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Intensive last minute school consultation

Aith Junior High SchoolAith Junior High School, which includes primary and early years departments.

SHETLAND Islands Council is embarking on an intensive week of public consultation into the future of secondary education in the isles ahead of the October school holidays.

The move is part of the council’s bid to save more than £3.2 million from its overstretched education budget.

Councillors and education officials are holding a series of meetings with parent and community councils starting next Monday, while head teachers will speak with their staff and selected groups of pupils.

The week will also include two public meetings at Brae High and Anderson High School, both of which will be at 7pm on Tuesday 8 October.

There will also be a chance to respond in writing by 15 October, to give staff time to prepare a report that will go to the SIC’s education and families committee on 13 November.

The council has said the evening sessions will last two hours where the five separate options for secondary education are presented, followed by a general discussion where views will be collected and fed into the consultation process.

Education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart

The options include:

  • keeping two high schools in Brae and Lerwick, with the junior highs at Mid Yell and Baltasound continuing to teach S1-4 pupils; 
  • keeping Brae and Lerwick, and having Mid Yell, Baltasound and Symbister teaching S1-3;
  • introducing teaching via videoconference, or telepresence, with one teacher leading the class and classroom assistants being present at the remote locations; 
  • managing schools as one or two hubs around Brae and/or Lerwick, with campuses at the existing junior high schools across Shetland with closer links to Shetland College; 
  • maintaining the existing arrangements and finding savings by cutting funding across all of Shetland’s schools.

Education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart acknowledged it was “a tight timescale”, saying it was an attempt to avoid the October break.

“This is a critical opportunity for anyone with views on the future of Shetland’s secondary education system to come forward,” she said.

“We will consider all the options which have been suggested as this lengthy process has developed – and hopefully councillors will have all the information they need to make a final decision in November.”

The final report to councillors will look at the educational, socio-economic, transport and staffing implications of all the options along with their associated timescales.