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Education / ‘Lively’ discussion as Skeld community meets to talk about school future

An online petition has also been created in a bid to halt the possible mothballing of the school

Community councillor John Priest (standing) with SIC councillors Liz Peterson and Mark Robinson. Photo: Dave Hammond

A COMMUNITY meeting about the possible mothballing of Skeld Primary School was held on Friday night – with plenty of views aired.

It was chaired by community councillor John Priest alongside SIC councillors Liz Peterson and Mark Robinson.

Peterson said there was “unanimous support” for the school staying open from everyone who attended.

She added that all of the current parents also advised that they wanted their children to continue at the school.

One of those in attendance at the Skeld Hall was local resident Dave Hammond, who said there was a “lively no-holds-barred discussion”.

Meanwhile an online petition has now been launched in a bid to halt the potential mothballing.

Hayley Goddard, who has a child at the school, said it was a “vital institution in the community” and threatens to disrupt the children’s education.

Writing in the petition she said mothballing would mean “longer commutes for young children and increased strain on surrounding schools already operating at near full capacity”.

An update report on the possible mothballing of Skeld and Cullivoe primary schools is due to go in front of councillors on Monday.

Photo: Dave Hammond

It says as of November 2023 the projected roll for 2024/25 at Skeld was six pupils, at a capacity of ten per cent.

Under principles set by councillors last year, when a school roll drops to 20 per cent capacity then a mothballing consultation process starts.

Meetings have already been held with Skeld parents and staff.

Friday’s meeting was organised to gather the community’s thoughts ahead of Monday’s meeting.

Among those in attendance were Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart and SIC depute convener Bryan Peterson.

Hammond said he believed the capacity figure is arrived at by an “arcane arrangement” involving a “floor space per potential pupil” basis.

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He also said mothballing the school would be a “major blow to a community” which is growing.

Hammond also noted how the school’s nursery is now offering 30 hours of funded early learning and childcare a week.

Speaking after the meeting, Shetland West councillor Peterson said mothballing is “supposed to be for ‘educational purposes’ and yet there is no evidence that there is any educational reason for mothballing”.

“Also, the de-mothballing policy is completely unworkable, so this is basically closure by another name,” she added.

Earlier in the week SIC children’s services director Helen Budge said all information provided by school communities would be taken into account during the process.

It came after the parent council at Cullivoe said they felt “let down”, with a particular grievance about the school roll figure included in the report to councillors.

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