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“Dear Mr Swinney. Please can you help me?” School girl writes letter in bid to find her school a permanent teacher

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As education bosses scratched their heads over how best to find a new teacher for a tiny Highland school, pupil Poppy Dennis went right to the top.

The P7 pupil raised her concern over the lack of a permanent teacher at a remote Highland school in a letter to Education Secretary John Swinney.

Read the letter here:


Poppy, 11, put pen to paper to highlight her worries about the teacher shortage at 28-pupil Arisaig Primary School in Lochaber.

Her composite class of 13 in P4-7 have been taught by a series of supply teachers since the beginning of the school year.

In her letter to the Deputy First Minister, Poppy starts: “Dear Mr Swinney. Please can you help me?”

She adds: “My problem is my class does not have any teacher. My classmates and I are not learning anything!”

Her mum, Valerie Stuart-Orchard, who runs Camusdarach Campsite in Arisaig with husband Jonny, said Poppy initiated writing the letter herself.

She added: “She could see our frustration at the situation. The problem is her old teacher, who is excellent, went to cover P1-3 and her class has had a host of supply teachers since.

“It is not ideal because it is such a crucial year for her, being in P7 and moving up to the high school next year. We want her to be fully prepared. She feels she might be missing out because of the lack of continuity.

She said: “She came home last Friday and asked ‘what can I do?’, ‘who do I write to?’

“I told her John Swinney and she wrote the letter herself, mistakes included.

“I think it is fantastic. It also goes to show what a great education she has had at Arisaig by producing a pupil who can do that.”

Mr Swinney has not yet responded to Poppy, but in a statement said: “I’d like to thank Poppy for her letter about finding a new teacher for Arisaig.

“Although teacher recruitment is a matter for local authorities I would encourage suitable applicants to consider a move to this incredibly scenic part of Lochaber which is renowned for its spectacular views and strong sense of community, and where the children are evidently passionate about learning.”

Highland Council said parents had been informed on Monday this week that a permanent teaching post will be advertised on My Job Scotland.

A spokesman said: “In the interim a sustainable and stable staffing arrangement has been put in place at the school. In Highland we continue to face challenges in recruiting teaching staff.”

There are currently 20 primary teacher vacancies, including Additional Support Need posts.

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