Remote school with just five pupils needs a new teacher
Herald Scotland, by Andrew Denholm
A remote Highland community has launched an appeal for a teacher for its five-pupil primary school. Residents of Scoraig, a peninsula west of Ullapool in Ross and Cromarty, are desperately seeking to fill the vacancy to safeguard the future of the school.
Highland Council have already run two recruitment drives without success and pupils are currently being taught by supply staff who have to be transported by ferry every day.
The community is also seeking to recruit a headteacher for Scoraig and Badcaul Primary School, which lies to the south across Loch Broom.
A community advertisement for the post on Facebook says the position would suit a resourceful person "ready to embrace the challenge of becoming a vital part of our friendly off-grid community, living close to the elements in a beautiful but remote environment".
There is no road into the peninsula with the only access being a three mile coastal foot path or by boat. There is no pub, shop, post office or mains electricity and residents produce their own power from a mixture of alternative sources such as wind, solar and hydro. Water is sourced from springs.
However, despite its remote nature, Scoraig has seen an increase in the number of new families settling and having children with four young children who will need a nursery within the next year and, as the advert states, "more babies on the way".
The advertisement adds: "Scoraig is a rare community, with great characters and you will be entertained and fascinated by a way of life that you will not find in many places."
Zoe Fothergill, the administrator for the charity Scoraig Teaching Group, which promotes education on the peninsula, said: "Our remote location is what makes Scoraig simultaneously so special and so challenging and it is imperative that any prospective teachers are aware of and game to embrace the unique lifestyle that is on offer here.
"There is another problem because Highland Council do not provide accommodation for teachers as they do elsewhere in the Highlands. As we are a tiny community of about forty households the options for accommodation are limited and free accommodation as an extra incentive would be most welcome here.
"Thirdly, the strict qualification expectations and need to join the teaching register in Scotland is significantly restricting the route to employment for many experienced teachers with great records from outwith Scotland who might be keen to relocate."
Nuala Kennedy, a former Scoraig primary teacher, added: "I was lucky enough to teach at Scoraig for nearly ten years. There are small pupil numbers and mixed ages allowing the atmosphere of learning to be like that of a family.
"The job was demanding and challenging, but hugely rewarding and satisfying. The place itself is a stunning, raw, wild place and demands a degree of physical and emotional stability to cope with life on the West."
The move comes after six councils organised an emergency summit to address crippling teacher shortages.
Local authorities covering Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, the Highlands, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands joined forces to try and find a solution to the long-running problem.
The councils want to see a national plan developed by the Scottish Government to increase the number of teachers available to schools.
Proposals include higher salaries for those prepared to move north and an expansion of teacher training courses at Aberdeen University and the University of the Highlands and Islands to improve the local supply of school staff.