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Plot thickens in the tale of Shetland school closures

There was another twist in the Shetland Islands school closure saga this week when it came to light that the council plans to save one of the junior secondaries it had earmarked for closure.

However, the local authority is also planning to cut back on provision at its remaining junior secondary schools, making them S1 to S3 schools, as opposed to S1 to S4.

Shetland Islands Council's latest bid to restructure schooling in light of falling rolls and shrinking budgets began in 2007, but the process has been plagued by delays - the most recent being the moratorium on rural schools closures imposed while the Commission on Rural Education carried out its work.

The commission published its report in April and within hours Shetland Council announced its aim to carry forward plans made in the previous September, when it had agreed to close four junior high school secondary departments - Whalsay, Aith, Skerries and Sandwick - and five primary schools.

But the council has now revised its plans. Whalsay is to remain open but, along with the two other junior secondaries that the council plans to retain - Baltasound and Mid Yell - it will provide education only up to S3, as opposed to S4.

This, the council says, will ensure that all pupils receive an uninterrupted senior phase, from S4 to S6.

In Blueprint for Education, the authority states: "Ideally, transitions should be avoided in secondary education. If, however, a transition is unavoidable, it should take place before the senior phase commences so that the senior phase can be planned as a three-year experience from S4 to S6, rather than planning each year separately."

The new report will be presented at the Education and Families Committee on 11 September and to the subsequent meeting of Shetland Islands Council.

Director of children's services Helen Budge said: "This timescale will allow the comments of teachers and others to be taken into account prior to the report being presented."

emma.seith@tess.co.uk.

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