South Uist schools secure prestigious runners up prize

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Iochdar and Daliburgh School impressed the judges at the Scottish Education Awards and took the runners-up prize in the Gaelic Education Award.

The two schools teamed up for a joint Gaelic drama initiative, penned by the pupils themselves which judges at the awards admitted would ‘be difficult to beat.’

The judges were particularly impressed by the involvement of English-medium pupils in performing their own Gaelic play.

“We are immensely proud of the creativity and hard work that pupils at both schools put into making their performance such a success”, said a parent representative on Iochdar’s Parent Council.  

“Coming runners-up, by only one point, is wonderful, and just right in this our first year of being designated as a Gaelic school.”

“The support and dedication from the teachers has been truly amazing.  But we would like to add to the Minister’s statement that what makes Sgoil an Iochdair so special is the remarkable commitment of so many of the parents in the local community.”

They added: “Just this year, Ronnie MacPhee, is retiring after 17 years of leading the youth club at Sgoil Iochdar, of which almost every pupil is a member, along with pupils from other schools.  

“Without any doubt this club is the most successful and long-lasting youth club on Uist.  It is not just difficult but impossible to beat the sheer commitment and dedication that Ronnie has put into the club over so many years.”  

Ronnie has been supported by many other parents who jointly run the youth club every Wednesday at the school, while other parents run the active football club on Monday evenings and teachers and other school staff the music club every Tuesday and the drama club every Thursday.  

Head Teacher Mairi MacInnes , said: “Pupils at Sgoil an Iochdair thrive on the many school clubs that parents and staff organise as volunteers, and we are hugely grateful to them.

“These school clubs add so much to our many in-school activities which enable pupils to achieve the goals of the Curriculum for Excellence, becoming successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.”

At the end of this school year, the Parent Council is celebrating yet another very active and successful year for Sgoil an Iochdarr.  

Over the entire year the school has organised more than one special activity a week for pupils.

Outings to explore different places on the islands – lochs, woodland, bird reserves, townships – and sessions on geology, crofting, horticulture and orienteering have enabled pupils to engage deeply with their island environment and its sustainability.  

“I liked the topic ‘Far a bheil sinn a’ fuireach’ and seeing where we all lived,” wrote one P3 pupil in their end of year report.

Basketball, shinty and breakdance have complemented the regular specialist PE classes and the football club, which pupils often regard as highlights of their week.

And on the islands of Uist Sgoil an Iochdair is well known for the huge musical and cultural contributions it makes to the local community.

Members of the Parent Council have even written to the local council offering to help integrate some of the Syrian refugee families coming to the Outer Hebrides into the school and local community.

“We are now the only school on Uist that does not enjoy a new building,” says parent Julie Lewis, “but as teachers who have taught in different schools on Uist have often told us, the success of a school lies in its positive energy and the commitment of pupils, staff and parents.  

There are few schools that can equal Sgoil an Iochdair for this.  

“As one teacher I interviewed recently for the local community radio station told me, ‘Sgoil an Iochdair has a special atmosphere, it is just such a lovely school to be part of.’”

Pictured are Iochdar pupils performing a play.