North parents urge councillors to listen
Urafirth Parent Council is urging Shetland Island Council to throw out proposals to close their successful primary school when they meet in early November.
Chairwoman Claire Herridge said the entire community had been shocked by the experience of being part of the council’s education budget saving exercise and despite a protracted consultation, the resulting document left people feeling they had not been listened to.
Even though the document was extremely long, complex and hard to digest, it still did not contain all the responses that the council had received and had not addressed all of the concerns.
Ms Herridge said: “We consider it has come up with misleading conclusions and as a result we have lost all confidence in this process.
“Most significantly, it has not taken into account the upsurge in the local economy, the arrival of many young families in the area and the resulting projected increase in the school roll, which we expect to triple within the next five years on current birth rates alone.”
Another major concern is the travel times for young children from outlying areas if they are forced to attend Ollaberry Primary School.
Ms Herridge said: “The pick-up points are inconvenient and unsafe, and reaching them will take a long time for some children whether they walk, get a lift or catch a feeder service, all of which will take many beyond the maximum 40-minute travel time.
“Furthermore Ollaberry is currently unable to cope with the amount of traffic the proposal will generate, nor the number of pupils attending the school itself.
“In order to cope with the increased numbers Ollaberry Primary School would have to be extended, and more parking space would impinge on the school’s recreational area.
“This would all cost the council a considerable sum, when we all know the whole purpose of this exercise is to save money. ”
Ms Herridge said Urafirth was a fantastic purpose-built school that provided a first class education for the growing number of children in the community.
She added: “We are horrified at the council’s proposal to close such a tremendous facility at a time when we are seeing young families moving into the area bringing prosperity back to this remote part of Shetland.
“The education department’s proposal to close Urafirth and North Roe primary schools is misguided and the consultation process has not taken into account our serious concerns.
“We urge councillors to support our remote rural communities by keeping our schools open, rather than undermining us at a time when we are getting back on our feet again.
“The money the council will save will be insignificant in comparison to the damage that will be done to this area.
“Rather than taking this destructive approach, we would be willing to engage in constructive talks with the council about how it could find efficiencies within its education budget without threatening the wellbeing of rural Shetland.”