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Education / Questions raised over whether resources needed for new Brae school would affect other building maintenance

EDUCATION officials have played down concern that a new Brae school could negatively affect maintenance at other schools in Shetland.

Last week Shetland Islands Council (SIC) voted to press ahead with taking the new Brae school project to a full business case, at an estimated cost of £4.5 million.

Current estimates suggest a new build could cost £42.5 million, with the Scottish Government agreeing to fund half of this cost – but over 25 years.

There were some questions at last week’s full council meeting over whether maintenance of other schools could be impacted in the event the SIC gives the final go-ahead for a new Brae school.

With the government funding coming with requirements that need to be met, including ensuring the future condition of a new Brae facility and energy efficiency, Shetland Central councillor Moraig Lyall asked if there was a risk that other schools could be neglected as a result.

This would be similar in how the SIC has to maintain certain condition standards at the Anderson High School in Lerwick, which opened in 2017.

Children’s services director Helen Budge replied: “I can guarantee that the maintenance that we have within our buildings…because we’re reporting into the Scottish Government on suitability and condition for all of our buildings, we do maintain a standard for that.”

She added that she does not think any standards have slipped at other schools because of continuing to maintain the Anderson to the required standard, “and I don’t think that will happen in the future”.

Lerwick South member Neil Pearson also asked what other school buildings are in line for major refurbishment or replacement over the period when the SIC pays back the cost of building a Brae school.

The message back was that there are no plans for major refurbishment on this scale at any other setting.

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The current Brae school’s condition both internally and externally is said to be deteriorating, and this prompted officials to explore a funding opportunity with the government.

As part of the SIC’s previously approved learning estate strategy, there stands to be enhanced provision facilities for pupils requiring extra support provided in the future across all high schools, junior highs and the larger primary schools – Bell’s Brae, Sound and Scalloway.

Learning estate manager Shona Thompson said this would involve utilising space that is already there.

“It’s not refurbishment, per se, it’s not rebuild,” she said. “But what that will also do will stop the retrofitting that’s going on at the moment.”

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