Nan Loch (Loch's School) on the Isle of Lewis, beyond
Skye off the west coast of Scotland, was opened in August
2001. It serves the area of Lochs. The closure of three
primary schools and of one 5-14 school, all of which
had been serving their own small communities, and the
move to a new facility, albeit in a superb building,
were not without some pain and stress. However, the
new school is building on the histories and strengths
of its predecessors, not least through inheriting many
pupils and staff from them. Historically, the Isle of
Lewis has been a very close knit community with most
people knowing, or knowing of, each other. Most of our
pupils know each other very well indeed. Many of the
families in our school are related to each other either
closely or distantly and their lives have been interwoven
and touched by these relationships over the generations.
This makes the building of a supportive community within
the school is that much easier, although it can never
be taken for granted.
core pupil population comprises 94 pupils from P1 to
S2. Staffing is as follows: Head Teacher, Depute Head
Teacher, 3 full-time Primary and 1 full-time Secondary
teachers, 14 part-time and peripatetic teachers, 1 classroom
assistant and 5 full-time auxiliaries, 3 of whom work
with our pupils with severe and complex learning difficulties.
Our support staff, vital to the well-being of all, comprises
our school secretary, janitor, 3 canteen staff and 4
cleaners. In addition, there are 3 more staff and 21
more children in 'extensions' to our school community
that are described later.
transitions and increasing inclusion
strengths of a relatively small and close community
are many and obvious but change can still seem threatening.
An essential part of creating a positive ethos is to
enable change and challenges to be overcome by all successfully.
We have tried to do this in a variety of ways, not least
by facilitating transitions and increasing inclusion.
moving, involving . . .
the final term of the 2000-2001 session we needed to
take a number of decisions to put structures in place
for the start of the new session in our new school building.
Negotiations took place over the phone and at meetings
during and after school. The interim School Board, set
up to oversee the transition in conjunction with the
staff, tackled finding a name for the new school, deciding
on school colours, devising a logo and establishing
whether or not the school would be advocating a full
school uniform. Parents were surveyed on this last matter.
An almost unanimous response advocated a full school
uniform approach. Pupils were asked to enter competitions
to consider colours, school name and logo and a local
businessman offered to provide prizes. By this time
we felt that everyone affected by the move to the new
school was actively engaged in the setting-up process
first challenge was trying to make the transition from
the closing schools to the new school as seamless as
possible. The staff had to establish new classrooms
and routines with minimum disruption to the pupils'
education. During the summer holidays of 2001 they spent
many hours at the new school working out the logistics.
We realised increasingly that the well-designed new
building was itself a morale booster - making tasks
much easier (see Picture B). Excitement mixed with trepidation
as the new term loomed. The majority of the new school
staff came from the closing schools but some completely
new staff were joining us and needed to be made welcome.
That summer of staff members working together towards
a common goal was well spent. Sharing the challenge
'bonded' us, not just at that critical time but later
school is situated on the main Harris to Stornoway road.
As a result, pupils from other areas have opted to come
to Sgoil nan Loch on placement requests and have enriched
all stages of our school. Pupils from our associated
primary school are invited to our school for Secondary
induction purposes in P7. They and younger members of
their school also come to Sgoil nan Loch if we are hosting
drama or music workshops with outside agencies.
was very important to assign a member of staff for the
incoming S1 and S2 pupils for pastoral care and as a
source of information for them. To do this we have introduced
tutorial sessions for pupils in the secondary department.
This arrangement allows individual pupils to have one-to-one
sessions with a tutor to discuss their progress and
anything that is important to them. Doing this made
us see the need for pupils who join the school during
their primary years to have prior meetings with our
primary class teachers. It was easy to assume that this
would just take place but it actually took co-ordinated
Primary classes participate in 'Circle Time' and staff
members have found this valuable. Our secondary pupils
are involved in 'interface' sessions that, like Circle
Time, allow them to air any issues of importance to
them. Our school uses the Golden Rules posters and encourages
pupils to reflect on their messages. Posters are displayed
around the school as reminders of how we would wish
pupils to behave and treat others, including those pupils
who are new to our community. Every pupil is placed
into a 'house' on arrival at the school to help them
identify with a smaller group of pupils and to facilitate
their participation. The house names, chosen by the
pupils, are of local hills - Mobhal, Scalabhal and Beinne
Mhor. House captains and vice-captains, along with members
of the School Council, all have duties that benefit
the rest of the school community.
our S2 pupils are about to leave us to move on to S3
in Stornoway the staff have started a tradition of inviting
the youngsters to a formal dinner to celebrate their
graduation from Sgoil nan Loch (see Picture C). Staff
serve the pupils a three course meal with silver service
and after tea/coffee we have a ceilidh. The evening
has proved a great success and is eagerly awaited by
each graduating year!
the larger and smaller transitions within school life
are important, our pupils need to be prepared also for
even more significant later changes such as leaving
the family home and, for some, leaving Lewis. At two
points in their school life at Sgoil nan Loch we give
the pupils a residential experience as a boost to morale
and wider socialisation. Our oldest primary class enjoys
a week away at the Scaladale Centre in Harris, where
they can walk, climb, abseil and canoe, amongst other
activities. Our older secondary class is taken to the
capital city for a week where they enjoy many varied
activities, e.g., visits to Murrayfield Rugby Stadium,
Edinburgh Castle (see Picture D), various museums, and
the cinema, going bowling and taking the bus or train
over to Glasgow. We feel that these visits give our
pupils and staff the opportunity to get to know each
other at a deeper level.
inclusion in the school community
the year before we moved to Sgoil nan Loch the community
was in the process of setting up a playgroup in the
local community centre. However, our new building had
been planned to house a local playgroup if one existed.
When the school opened we were delighted to welcome
the pre-school group 'Little Lochies' of 15 children
and 2 staff to our school. The group has become an integral
part of our school and liaison between the playgroup
leaders and our early stages teacher has grown steadily
to the benefit of all.
new school building had two further areas waiting to
be allocated or developed for specific purposes. Within
months of opening we were asked by the pre-school service
of our education department to accommodate a group working
with six children with sensory impairments. We all agreed
on the mutual benefits to the children in the group
and to the existing school population. Two years on
they form an important and entirely positive part of
our school, with some children staying on in our school
as they reach school age while others go off to their
own local school. This year we have had the opportunity
to introduce a class that caters for three school-age
children with severe and complex learning needs. The
addition of each of these groups has enriched our school
community and given the opportunity for all of the staff
and pupils to broaden their horizons and to recognise
the value of a more varied community. Inclusion has
progressed steadily with consideration given to every
forget the staff!
school staff room is a product of the people who use
it and ours is a happy one which we try to keep calm
and free from paperwork! (If every adult who had some
role in supporting our pupils were here simultaneously
we would be 54 people.)
haven of rest but always a buzz of excitement, a place
to unwind and laugh.
feel free to comment on issues, express opinions, agree
and disagree professionally, all to the benefit of our
pupils. Like our pupils, staff members know each other
well, share personal experiences of babies, adolescents,
and have a very real concern
for each other and for the community in which they live
and work. Every member of staff, whatever their role,
contributes in different ways to the school's communal
efforts. Our work with parents is based on empathic
understanding of our shared role in developing their