meet the demand……and this is not taking into consideration the local butchers, supermarkets etc etc.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • October 14th, 2013 20:56

    I find some peoples approach to Shetlands traditions and educational problems morally obscene. I choose that word with care. To regard the teaching tradition Shetland “art” such as knitting “a luxury which is wildly illogical”, whilst openly supporting monies bunged at Mareel for example, quite inane and an obscenity.. Surely teaching are children traditional Shetland arts is where Charitable Trust Funds should be spent? Just how many knitting classes could we hold for the monies wasted on Mareel and Viking Energy, Mr Duncan?

  • Robert Duncan

    • October 14th, 2013 23:37

    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. It’s something people can take on in their own time or through out of school activities, it doesn’t need to be part of an education budget that is already stretched to breaking point.

    I agree that Shetland Arts should be directing funds to it – they are precisely the sort of body I was referring to in my initial post and, as far as I’m aware, have been a major supporter of the Textile Festival and Wool Week.

  • Martin Curtis

    • November 16th, 2013 11:49

    Healthy debate is always…..healthy!
    For my part I am continuing to develop the Real Shetland wool product range with my son Adam and the team at Jamieson and Smith, the “Woolbrokers”. We have come a long way in a short space of time and it has been wonderful to see how our campaign to promote wool that is actually grown in the Shetland Islands has evolved.
    Our aim is to guarantee decent returns to the crofter/sheep farmers who support Jamieson and Smith. We guaranteed that prices paid for the wool that was sent in to us would not fall from the point achieved at the start of our campaign and this year we are paying well above those levels. We guarantee to pay as quickly as humanly possible for the wool – I believe we are breaking all records in that area!
    Unfortunately, with the success we have achieved, not only in Shetland and the UK but around the world, we are seeing once again companies that are abusing the Shetland wool name. Wool from New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the UK even are being made into products that claim to be 100% Shetland wool. I am very saddened to say that they aren`t!
    Our whole campaign has been tightly controlled and we have not allowed anyone to cheapen the brand. Exclusivity is the key and when other companies sell 100% Shetland wool products made from other types of wool they are robbing us all, both of money and also heritage!
    Our efforts with Shetland Wool Week, which we started about 4 years or so ago, are also being recognised around the world and I regularly inform the Campaign for Wool Council of our activities. What has been achieved by those who actively support Shetland Wool Week is amazing – there are free loading hangers on of course but we know who they are! We can only do our best to ensure that it is bigger and better next year. Adam and I are promoting the event and the Real Shetland story around the world and that has to be good for the whole community, not just for Wool Week.
    So, I do hope school children get to taste the wonderful Shetland lamb dishes that are available at certain times of the year, when they are in season and also some spectacular mutton dishes that I know HRH The Prince of Wales has been championing.
    I also hope that knitting classes will be available to those who want to take them – I can`t tell you how “fashionable” hand knitting has become! Megastars of screen and stage and pop groups are knitting! It is also good for business…..You have seen the new Worsted spun Real Shetland wool Heritage yarns at JandS – well more is on the way. Ours is a long term project and we see a clear road ahead.
    Best regards
    ps I could never see the point of learning Latin at school….I would rather have been taught to knit!

  • Douglas Collie

    • December 10th, 2013 9:24

    Perhaps too late for the debate, but just a thought on education generally in view of the diversity of comments posted. I am a Physicist, I learned Latin at school, played football there, learned French, English, Maths, Geography, Engineering drawing, Woodwork, won the high jump one year, and a whole lot more. How useful have these things been? – immensely. No time spent in education is ever really wasted, even if the pupil doesn’t think so at the time. We need individuals with a broad mind and a depth of experience. I have been saddened to find recent graduates who do not appear to have any intellectual depth, who seem to think that cutting and pasting data from the internet constitutes knowledge and understanding. I think the person that can both knit and understand the value of Latin will find a more fulfilling career and live a more fulfilled life.

    • Johan Adamson

      • December 10th, 2013 10:00

      I agree, keep an open mind and learn and experience all that you can. I wish I had done latin, it would help my spelling, words like apologise. But the SIC dont want to know that one

      • Robert Duncan

        • December 10th, 2013 18:37

        I agree entirely on the need for a broad curriculum, which is why I don’t agree with such a niche subject being given precedence over many others. My experience was that knitting got precedence over many other art/craft based skills (e.g. photography, pottery and woodwork, which were barely if at all offered until secondary). Worse still, I think I had more knitting classes than classes directly relating to any of the sciences, and probably about the same amount as I had for computing (despite still being in primary school at the turn of the millennium).

        To take your high jumping as an example, that is something that in my case was only taught occasionally in PE, as part of a wider block of athletics classes. Anybody really interested in it could then join an after school athletics club and go further. Anybody not interested in it would soon have the chance to try something else, rather than become disenchanted with the entire class because they were fed up jumping over a stick.

        To me, having such niche and specialist instructors on the books of the education department just doesn’t make sense when so much needs to be cut. It would make a lot of sense to have it integrated on some level with existing arts and crafts provision so that children can get a taste for it, but I don’t agree with a one-size fits all approach where every child is asked to take part repeatedly.

        The former is difficult to work without an enterprising and/or benevolent individual willing to offer their expertise, but if the demand is there I am sure it would be worth their while.

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