Shetland’s two parliamentarians have taken a stand against school closures following yesterday’s moves by the education and families committee not to close North Roe or Urafirth primaries.
Alistair Carmichael MP and his Holyrood counterpart, Tavish Scott, have urged the council not to end lessons at any more of its schools.
In a letter to political leader Gary Robinson, the MP and MSP both acknowledge tough decisions that the SIC have faced and recognise “difficult financial decisions” that have been taken. However with further closure consultations for Symbister and Mid Yell Junior High Schools looming, they have called for council leaders to bring both, plus any additional future proposals, to an immediate stop.
Councillors were yesterday concerned travel times for bus journeys may go beyond the agreed 40 minute limit for school children if the Northmavine schools were given the axe.
Their decision still needs to be ratified by today’s full council meeting before the schools can breathe easy, however.
Messrs Scott and Carmichael say they recognise a need to reduce budgets in the face of a 19.7 per cent cut in Scottish government grant since 2010/11.
But they argue closing schools is not the way forward.
“The SIC schools plan to save money was based in large part on closing schools. This week’s decision by the education and families committee to retain North Roe and Urafirth Primary Schools is welcome.
“There is no doubt that the transport implications for young children were deeply worrying to parents and we are pleased that elected members recognised these and made their decision accordingly. There is nothing wrong with this decision when children’s safety is put first.
Regarding further consultations, they state: “We urge you to stop these immediately and indeed stop any further school closure proposals.
“You have stated that the SIC is making good progress towards a stable financial position. The SIC has already made significant savings across Shetland education. The SIC accounts are no longer qualified by Audit Scotland. You and your colleagues deserve credit for all these steps. But further school closures are intensely damaging across Shetland.”
They urged elected members to reflect on recent exam performances of pupils in the isles, which has remained positive while set against a backdrop of “constant consultations”.
“Despite the introduction of a new exam system, the Anderson High, Brae High and our junior high schools did well. They are to be congratulated on giving Shetland’s young people a good start in their pursuit of university, college, vocational or other routes into work.
“In other words, despite the hiatus of constant consultations across Shetland education our schools, teachers and pupils sitting exams continue to do well when compared to the rest of Scotland.
“We would therefore suggest that this is where your education department now concentrates its time. Instead of undertaking arduous and unpleasant closure proposals that puts huge pressure on both communities and Hayfield House staff, we suggest that SIC education builds a vision for Shetland’s educational future.
“We believe that Shetland education has much to be proud of. Above all we want pupils to have the best chance in life and the basis of that is the excellence of teaching, learning and surroundings that can be provided.”