Skye GP “delighted” as campaign to retain popular primary teacher pays off

Katie and Louise (front) pictured with Katie’s sister Eilidh (3), Louise’s partner Cathy, and the kids granny, Mairi Macleod, and seanair, Neil Lankston at the park in Carbost.

A Skye GP who campaigned for her daughter’s teacher to be kept on after it emerged that her contract was due to end this week, has spoken of her delight that the popular tutor is set to remain in her role.

Earlier this week, Dr Louise Lankston, who is a partner at the Portree Medical Centre practice, told the Free Press how she feared the education of her six-year-old daughter, Katie, who has learning difficulties and special needs, would be put back to “square one” following news that her teacher Ms MacRae would be leaving Carbost Primary School at the end of the current term tomorrow (Friday 25th June).

Dr Lankston, along with many other parents, rallied behind Lucy MacRae – who teaches P1-P4 pupils at Carbost – when it appeared that she was set to depart the north Skye school.

The Skye GP launched a petition and wrote to the Highland Council and MSP Kate Forbes on the issue.

In response to a letter sent by Dr Lankston, Highland Council area education manager Don Esson explained that the decision had been made as Ms MacRae had not accrued permanency rights, adding that a teacher who had accrued these rights had been allocated to the school instead.

However, speaking to the Free Press on Thursday evening, Dr Lankston revealed that Ms MacRae was now set to stay on at the school, and thanked everyone who had been involved in the campaign to help retain her services.

“The whole community is delighted that Ms MacRae will be with us next term. We want to thank everyone for their support, especially to all those who wrote letters and signed our petition,” she told the Free Press.

“While this is an amazing result, the fact remains that the Highland Council has only made an exception in this one case, and many other teachers remain on short-term contracts.

“MSPs – Emma Roddick, Ariane Burgess, and Kate Forbes were all very supportive in our campaign and so we have asked them to continue looking into the unjustified use of short-term contracts for teachers as a wider issue.”

She added: “These contracts are not in the interests of the school, teachers, children, or the wider community.”

Commenting to the Free Press on the decision by the local authority, Skye and Raasay Highland Councillor John Finlayson, who chairs the Highland Council’s education committee, said: “The organisation of staffing each year is a complex process, as the local authority has the responsibility for taking on a number of new probationer teachers who are entitled to a year’s contract.

“We must also balance this by supporting teachers who have permanency rights, some of whom may have to move schools due to school roll fluctuations, along with other issues. However, the local context, particularly in rural areas, has to be considered.

“While the authority has to be seen to employ a consistent staffing policy across the Highlands, I am delighted that on this occasion it has been possible to respond to the strong input from parents.”

He added: “During the discussions I had with officers last week to resolve this issue, the parents clearly articulated how such changes would affect the continuity of education at an already difficult time. This, along with support from local officers, helped to achieve an outcome that is best for pupils, parents, and the community.”

Article by Adam Gordon