Treasured Falkland islands

15th December 2006 at 00:00
Susan Young talks to a former Devon deputy head who has been seduced by the charms of the Islas Malvinas

Mending trousers, unloading the supplies boat and breakfasting with the Ofsted inspector is not all in a day's work for most teachers. So meet Wendy Reynolds, a travelling teacher on the Falkland Islands, whose working life changed dramatically when she answered an advertisement in The TES three years ago. Wendy, 57, was deputy head at a Devon primary when she felt it was time for "a bit of a change" before retirement. And that was exactly what she got. She now spends her working life shuttling between three families living on remote farms in the South Atlantic islands, spending a fortnight at a time with each one as she teaches their children and helps out with the chores.

"The advert said that the job works better if you fit in with farm life.

You work with the child but also with their family. My role has ended up as chief sewer - I make curtains, mend trousers and so on," says Wendy.

Her pupils, two six-year-olds and a seven-year-old, get two weeks of lessons with Wendy for four-and-a-half hours a day, then four weeks'

tuition with a telephone teacher.

Wendy and the telephone teacher liaise regularly on academic progress and family life. "At the end of my two weeks or her four weeks, we exchange a report card - it's about things to revise or pick up on and other things which have happened, kittens being born, that kind of thing. These are very big happenings for the children."

Each of Wendy's three families has a schoolroom separate from the house, with work up on the walls. Once the teaching day is over, she goes for a walk with her pupils.

Working conditions for the four travelling teachers in Camp - the local name for outlying areas - may be unusual, but they follow the national curriculum. Year 6 pupils will do Sats, there is in-service training and Ofsted comes to inspect every two years - although there is a twist. "The inspector comes to stay at the farm and has supper and breakfast with me,"

Wendy says.

"I was getting feedback from him while he was looking out of the classroom window when he said: 'Look, dolphins!' So we went to look at the dolphins."

Every six weeks, Wendy flies back to the capital, Stanley, to spend a weekend in the teachers' house and pick up the books and resources she needs for her next stint on the road.

Twice a year, the farm children travel into Stanley for a week. There are two schools in the town and two more in outlying settlements. All the islands' children attend the secondary school, as weekly or termly boarders.

Travelling teachers need to be flexible and adaptable. "You might be unable to move on to the next place because it's foggy. The power isn't on all the time. If supplies arrive you need to help the family unload them from the jetty," Wendy says.

"I still have to pinch myself. It is idyllic. I've never had such a satisfying job. It wouldn't be some people's cup of tea at all. Some people are green with envy. Other people wonder how I do without shopping"

Fancy teaching in the Falklands?

For more information, contact Falkland Islands Government Office, 14 Broadway, Westminster, London, SW1H 0BH; Tel: 020 7222 2542; Fax: 020 7222 2375;

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