Pupil’s letter to John Swinney: ‘We aren’t learning anything’

Poppy, left, wrote to John Swinney with her concerns.
Poppy, left, wrote to John Swinney with her concerns.
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Politicians are used to receiving angry letters demanding immediate action to a pressing problem. But not many are penned by an 11-year-old urging the Education Secretary to find a teacher for her tiny Highland school.

Poppy Dennis wrote to John Swinney to raise concerns about her composite class of 13 pupils at Arisaig primary school and the impact it is having on her education.

A copy of the letter sent to Education Secretary John Swinney. Picture: Greg Macvean

A copy of the letter sent to Education Secretary John Swinney. Picture: Greg Macvean

Poppy, 11, starts her letter with “Please can you help me?” before telling Mr Swinney of her concerns..

She wrote: “My problem is my class (p4-7) does not have any teacher. My classmates and I are not learning anything!”

She said she and her two fellow primary 7 friends are very worried they are falling behind with maths and language and fear they not be able to cope when they go up to Mallaig High school.

The 28-pupil school lacks a full-time teacher for the pupils in Poppy’s class because she was moved to take the primary 1-3 pupils at the start of the last month.

Gaps are filled by different supply teachers and, on occasion by headteacher Martin Jones. However Mr Jones, also has to cover Canna and Rum primaries involving a drive to the ferry, a ferry journey, taking up a day at the time.

Some pupils are keeping a log recording the times they are left alone with no teacher.

Mr Swinney said: “I’d like to thank Poppy for her letter about finding a new teacher for Arisaig.

““We recognise some recruitment challenges remain across Scotland. We have taken decisive action to help recruit and retain teachers through our Teaching Makes People campaign. This year alone we invested £88 million so every school can access the right number of teachers and by working with local authorities to increase teacher numbers we have recruited an additional 253 this year.

“We have also increased funding and places for our universities to recruit trainee teachers and £1 million from the Attainment Scotland Fund has been made available to support 11 new innovative routes into teacher education.”

A Highland Council spokesman said: “ On Monday a letter was sent to parents informing them the permanent teaching post will be advertised on My Job Scotland. In the interim a sustainable and stable staffing arrangement has been put in place.”