News / School closures back on the table

Betty Fullerton

EARLY discussions about how to save £3 million by closing schools in Shetland have already begun, it emerged on Wednesday.

A review of the controversial Blueprint for Education seeking to redesign the school’s estate was discussed with the Association of Shetland Community Councils on 6 April.

A list of options ranging from closing all junior high schools in Shetland to increasing the use of parent volunteers have been outlined in a questionnaire due to go out to community councils, parent councils and head teachers.

It follows the council’s marathon meeting on budget cuts on 9 February, in which members agreed to “refresh” the Blueprint to figure out how to meet the education service’s savings target of £7 million.

So far savings achieved and agreed, including the closure of Scalloway junior high school and Uyeasound primary school, amount to £4 million.

The council is trying to cut overall spending by £33 million over the next two years and has already identified £15 million savings for next year.


The education questionnaire was sent out to all councillors by the education department at 4pm on Wednesday with a covering note from outgoing children and families committee chairwoman Betty Fullerton.

In what she calls “likely…the last note I will issue on this subject”, Mrs Fullerton writes: “The next Council may, of course, have different ideas on the support of our education system but this exercise will ensure that they have a head start around what could be considered along with some opinions of these bodies.

“I stress that this is an informal exercise where staff are trying to cover all possibilities, some of which will be totally unpalatable to many.”

Recipients are asked to tick four options from each of three sections marked high, medium and low level of savings.

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High savings suggestions include:
• centralising primary schools in all parts of the Shetland mainland;
• closing all junior high schools or reducing them to three years;
• closing secondary departments in Sandwick, Aith, Baltasound and Brae;
• ending instrumental tuition; and
• reducing secondary staffing levels.

Medium savings include:
• closing small primary schools;
• closing Skerries secondary department;
• reducing central staff, swimming provision, subject choice for senior secondary pupils, and primary teacher input into pre-school;
• setting minimum class sizes for subjects; and reviewing primary school management structures.

Low level savings include:
• review vocational pathways;
• increase use of parent volunteers;
• stop expressive arts specialist visits;
• end Global Classroom co-ordination role;
• better use of computer technology;
• charge ‘placing request’ pupils for school transport

The proposals also include advice about the potential impact such cuts could have.

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