Aith pupils plead with councillors not to shut West Side junior secondary
Pupils have joined in the fight to save Aith Junior High School from closure by handing over 160 postcards to councillors.
Each of the postcards carry a message from children outlining what they love to do after school. Others are still being collected in rural shops until a crucial education and families committee meeting next week.
It is feared youngsters will face 65 minutes on a bus, twice daily, five days a week, if they are forced to commute to Lerwick for lessons at the Anderson High School.
Should it happen it will be part of a bid to shave £3.3 million from the council’s education budget. However, parents fear the move will seriously eat into their leisure time after lessons have finished.
The initiative has been launched by Aith Action Group ahead of next Wednesday’s meeting, where elected members will decide on the future shape of secondary education in the isles. Secondary departments at Aith and Sandwick are facing possible closure.
Group spokeswoman Leanne Johnson said rural school children from across the isles had responded to the campaign.
She said: “Were the council to even contemplate voting to close the junior high schools and centralise education for bairns from the West Side and other areas in Shetland, resulting in long bus journeys of over two hours each day, we will be looking to see how they are going to ensure that rural children are not socially or educationally disadvantaged.
“What the postcard campaign is showing us is that children throughout rural Shetland believe that time in their own community is special. We are worried that much of this special time for bairns between the ages of 11 and 16 will be lost on long bus journeys to and from school.
“We hope that the council will continue to listen to the authentic voices of children throughout the rural areas of Shetland.”
Handing over the postcards to education and families committee vice-chairman George Smith was Aith pupil Rhona Haswell, 13, one of around a dozen pupils who attended the town hall.
She said closing the Aith secondary would seriously curtail her sporting hobbies, such as netball, swimming and gymnastics.
“I wouldn’t be able to do any of them, because it would be too late by the time I got home,” Miss Haswell said.
Mr Smith said the council was listening to concerns people may have.
“I don’t think anybody has any doubt that there are real concerns in the West Side of Shetland about the travel distances and times,” he said.
“Absolutely, it is their right to raise those concerns whenever and however they wish to do so.”