Maureen MacDonald, Headteacher, Port Ellen Primary School and Bowmore Primary School shares her experience of leading remote schools and forging community relationships:
Living on an island, it is crucial to forge positive relationships with community groups to help drive improvement and increase the opportunities available to children. To enhance learning opportunities, we work with various businesses and organisations in Islay to benefit children at all ages.
I’ve been involved in creating new policies, implementing changes and working with both school teams to drive improvements forward. By developing partnerships with local services such as health visitors, school nurses and social carers, we’re able to work collaborate effectively to achieve the best possible outcomes for children, young people and families.
We implemented ‘Endeavour’, an initiative in which we asked students to work independently to develop their skills in a specific area. One student worked in a lobster business and another chose lambing, both inextricably linked to island life. Working with these local businesses helped the children develop attributes including team work, resilience, perseverance and critical analysis.
A key achievement within the community was starting a joint school Gaelic choir, which has competed at local and national level and gained much success, raising the profile of both schools. Our Gaelic Medium Education is continuously improving, and we were finalists in the Scottish Education Awards for Gaelic in 2018. We also have a strong, supportive and active parent council.
Initiatives such as these have vastly improved our relationships with local businesses and ensure we contribute in our own way to the wider community.