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New era in teacher training in Highlands

It may not have had the significance of the historic event at Inverness Town Hall in 1921 when Prime Minister Lloyd George and his ministers met there - the only occasion when the Cabinet convened outside London. But the "graduation" of 23 newly qualified teachers at the same venue on Monday was still a milestone.

The Highland students completed their studies as part of a ground-breaking postgraduate primary course, undertaken on a part-time, distance-learning basis with Aberdeen University's school of education - the kind of initiative the Scottish Executive wants to see replicated across the country.

It was designed, as part of closer links between Highland Council and the university, to combat teacher shortages in the north by allowing students to train without moving away from home.

Gail Robertson, who lives in Portree and is starting her probationary year at Sleat primary on Skye, said: "If this opportunity had not arisen, it would have made my ambition of a teaching career almost impossible."

Siusaidh NicNeill, who will take a P1-P2 class at Staffin primary on Skye, said: "It was a huge amount of work, but you got time to meditate on that work and put it into practice, so for me that was a major plus point."

Cathy Macaslan, Aberdeen University's vice-principal (right) welcomed the students as "a great asset to the profession". She said: "They have come through the significant personal challenges that distance learning brings."

Bruce Robertson, Highland's director of education, said: "We always felt there was a pool of potential teachers out there who simply could not access teacher training via the conventional route and the success of this course demonstrates that."

The university starts courses in August for teachers of the sciences, maths, English, Gaelic and home economics.

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