Isle of Eigg Residents fully support the letter sent by the Eigg Parent Council regarding the re-structuring of schools. Eigg and the other Small Isles schools are in a unique situation because of the geographical location and the new re-structuring would not support the islands either socially or educationally. The impact would be very negative.
The implementation of the plan is too quick and needs more thought. It certainly should not be pushed forward to start in August 2017 and should take into account the different situation of The Small Isles; what would work for mainland schools will certainly not work in the islands.
The reason it would not work is because Principal Teachers would find it almost impossible to travel regularly and visit schools in the winter, as we have found with the Health Services we receive. Looking at the other schools in the proposal, the longest a Principal or Head Teacher would have to travel to visit a primary in their cluster group would be just over one hour. To make the same trip to any of the Small Isles between October and March using the CalMac ferry it would take 3 days, end to end. If the ferry were cancelled, as it is today, then the visit would have to be rearranged, wasting more time and resource.
Parents and the community feel very threatened by the proposal because the primary school is very much the centre of island life. One of the first things that people moving to the islands, or staying here, think of is the quality of the school. Not just the results its students attain, but also the pastoral care. The Council’s proposal suggests that Small Isles schools would have a single class teacher, with a Principal Teacher and Head Teacher based on the mainland. For small single class schools like those in the Small Isles, balancing curriculum delivery and pastoral care is a huge challenge, even for the most experienced of class teachers. They need to be extremely experienced and have regular access to the advice, support and guidance of a Head Teacher. Telephone and ICT communication are not a substitute for face to face contact and with the travel concerns outlined above, the community fears the teacher will receive little or no such support. An unhappy and unsupported teacher makes our schools very vulnerable. NHS Scotland policy now prevents any GP working alone, citing concerns about isolation, supervision and for the safety of patients and staff. The community, naturally, are drawing parallels.
Additionally, centralising janitorial and clerical positions will mean that island schools will get little attention and will result in a loss of jobs that are important within the islands.
We ask that the Highland Council reconsider how the proposal affects Eigg and the other Small Isles Schools and take more time to consult with staff and islanders to find a workable solution.
We look forward to hearing from you
The Isle of Eigg Residents Association