21st November 2018
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Education committee agrees to keep Aith and Sandwick open

The large group of protesters outside the town hall. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The large group of protesters outside the town hall. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The SIC education and families committee voted 10-2 today in favour of retaining secondary education across all junior high schools up to the end of secondary two.

An amendment by Shetland South councillor George Smith, the committee vice-chairman, gained the support of nine of his colleagues.

The original proposal, to close Sandwick and Aith junior highs, was proposed by chairwoman Vaila Wishart but was only supported by one other councillor.

The vote is due for ratification at this afternoon’s full council meeting.

The photograph above was the scene outside Lerwick town hall this morning ahead of the crucial committee meeting. Councillors were  asked to consider ending secondary education in Whalsay, Yell and Unst for S3 and S4 pupils from 2015/16. If agreed that would mean youngsters attending the Anderson High School from the beginning of their third year.

It was estimated that close to 200 protesters from the West Side, South Mainland and the North Isles gathered outside the town hall to make their feelings known. Many were waving banners and placards urging councillors to reject the recommendations and to keep the schools open. The messages include: “The West Side won’t budge”, “Whalsay does care” the now well used motto “Our schools our future”.

SIC convener Malcolm Bell accepted a petition from the groups before the crucial meeting started.

A full report of the meeting will follow online, and for comprehensive coverage of the debate and reaction see Friday’s Shetland Times.

20 comments

  1. Elizabeth Arthur

    Why can’t our Secondary bairns be educated in their own Islands any more and the same goes for outlying Rural areas .
    No bairn will gain anything from being forced apart from Family all week having to stay in Lerwick, which I don’t thing is a place for kids from 11 yrs upwards to be on their own without parental guidance .
    As ways of savings have to be found and this NEW SCHOOL has to come in Lerwick ( which by the way is what all this closure carry on is about. ) Why don’t they put all the bairns from Bells Brae and Sound to the New School and close this two in Lerwick ??, that would surely save a fair bit!

    Reply
    • fraser cluness

      thats a good idea, but after they have built the new high school, and the children have vacated the old school. Perhaps a refurbishmen and removal of the unusable parts and building of new bits then perhaps one big primary school for lerwick in the old anderson building would be a way forward in lerwick. but they need to sort the big school first.

      Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      The existing Anderson is barely fit for purpose these days and a new one is long overdue. This is a school for almost every pupil in Shetland, not just Lerwick people, so a new one is for everybody. Moving primary pupils around would achieve nothing.

      The savings being made also have very little to do with the new school being built. That is being funded from reserves and with support from the Scottish Government, it has no draw on yearly budgets.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        If the new Anderson High is being built using the council’s reserves then some of that money belongs with the country districts so isn’t it the case that, effectively, money which could have been spent in the country districts is being spent in Lerwick so that country kids can be torn away from their families or spend up to a full school week sitting on buses for every single month they attend the new Anderson High?

        I’m Lerwick “born and bred” and educated and that doesn’t sound right to me, how do you think it will play with families who live in the country?

  2. Stuart Hannay

    I was at the meeting in Yell this week and the strength of feeling that our children should not have to leave home at 13 or 14 years old was incredible. I would only ask those parents not affected by this to honestly think about how they would feel in our situation. The educational (and economical) benefits of the department’s strategy are dubious for ALL Shetland’s schoolchildren, let alone for the rural areas where it is proposed that they will not even get specialist secondary teachers up until the time they would have to go to Lerwick to board. This affects us all and I’m so impressed by the work of most of the parent councils across Shetland and their unified stance.

    Reply
  3. Brian Smith

    Congratulations to the protesters. Not everything they wanted, but better than it might have been.

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Congratulations to the protesters on a splendid campaign, so far!

      That said, Brian, there may be some relief but I suspect no joy and more likely, anger in the South Mainland and the West Side – and in the isles, fury. The South and West folk may have got half of what they wanted but the isles folk have got nothing, zilch!

      Reply
      • Chris Mackie

        ‘The isles folk have got nothing’? The isles folk have got access to a first class education system, free accommodation and the widest range of choices and experience for their bairns. Would that we had that when I was at school, instead of allowing the majority of us to finish up at 16 and never try out the ‘Lerwick’ school.

      • John Tulloch

        To satisfy the pedantic among us “the isles protesters have got nothing.”

        As for the “first class education system”, the isles kids are now being forced to attend a school whose results are poorer than the JH schools and “a concern” for SIC political leader Gary Robinson.

      • Sheila Tulloch

        Chris, You have clearly missed all the points. Have you got bairns? ‘access to a first class education system…’ I am pretty sure I have never heard anybody complain about the quality of education in the Isles or West/South? The level of qualifications speak for themselves! (Think this year’s tables for all of Scotland out soon?) And ‘free accommodation…’! What cost to family or community? Years ago pupils made the same move, but they had Choice, they were not forced in to it.

  4. Margaret Gear

    If the bairns in the rural schools are not to have specialist secondary teachers in S 1&2 then the obvious way to make the rest of the savings would be to have the same arrangement for Lerwick pupils. That way there would be equity of provision and all pupils would start S3 from a level playing field.

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      I agree Margaret. Lerwick will have to also cut the department heads. A very expensive set up which does not seem to improve results. They also have to stop taking in the bairns from outwith Lerwick into Bells Brae and then pleepsin that they dont have enough resources for all the bairns. Overcrowding does no one any favours

      Reply
      • Johan Adamson

        I take it budget moves with the bairns?

    • Bobby McLeod

      Sounds like an excellent idea Margaret.

      Reply
    • Maurice Smith

      A logical and fair comment, Margaret.

      A cynic would predict that the Gauleiters at Hayfield will be keen to appoint non-specialist teachers to S1 and S2 in rural schools, to make the schools less attractive to pupils/parents.

      They wouldn’t be that devious … would they?

      Reply
    • John N Hunter

      As far as I understand specialist teachers will be provided by staff from Brae and the AHS travelling to the rural schools.

      Reply
    • John K Smith

      Absolutely agree with Margaret Gear, make all S1 & 2 equal all over Shetland. Lerwick doesn’t need a different arrangement to everywhere else. Save money as Margaret says.
      Cut the Lerwick budget and give it to the other schools, (which are more successful than Lerwick anyway)

      Reply
  5. Linsey Nisbet

    Chris Mackie. You had the choice. Everyone had the opportunity to “try out the ‘Lerwick’ school”. Now there will be no choice.
    As for free accommodation… every bairn has free accommodation at home. Would a family actually choose to send a bairn away from its family in order to stay in a hostel? The Lerwick hostel is very good, don’t get me wrong, but there are countless tales of bairns crying themselves to sleep with homesickness when forced to stay away from their families at too young an age. Nobody should have to live like that, and nobody should have the right to force this on our young folk.

    Reply
  6. netta simpson

    Well said Margaret. If primary teachers are deemed suitable to teach country and Island schools secondary 1-2, they must surely be suitable for teaching the same age group in Lerwick. This whole exercise was supposed to be about improving education for everybody- we were led to believe, budgets should not come into it, but we are fairly seeing that this is not the case.

    Reply
    • fraser cluness

      i thought a teacher was a teacher? do they get diffrent grades? id think no less of any teacher no matter where they were working

      Reply

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