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Sending Lerwick pupils to Scalloway unlikely

SCALLOWAY’S mothballed secondary school is unlikely to be used to accommodate Lerwick primary pupils.

The idea was suggested at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Commission on Rural Education held at Lerwick’s Sound primary school.

Grandparent Adalene Fullerton, of Burra, told the meeting that rather than always centralising education, children could be moved in the other direction to smaller communities.

“You maybe need to think outside the box – instead of everything heading towards the centre you should maybe think about things going from the centre,” she said after the meeting.

It would be far easier for Lerwick children to go to Scalloway or even Bressay than for Sandness children to reach Walls, she pointed out.

Bell’s Brae primary school was in need of some “TLC”, she said, and one alternative to keeping it open would be to send its 300 pupils to Scalloway, which would make no difference to ASN pupils who come from all over the isles.

“I wasn’t saying you should put the Bell’s Brae pupils to Scalloway, but I was trying to get across you should think about things more laterally rather than we just have to put bairns from smaller to bigger schools. It’s more about decentralisation.”

However senior education officer Matthew Moss said there would have to be proof that the Lerwick schools were overflowing before such a move could be considered.
Sound primary has 312 pupils and 307 children attend Bell’s Brae, each school having 14 separate classes, two for each year.

“In comparison to our other schools they operate far nearer their capacity, but at the moment we are able to accommodate everybody,” he said.

In the past Lerwick councillors have suggested there will be a need for a third primary school in the town.

Mr Moss said that the council is currently “refreshing” its Blueprint for Education and any ideas for the future of schooling in Shetland were welcome.

A feasibility study into the future use of Scalloway secondary department is being put together with suggestions coming in from many quarters, including NHS Shetland, NAFC Marine Centre, Scalloway parent council, SIC council departments including children’s services and one childcare provider.

“There is a lot of interest in using the school and ideas are coming in from various sources,” Mr Moss said. “All the suggestions which have been made are worthy of consideration, but it is dependent on many factors if they are taken forward.”

The three commissioners visiting Shetland as part of the investigation into the future of Scotland’s rural education visited Sandwick junior high school on Wednesday.
On Tuesday they were in Burravoe meeting parents from Yell and Unst.

More than 70 people turned up to the Sound school meeting, which heard people from the town and country areas dispute who was worse off with the current cutbacks in education.

Shetland Islands Council has been tasked with shaving £3 million from its annual education budget, and has been looking at closing schools and cutting courses.
Lerwick councillor Caroline Miller, who is vice chair of the SIC’s education and families committee, said it was unlikely the council would change its policy.