THE COMMUNITY in Scalloway has reacted with disappointment to a decision by the Scottish Government allowing Shetland Islands Council to close the local school’s secondary department in June this year.
There had been hopes in the village that the secondary department could have been saved after the Scottish Government had called in the local authority’s closure decision from 8 December.
Vice chairperson of the school’s parent council, Karen Eunson, said on Friday morning that the timing of the decision was “particularly bad” as it coincided with the end of the consultation period into the closure of four primary schools, this weekend.
She said she was “hugely disappointed” with the decision as there had been an “expectation of a positive outcome”.
“Everyone in the community supported the campaign against the closure of the secondary department. We had support from our three councillors, our MSP and MP, as well as cross-party support from list MSPs. What more could we have done?
“Sadly, we were not listened to locally, and we were not listened to nationally,” she said.
Ms Eunson added that the decision was yet another blow against rural Shetland, and in particular for Scalloway and the central mainland, which will also lose its police station and is likely to see a decimation of GP services following a controversial decision by NHS Shetland to allow for a commercial pharmacy to be opened in Scalloway.
“This is also a worrying prospect for the communities who are fighting to keep their own small primary schools open. I think the general feeling was that you couldn’t have fought a better campaign than we did,” said.
In its letter to the SIC, the Scottish Government said: “The Scottish Ministers have considered in some detail the information provided by those who made representations requesting that the decision to close the school be called in and the information provided by Shetland Islands Council.
“After careful consideration the Scottish Ministers concluded that Shetland Islands Council has fulfilled its obligations under the 2010 Act.
“Ministers therefore give unconditional consent to Shetland Islands Council proposal to close Scalloway Junior High Secondary Department and you may therefore now implement the proposal with immediate effect.”
Shetland central councillor Betty Fullerton, who as vice-chair of the service committee voted against the closure, said she could understand that local people would be unhappy with the decision.
As the recently elected chair of the same committee, she said on Friday: “The support by the Ministers of the decision to close Scalloway School’s secondary department demonstrates governmental support for the council as the struggle to save money and sustain quality education continues.
“Local people have worked hard to demonstrate their appreciation of the school and how much it means to the community. I know that they will be hugely disappointed at the outcome.
“I know that staff, parents and pupils of Scalloway School will be very disappointed with the decision and I thank them for the hard work they have put into the school over the years.”
Around 120 pupils of the schools secondary department will transfer the Anderson High School, in Lerwick after the summer break.
Ms Eunson said the parent council would seek urgent talks with the council’s schools service to ensure the transition would proceed as smoothly as possible.
Mrs Fullerton confirmed that a transition group made up of teachers from both schools and education officers would now be set up.
Parents will be contacted with further details of the transition arrangements to be put in place and opportunities to meet collectively and individually will be made available as soon as possible, she said.