Tag Archives: tiree

Concern over school cuts

books

Tiree High School Parent Council/ PTA has received the devastating news that Tiree High School must reduce the number of teachers it employs. The PTA held a public meeting At An Talla on Friday 14th May to discuss the possible implications for the school and the island.

An Tirisdeach contacted Argyll & Bute Council to ask for their comments on the matter and we received this response:

“Last year, a group consisting of secondary head teachers and the then Head of Service was set up to review the secondary staffing standard. The aim was to reach a standard which can be uniformly applied across the council area, which had not happened in the past. That standard, which involves a complex calculation based on a number of factors, is being used for all Argyll and Bute secondaries for the 2010/11 session. At the same time, all secondary schools have been asked to take their share of a £600,000 reduction in funding for secondary staffing next year.

Several years ago, Tiree High School was allocated additional staff to meet specific demands which existed at the time. This is the reason that it now appears that Tiree is having to make a bigger reduction than some other schools. Under the standardised scheme, and taking into account the budget reductions, Tiree’s staff savings target should be 3.5FTE. However, we have decided that this is not possible for 2010/11, and have instead identified 2.2FTE. There will be no effect on the subject choice on offer. Although the French teacher is on maternity leave, there are only three pupils who have requested French for next session and we are currently investigating the possibility of providing this through distance learning. The French teacher will remain in post after her maternity leave.

On Monday, the council’s Executive will discuss the proposal to carry out a fundamental review of our entire education estate which will look at what facilities we currently have, how they are used and how we might ensure they are more sustainable in the future.
This is in the context of a comprehensive education review that seeks to maximise the proportion of resources which are available for the direct delivery of education and minimise any risk of adverse impacts on education outcomes, and at a time when all of the public sector is under pressure to deliver quality services as efficiently as possible. Any future decisions can only be taken on the basis of the information which the completed review will provide.”

We also contacted Alan Reid MP who said:
“It is completely ridiculous to apply a council wide formula to an Island school. Tiree High School, along with other Island schools, should be treated as special cases and the council should have a more flexible attitude”

Feelings obviously run high on this matter, and a great many attended the meeting to find out what could be done by the community in this situation.

Powerdown Progress

power socket

Last year the Powerdown project was asked to look into feasibility of various projects. Three applications were made to the Climate Challenge Fund following extensive research into options and costs. The fund is now closed.

HOME ENERGY -NEW JOB TO BE CREATED
We have been successful in getting funding to employ a second part-time person to work on the Powerdown project to make better progress in this area. Energy use in buildings accounts for 40% of all carbon emissions and can make a big difference to household bills. Any investment in this area can result in savings year after year as well as warmer homes.

ELECTRIC CARS
The bid for an electric car for community use was unsuccessful. And the Northern Periphery European funding for a tourism hire car project had to be abandoned due to a 6 month wait for the funding to be re-paid after expenditure.
HIE however are still open to hearing from us about the money that they set aside for an electric car hire project for Tiree, to match the European funds. Electric cars would be great for Tiree as their running costs are much cheaper. New electric cars can plug into a home plug with a range of 80 miles and top speeds over 60 mph. From January 2011 a contribution of 25% of the cost of electric vehicles up to £5,000 will be available. This will work in similar way to the car scrappage scheme with discount applied at the point of purchase.

COMPOSTING TOILETS
The bid for a composting toilet trial was unsuccessful. The concept is sound but didn’t stack up in terms of carbon savings which were based on less embodied energy than traditional facilities and less travel to existing facilities. Fingers and legs crossed for another solution.

TURBINES FOR COMMUNITY BUILDINGS
Various community groups have been preparing for funding applications to install small turbines to match their building’s energy use working with Community Energy Scotland. THANKS Thanks to the Powerdown Steering Group Alastair MacInnes, Clare Jones and Ann Kirby and to all the people who have fitted low energy light bulbs, turned down the thermostat, filled in a home energy check form, measured their mileage or borrowed a smart meter. We look forward to more progress over the next year of the project.

