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Education / Mothballing consultation ongoing for two primary schools

A public meeting has been organised by westside councillors at the Skeld Hall on Friday

Skeld Primary School. Photo © Russel Wills (cc-by-sa/2.0)

THE POSSIBLE mothballing of two primary schools in Shetland is being considered in consultation with parents and staff.

These are the Skeld and Cullivoe primaries.

Shetland Islands Council hopes to assess the situation and gather the relevant information to allow a decision to be taken before the spring holidays.

Under principles agreed by councillors last year, the trigger for considering mothballing – temporarily closing a school due to a lack of pupils – is now when a pupil roll falls below 20 per cent of the school’s capacity.

As of November last year the projected roll in Skeld for 2024/25 is six pupils at a capacity of ten per cent, excluding reserved spaces.

The council said for Cullivoe primary in Yell, this is seven pupils and 16 per cent as of November last year, also excluding reserved spaces.

Shetland Islands Council’s children’s services team are using a ‘mothballing toolkit’ created by education partnership Northern Alliance.

Meetings have already been held between Shetland Islands Council, staff and parents, although the Skeld situation is more advanced.

A public meeting is being held by Shetland West councillors Liz Peterson and Mark Robinson at the Skeld Hall at 7pm on Friday (1 March) to gather local views.

One to one meetings with all current and future parents and carers at Skeld Primary School are taking place, as well as a group session, according to an update report due to be presented to councillors next week.

Cullivoe Primary School in Yell. Photo © Google 2024

This is to consider the current situation, the education for the parents’ children, possible solutions and the options for the future.

Similar meetings have already been held with staff at Skeld.

These meetings have yet to be arranged for Cullivoe.

Councillors on the SIC’s education and families committee will also be asked on Monday to agree that currently mothballed schools in Papa Stour, Fetlar and Skerries should remain as they are, with that status reviewed every year.

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A mothballed school is unoccupied but it still needs to be maintained in case it reopens.

The cost of maintenance for the financial year 2023/24 at the Fetlar school and nursery is nearly £10,000, with Skerries costing around £8,000 and Papa Stour £1,500.

The report to councillors said the minimum annual staff costs to reopen a mothballed small school are estimated to be £120,000, increasing to £140,000 if there is early years provision.

There are currently no children of school age in Papa Stour or Fetlar. In Skerries, there are fewer than five children for whom alternative arrangements have been made.

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