Tearing the fabric of life apart (Olive Walterson)

Every district used to have its primary school and pupils walked there, maybe a mile or two. They were not expected to attend in extreme weather.

My brothers and sister went to the Twatt school. The teacher was unqualified but he knew his stuff and he didn’t half drum it into them.

The leaving age was 14. My three eldest brothers went on to the Anderson Institute and stayed in digs.

Those who left at 14 often did very well for themselves, notably in the Merchant Navy where with more study many became officers. The point is they could choose to leave or go to Lerwick.

Now the leaving age is 16, so the SIC is duty bound to provide schooling up to that age on pupils’ home ground. Then pupils can choose to go to Lerwick at 16 or leave.

Instead the SIC wants to force pupils to Lerwick whether they want to go or not. I know we have several clear-thinking councillors, but sadly when it comes to the vote they are nearly always in the minority.

The SIC is tearing the very fabric of Shetland life apart by its policy of centralisation (isn’t that the very thing they accuse Holyrood of?).

There are only five junior high schools left. Lay off them. There are plenty more ways to save money.

When I was at school 65ºF was considered to be a healthy indoor temperature. Now it’s 80ºF and T-shirts on similarly summer and winter – just turn up the heat. With energy the price it is, a great deal could be saved.

Lastly, who needs more than £50,000 a year? If all those receiving more would donate a third of their salary to the recovery fund, this would be a very popular move.

Olive Walterson




Add Your Comment
  • Robert Duncan

    • December 4th, 2013 17:54

    “There are plenty more ways to save money.”

    Are there? If people earning £50k were to charitably give up a third of their pre-tax wage, it’d take around 200 such offers to reach even the figure demanded of the education department. Restructuring and a reduction in the top level wages are obviously required, but the more often I hear people banging this drum, the more I worry they’re overstating how much is truly there to be saved.

    I’m not sure I believe we’re heating any schools to 80 degrees fahrenheit / 27 degrees celsius – not even because of the money that would waste, but because it would create uncomfortable working conditions pushing the limit of maximum temperature guidelines. Those same guidelines are still around the 65F/18C mark, to my knowledge.

  • Spence Jamieson

    • December 4th, 2013 21:57

    Memories are marvellous but they can get distorted in the dreaming. Old school records report on strict timetables, cramped conditions, struggles with funding for ‘consumables’ and the ‘usual progress’ when students were present. If it wasn’t the weather that kept students away, it was sickness or what was referred to as ‘home work’ – work on the croft. This was seasonal work when all hands were needed to work the land or to bring in the peats. Schooling was secondary. There is no reference to school buses being late, the temperature of the spaces or to school meals never arriving. The impression is of a very strict regime supervised by the laird and the minister. Maybe the folk of these times might think that students and staff today have never had it so good? Memories have the habit of being selective, exaggerating some matters while forgetting others. Nostalgia usually recalls the good that was always better and best.

  • Johan Adamson

    • December 5th, 2013 9:52

    Olive, I think the point in your letter was that there was a choice, and there should be again. There should be more choice now with the availability of technology, not less. The other point I think you were making was that there was a lot more done with a lot less then a days. And Robert Duncan, turning down the heat is a good suggestion, and saving money elsewhere is also both possible and necessary, as has been said before. Leave the junior highs and rural areas alone.

  • Robert Duncan

    • December 5th, 2013 11:52

    If we have any schools drastically higher than the minimum standard then, yes, I agree that should be better managed, but it’s going to be penny pinching in the grand scheme of things. Several of these measures in combination will make a good start but there is more drastic reform required to achieve sustainable provision.

    • John Tulloch

      • December 9th, 2013 17:40

      @Robert Duncan,

      We need “sustainable” communities in the isles and Mainland rurals.

  • David Spence

    • December 10th, 2013 15:33

    As I have said in previous comments, nobody is questioning why the Council (in fact, all Councils throughout Britain) is having to make such drastic savings, and to reduce the services (education being one of them) they provide in order to make this saving?

