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If you've got family ties this is the way to go

AS the only guy on the two-year, part-time course, Alasdair Matheson is used to being in a largely female environment. Classroom routines are familiar after working for three years as an assistant at Newhall primary in Conon Bridge.

The father of three primary-aged children is equally familiar with secondary classrooms after taking a Higher English this year at Fortrose Academy. Last week's results brought a B pass which ensures his progress as a budding primary teacher, a reversal from 25 years ago when he failed.

Mr Matheson was once a production manager in a factory down south and moved back north with his family for a better life. His wife works in the health service.

"I was looking for a new career for myself and becoming a classroom assistant was ideal. Being the principal carer of my three children, the traditional route to primary school teaching via the full-time PGCE would have proved extremely difficult.

"I would also have had to give up my position as a classroom assistant," he said.

Mr Matheson has been studying through the Open University for the past two years and is used to distance learning.

Sarah Houston, who lives with her eight-year-old son near Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast, is similarly enthusiastic about the Aberdeen course having twice applied to Jordanhill but "chickened out" because of the implications of moving from her council house.

"This course is what I have been waiting for," Ms Houston, a clerical assistant at Plockton High, said.

She finished her degree by distance learning and is unfazed by the prospect of learning through a home computer - when she picks one up. Highland is lending equipment for the course and providing back-up ICT support.

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