Education changes must not be permitted (John Tulloch)

In reading this week’s Sounding off by SIC political leader Gary Robinson (The Shetland Times, 8th November) I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by the weakness of his arguments in favour of the proposed re-organisation of Shetland education. I expected better, much better.

I’ll spare readers the full litany however the main weaknesses include:

First, I couldn’t believe he trotted out the hackneyed old canard that because educating Shetland kids costs twice the Scottish average, we must cut our costs, in this case, by closing schools.

There is no valid comparison possible between Shetland schools’ costs and the Scottish average because the latter is heavily influenced by the large population centres in the Central Belt and along the East Coast from Edinburgh to The Cromarty Firth.

Furthermore, it’s no good talking about Orkney and the Western Isles because they have, either, fewer islands or many islands interconnected by short road causeways making daily travel, for the most part, reasonable.

Second, Mr Robinson thinks it is a concern that Shetland is “bumping along just above average” where highers and advanced highers are concerned. Am I missing something here, or are we actually proposing moving all our secondary kids to where we are getting poorer results?

Third, closing these schools and dragging kids unnecessarily away from home will not only disrupt their normal family life and cause undue hardship on the travelling kids, it will inflict irreparable long-term damage on their currently thriving communities. It must not be permitted to happen.

John Tulloch




Add Your Comment
  • David Spence

    • November 12th, 2013 10:14

    It does not really surprise me that the Council are having to do drastic cuts to their budgets (we could no doubt argue as to why) in respect to their expenses (which one, as mentioned previously, would be interested to know how much this council has spent on consultancy fee’s) and the effect this will have on rural as well as island communities.

    I would be interested to know what the education programme was for Shetland prior to the oil boom and the building of Sullom Voe, and to ask, if need be, why certain schools were running under the Zetland County Council, and why it is these same schools can no longer run under this council in relation to budgets and expenditure.

    I know some people may say you cannot make comparisons, to which I would say ‘ Why not ? ‘. The responsibility of providing adequate and good education standards has not changed in regards to the council’s duty of care (if one can describe it as such) in providing such services, and to make sure these services are within the constraints of their budgets.

    In saying this however, if the monies given to the Council by either Westminster or the Scottish Office under the SNP, are well below the cost of running the services the Council is providing (hence these drastic cuts) one must question other reasons outwith the Shetland Council why these cuts are happening?

    I know a lot of people, as has been mentioned, will say it was due to the previous Labour Government borrowing too much and that the banking crisis of 2008 more or less took a lot of money that would otherwise have been used for Local Authority services which is now resulted in the Government having to make such cuts to state run services and provisions.

    However, this doesn’t quite ring true when you compare how much the overall debt has been reduced by (the debt is around £1.2 trillion) and the amount of money this Government has borrowed (as far as I am led to believe, around £270 Billion). It most certainly makes you think that there is another hidden agenda we are not being told about in regards to this Government’s performance and long term plans.

    I have to agree in that the council over the years has been overspending and wasting millions on ill-fated projects, bad management practices (rather High Salaries, Legal Costs, Compensation etc) and poorly thought out business plans (Smyrl Line a good example) which has cost Shetland dearly, and has reflected, to a degree, the Council’s bad management of its finances, whether through Government budgets or its own funds through various charities.

  • Derick Tulloch

    • November 12th, 2013 10:56

    Mark the calendar! For the first time ever I agree with a missive from the Sage of Arrochar.

    The whole point of the Junior High system was to help halt the apparent terminal depopulation of the isles in the 1960s. The underlying drivers of depopulation remain the same and indeed in some ways worse with the concentration of work in Lerwick. Closure would run against every principle of community engagement. It is particularly cowardly to engage an external consultant to put a superficial gloss on these proposals

    The Shetland Islands Council, if it passes these proposals, would finally and publicly demonstrate that is not fit for purpose. I hope Councillors will remember they represent the whole of Shetland, not just the Central Belt

  • Gordon Harmer

    • November 12th, 2013 13:19

    Derick, the depopulation of the Isles wouldn’t have anything to do with the mismanagement of local businesses, creating job losses in the past would it. Work is not concentrated in Lerwick at the moment and some astute Isles contractors are taking full advantage of this fact. Whilst creating full and part time employment for many and bringing much needed prosperity to the Isles. It is easy to pontificate from your ivory tower on the mainland where centralisation is rampant and the Isles are left to fend for them selves. Perhaps the councils would stand a better chance if the SNP would unfreeze council tax instead of using it as a bribe to vote yes next year.

  • John K Smith

    • November 16th, 2013 7:01

    The Junior High Schools around Shetland are excellent in every respect and it should be council policy to get back to their current success as soon as the financial climate gets back to ‘normal’ including allowing the council to increase tax. Forcing young people to bus to Lerwick, or worse stay in hostels, should only be seen as short term and used where there is no alternative; the best alternative would be a high school in every area, and the council should not abandon that ideal forever just because of a temporary financial collapse.
    Local high schools were built once and there is no reason why they should not be brought back in even better form eventually. Have some vision SIC.

    • John Tulloch

      • November 16th, 2013 10:48

      It hasn’t happened yet. “The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings”!

      Or, at least, until the protesters give up and acknowledge defeat but I expect we’ll be hearing more about this yet.

  • John Tulloch

    • December 22nd, 2013 19:09

    Johan, I saw your excellent suggestion for Shetland education in “Readers’Views” which makes an awful lot of sense AND which, if adopted, will save money.

    An added advantage of the highers students attending the same institution as the FE students is it will help to acclimatise those who need it (I was one who would have benefited) to a different style of learning, weaning them off the spoon-feeding style to which they are accustomed at school, to a more mature position in which they realise they need to take the initiative themselves by taking responsibility for their own learning.


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