Frances Woodhead, Community Powerdown Officer.

Flights to Oban resume

Hebridean Airlines plane

Hebridean Air Services Ltd., based at Cumbernauld, has stepped in to resume the Oban based Argyll Air Services, following the closure of the previous operator of the service.

The same schedule is offered as the previously published winter timetable, and this timetable is printed on the Hebridean website www.hebrideanair.co.uk. George Cormack, Managing Director of Hebridean, has said that he is delighted to have won the contract, and is looking forward to offering an excellent service and maintaining these vital links to the Scottish Island communities of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree from Oban Airport. He is also re-employing the very popular and well respected pilot Julie Angell. Locally based Captain Angell has been the backbone of the operation to date, providing a service that is much appreciated by all her passengers. The flights from Oban include transporting pupils who attend Oban High School to their Island homes at weekends.

Flights are now on sale and can be booked by calling 0845 805 7465 (local rate). A new web-based booking system is currently under construction and will be available shortly. Hebridean Air Services are well placed to operate and maintain these essential air services from Oban, with a wealth of experience in their pilots and staff, and a world renowned sister aircraft engineering company, Cormack Aircraft Services Ltd., who look after all their maintenance needs.

Hebridean have been operating air charter flights throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland since 1995 with three Britten Norman Islander aircraft, and have flown an incredible variety of charters. As well as private and business hire, Hebridean are involved in medical and air ambulance flights, film and TV work, bird and wildlife surveys for SNH and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, telephone engineer contracts to the islands, golf tours and many other varied contracts.

Shipwreck Information Sought

schooner

An Iodhlann recently received a request for information about the yacht Oceana that ran aground at Crossapol on 9 March 1949.

The Oceana was an impressive two-masted schooner with a decorative figurehead of a girl with flowing hair blowing a pipe. It was named Oceana by the son of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

The person who is enquiring after the Oceana has inherited some framed photographs of the yacht from his great-uncle who chartered it during the 1930s.

A couple of people on the island who remember the yacht have already kindly provided the location of the stranding, but perhaps there are others who can remember additional details. What were the weather conditions on the day it was stranded? What happened to it afterwards? What happened to its crew? Was the figurehead salvaged? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Please contact An Iodhlann: telephone 01879 220 793 or email aniodhlann@tireebroadband.com.

Many thanks.

Allaying the Closing Fears

Councillor Mary-Jean Devon

Further to the article in this weeks Oban Times with regards to “Tiree named on school closure draft”, I am writing to allay the fears and concerns of the people of Tiree.

Due to the difficult financial time every council in Scotland is facing various efficiency options . As far as Argyll and Bute Council is concerned no decisions , discussions, meetings, or consultations have taken place regarding Tiree High School. As your elected member I can categorically assure you of this.

The infrastructure of Oban High School and its Hostel could not accommodate the pupils of Tiree High School as you will have read recently in the press. The Oban Hostel has just undergone a major refurbishment which allows them to accommodate 104 pupils. They are nearly at capacity presently as is the roll of the High School.

Please be assured if any discussions let alone decisions had been taken regarding Tiree High School I would have been in contact with the people of Tiree as they are the first to be consulted.

Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding this matter or any other issues you have.

Councillor Mary-Jean Devon 01688 302792 07912 949073.

Tiree High School

You will no doubt be aware of rumours circulating about the possible closure of Tiree High School. Whilst I appreciate that you are obviously worried by these reports, may I please assure you that no plans have been drawn up to close any school.

As we all know, difficult financial decisions lie ahead for all local authorities within the next few years.

Argyll and Bute Council has made it clear that the severe budgetary pressures will require it to review every aspect of its service provision, including education.

Those reviews are ongoing, and are likely to continue for some time.

Skills For Work – A report From Tiree High School

We have been doing a new course called Rural Skills at Tiree High School to get us an Intermediate 1 certificate at the end of session 2009-2010.

