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Fair funding for schools

Chairman of the education and families committee George Smith.South councillor George Smith. Photo: Shetland News

FRESH calls have been made to the Scottish Government to increase funding for Shetland’s schools.

Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee chairman George Smith met education secretary John Swinney on Wednesday in Edinburgh.

Shetland south councillor Smith, who was joined by vice-chairman Theo Smith, said it was a “positive meeting” but added that Swinney made no commitments about fairer funding.

He said the rural geography of Shetland means that funding for education in the isles needs to be robust.

“Clearly we do not get enough funding from the Scottish Government to maintain 28 schools for 23,000 people,” Smith said.

“Geography dictates to an extent that requirement. We need fair funding to reflect our circumstances and while Mr Swinney didn’t make any commitments at all re additional funding he did listen and he did take on board the need to ‘island proof’ any legislation he introduces about governance and funding going forward.”

He also reiterated that a nationwide approach to school funding would not successfully apply to Shetland as the government looks into changing the way it pays for education to be delivered across the country.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government introduced its consultation on fair funding for schools to seek views on “developing a new, more consistent approach to school funding”.

It works alongside the government’s Education Governance: Next Steps paper, which sets out a “vision for a school and teacher-led system” that would look to devolve more authority from councils to individual schools.

Smith repeated his view that a “one size fits all” approach would not translate to isles schools and told the education secretary of the importance of “being able to make decisions concerning education in Shetland here in Shetland”.

He added that Swinney “understood and accepted that we need a pragmatic approach to ensuring we can maintain and improve outcomes for all our children and young people”.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021