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SIC proposals to close schools

UP TO £12 million could be saved from Shetland Islands Council’s massive education budget should councillors vote in favour of a radical school closure programme, next week.

The local authority has just published a 20 page Blueprint for Education document with nine proposals that could see the council reshape the way education is being delivered in the isles.

The proposals should shave off anything between £3.1 and £12 million from the £42 million schools services budget.

The option recommended by education officers would save up to £8.4 million and includes the closure of secondary departments at Sandwick, Scalloway, Aith, Whalsay, Skerries and Baltasound, and the closure of eight primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, Cullivoe, North Roe, Urafirth, Olnafirth, Sandness and Skeld.

Head of schools, Helen Budge, will introduce her report to the council’s services committee on Thursday, after which councillors will have to bite the bullet and make one of the most difficult and painful decisions in their careers.

The SIC is forced to re-think its approach to education in the light of radically falling school rolls in many rural areas and growing pressure on budgets which makes it unlikely for the local authority to continue to run 34 primary, seven junior high and two high schools.

In her report Mrs Budge said that on the basis of agreed principles of education tough decisions have to be made “to secure a long term sustainable education system for Shetland”. 

The proposals are as follows:

Secondary education proposal 1:

No school or department closures but radical re-organisation leading to better use of staff and facilities with more viable class sizes. Potential savings: £1.6 million per annum.

Secondary education proposal 2:

Closure of Scalloway and Skerries secondary departments as well as significant re-organisation of school management. Potential savings: £2.9 million

Secondary education proposal 3: 

Closure of secondary departments at Sandwick, Scalloway, Aith, Whalsay, Skerries and Baltasound schools. Potential savings: £5 million.

Secondary education proposal 4: 

Closure of all seven junior high schools with pupils transferring to high schools in Brae and Lerwick. Potential savings: £5.2 million.

Secondary education proposal 5:

Closure of all seven junior high schools and the high school in Brae with all secondary education located at the Anderson High School, in Lerwick. Potential savings: £6.2 million.

Primary education proposal 1:

Retain the status quo but implementation of a number of cost cutting measures. Potential savings: £1.5 million

Primary education proposal 2:

Closure of five primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe, Olnafirth and Sandness. Potential Savings: between £2.7 and £2.9 million.

Primary education proposal 3:

Closure of eight primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, Cullivoe, North Roe, Urafirth, Olnafirth, Sandness and Skeld. Potential savings: between £3.3 and £3.4 million.

Primary education proposal 4:

Closure of 18 primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, Cullivoe, North Roe, Urafirth, Ollaberry, Olnafirth, Lunnasting, Mossbank, Sandness, Skeld, Happyhansel, Whiteness, Tingwall, Nesting, Hamnavoe, Cunningsburgh and Dunrossness, creating seven large primary schools across the isles. Potential savings: £5.8 million.

The proposals for primary education also involve the possibility of a new primary school being built in Lerwick.

Any proposed closure will not take effect before summer 2011 as a detailed consultation with local communities will have to be undertaken.

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