Proposal to halt more school closure consultations

Pupils, staff and guests outside the new Mid Yell Junior High School prior to the official opening in 2011. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Pupils, staff and guests outside the new Mid Yell Junior High School prior to the official opening in 2011. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The question over what will happen to secondary education provision in some rural parts of the isles may remain unanswered for at least another two years.

Papers due to go before tomorrow’s education and families committee recommend stopping statutory talks over Mid Yell Junior High School and the Whalsay school – at least for now.

It comes after “overwhelming opposition” to plans which could either have led to the closure of the departments or, alternatively, an end to lessons for S4 pupils.

New recommendations also back postponing future consultations over the same proposals for secondary departments at Baltasound, Aith and Sandwick.

Instead, education officials believe staff time would be better used if talks are put back until at least 2017. By that time, the new Anderson High School should be open and the promising Shetland Learning Partnership up and running, when it should be offering vocational skills to senior pupils.

In November councillors moved for a policy forum to allow members to consider the timescales needed to deliver educational priorities.

Late last year the council voted against closing North Roe Primary School and Urafirth Primary and Nursery.
Pulling back from those closure proposals now mean the Northmavine schools are protected from the axe for five years, under Scottish legislation on schools consultation.

A detailed report in tomorrow’s papers on the secondary departments by head of Childrens’ Services, Helen Budge, states: “If we continued to progress the current statutory consultations to their conclusion by publishing consultation reports we would then be required to take them to Shetland Islands Council for a decision.

“If Shetland Islands Council did not implement any closure proposal Mid Yell Junior High School and Whalsay School would be protected from any further statutory consultation on a closure proposal for five years.

An artist's impression of the east elevation of the new Anderson High School, including the main entrance.
The new Anderson High School should be open by 2017, when school closure proposals may again be considered.

“As a result, in order to avoid any further uncertainty or concern about secondary education provision in Shetland for pupils, parents and staff, to protect the strategy for secondary education, and to ensure staff time is utilised better to avoid undertaking unnecessary consultations which are unlikely to succeed, we consider it would be prudent at this time to amend the statutory consultation time line. We propose that this would be until at least 2017 when the new Anderson High School is open and the Shetland Learning Partnership is up and running. This is unless the financial position of Shetland Islands Council worsens and Children’s Services is required to reconsider statutory consultations on school closure proposals in secondary earlier than 2017.”

Councillors will also be asked to approve waiving halls of residence and transport fees for pupils from S3 onwards.

Doing so should help offer young people the chance to move to other schools to access subjects. It is believed doing so will help with the running of the Shetland Learning Partnership.


Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • January 20th, 2015 9:05

    Think this is good news. Shelved, at last: Sense, at last?

    But why not just end it? They will have no more success in 2017 than they have had now, and they could have ended the anguish for 5 years. Time for all the country schools to ensure they attract and retain students.

    • John Tulloch

      • January 20th, 2015 11:20

      Two reasons for not ending it spring to mind:

      1. Most important, to save face, now.

      2. Like the “Terminator”,

      “We’ll be back! And we’ll have a new council with a full term, so no elections to worry about.”

      Bring it on, guys, we’ll aa’ be waitin’ for you!

  • Hugh Jamieson

    • January 20th, 2015 20:49

    Usual suspects wanting to bankrupt the council educating a handful of children in a unsustainable education system. These people never give alternatives to the problem and always blame the Lerwick councillors. Money is required for roads especially given the accident at Levenwick on Monday afternoon.

    Keep burning your head in the sand and our children’s children will only be attending the new school in Lerwick and Brae as we will have used all the oil money.

    • Johan Adamson

      • January 21st, 2015 12:12

      Education is not bankrupting the council. They have found savings.

      • Hugh Jamieson

        • January 21st, 2015 18:17

        Other services are suffering and with further cuts to the government block grant this problem is not going away, it is getting critical.

        Road gritting is being squeezed, pot holes are more common, social care cut, street lights all over Shetland being switched off at midnight, grants for community halls stopped etc etc.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 21st, 2015 22:31

        @Hugh Jamieson,

        However much it costs to educate Shetland kids is irrelevant because rural schools cannot be closed in Scotland for reasons other than educational improvement – there’s a law against it.

