11-Year-Old Writes Letter To Education Secretary Complaining She Has No Teacher

Poppy Dennis.
Poppy Dennis.
Poppy Dennis.

A frustrated 11-year-old girl has written directly to the Scottish Education Secretary to complain that she doesn’t have a teacher.

Poppy Dennis is in a composite class of primary 4-7 at her tiny Highland school and is worried that she is not learning enough in her final year before starting high school.

The Arisaig Primary School pupil is at her wits end and complained to SNP minister John Swinney that her class is “not learning anything!”

Her class has been without a full-time teacher since the beginning of August when the previous teacher was moved to take the primary 1-3 pupils at the start of the term.

She is one of only 28 pupils at the small school in Inverness-shire and part of a class of 13.

Poppy starts her letter by asking “Please can you help me?” before listing her concerns to Mr Swinney.

She wrote: “My problem is my class (p4-7) does not have any teacher. My classmates and I are not learning anything!

“Last term the infant class didn’t have a teacher and now the same has happened to us.

“There has been constant times that my class and I have been left alone without a teacher.”

Poppy Dennis's letter.  A frustrated 11-year-old girl has written directly to the Scottish Education Secretary to complain that she doesn't have a teacher.
Poppy Dennis’s letter. A frustrated 11-year-old girl has written directly to the Scottish Education Secretary to complain that she doesn’t have a teacher.

She and the two other primary 7 pupils are worried they are falling behind with maths and language and fear they will struggle when they move to Mallaig High school.

Poppy added that her parents had previously been in touch with Highland Council’s learning manager Norma Young but had not gotten any closer to a solution.

She continued: “Our parents are also very concerned about our education.

“They have tried many times speaking to Norma Young and getting her involved but yet she is not doing anything about it — she obviously doesn’t care about the big problem.

“So I decided to take matters into my own hand. I’ve heard that if anyone can help us it’s you!

“We really need an official teacher such as our most recent teacher who was not only a great teacher but she made learning fun and exciting!

“Please help — it would mean the world to me!

“Yours, sincerely Poppy Dennis”

Teaching gaps at the school are currently filled by different supply teachers and, on occasion by headteacher Martin Jones.

But Mr Jones, also has to cover Canna and Rum primaries which requires him to travel by ferry and can take up a day at the time.

Some pupils are keeping a log recording the times they are left alone with no teacher.

Mr Swinney, who was appointed as education secretary in May last year, said millions had been invested in recruiting teachers across Scotland.

He said: “I’d like to thank Poppy for her letter about finding a new teacher for Arisaig.

“We recognise some recruitment challenges remain across Scotland.

“We have taken decisive action to help recruit and retain teachers through our Teaching Makes People campaign.

“This year alone we invested £88 million so every school can access the right number of teachers and by working with local authorities to increase teacher numbers we have recruited an additional 253 this year.

“We have also increased funding and places for our universities to recruit trainee teachers and £1 million from the Attainment Scotland Fund has been made available to support 11 new innovative routes into teacher education.”



A Highland Council spokesman said a post advertising the job has been made online.

He said: “On Monday a letter was sent to parents informing them the permanent teaching post will be advertised on My Job Scotland.

“In the interim a sustainable and stable staffing arrangement has been put in place.”

Poppy’s mum Valerie Stewart-Orchard, 48, said that pupils need to have the same teacher day in and day out.

The mother-of-three’s two older children both had permanent teachers when they attended Arisaig Primary and have since moved up to Mallaig High School.

Mrs Stewart-Orchard said: “There’s no consistency of learning when you have different supply teachers coming in all the time.

“Having the same face day in and day out is what they really need. They need someone who knows their different needs.

“The new P4 pupils have been without a teacher since the start of last year.

“I had mentioned to Poppy that Highland Council had not been very forthcoming with any response to my letters so she decided to take matters into her own hands one night.

“She said ‘no messing around, I’m going straight to the top’ and sat down at the kitchen table one night to write it all out.

“John Swinney has not responded directly to us but only when the media asked him for a comment.

“He has used Poppy’s letter as a platform to restate the SNP’s policy on education but has not addressed when we’ll get a new teacher.

“Poppy is not really interested in the wider politics — she just wants a new teacher.”


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