From Sydney to Stornoway

2nd September 2005 at 01:00
Jane Goldman The Nicolson Institute, Lewis

The Nicolson Institute offered Jane Goldman a permanent position in its history department last term, but she was hesitant. It was not that she didn't want the job; her reluc-tance was all to do with housing.

"I just can't afford to live here," explains Ms Goldman, a Sydney-educated teacher who is one of the first international recruits the Western Isles is hoping to attract.

"I'm 28 years old, I'm too old to start sharing with strangers, but I can't find an affordable home."

It took months of telephone calls from her home in Sydney to find her home on the island and since she arrived in February she has been paying city rates for it, but that cannot go on. Her best hope is to get a housing association place with the help of the council.

While the local authority might be able to do something about housing, registration is a far more intractable obstacle to its hopes of attracting foreign teachers to ease the recruitment crisis. It took Ms Goldman over a year to get registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

"I was working in Canada at the time but they kept sending any communications to Australia. I kept writing to them to say where I was, but it didn't make any difference. They kept writing to the wrong address," says Ms Goldman.

"Then eventually they said it should be OK, so I left Canada and came to Scotland, but when I arrived I was told I couldn't register because I didn't have enough CAT (credit accumulation and transfer) points.

"I'd been teaching in Australia, Canada and England for four years and they said I wasn't qualified enough to teach history. So I went home.

"Then they wrote to me in Australia saying they would register me to teach classics. Even now I'm not registered to teach history. But what schools have classics on the curriculum?"

The GTC says it acted properly throughout and makes no apology for registrations taking time: "We have a duty to ensure high quality teaching standards and that appropriate background and police checks are carried out."

After all her efforts, Ms Goldman is ready to commit to a good school and she feels has found one at the Nicolson Institute. She took great delight in writing to her former colleagues to tell them that within her first month, not one student had sworn at her.

"The students are all lovely; there isn't one class that I don't enjoy teaching," she says.

She also enjoys the environs of Lewis, but she never intended going there initially. She planned to go to Skye, where her mother's family are, or to the outskirts of Glasgow near her friends. Her agency placed her in one of the most remote areas of Scotland.

"I accepted it because it is close to Skye, but it could be in Australia for all I see of my friends.

"I thought I'd be able to see them at the weekend, but there is no ferry service on Sundays and the last ferry on Friday leaves at 4pm. I can't afford to go for a few hours on the Saturday.

"Another problem is that the holidays don't match with the rest of Scotland."

Despite this, Ms Goldman would like to stay in the job and on the island if she can sort out her housing because the students are worth it and the scenery is beautiful.

And if she joins a postal DVD club, she feels she can cope with the long winter.

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