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School budgets being hit by Skerries decision

EVERY school in Shetland is being asked to cut its spending on learning equipment by £21 per pupil to pay for keeping Skerries secondary department open.

Letters went out to schools throughout the isles at the end of the April after the move was discussed with head teachers at a meeting in March.

Shetland Islands Council had hoped to save £70,000 by closing the smallest secondary department in Scotland, but councillors voted to keep it open to protect the tiny island’s economy.

Members were told last December that if they voted to keep the school open, every school would have to find savings of £21 per pupil. Hardest hit will be 750 pupil Anderson High School, which will have to cut £15,750 from its budget.

One teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the move as “nasty”, saying that children were being penalised because people had supported other communities.

SIC head of schools Helen Budge said councillors were well aware of the financial consequences of the decision to keep Skerries open.

Letters have gone out now as this is the time schools buy learning materials for the next school year, she said, adding that schools would be able to move money from other parts of their budget to meet the savings target if they chose.

Next Tuesday councillors will be deciding whether to close four primary schools at Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe and Sandness.

The following week they will debate a notice of motion to delay the closure of Scalloway school until the new Anderson High School is built.

If those closures do not go through the council will have to find almost £1 million from elsewhere in the schools budget, unless there is a change of policy.

Mrs Budge said: “I have always said that my understanding was that money would have to come from the schools budget because there’s never been any indication that money would be found from anywhere else.

“Some schools are obviously finding it difficult to find that level of savings. We are in a difficult financial position, but schools can take the money from other budgets if they wish.

“For many years head teachers have suggested areas where money could be saved, such as with the knitting instructors.

“We have really had to cut back on the schools budget for the past five years and it’s getting more difficult.”

One secondary head teacher said on Thursday that she wanted to minimise the impact of savings on children. “At this stage I am just thinking through how I am going to manage that,” she said.

She added that she was concerned about what councillors would do next. If Scalloway is kept open, it will cost £212 per pupil or the loss of 15 teaching jobs to meet the £700,000 savings it would make.

Scalloway parents council has backed the councillors who have called for their secondary department to be kept open until a new secondary school is built in Lerwick.

If the notice of motion fails then the first pupils in the second year will transfer to Lerwick on 1 June.

The savings at Uyeasound primary will be £96,692 (£29.21 per pupil); Burravoe will be £58,397 (£17.64); North Roe will be £46,702 (£14.11); and Sandness £54,904 (£16.59).

 

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