News / Community councils refuse to cooperate

COMMUNITY councils across rural Shetland are refusing to cooperate with the local authority’s school services’ desperate attempt to save £3 million.

A consultation paper distributed to all 18 community councils last month has created fury and rebellion in rural Shetland for setting communities against each other.

Unst community council chairman Lowrie Robertson warned on Wednesday that Shetland Islands Council was about to dismantle the isles’ unique junior high school system.

The consultation paper also proposes to close more primary schools.

Mr Robertson, a former teacher, said the document was “half-baked” and should never have seen the light of day during an election campaign.

The isles’ school services were instructed by the council in February to identify a further £3 million from its burgeoning budget as part of radical cost cutting proposals.

Officials launched straight into refreshing its Blueprint of Education review with a remit to report back by August. The department’s first act was to deliver a questionnaire on school closures April’s meeting of the Association of Shetland Community Councils.


Community councillors have rebelled, telling children’s services director Helen Budge that they were not be filling in the document and will take it back to consult with their communities first.

Unst community council has decided not to respond to the consultation until the newly elected council has given some “strategic direction to the education department”.

They have been joined by Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale, Walls and Sandness and Sandsting and Aithsting community councils, with Yell, Fetlar and Northmavine expected to follow suit.

“We don’t want anything to do with this ‘tick the box’ consultation. It is very one sided. Consultation has to be meaningful and it has to be about more than mone,” Mr Robertson said..

“This is a total attack on the junior high schools which have served the islands well over the last 45 years.”

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Shetland’s junior high schools in Baltasound, Mid Yell, Symbister, Skerries, Aith and Sandwick have also been brought into the review for closing schools.

Ms Budge said she was told by councillors to review the whole of the education service and to make proposals for further savings by August this year.

She said: “We have devised the options from speaking to central staff, head teachers, youth voice and we had a seminar for councillors.

“We prepared a list and asked people to participate and respond, and where they could add their own ideas at the end.

“If they don’t want to, that’s okay. We have given them the opportunity, and we will feed back in the report, in August, detail of who has responded and who hasn’t.”

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