Britain's best school run?

16th January 2004 at 00:00
Outgoing head Moira Frankland will miss beating the tide on her trips to Lindisfarne. Helen Ward on a unique vacant post

It is still dark as Moira Frankland drives towards the Northumberland coast. In the headlights she can see a causeway stretching out before her.

By the time school starts on Holy Island, Northumberland, the North Sea will have risen and the link to the mainland been severed for the next eight hours.

"The beauty of the scenery constantly amazes me," she said. "When you're driving across the causeway and the light's shining on the water at sunrise or sunset it's absolutely gorgeous. It never becomes mundane."

For the past nine years, Mrs Frankland has been head of both Lowick first school on the mainland and the tiny Holy Island Church of England school, nine miles away. Now she is leaving to become a numeracy consultant in Newcastle. Her job is advertised in today's TES.

Her successor will take on not just her Year 34 class and headship of the 28-pupil Lowick school, but responsibility for the five pupils on Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne.

Children on the island travel to Lowick by taxi for lessons as much as possible. They spend around half their time on the mainland, usually either the morning or afternoon. For the remaining time, they are taught at Holy Island school by Kerry Fieldhouse, a part-time teacher.

Molly Luke, seven, who lives on the island, said: "We have a taxi to Lowick. Sometimes it is scary going across when the tide is just lapping at the road.

"Today I did my work and then had lunch and then came back to Holy Island school.

"Sometimes when we're at Lowick we have to eat lunch quickly so we can get back. A teacher comes to tell us that we have to hurry up and get ready.

"My friends say: 'Do you have to go?' But I say: 'The tide is waiting.' We go to Lowick a lot. But I like to live on the island; here we can go out to play with friends because there is not much traffic."

Mrs Frankland, who has been head for nine years, visits the island a few times each term, for governors' meetings, to monitor the island's teacher or cover for absence.

She said: "I once had to get to the island by 6.30am to beat the tide. If I'm on the island in the afternoon sometimes I've not been able to get off until 7pm, or alternatively I've had to watch the clock to make sure I can get off before the tide closes the causeway. But I've never had to make a last-minute dash with the tide lapping at my wheels."

Both schools had an Office for Standards in Education inspection last term: the reports have not been published yet. The last report in 1998 praised Mrs Frankland's dedication and contribution and described Lowick school as having "many strengths".

"It's hard work to run two schools and have a virtually full-time teaching commitment," said Mrs Frankland. "No one should come to it thinking it will be an easy option.

"I came here because I was a deputy head in Berwick and looking for a headship. Lowick first is a village school, but it is not ordinary. The parents and governors in both schools are extremely supportive and the children are tremendous.

"I think it is special here, I probably didn't realise how special it was when I took it on."

To apply for the headteacher's post telephone the 24-hour answer machine service on 01670 533773. Forms must be returned by noon, Friday January 23.

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