New course enables primary teachers to train in Highlands and Islands

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The first cohort of students

Aspiring primarily teachers can now complete their training in the Highlands and Islands. The University of the Highlands and Islands has launched the first ever Professional Graduate Diploma in (primary) Education available in the region.

There has been so much demand for the new course that, despite little advertising, over 80 people applied for the 20 places available in this year’s intake.

The first cohort of students is taking part in an induction in Inverness this week. Those who pass the nine-month diploma will have met the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s standard for provisional registration and can start their year as a probationary teacher in a Scottish primary school.

The course is being delivered at Inverness College UHI, Moray College UHI, Orkney College UHI and Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway. Students based at Inverness or Stornoway who are fluent in Gaelic have the option to complete the diploma through the medium of Gaelic and work in a Gaelic-medium primary school.

Applications for August 2014 entry can be made through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry service from November. Candidates must have a relevant undergraduate degree as well as current experience of working with children.

Minister for learning, science and Scotland’s languages, Dr Alasdair Allan, said: “The Scottish Government recommended last December that the Scottish Funding Council should allocate 20 student teacher places to the University of the Highlands and Islands, meaning this is a welcome development that will widen the choice available to those planning on studying for a career in teaching.

“I am particularly pleased that a Gaelic option is available for prospective students. By putting Gaelic at the heart of learning opportunities, the university is continuing to play an important role in Gaelic maintaining its place in classrooms across Scotland. As well as widening access to initial teacher education to people across the north of Scotland, this initiative should also contribute to easing some of the teacher recruitment challenges faced by rural local authorities.”

Shona Scott is one of the new students attending this week’s induction. She explained why she signed up to the course: “I’ve been thinking about training as a primary teacher for a long time, but the nearest course was in Aberdeen. As I live in Buckie and I’m a lone parent, it would have been difficult for me to travel so the opportunity to study in Elgin is just fantastic. I’m really excited and proud to be in the first class and it’s great that the university wants to nurture local talent. The other students in my induction are from all over the Highlands and Islands, including Fort William, Orkney and Shetland. It’s good to meet local people who I might be working with in the future.”

Dr Neil Simco, dean of arts, humanities and business at the university, said: “I am delighted that this month, 20 students are commencing their studies for a primary PgDE (Gaelic and English medium) here at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Working with our local authority partners, we are now positioned to make a real contribution to the teaching profession across the region and beyond. I look forward to building on what has already been achieved to create a truly distinctive addition to the teacher education landscape within Scotland.”

The General Teaching Council for Scotland was responsible for accrediting the course. Chief executive, Anthony Finn said: “We are delighted that this newly accredited course of initial teacher education has proved to be so popular. We have felt for a long time that provision should be made available for aspiring teachers in their local area. This is now a reality in the Highlands and Islands and we wish the university, its staff and students every success for the future.”