The qualification is awarded by SQA in partnership with Argyll College, whose representative on the island is Will Wright. Mr Stirrat is our mentor in school.

On a Wednesday we go out onto a farm for the afternoon and we do a variety of things to do with farming which will benefit us in our course and also benefits the farmer. On a Thursday we write out reports of what we did the previous afternoon, add any photos we took on the Wednesday and keep the records for assessment.

The course includes the following units:

  • Animal Handling
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Estate Maintenance
  • Land Based Industries
  • Employability Skills
  • Crop Production

The crofters who are involved are Ewan MacKinnon, Hugh MacInnes, and Lachie MacFadyen. We have also had help from John Bowler (RSPB). We are very grateful for the time and effort they have contributed and would like to say thank you for their help over the last 2 years.

“Having access to a vocational option has been a real enhancement to the school curriculum. We are very grateful to Ewan MacKinnon, Hugh MacInnes, Lachie MacFadyen and John Bowler for providing their time and expertise to make this possible.” ~ Myra Macarthur HT

Land Based Industries

Every Thursday we have some classroom time to write up our reports and do research.

Part of this course is a unit called Land Based Industries where we have researched 3 industries. This is a short report of what we have found:

Fencing
Fencing is usually done by the crofters or farmers themselves or by fencing contractors. Resources needed include wooden posts to tension the fence, stobs, wire, Rylock, tools and if necessary a digger and truck.

We looked into methods used and different types of fence on Tiree and on the mainland. When we were working on the crofts we helped put up fences to keep the animals in.

RSPB
John Bowler is the local RSPB warden. He has taken us out on several Wednesday afternoons to help set water levels for the birds to breed and building a bridge for the cows to cross.This helps protect their habitat.

This industry needs membership and volunteers to keep it going . Because of the varied species of birds that live on or visit Tiree it needs somebody to maintain their habitat so that the birds are protected and encouraged to breed.

Dairy Farming
Although there is no dairy farming on Tiree, much of mainland farming is for dairy. This industry relies on good quality Friesian Cows or Jersey Cows. We have been studying dairy farming in class at school.

When a male calf is born the farmer usually sells the calf for veal production or breeding depending on the quality of the calf. The female calves are kept for milking and breeding. Most dairy farmers have a milking parlour but some farmers milk their cows by hand in a byre. Most farmers grow their own food for the cows which is corn, hay and silage. It is fed straight to the cows in winter.

Ruairidh Munn and Ewan Brown

Swine Flu – Is the Health Service on Tiree prepared?

docs_surgery_signWith daily newspaper reports of this new flu virus, An Tirisdeach wondered just how prepared our own medical service was if a much feared flu pandemic was to occur here on Tiree.
What is a pandemic? A pandemic occurs when a new flu virus which people have no immunity to occurs and spreads as easily as normal flu with simultaneous epidemics worldwide. Last century three occurred; in 1918, 1957 and 1968. The pandemic of 1918, took 18 million lives compared with WWI which also ended in 1918 and claimed 8.5 million lives. The pandemic of 1957 took 1.4 million lives and the 1968 outbreak took one million lives. We now find ourselves at the beginning of the 21st Century contemplating such a possibility again. But is our medical team prepared ? Are we prepared ?

“the commentary has become less measured”

In the winter of 2008, we suffered, according to our G.P. Dr. Holliday “a two month flu epidemic” which decimated, in Tiree School alone, staff and pupil levels. Dr. Holliday informs An Tirisdeach that the surgery has had a Flu Disaster Plan for the last two years and has received a small amount of Tamiflu from the government. Discussing the current media coverage of swine flu and the concerns that people had he felt that the commentary has become less measured. .
Dr. Holliday explained that the first phase would be mild due to the time of year. Autumn and winter would be the critical months and that Tamiflu was no panacea as it only shortens the disease by a day. Dr Holliday was frank and to the point. “ By far the most important measure that everyone could take responsibility for is hygiene, this is crucial “ he said.

