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Shetland schools and education system


Where do you want the new AHS?  

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  1. 1. Where do you want the new AHS?

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Hello, I am a secondary teacher in England who is currently a 'victim' of school reorganisation.

I am currently employed on The Isle of Wight- which is like (but thankfully so unlike as well) Shetland in terms of having a large number of primaries and 'middle schools' but only 5 'high' schools. I appreciate that the Isle of Wight is considerably smaller but conversely far denser in population.

We are currently undergoing what many consider to be a catastropic reorganisation of the school system where the wonderful (and highly effective) primaries and middle schools are being almalgamated into larger schools with higher rolls. However the secondary system on the island is highly ineffectual (to the extent that is embarassing)

The average roll of the secondaries is 1500 pupils and the schools are way way beyond capacity (at one point I had 35 pupils in my room and only 30 chairs) by national standards a schol of this size is the average but in terms of achievement the Island is lagging behind. Larger schools in rural areas do not work (in my honest opinion) as they are culturally alien (an inescapable fact)

Larger schools are undoubtably more cash efficient (in a week I see approx 150 individual students in my class- cumulative accross a week I teach 525 students!) bt in terms of educational expereince I simply do not have the time.

The catch 22 is that Primary teachers teach a fuller curriculum (thus are more cash efficient) Secondary Tecahers must be 'experts' in a specific subjetc or department- therefore to teach the full curriculum you must employ more 'experts'

there is the choice- teachers teach more students and move towards 'production line education' or you personalise education (at more cost) and have a recognisable teacher who knows their student's , potentially parents and is able to develop effective working relationships.

The problem (which of course Shetland suffers most from) is that there are national guidelines in terms of pay so a teacher teaching 10, 20 or 50 pupils a week is paid the same as a teacher who can see 500 pupils in one week (thinking cumulative rather than individual) even more shocking a head of a school of 50 pupils gets the same salary as a teacher of 900 or even 1500 pupils under the right conditions. I would happily take a pay cut for a reduced workload and a more student focused job (and as a young teacher (second year) I am not expensive in any way) but that is often not how the world works.

My long and protracted point is- Education might be top heavy in terms of senior management pay scales (but then they are experts in their profession) but education is something Shetland MUST be rightly proud of and despite the difficult circumstances you have made me leave my job and move up your way because I want my future family to get the best education-- that is where the real value lies.

Sorry if I have bored you :oops:

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Soooooo glad that you at least can see the value of what we have here in Shetland. We should be proud of the education our children get. Yes, it is expensive but our secondary children get excellent grades in exams.


Our primary school has been targeted for closure in the past and will be again. The general public have been drip-fed this idea that small rural schools (less than 20 pupils) are educationally inferior and significant savings can be made by closing them. I disagree.



At the moment as you'll be aware our local authority is going though another review of the education system here in Shetland. This is the third or fourth time (I've lost count) in about half a dozen years or so. The stupid thing is that they're pushing it through before the curriculum for excellence has been settled. Talk about cart before horse.


Do you have any opinions on the curriculum for excellence?

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Since time began (and probably before) education has always been looking to change.

I am very keen on the idea that education is Scotland is moving towards the fabled 'curriculum for excellence'

successful learners

confident individuals

responsible citizens

effective contributors


but like many things what looks good on paper is often murky in reality.

I am a firm supporter of independent, confident learners who are able to contribute not just in an exam hall or classroom but also in the 'real' world.

the debate will be whether rural schools of 20 are the real world or schools of 1000 are more in touch with reality.

In order to fufil the criteria of a 'curriculum for excellence' you need to maintain the values that are strong to you.

I am particuarly encouraged by the desire to develop individuals- surely a more personalised education can only benefit the children of Shetland (not to mention the teachers, parents, carers and employers)

but like all things it comes down to money (and some schools charge £8,000 a term for the best 'personalised' education)

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I hope so much the schools are closed, it didnt hurt da folk fae da sooth end and it didnt hurt da folk fae Guilberwick, only person its hurting is my wallet.

Plus no idea why u thought i was a troll, im proud to say close them all! (if they dont like it good, if they want to snipe let them)it if its not fair so be it, im sticking with my guns, close it all, money has to be saved.

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I hope so much the schools are closed, it didnt hurt da folk fae da sooth end and it didnt hurt da folk fae Guilberwick, only person its hurting is my wallet.

Plus no idea why u thought i was a troll, im proud to say close them all! (if they dont like it good, if they want to snipe let them)it if its not fair so be it, im sticking with my guns, close it all, money has to be saved.


I think it's crazy that they're planning to close schools when people coming out of them don't even have a basic grasp of their native language. I say they should employ more English teachers. :wink:


On a more serious note, people living in cities quite often have a journey of more than an hour to get to school/work. Although, feasibly, all mainland pupils could travel to Lerwick, the effect on rural communities would be devastating, not to mention the toll such measures would take on the waiting list for housing in Lerwick. Also, in Shetland's case, transport costs need to be calculated before considering the closure of any schools.


Where possible, as costs do need to be cut, schools in smaller communities within reasonable reach of one another should perhaps be amalgamated. However, this will not result in huge savings for the education budget; other areas have to be looked at across the board in order to make any worthwhile savings.

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We were told that the savings for closing Cullivoe school is £50,000. We assume this is the teachers salary and the playground/canteen assistant and school cleaners wages. This is before any other costs are taken into account eg. the pupils do not go away they are moved to another school therefore they need more resources, class-room assistants will move with the pupils as they have been "assigned" to an individual pupil for as long as they need them, transport costs - we were told that the primary children would travel on a separate bus from the secondary children although I don't believe this will happen in reality. Rumour has it that the school bus contract for running the bairns fae Waas to Eid is £100,000. A feeder car/mini-bus will have to pick up bairns fae Gloup, how many thousands will that cost per year? What happens to the school buildings? By the time you take everything off there isn't much left and the chairperson of the Cullivoe Parent council assures me that it willl actually be more expensive to shut the school as it costs more to educate a primary pupil in MidYell than in Cullivoe.



It doesn't matter anyway and I'm slightly amused at the councillors even discussing school closures because the scottish government won't close any schools in Shetland.

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There is a lot that can be done to cut costs of education without closing schools. Start by cutting out the vast amount of teaching beyond the core curriculum (knitting, drumming, extra music tuition, drama etc), the quantity of 'supply' teachers, review the numbers of 'classroom assistants' especialy in classes with no ASN bairns - and I haven't even started on the overall cost of managing the education service at Hayfield House (don't know numbers and cost but it seems to be as over the top as many other areas of the SIC).

Only after that sort of root and branch review would it be time to consider shutting down schools, especially rural primary schools that would save little if anything and have much further reaching effects on the community.

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