Not enough text books at Nicolson

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Two weeks before school Prelim examinations begin and Biology ‘Higher’ students at The Nicolson Institute are sharing textbooks.

Since the beginning of the school year in August 2013, the lack of book-stock has meant senior pupils can not take textbooks home for further study; and teachers have suggested students ask their parents to purchase the relevant text books instead.

A concerned parent from Point commented: “This could be the difference between someone going to University or walking into the Job Centre.”

The parent continued that they were shocked to hear pupils were sharing textbooks; and raised the issue in September, first with the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Education Department, then Councillors and Nicolson Rector, Frances Murray.

“First the council told me that there were enough textbooks, but then I saw the Rector and she told me that the books are going out of issue next June and that the school budget was tight so they didn’t want to spend too much money on something which would soon be out of date,” explained the parent.

“But household budgets are tight too. It’s a brand new school – I’m happy to see the new premises – but surely a text book for each child is a must.”

Yet despite being aware of the situation at the end of last summer, it was not until mid-December that more books were ordered – at a cost of £500 – and as the text was out of print, publishers then had to produce ‘another run’.

But although suppliers dispatched the items on December 20th, starting their third term this week, senior pupils are still waiting.

Councillor Roddie MacKay commented: “I’ve spoken with a few retired teachers and they’ve never heard of a situation like this.

“I just feel it’s been dealt with in an unsatisfactory manner. It is always the kids that must come first.

“This is a crucial year and it seems to be taking an extraordinary amount of time to source these books.”

A Comhairle spokesman confirmed the school is awaiting the arrival of the books, but insisted that pupils had not been disadvantaged by the lack of resource.

“This particular textbook is not the only teaching and learning resource used,” he said. “Pupils have also been able to use course materials on-line to support their learning and revise for examinations. This is the usual practice in all examination subjects.”

He expanded: “It had originally been decided not to buy a set of this particular textbook because a new edition is due to be published to meet the changed demands of the new ‘Higher’ course commencing in next session.

“A decision was subsequently made to order the biology text books and are currently awaiting delivery.”

It was believed that the lack of books had come to light in the previous school year; and that Chemistry and Art senior subjects were also short on texts, but the council spokesman added: “There have been no issues reported to the school or the education authority regards shortages of text books in Chemistry or Art.

Furthermore, no issues regarding text book shortages were reported to the Rector during last session.