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Work together to secure island bases

As headteacher of the Five Islands School, a "hard" 3-16 federation of the four former primaries and one secondary school that serves the Isles of Scilly, I was interested to read Henry Hepburn's account of Canna Primary (TESS, July 6, pictured).

We too have the challenge of very small pupil numbers on remote islands currently five on St Agnes and nine on St Martin's, for example and have worked hard to overcome the dangers of social isolation and the lack of an intellectually diverse and stimulating peer group.

We have a federated enrichment programme in which all of our primary pupils come together every Wednesday on St Mary's. They have lessons in areas of the curriculum that are hard to deliver in tiny settings (for example, PE and music). In the afternoon, they can choose from a range of development activities in groups made up of pupils from across the islands. In this way, they get a range of experiences it is not possible to deliver in their island bases single year classes of 20-25 in the mornings, opportunities to work in mixed-age interest groups in the afternoon, chances to form friendships and be part of a larger, vibrant learning community throughout the day.

The programme, which started in September 2006, met some opposition from parents when we first discussed it with them was this a covert way of closing the small island bases and bringing everyone full time to St Mary's? With the first year coming to a close, these fears are behind us.

Our enrichment programme is recognised by all as a means of strengthening the federation, of drawing out the huge benefits for everyone particularly pupils and staff, of working together and of securing the future of our tiny off island bases.

Andrew Penman


the Five Islands School,

Scilly Isles

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