        Ali Inkster is right, government should be funding education, not SIC’s oil fund capital reserves. In that context I repetedly asked Jonathan Wills et al the following questions and have yet to receive an answer:

        “…..the point has been made repeatedly that the Scottish government (SG) provides £28 million towards Shetland’s education cost of £48 million, which is roughly in line with the ratio of Shetland cost per pupil/Scottish average cost per pupil.

        Q1: Is the money from the SG based on the Scottish average cost per pupil? If not, how is it arrived at?

        Q2: How much money do Orkney and the Western Isles receive from the SG towards their educational expenditures?

        Q3: If Shetland has a £20 million pa shortfall and Orkney and the Western Isles do not, why is that so when Shetland’s primary and secondary costs per pupil are about the same as Orkney/W.I.?”

        Perhaps, you know the answers and will enlighten us? Or perhaps, you know somebody who does know?

      • Hugh Jamieson

        • January 22nd, 2015 8:34

        Why are you asking me this questions? I thought you knew the answers to all our problems. Anyway, the blueprint was addressing the closure problem.

        You and Ali Inkster rightly sat that the Scottish government should be paying for the educational needs of our youngsters, but the fact is they are not. We the council tax payers of Shetland are and we are suffering propping up an unsustainable education structure. It would be fantastic if The SNP government would do more to help, but they are robbing us blind I.e. The housing deal which was a financial disaster the the Shetland people.

      • Johan Adamson

        • January 22nd, 2015 9:01

        I agree, Hugh. it is about priorities. I would personally put the bairns education and therefore our future workforce a higher priority than roads. Roads do have a budget, and it is up to them to prioritise and seek finance for road projects.

        John is right, this is a national problem. Education south is in much more of a mess than here, thanks to Shetland parents objecting and making sure ours doesnt go the same way. I have friends who have given up on the state system all together, cos it is not working. We dont really have that choice here. Class sizes have gone up, they only offer sandwiches for school meals, etc, etc.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 22nd, 2015 11:38

        @Hugh Jamieson,

        I’m asking these questions because I am a concerned member of the public who wants to know the answers. If Jonathan Wills and the school closures crowd won’t answer them, I’ll keep on asking anyone who complains on about what education is costing the council.

        The point being that the council’s silence on this point makes it look as though they aren’t trying to do anything about it.

        Rather than negotiating for a submarine cable with which to despoil Shetland’s landscape with wind turbines, the council could have “played the oil card” and used it to obtain a much better constitutional and financial arrangement for the isles.

        It’s no good wittering on about what the ratepayers will have to pay for Shetland education, the council may not, by Scottish law, close rural schools in Shetland for reasons other than educational benefit which has not been demonstrated, other than by a lot of hand-waving and, repetitiously, saying “Trust me, I’m an ‘education professional’!”

      • Hugh Jamieson

        • January 23rd, 2015 7:49

        John – that’s your opinion and I accept there are many others who agree with you, however I do not agree with you and there are also many others who agree with me that the blueprint in the current climate is the only course of action the take us forward. I for one am disgusted at the waste in the education budget that you and many others campaign for.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 23rd, 2015 10:08

        OK, Hugh.

        That’s your prerogative.

    • Hugh Jamieson

      • January 22nd, 2015 11:25

      I cannot agree with your statement. The blueprint is about amalgamating schools and could be argued improving their education. No child will be deprived of their education. Asking children to be bused for example from Voe to Brae is very reasonable. Reducing the gritting system is putting lives ar risk. Switching streetlights out at midnight is a burglars paradise and puts the safety of the public at risk.

      • John Tulloch

        • January 22nd, 2015 16:53

        Deyr shurley no muckle ta read a’ Trolligairts, dis days, yun “Blueprint” wis a lock o’ entire hellery?

  • Ali Inkster

    • January 21st, 2015 11:35

    We should not be using the oil money for educating our kids the government is supposed to pay for that, and our council is supposed to hold the government to account and get the money needed. Now that they have cancelled school closures maybe the council would like to explain where we are going to get the money from?


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