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Letters / Discrimination against north isles

We are stunned, shocked, angry and deeply saddened by 12 councilors’ votes to close Whalsay Secondary school.

How could fellow Shetlanders, most of whom are parents themselves, send 11-year old children to stay away from their home, family and friends for a whole school week, term after term? 

The idea that a traumatised, exhausted, homesick child will have a better education is outrageous; it may put them off education for life, the emotional damage may be irreversible for many. Children of this age need their family and home for security to mature naturally into confident teenagers ready to make the move at 16 years old. 

Only we as their parents have the right to make the choice of who nurtures and cares for our children, Shetland is a democracy is it not?

We have an excellent “listed building” secondary school, recently renovated to a very high standard. We have a large school role compared to many other rural schools, a first rate headmaster and teachers, and exam results amongst the highest in Scotland.

Morale of our teachers is understandably low at the moment as they struggle to adapt to the changes of the Curriculum for Excellence with the threat of redeployment or even redundancy hanging over their heads. 

The ‘hub’ policy of teachers travelling to various schools is surely infinitely more sensible than 11-year olds travelling away from homes and families for extended periods. Why has education been singled out when there is serious wastage in other departments?

We have the roughest, longest ferry journey of 30 minutes to Laxo or 45 minutes to Vidlin.  As a stressed commuter for ten years as a hairdresser and four as a student at Shetland College, I know how exhausting and stressful the commute from Whalsay is,  and no 11-year old child should be subjected to that. 

A child travelling from Skaw on Whalsay to the Symbister ferry terminal would take ten minutes or up to 20 in snow, with a ten minute wait at the ferry terminal before departure. With the bus journey taking approx. 40 minutes to AHS that’s an illegal commute time of about four hours in the worst case scenario of the ferry running to Vidlin, and running a bit late in stormy and snowy conditions. Trust me this happens regularly in winter.

The proud Whalsay social life of team sports we have participated in throughout Shetland would be finished; football, netball, hockey and badminton. What would become of our whole way of life and culture, which is so unique and precious? Could our leisure centre even survive the loss of our children?

A united Whalsay and the rest of the north isles will never send their 11-year-old children to board in Lerwick, or anywhere else for that matter, to support the devious plan of closing our school to help finance the new AHS.

We have had a choice of secondary education on this isle for over 100 years; family and education comes before finance in all our minds.

This act of discrimination against the north isles and rural communities is completely unacceptable, causing much sadness and stress to us all. Our children, home and secondary school are everything to us.

Angela and John Lowrie Irvine