PARENTS in Skerries said they were devastated after Scottish education minister Mike Russell announced on Wednesday that the council’s decision to close its small secondary school will not be called in.
This means that Scotland’s smallest secondary school with just three pupils will close on 4 July.
After the summer holidays, pupils from the small island will continue their education at the Anderson High School, in Lerwick, and spend the week in hostel accommodation.
Wednesday’s announcement brings to an end a decades long battle over the future of the school.
Shetland Islands Council has unsuccessfully been trying since the mid nineties to close the small island school.
However, in December last year councillors decided by the narrowest of margins – the casting vote of council convener Malcolm Bell – to close the department, saving the council an estimated £73,000 per annum.
In its decision letter the minister said the council had fulfilled its obligation under the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.
He added that Scottish ministers “ would like Shetland islands Council to try to find ways of altering either the school day or the ferry timetable (or both) to allow pupils from Skerries to travel to school on a Monday morning rather than a Sunday night”.
The community has had high hopes that the minister would at least call in the council decision and even reverse it.
Parent Ryan Arthur said the community was shocked and furious. They had learned of the minister’s decision earlier in the day.
Arthur said: “The community is furious to say the least. It looks to us as though the government is acting against its own legislation.
“If this school closure decision can’t be called in, I wonder which one can. We are ticking all the right boxes such as health impact and social inclusion. They are making a mockery of the process.”
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Arthur added that the community did not accept defeat yet and are considering their options such as petitioning for judicial review and complaining to the Scottish public services ombudsman.
A council spokesman said on Wednesday that a working group would now be formed to plan the effective transition of secondary pupils.
It will ensure pupils are supported in getting used to the new environment at Anderson High School and the hostel, the SIC said.
Chair of the council’s education committee, councillor Vaila Wishart added: “This has been a long and difficult process, and parents and pupils at Skerries School secondary department will undoubtedly be disappointed with the ministers’ decision.
“However, we can reassure them that our main aim now is to make the transfer as seamless as possible, and to support pupils throughout the coming months.
“I will be asking officials to look into the possibility of changing the ferry times so the pupils can come out on Monday mornings instead of Sunday nights as commented on by the Scottish ministers.”
Primary education on the small island will continue and is not affected by this decision.
The minister’s decision letter is available here
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