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Highland Heroes 2024: School shortlist revealed – VOTE NOW!

By Leah Williamson

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Here's your shortlist for school of the year...

Balnain Primary School

Balnain Primary School
Balnain Primary School

“The most fantastic wee school, like a small family” is how Balnain Primary School, Glen Urquhart, is described in a nomination.

The school, which has 14 pupils, is right at the heart of the community and often referred to as the ‘gem in the glen’ and ‘small but mighty’! The school has a strong bond with its pupils ‒ former and present ‒ their families and the residents of the wider community.

Last October, Balnain raised over £12,000 running the Baxters 5k to support the family of a former pupil; senior citizens are invited to school shows; and it recently developed links with a community hub to enable families to access free transport to after-school care.

A nomination said: “As a tiny school in a rural area, we’d love to see them rewarded with this accolade, encouraging them to continue with all the hard work they do.”

Head teacher, Julie MacLeod, praised the efforts of her team and all connected with the school: “We work very much as a team and we’re very close with our community. It’s a very positive place to be. We’re absolutely amazed to have been nominated, it was a real surprise. It’s heart-warming to be recognised, especially for such a small school.”

Kirkhill Primary School

Kirkhill Primary School
Kirkhill Primary School

Head teacher at Kirkhill primary, Georgina Dunbar, puts its success down to teamwork, both in the school and in the community.

“We work extremely well as a team, the whole school community. We’ve got good relationships between the staff and the pupils, but also with parents and the wider community.”

A nomination said: “Everyone is welcomed, included and celebrated. As a village school, Kirkhill is the heart of the community and is heavily involved in many events for members of the village.”

Last year, the school achieved a Digital Schools award and also a Social Enterprise Schools award. For the enterprise award, the P6 class came up with their own action plan to raise funds to buy items for a local food bank. The youngsters then made up ‘happy hampers’ which they delivered through the church.

Their efforts scooped a further accolade, a Gold Impact award from Picture News, a teaching resource that helps educate pupils about current affairs and the world around them.

Mrs Dunbar said news of the school’s Heroes nomination came as a shock but a good one!

“I was very surprised, shocked and delighted! It’s fantastic. It’s lovely to think someone in the community felt we are deserving of this award.”

Merkinch Primary School

Merkinch Primary School
Merkinch Primary School

Merkinch Primary School has taken its pupils and their families to its heart.

A nomination said: “Merkinch Primary School works hard to provide for not just the kids but the whole community. They are a fabulous asset to the Merkinch and South Kessock community and beyond.”

The school has raised funds to take pupils on trips and to school events, to ensure no child misses out because of a cost barrier.

Merkinch organises donations for winter jackets and a ‘bring something, take something’ initiative where folk donate clothing items at the school and pick something they need, as a way of supporting local families.

The school runs lots of after- school wider-achievement clubs using volunteers and school staff at no cost to the children and has also established a breakfast cafe.

At Christmas, every child received a gift to take home.

Head teacher, Jillian Kean, said: “I’m very proud of the school. It’s a team effort every day and our children and their families are a huge part of that team.”

RSE is sponsoring the school award.

Jill Joiner, RSE, customer and stakeholder manager, said: “RSE continues to support the Highland Heroes awards as an opportunity to recognise and commend the people and organisations within our local communities who improve the lives of others, whether this is through their work, volunteering, or fundraising.

“This year, RSE is delighted to continue our support of the school of the year award and recognise all the hard-working teachers, pupils and support staff shortlisted for this category. We'd like to encourage votes to be submitted for local Highland schools that have gone above and beyond to provide a successful learning environment for young people where they have the space, support and resources to thrive.”

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