Junior high parent councils up for award

Shetland’s Network of Junior High School Parent Councils has been shortlisted for a top campaign award in The Herald Society Awards 2015.

The parent councils have been campaigning since 2012 against school closures in the isles and have marked 2014 as a successful one, preventing three Shetland Islands Council attempts to close junior highs.

The parent councils said the campaign highlighted the importance of all of them working together from all five junior high schools in Sandwick, Whalsay, Aith, Mid Yell and Baltasound, to provide a combined response to the council’s proposals.

However, they argue that the campaign was not just about education. It had shown rural cuts could be challenged and co-operation between communities was more productive than competition.

Parent councils also helped in the establishment of non-official campaign wing Cure – the campaign for rural education, which organised a large march for education in June last year.

The parent councils said they were pleased that the shortlisting recognised the enormity of the task they faced in challenging the original Blueprint for Education. They felt that rewarded the many hours that people put into the campaign.

They will be up against tough competition, with two other shortlisted campaigns also in the running.
One is Euan MacDonald, who has been campaigning to ensure MND research was brought to the forefront of people’s minds and has produced a website to assist those with accessibility needs.

The other shortlisted is ENABLE Scotland – #StopTheBus campaign, which campaigned for making bus passes more easily available to people in Scotland with learning disabilities.

The awards dinner takes place on Wednesday 4th November and at that point the Network of Junior High School Parent Councils will find out if they have been successful.

Baltasound parent council chairwoman Victoria Mouat said it was “really good” to be nominated.

“Everybody has come together and worked together to campaign together and I think that’s the main thing,” she said.

She gave special praise to parent council member Yvette Carnell for all her hard work and attending meetings.

Schools, she said were of great importance to a local community.

“We have just had two new families move to Unst and they between them maybe have seven children that are starting at the school.

“I honestly don’t think they would have come if the school wasn’t here and I think we need the school in the community because people wouldn’t move here.

“I think if the school went the community would die, the young people would leave.”

Mid Yell parent council chairwoman Karen Hannay added: “We are delighted and honoured to be nominated for this award from The Herald Society Awards.

“The rural and island communities came together in an unprecedented way to fight their own education board’s proposals, as demonstrated in the largest rally ever seen in the islands.

“The co-operation of the parent councils and the almost overwhelming support of
the public has allowed us to have a respite from the constant threat of closure.

“We just hope we won’t have to be nominated again in five years’ time.”


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