“Sing Happy Birthday twice”

“Washing hands with soap and water while singing Happy Birthday to yourself twice then drying hands on clean towel or paper towel would go a long way to protecting yourself against the virus”. A sanitiser gel would also do the same job as soap and water. Dr. Holliday is under no illusions as to how difficult it is to wash our hands conscientiously and constantly to wash away the germs one comes into contact with. He is also aware that children will say they have washed their hands when in fact they have only ran them under a tap. Singing Happy Birthday to yourself while hand washing actually takes quite a time. Longer than one would normally spend on such a task, but it is a critical element. All households have been given a Swine Flu leaflet by the government. The guidelines on sneezing and nose blowing should also be strictly adhered to with hand washing following. Not always easy, and this is when a Sanitiser gel would be useful to have on hand at all times.

“I would hope and expect the strength of Community to rally round”

If the Tiree Community found itself in the throes of a pandemic Dr. Holliday felt that a close knit community such as ours would cope well with it. “I would hope and expect the strength of Community to rally round”. This virus is virulent. Normally a flu would infect one in ten , this virus is expected to infect one in three. Dr. Holliday has been informed that there will be a flu hotline in the Autumn with increased stockpiling of drugs. We can be sure that Dr. Holliday and his team will be keeping a close eye on developments.

Argyll & Bute have the worst roads in Scotland

g_chalmers

The simple fact is Argyll & Bute have the worst roads in Scotland, and Oban Lorn and the Isles the worst roads in Argyll..
“Councillor, when are you going to do something about our roads”
This is one of the questions I’m asked with alarming frequency. My colleagues and I dread those words. Although, my colleagues and I constantly battle for better roads and will continue to do so on our constituents behalf.

While nothing can fully excuse the chronic underfunding of our roads network, it has to be seen in context. Our biggest spending department is Social Services. As with any council it is wide ranging; from schools, the elderly and the vulnerable. These areas are scrutinised by outside agencies. Any council seen to be failing will face sanctions from the government. However, there is no such direct scrutiny for roads (although public transport is monitored by various bodies). Therefore, year on year underfunding has led to a situation where restrictions and closures loom. We are not the only council in this predicament – we simply have less flexibility than most because of our geography.

Tiree has an extra “streetscene” operative newly recruited to the post. Currently, priorities for ditching work are Balevullin, Cornaigbeg & Cornaigmore. As well as the chicane at Crossapol due to be resurfaced in the next month or so. In my next article for An Tirisdeach I will explain what a “streetscene” operative means.

I am due to be over in June with my team mates from Tobermory Golf Club for our biennial visit, when I hope to meet up with many old friends (and opponents). See you then.

I can be reached on 01688 302 689 or by email on gordon.chalmers@argyll-ukbute.gov.

Gordon Chalmers

The Spirit Of Adventure

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The Spirit Of Adventure Cruises Into Tiree on 26th May 2009

The National Trust of Scotland has chartered the cruise liner The Spirit of Adventure for three weeks as part of Scotland’s Homecoming Year. The three week trip will cruise round the West Coast of Scotland before heading off to Iceland. The three hundred passengers will have Lecturers and Entertainers on board too.

David Munro, Former Director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society will be giving lectures on geographical topics. Billy Kay, Broadcaster and Writer will be lecturing in Scottish Diaspora and Rabbie Burns. Entertainers will include the gaelic singer Anne Lorne Gillies and George Donald from Scotland the What?

The vessel will be arriving on Tiree around 8am on Tuesday 26th May until 6pm. The passengers will disembark for the day. Everyone will enjoy Tiree hospitality throughout the day, and some will take a bus tour round the island, our R.S.P.B. Officer John Bowler will conduct wildlife walks, and for others a Rib to Staffa. A great day on Tiree seems to be awaiting the lucky people aboard the Spirit of Discovery.

Anyone interested in such a trip with the National Trust of Scotland can call them on 0844-493-2457 Or look at their website on www.nts.org.uk. Prices start around £1,000