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Easter overtime bill enrages parents

A hell of a waste of money - Shetland North councillor Andrea Manson

PARENTS in Hillswick and Eshaness were up in arms last week when they heard the council had paid out tens of thousands of pounds in overtime by opening all island schools on Easter Monday.

A public meeting last Thursday night at closure-threatened Urafirth primary school heard that support staff, including cooks, cleaners and office workers, were paid triple time for working on the public holiday.

Shetland North councillor Andrea Manson, who was at the meeting, estimated Urafirth school alone had to pay an extra £720 to pay staff for working that one day.

“There must be hundreds of staff across Shetland who were on triple time that day,” she said.

“We reckoned we could have kept Urafirth school open for another two years just on what was paid in overtime on Easter Monday.

“The school service must have known they were going to have to pay overtime, so why on earth wasn’t Easter Monday included in the school holidays?”

Maybe we'll look at this in the future - childrens services director Helen Budge

Shetland Islands Council children’s service director Helen Budge said the school holidays were set three years in advance and were designed to make the terms an equal length.

Easter fell late this year, so had the holidays covered Easter Monday the winter term would have been longer and students would have had less time to study for their exams in early May, she said.

However she accepted that this approach might have to be reassessed as the education department strives to make savings.

“This doesn’t happen very often because usually Easter isn’t as late as it was this year,” Budge said.

“Holidays were set three years ago and maybe this is something we will have to look at in the future.”

Manson intends to raise the matter at the SIC’s audit and standards committee on Tuesday.

“We had a meeting with a quality improvement officer and I said you can’t close schools in Northmavine when the school rolls are growing,” she recalled.

“By 2020 they will have to extend Ollaberry primary and they’ll have to dig into the playground because that’s the only space they’ve got.

“I said it was shortsighted and she said you will have to think of another saving that can be made. Well here we have one hell of a waste of money to start with.”