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Education / West councillor ‘saddened’ by decision to mothball school

THE COUNCILLOR who fought against the mothballing of a Shetland primary school says the decision marked a “sad day” for the area.

On Monday members of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) education and families committee voted eight against two to mothball Skeld Primary School.

It currently has four pupils in primary and two in its nursery, and under principles approved last year the threshold for consideration of mothballing there is 12 pupils. The children at the school will now transfer to Aith Junior High after the summer.

Councillor Liz Peterson, Shetland West’s representative on the committee, tried to push through an amendment against the recommendation to mothball but failed to gain enough support.

Shetland West councillor Liz Peterson Photo: Shetland News

She continued to dispute the opinion of the council that the majority of parents in the area were not opposed to mothballing.

Councillors who backed mothballing noted the small school roll when it came to opportunities for group learning, as well as the social aspect.

Speaking after the meeting, Peterson said: “I think I can speak for the whole Westside when I say I am very saddened by the decision taken.

“For elected members to disregard the clear message from the community, and instead vote to mothball the school, means they have been denied the statutory right to full consultation, and their views and concerns have not been taken into consideration.”

She added: “There is no evidence, and there have been no concerns voiced, with regard to collaborative working in the school, as was discussed, and everyone will have their own view on the advantages, and disadvantages of smaller/larger schools.

“I don’t feel this should have been the main consideration, on which members based their vote, instead I feel that full consultation should have been allowed, as this would have given the community the opportunity to have their say, this would have been the more democratic process to follow.”

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The SIC’s children’s services director Helen Budge said at Monday’s meeting that there had been three months of assessment on the matter, including meetings with staff and parents, after which the recommendation to mothball followed.

The council had used a mothballing toolkit designed by education partnership Northern Alliance.

The councillor who moved to approve the recommendation to mothball, Shetland Central’s Moraig Lyall, said whilst it was a difficult decision she felt today’s increased emphasis on collaborative learning and group work could not be achieved in a school with only four primary pupils.

Should Skeld’s roll rise to 12 pupils in the future, a conversation will be held by central officers with parents, carers and children about re-opening the school.

There will be an annual review of the decision, along with other current mothballed schools – Papa Stour, Skerries and Fetlar.

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