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.
“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.