    It seems rather obvious that this Government is hell bent on reducing the budgets it gives to Local Authorities on the basis that the previous Government borrowed too much. What utter, utter rubbish. If you look at the amount of money the biggest rooks in society (the banks) have received of Tax Payers money (and I can bet 100% we will not see this money being repaid despite the political propaganda being spoon-fed to the population) in proportion to the cuts being made plus the money this vile Tory Government is having to borrow (present figures are around £260 billion) it is very obvious that the only benefactors of this whole mess this country is in, is the banks themselves……….Who, due to their own greed (typical trait of a capitalist) caused the problems in the first place. We, the public, are so conditioned by a system that only caters for itself, and where, as we are brainwashed into believing, society would completely collapse if the banking system was to go under.

    As far as I am led to believe, the banks have received £142 billion of the Tax Payers money. This is the real reason why this vile Tory Government is having to do drastic cuts to Local Authorities, despite the fact the national debt has reduced very little (At the present moment, I believe it to be around £1.12 trillion) and we still have the problems we started with when this vile Tory Party took over.

    Is there a connection between the drastic cuts of Local Authority Services and this of the banking system? Of course there is………….and who is supporting the banks and not the people of this country, the vile Tory Party.

  • John Tulloch

    • December 29th, 2013 19:08

    Readers may be interested to know that Argyll newsblog “For Argyll and the Islands” has picked up the Skerries closure saga with a stinging editorial piece on the SIC voting shenanigans delivered to Mike Russell’s own Argyll constituents.


    Those who, as SIC’s perennial panto villain Jonathan Wills would have it, “love to hate him” may find cause for seasonal merrymaking in For Argyll’s rebuke.

    • Gordon Harmer

      • December 30th, 2013 8:36

      Very interesting and scathing article John it should be run on the front page of the Times.

      I really like this paragraph, ” We note that Shetland Council has also seemed like Hicksville in its debate on the matter. The ‘Brian Blessed’ figure of Councillor Jonathan Wills announced to the meeting that Anderson High School in Lerwick – whose academic record is modest – was ‘better than Eton’. Aye right”.

    • Brian Smith

      • December 30th, 2013 18:42

      The style of this article is familiar. 😉

      • John Tulloch

        • January 2nd, 2014 9:21

        Alaes, hit wisna me! It was most probably written by the editor herself.

  • John N Hunter

    • December 31st, 2013 18:54

    I would make a couple of observations on Olive’s letter. I have been going back through my archives and found an old school photo of the Twatt school from about 1925. Among the pupils are some oif Olive’s brothers. The headmaster of the school at that time was my grandfather, John Nicolson Hunter. Although he started his career as an unqualfied teacher he went to Moray House and he was most certainly qualified by that time!

    The other item I found was an article from Shetland Life in April 1987. The Twatt school was closed so the local bairns could get a better quality of education at the new Aith school.

    • John Tulloch

      • January 1st, 2014 4:42

      John N.


      Ta come aff wi yon at five ta seeffen apo New’eer’s Eve, dat taks somethin’.

      Fair play tae dee, an a Happy New Year!

      Best, J

  • Rachel Buchan

    • January 1st, 2014 23:50

    Having to attend a local Junior High School in Shetland, until I was almost 14, tore the fabric of my life apart. If I had been allowed to go to the Anderson when I was twelve, I would have done. It would have meant that I could have avoided an awful lot of trauma that later affected my adult life. I realise that this would not suit everyone, but “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”, “horses for courses”, etc. I don’t believe that there is ever going to be one solution that suits everybody.

  • Marina Thomason

    • January 2nd, 2014 11:46

    @Rachael Buchan, presumably there was nothing to stop you going to the AHS at 12 years if your parents had put in a placing request, which is the case at the moment. One of the main points of Olive’s letter is that the choice is being removed. There will be a number of children who will not be able to cope with going to the AHS for their secondary education, especially if they have to live away from home in a hostel for 5 days a week, and at the moment there is very little information about what will be the alternative provision for these pupils if there is no opportunity to remain at their local school and complete their education there.


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