Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 10:28 UK

Shetland school debates battle for survival

Baltasound Junior High
The school says it provides education for children of up to 70 island families

Pupils at the UK's northernmost school have been debating the impact that the closure of part of their school would have on the remote island of Unst.

Shetland Islands Council is considering the option of closing Baltasound Junior High's secondary section.

They say that the closure is currently just an option which could help them meet curriculum guidelines.

But pupils and teachers at the school worry it could damage their island community.

'Ruin the island'

Fourteen-year-old Stuart, who says he would like to work at sea when he grows up, said he was worried by the idea.

"It will just ruin the island pretty much. This school has everything we need - I've lived here all my life," he said.

We need to consider if that is a big enough critical mass to deliver education
Audrey Edwards
Quality Improvement Manager, Shetland Islands Council Schools Service

Teacher Gordon Thomson said the idea of shutting the secondary department of the school would transform the island - for the worse.

"It could put the whole island at risk because you aren't going to get families relocating here," he said.

He said the closure could affect about 20 families. Many pupils, he said, did not like the idea of travelling each day to the island of Yell to reach a new school being built there.

THE ISLAND OF UNST
Population: 600 (est)
Has two nature reserves
Home thousands of sea-birds
Said to have inspired the book Treasure Island

Shona, 14, said: "It's really not a good idea - the travel time is far too long".

The council confirmed that a new school, which could take all secondary level pupils if necessary, is being built on the island of Yell, a 10-minute ferry journey from Unst.

Audrey Edwards, of Shetland Islands Council Schools Service, said the idea of closing the school's secondary department was only an option.

"We haven't made a decision," she said, adding that they were carrying out informal consultations on "options for change" with those living on the island.

"The total number of children in the school's secondary department is 26. We need to consider if that is a big enough critical mass to deliver education," she said.

Ms Edwards said that the council expected to reach a decision on whether to put the idea forward as a concrete proposal by mid-June.

Ghana partner

Baltasound Junior High is working in partnership with schools in Africa, through the British Council's Connecting Classrooms project.

Staff and pupils at one of their partner schools, Headlines Educational Institute in Kumasi, Ghana, gave their views on the possible school closure of the school, as part of their School Report news bulletin.



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