Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

I Teach English, Maths and Baa-Ology: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

I Teach English, Maths and Baa-Ology: News

Article excerpt

Sheep farming falls within teachers' remit on the Falklands.

"It's just like a small Cornish town," Tom Hill says, cheerily, "only it's 8,000 miles from the UK and off the coast of Argentina."

Hill is head of Stanley Infant and Junior School on the Falkland Islands, overseeing some of the English education system's most remote schools, and today he is expecting some very sore heads among his staff.

The 14 June is known as Liberation Day for the 3,500 people who live on the British territory, and this year it is particularly special, marking the 30th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War.

"There is usually a very big party on the 14th, where everybody has a few drinks," Hill says. "But this year it falls on a Thursday, so everyone has to go to work the next day. I expect some of my staff to be a bit groggy in the morning."

But it is unlikely that their headteacher will concern himself too much over the sluggish start to the morning's classes, such is the overall commitment of his teachers.

Providing a fully rounded English education to nearly 300 children spread across an area roughly the size of Wales throws up some rather unique challenges for the former Wiltshire head and his staff.

"We have about 240 students who we educate in the same way as they would be in the UK," Hill says as a blizzard picks up outside his window. "We have the main school in Port Stanley and then four what we call settlement schools around the islands, which in most cases are attended by fewer than 10 children. Most have fewer than five."

According to Hill, the Falklands fall into two categories. There is the town, namely Port Stanley, which is the capital of the Falklands, and then there is "camp", which derives from the Spanish for country, campo, and refers to the rest of the wild island territory.

The term can trigger childish giggles among the newly arrived, particularly when talking about adapting to a "camp way of life", but when it comes to trying to teach those children who live in the most rugged corners of camp, it is a serious matter.

"We have islands the size of Malta where just two people live, so for some children it is impossible for them to get to the settlement schools," says Hill.

Every farm must have an airstrip where possible, and part of Hill's staff is the travelling teacher service, which has three teachers who go out into the most remote corners of the islands to live in the children's houses, teaching them for a period of two weeks at a time.

"Every six weeks, the family will put up a teacher for two weeks," Hill says. "But the teachers will be expected to do much more than just teach when they are there. …

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