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It is a privilege to serve the community, says retiring Caithness head teacher

By Jean Gunn

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Lybster and Dunbeath head teacher Carol Grant is retiring from her role after 32 years working in primary education in Caithness.

Although giving up her primary school head teacher post, she still hopes to be able to provide some supply teaching cover locally.

She has many fond memories of all the schools she had worked in.

"It is a privilege to serve the local community for such a long time," Mrs Grant said. "It has been interesting watching the careers of children who have succeeded beyond expectation.

"Being local, you are aware of what children go on to do in their lives and you meet them in different roles."

After finishing her training, Mrs Grant started off teaching in Lybster, then worked at Watten Primary School for three years before moving to Dunbeath as head teacher 23-and-a-half years ago.

When she started at Dunbeath there were 33 pupils. This dipped to as low as eight at one point, and she was asked to cover Lybster for a term as well when the head teacher there resigned.

"I was asked to cover for a term. It became two, then became a year, then became permanent," she said.

Mrs Grant held the role for around 14 years and Dunbeath will be back up to about 30 pupils with two teachers when the schools return after summer.

Carol Grant has worked in primary education in Caithness for more than 30 years.
Carol Grant has worked in primary education in Caithness for more than 30 years.

Reflecting on some of the developments she has seen, Mrs Grant said: "The whole curriculum has changed. My role has changed from being a teacher to a head teacher which is more admin-based."

Local councillor Nicola Sinclair, a member of Highland Council's education committee, said: "Carol Grant is a wonderful head teacher who I have got to know quite well over the three years since I was elected.

"I was struck by her dedication, and she always championed the needs of her schools and wider community both in her role as a school leader and with the community council.

"I have no doubt she will be missed by her colleagues and pupils. As her local councillor I’d like to extend my thanks for her long service and tireless efforts.

"I hope she has a long and happy retirement and I don’t doubt our paths will cross again through her community work. I wish her all the best."

This last term has been the most unusual time.

Councillor Willie Mackay, the civic leader, said: “I’m disappointed but perfectly understand if Carol wants to retire from this position. I’ve always admired her demanding role as a head teacher and the unstinting work she was doing.

"She was very conscientious in that role, doing some great work with the children, and she got on so well with them and other members of staff. I wish her well."

Due to schools being shut since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic and final details yet to be released about when they go back in August, Mrs Grant is still on call. Lybster teacher Denise Walsh will take on the role of acting head until the post is advertised.

Mrs Grant said: "This last term has been the most unusual time – I am not known to close the school even in bad weather."

She has been kept occupied, along with Mrs Walsh, volunteering a couple of days a week helping with the management side at the hub in Wick's Newton Park Primary School, ensuring the children of key workers are looked after.

Mrs Grant now hopes to find more time to spend in her garden as well as the other activities she enjoys, such as baking and craft-making.

She will continue to be kept busy on various local groups including being a member of the Latheron Show home industries committee, a member of the flower committee of the County Show and convener of the East of Caithness SWI bulb committee.

Mrs Grant is also the chairperson of Latheron SWI and the minute secretary for Latheron, Lybster and Clyth Community Council as well as Latheron Hall Committee.

Due to the pandemic, colleagues have been unable to say a proper goodbye to Mrs Grant. Dunbeath school celebrates its 30th anniversary in November 2020 so a celebration may be held then if circumstances allow.

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