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News / Two years consulting on cutting schools

Urafirth primary school could be saved from closure by its nursery department, but that would threaten Ollaberry primary's future. Photo Richard Webb

TWO years of consultation on paring back secondary education and closing primary schools in Shetland is to begin next month as the council drives forward its cost cutting agenda.

On Thursday Shetland Islands Council announced its timetable for closing four primary schools and removing S3 and S4 from five junior high schools.

It has also emerged that the council could change its position on closing Urafirth primary school in Northmavine, after lobbying from the local community.

Last year the council agreed to consult on closing Urafirth and North Roe primaries, keeping Ollaberry primary open to take all the children from Northmavine.

This week SIC children’s services director Helen Budge confirmed the council would now discuss with local people which two of the area’s three primaries should close.

Ollaberry had been chosen as it was the largest of the three buildings, but Urafirth contains Northmavine’s nursery department and some argue it would make more sense to keep that facility open.

Over the next three months council officials will consult with school staff, parents and children in Northmavine about which of the two primaries should be subject to consultation starting on 16 April, with a decision to be taken on closure on 10 September.

Meanwhile consultation on removing S3 and S4 from the junior high in Sandwick will begin on 13 February, with a final decision to be made by the council on 9 June.

The same process will begin for the junior highs in Baltasound, Mid Yell and Whalsay will begin on 20 August, with a final decision being made on 17 December.

If the changes are agreed by councillors, then children at all these schools will move to their new place of education in August next year Aith junior high school will not see consultation begin until 19 August next year, with a decision to be taken on 16 December 2015.

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Consultation on closing Sandness primary school begins on 5 January next year, with a decision on 15 April, the same day that Burravoe primary’s consultation begins. That decision will be taken on 19 August.

If the decisions decide on closure, children will start at their new school in August 2016.

SIC education and families committee chairwoman Vaila Wishart said the next two years would prove to be “an exceptionally busy time” for education staff in the council.

“There’s a huge amount of work to be done over the next two years. Staff are working very hard to give everyone concerned every opportunity to be involved in the process,” she said.

The timetable can be viewed here.

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