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Bressay will fight school closure

THE COMMUNITY on the Shetland island of Bressay will resist any attempt to close its primary school despite most parents sending their children to Lerwick to be taught, according to a local community councillor.

A public meeting on Monday night heard that 60 per cent of primary age children on Bressay are being schooled in Lerwick, leaving just six pupils.

To make matters worse, two out of three sets of parents who still have children at the school said they would also be sending them to Lerwick next term, leaving just three pupils from one family at the school.

Shetland Islands Council children’s services director Helen Budge said such small numbers would not give pupils the best educational experience.

However before consulting on closing the school, the council is planning to carry out research into why parents on Bressay are sending their children to Lerwick, and why no Lerwick parents are sending their children to Bressay.

A workshop is also being planned with Bressay community council to look into how people could be encouraged to move to the island and send their children to the school.

The outcome of this work will be reported to the SIC on 11 September.

Community councillor Roy Whitehead said news of proposals to close the school came up for the first time a week ago at a meeting he chaired following the resignation of chairman Theo Smith.

Whitehead said the reason parents were sending their children to Lerwick was the lack of pre and after school childcare on Bressay.

“Ten years ago we had 47 children at the school, but now most parents have to work and without childcare provision they have to go to Lerwick,” he said.

“The reason why people don’t move here is because of the cost of the ferry, which comes to thousands of pounds a year. There have been houses for sale here for years because people can’t afford to live here.

“But the community will strongly resist the school closing. There wasn’t anybody at the meeting who is for the school closing.”