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Bottled monkey's brain

Fiona MacLeod visits Scoraig, an isolated community which will open its own secondary school for five pupils in August

Joy Brudenell, Tree Daykin, Matthew Dawson and Daniel Connell, the four S1 pupils, sit round the table at the school. I don't meet the S2 pupil, 12-year-old Jake Greenlaw, until later. They are a remarkable group, articulate, open and utterly self-assured.

"Our school is going to be very different," asserts Matthew, a freckled redhead. "It'll be really good, because we'll all be studying together. And we've got lots of equipment already."

I get shown the bottled monkey's brain, the chicken skeleton, the computers.

"Of course, our weak spot will be sport," confides Daniel, Mohican crewcut and earring. "We'll do PE but there aren't enough of us for team games." The entire school could muster for five-a-side football certainly, but who would they play against?

Later I meet Jake. Last summer he spent six weeks in Hungary, flying out on his own. Like the others, he is confident, friendly and charmingly sure of his own views. "It's really because of me that we're getting a school. I didn't want to go to Gairloch, they think we're all just hippies there. Being taught at home is OK but I missed being with others."

He lists this year's timetable. "Mondays I do maths, history and didgeridoo. Wednesdays it's English, modern studies and Hungarian. Tuesdays and Thursdays I do PE, raku, home economics, science and sewing. On Fridays I used to do Arabic. But going to school will be really good."

As I leave the following day I look back over the water at the primary school, with its expensive, brightly coloured playground equipment supplied by Highland Council, and at the small church building higher up the hill.

It's an idyllic scene, a wonderful place to learn about life, the didgeridoo and the goodness of people who care about you.

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