21st November 2018
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‘SIC was selective with school costs information’

Council findings detailing the cost of educating secondary education pupils have been slammed in an independent report commissioned by pressure group CURE.
Elected members were last year given a report which appeared to show a cost per secondary pupil of £13,657 – 40 per cent higher than Orkney’s corresponding figure of £9,780.

But Edinburgh-based economic development agency, Anderson Solutions, has set out the difference between Orkney and Shetland’s cost per pupil as just £200 once savings made up until that point are taken into account.

A 13-page document prepared by the organisation has criticised the report which went before the SIC’s education and families committee last July. It gave prominence to a table showing that Shetland’s estimated cost per pupil was more than £3,800 higher than in Orkney.

The report from Andersons was submitted to the council as part of the consultation process on the future of the schools estate in the isles. CURE has now opted to release the report, following the recent decision by the SIC not to publish any submissions to school closure consultation.

Anderson Solutions Preliminary Review of SIC report

The pressure group’s Karen Hannay said the council was being selective in what information it chose to support school closures, rather than reflect the real situation.

“For example, a figure widely quoted was the difference in costs of education between Orkney and Shetland. The review found that using the council’s own revision of figures, £200 per pupil is the difference, not the grossly over-estimated £3,800 per pupil.

 

“The consultant also made reference to a significant omission within the council report, which is the lack of analysis for return on investment comparisons between the three island groups. In this case, the most obvious measure of return on investment would be academic attainment – a comparison of exam results would certainly have favoured the junior high model.

“CURE believe the independent review shows that the executive summary of the SIC report … is neither a fair nor an accurate summary of its findings. It could be concluded that the information has been selectively chosen to support an established council position to close schools rather than provide a balanced view of the issues.

“We leave it to the Shetland public to read and make their own conclusions. However, it is incumbent on us to ensure this information is in the public domain as it formed an important part of the consultation process.”

However, director of children’s services, Helen Budge, said several subsequent reports had given elected members more up-to-date findings.

She highlighted a report which went before the education and families committee on 20th January, showing progress had been made in reducing Shetland’s comparative costs for secondary education.

That report shows the average cost per pupil had reduced from £13,657 to £11,849 – a fall of over 13 per cent in a period when Scottish average costs had risen over 1.8 per cent. The costs per pupil in Orkney and Western Isles had also increased over the same period, to £10,505 and £10,173 respectively.

“There is not such a differential as there was,” said Mrs Budge.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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25 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    The new reports have “given elected members more up to date findings”?

    Why should we imagine these “more up-to-date” education dept. figures are more valid than the the consultant’s report?

    Why should we imagine they are more valid than the original SIC report, they come from the same, tainted, source, do they not?

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      Do you think Anderson Solutions would update their report now so we know where we are? If we are now spending less than others then we have squeezed schools too much.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        It would be very helpful if that could happen, Johan.

  2. John Tulloch

    Perhaps Jonathan Wills will remind us of the shortfall in education funding received from the Scottish Government he told us of, previously. I seem to recall a figure of £20Mpa (£28Mpa received versus £48Mpa needed, was it not?) and whether that is, also, different, in light of these “more up-to-date findings”.

    There’s a General Election campaign in progress and we need to know:

    Is that figure valid and does it relate to the old spending figures per pupil, or the new?

    Because I intend to “cast it up” to the SNP, repeatedly, during the election campaign.

    Reply
  3. Cheryl Jamieson

    It seems Hayfield House is still not acknowledging that their initial figures were wrong and misleading. They’re saying the difference between Shetland and Orkney is lower now because of costs changing, when this report shows that actually it was never so wildly different. How many times are they going to get away with lying to the Shetland public and elected representatives?

    Reply
  4. Alan Skinner

    It has been very obvious, for some time now, that SIC has been, at best, disingenuous about many aspects of the school closure “consultation”. For whatever reasons, a small group of powerful, and influential, councillors have been committed to school closures, with zero interest in educational benefit. They appear to have forced the Education Department down a certain route, which has turned into a cul de sac. This has been a very expensive, wasteful and demoralising exercise, which, sadly, is not unusual for SIC initiatives. We have never had answers to the many questions surrounding the “vote influencing” or “vote rigging” concerning the decision to close Skerries, and there still many questions to be asked about how soon this group will try to force through closures in the future.
    I remain very nervous about the future of our schools whilst this group of councillors remains committed to their goal.

    Alan Skinner
    New House
    Cullivoe
    Yell

    Reply
    • Ali Inkster

      Speaking of vote rigging there is yet again a lot of anonymous votes supporting the council line, it happens every time there is a Shetland Times poll. Could it be the SIC computers are not signed in to facebook and therefore don’t register who is casting the vote? Or could it be that the choice expressed is so out of kilter with public opinion that they are unwilling to admit who they are?

