School can’t count on a maths teacher

Maths teachers are sought at a Barra school
Maths teachers are sought at a Barra school

A school in Barra is struggling to find a maths teacher and has had no applications for the vacancy, despite an idyllic sounding setting.

Castlebay Community School recently put out a call for a maths teacher, with those connected to the school, describing the Island by its affectionate ‘Barrabados’ tag.

An online description referring to the job vacancy continues: “Fringed with glaringly white sandy beaches, and turquoise seas – Barra is an adventure waiting to be explored.

“On this tranquil island … the school is considered by many of its teachers to be a paradise.

“Sailing, windsurfing, walking, bird spotting or fishing at your leisure, what could be more perfect? With a relaxed pace of life, and great community spirit surely we would be overrun with potential teachers... but sadly this is not the case.”

Headmistress Maclean added: “It’s a wonderful school community and a fantastic place to live and work.”

But she told the Gazette the failure to attract staff may be symptomatic of a national problem. Whilst not criticising the government, Mrs Maclean said the lack of teachers did seem to be a national issue, not confined to the Isles.

Recent figures point towards a consistent difficulty in filling teaching places across northern Scotland, with councils having called for action after almost 300 teaching posts went unfilled.

Aberdeen is suffering heavily but the problem does extend to the islands. In the wider Highland and Island area, around 20 schools have no headteacher and there are almost 200 teaching vacancies.

Effort has been stepped up to find suitable teachers where they are badly needed. Councils have been offering low-cost accommodation and competitive pay rates.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said: “Disappointingly, no applications were received for the post. Interim provision will be made to ensure that classes run as normal.

“Teacher recruiting issues are a challenge for many local authorities across Scotland.”

The Scottish Government told The Gazette: “While this Government recognises recruitment challenges exist in Scotland’s rural and island communities, the recruitment and employment of teachers is a matter for individual local authorities.

“Education is a vital priority for this Government. We have safeguarded teacher posts in every council for the next year by providing a £51 million package of funding.”