Dear Jenny Gilruth MSP and Cllr Raymond Bremner,

We are collectively writing on behalf of four small, rural high schools on the West coast of the Scottish Highlands to express our increasing concerns about the disproportionate impacts that the staffing formula and cuts to school budgets are having on our staff and pupils. 

Some of our schools have insufficient funding to deliver even a basic curriculum.

Pupils are unable to take their chosen subjects with several core subjects being unavailable. Modern Studies, History, Computing, Accounting, Drama, and Home Economics are unavailable at some schools, for example. Many have had to reduce the number of subjects they can study due to necessary timetabling issues.

This is having a heartbreaking effect on the attrition rate of pupils progressing beyond Nat 4-5. It is harming their attainment and placing them at a disadvantage when it comes to access to further education courses.

Staff are under immense pressure. Due to the lack of affordable housing and accommodation in the area and temporary, part-time contracts, vacant teaching posts are not being filled and there is little stability in our teaching provision.

The reliance on increasingly hard to find supply teachers is taking its toll on core teaching staff. Part-time staff are frequently putting in full-time hours to make the situation work. While we wholeheartedly commend the commitment and efforts of all the teaching and support staff we are increasingly concerned for their wellbeing.

The situation is unsustainable. Scottish education provision should never be dependent on a postcode lottery. 

The lack of learning support staff is a major issue.

While the current funding formula does take account of rurality, it’s clearly not enough. The move by the Council to resource learning support in schools based on deprivation statistics for the wider area, rather than individual need, means our schools no longer have the learning support staff required to care for high dependency pupils.

Our learning support staff are having to work through lunches and breaks in order to support our high dependency pupils. This is having an unavoidable impact on other pupils with learning support needs. Pupils are falling behind in subjects simply because there are increasingly no learning assistants to support them in class. In some cases, parents are having to teach their own children. 

Virtual learning and the promised links to open college courses has brought its own challenges.

It has become increasingly clear that several colleges are demonstrating unreliable administrative processes and inconsistent service provision. Some pupils have started online courses to study towards their Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications only to be told, halfway through, that the course is no longer being continued. This is unacceptable and places undue stress on pupils and staff.

While the resourcing of virtual courses is clearly a key requirement to broaden our diminishing curriculum, there appears to be no strategic coordination between Highland Council and distance learning providers to address obvious gaps in local provision. There must be better planning and support from the centre. 

Furthermore, self-study is not always a suitable option for all pupils. Even with the provision of effective and reliable virtual learning, there is a dire need for more local staffing resources within our schools so that pupils receive the support they need to succeed in this virtual world. 

We are fed up of being told to ‘get creative’ and having to rely on parents, and already under pressure staff, to help deliver services because of ever decreasing resources. Despite the heroic efforts of our teaching staff to find creative solutions to the funding crisis, the situation in our schools has gone beyond breaking point. Our staff and school community are not in a position to give more than they are already giving.

The current system is failing our pupils. 

 

Our schools are the living heart of our community. Without sustained, committed, investment in our schools, the wider spiral of depopulation in rural areas will only continue. It will never be acceptable for us to close our schools and force children to learn far away from their homes for long periods of time. 

The current bleak outlook, if funding cuts and under resourcing continues, is not a difficult one to reverse. Given sufficient support our schools have the potential to be key to reversing the trend of rural depopulation

Previous attempts at raising these issues with Highland Council and the Scottish Government have failed to produce an acceptable response.

We need the Scottish Government and Highland Council to work together to act now to save our rural schools. We urgently need: 

  • Exemption from the staffing formula for our small schools, and funding to increase staffing capacity in order to provide a guaranteed core curriculum for all pupils.  
  • Funding based on individual need for all pupils who require additional learning support 
  • Permanent teaching positions and stability of teaching provision for our staff and pupils. 
  • More attractive ‘relocation’ packages and affordable accommodation for teachers considering a move to the remote Highlands and incentives for supply  teachers
  • Investment in strategically planned, quality, reliable, consistent distance learning courses and in person support staff to offer a wider subject choice and enable pupils to study their chosen subjects

We trust that this letter signed on behalf of four Parent Councils will be taken seriously and we welcome the opportunity to discuss how you are going to address these issues.

Sincerely, 

Farr High School Parent Council 

Gairloch High School Parent Council

Kinlochbervie High School Parent Council

Ullapool High School Parent Council

The open letter has also been signed by 942 people. You can see the names of the latest people to sign below.

Latest Signatures
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Topher Dawson on behalf of Lochbroom Community Council D.
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100
Anonymous
99
Charlotte C.
98
Sally C.
97
Dorothy P.
96
Robert T.
95
Liz F.
94
Simon W.
93
Tamsin F.
92
Valerie T.
91
Bob M.
90
Jeanette W.
89
Gillian M.
88
Denise M.
87
Rachel R.
86
Anonymous
85
Josie R.
84
Laura H.
83
Abby F.
82
John T.
81
Anonymous
80
fiona m.
79
Anonymous
78
Anonymous
77
Anonymous
76
Cleo F.
75
Ben B.
74
Michelle M.
73
Iona S.
72
Rebecca M.
71
Susan K.
70
Klara M.
69
Anonymous
68
Theresa J.
67
Sheila M.
66
John W.
65
Emma M.
64
Mey S.
63
Julie M.
62
Anonymous
61
Holly U.
60
Anonymous
59
Catherine F.
58
Anonymous
57
Lucy M.
56
Kerry M.
55
Dan P.
54
Sue P.
53
Noeleen C.
52
Pauline B.
51
Madeleine M.
50
Lynn C.
49
Lucy P.
48
Lyndsey B.
47
Kacper G.
46
Angus C.
45
Sheilah C.
44
David K.
43
Helen H.
42
Freya F.
41
Anonymous
40
Paula M.
39
Anne M.
38
David H.
37
Tamara L.
36
Ruairidh M.
35
Carron B.
34
Mathilde L.
33
Sam B.
32
scott m.
31
Joanne B.
30
Anonymous
29
Sophie B.
28
Montgomery D.
27
Graeme S.
26
Gemma M.
25
Lara G.
24
Julie A.
23
Anonymous
22
Anonymous
21
Lesley C.
20
Daniel M.
19
stuart b.
18
Sophie C.
17
Alistair M.
16
Jemma M.
15
Zak J.
14
Ashley K.
13
Zoe K.
12
James M.
11
Yvonne B.
10
Jan B.
9
Suzanne L.
8
Yvonne M.
7
Anonymous
6
Robert W.
5
seoras b.
4
Lucy C.
3
Annie W.
2
Alastair T.
1
Onie T.