      Reply
      • Christopher Ritch

        Ali, If you do not count the anonymous votes, the poll is currently 5% “yes” 95% “no”

  5. Christopher Ritch

    I see “yes” has gained over 100 votes in the last half hour or so. Somebody been busy clearing cookies?

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      The poll is nonsense. It’s far too easy for anybody with time and willing to completely invalidate it.

      Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Bairns! Is dis quhat wir comin til?

      Reply
  6. Christopher Ritch

    If the non-anonymous votes only are counted:

    Currently

    5% Yes

    95% No

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      Thats an amazing result. But even with any cheating, the poll is still a no

      Reply
  7. Marina Thomason

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the closure of JHS’s or change in provision in the future meant that the cost of education actually increased due to extra transport/hostel costs. What we are hearing now is how much more expensive our education is than the national average now that our island counterparts are shown to have similar costs. We will never get anywhere near national costs because of where we live so this argument is unhelpful. It was reported on Radio Shetland that Councillors were presented with a report showing whether the SIC got value for money or not. The JHS’s have significantly better attainment results than the national average yet the two high schools only do 1% better? There is no evidence that closing JHS’s will save any money but there is evidence that by closing them you will drive down the quality of education in Shetland.

    Reply
  8. Susan Williamson

    How can we trust the Council when they are trying to sway public opinion by providing misleading info and telling blatent lies. I have yet to hear anyone from Hayfield House publicly retract their statement about how much more expensive Secondary education costs here as compared to Orkney. Then, to stop the consultation before they publish the results, because they knew it would fail to achieve school closures, flies in the face of democracy. That is the equivalent of the Tories calling off the election because they thought they couldn’t win, thereby becoming a dictatorship!
    When are officials going to be held accountable for bending the truth and wasting public money on pointless consultations?

    Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      Here here.

      We now have an apparent underspend. That, after all the heartache that has been caused. They should be ashamed and they need to learn to play it straight in future.

      Anderson solutions dont need to update their findings, we need an SIC we can trust.

      Reply
  9. Margaret Gear

    The ‘Yes’ vote has gained over 60 votes in the past hour or so while ‘no’ gained only 2. It would seem that someone so passionately wants to close other people’s schools that they would rig the vote….

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      The Shetland Times should comment on this matter. If the polls are susceptible to misuse, the proprietors should tell us about that.

      Reply
  10. john irvine

    Could the vote rigging be in house?

    And speaking of being selective.

    The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

    Reply
  11. John Anderson

    The ‘vote rigging’ may merely be the silent majority taking a chance to have a say, the choice to remain anonymous a reflection of the intimidating atmosphere around the anti-closure campaign. I know a lot, a lot of people who quietly believe small schools are not best for bairns education or socialisation, but don’t feel able to speak up as they face an atmosphere of personalized bullying. The anti closure campaign has been fanatical and the best interests of the young people is not the main driver.

    Reply
    • James Leask

      I agree John, most folk I speak to unless they are from the affected area think that closure of the schools are in the long run for the best but feel scared to voice their options to certain folk or in general as some folk are so angry and its not worth the hassle from them. This is especially ture for folk from the effected area, they are scared to say anything in case they are ostracized.

      Also I would have thought a poll like this would always get those that are against the closures voting in a far higher percetage than those that are for, so they are not good for what a real reflection is, so i am suprised the opposite view is doing so well. If it was a actual poll of a random sample of Shetland I am sure that those for the closures would be far higher than just a poll online.

      Reply
      • Christopher Ritch

        It is not surprising at all – hundreds of “yes” votes are being generated by a few computers!

        Although the poll stands at 50:50 this morning, the non-anonymous votes have hardly changed over the weekend, currently:

        Yes 4.5%

        No 95.5%

  12. Margaret Gear

    I’ve been monitoring this poll, and if the surge in the ‘Yes’ vote represents a silent majority then it is very odd that the ‘Yes’ vote surges ahead by up to a hundred votes in bursts of less than an hour followed by little or no activity for a few hours. I take part in a number of online polls and I can’t say that I’ve observed that pattern of voting for just one side before…..

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      Waiting for a comment from the editor …

      Reply
  13. Johan Adamson

    I think both sides have an equal chance of cheating, but its whether you would or not. The poll is now 50:50.

    Even if there are people for closures, there is a significant amount of people who believe in the JH model for it not to be demolished. We need more information about how best to educate our children. But if it is found to be better in urban areas then we might as well all go and live in the central belt now and give up on rural living all together. There must be an optimum size for a school but it must also be true that some will thrive best in a small school and some in a large one. But does anyone benefit when it gets to be too large?

    Reply

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