We are now in the second run through of ‘The Crofting Year’ at Sgoil Lionacleit on the Isle of Benbecula.
The course has attracted considerable interest from within educational circles, from the media and from within the crofting community. Why all the interest, after all it’s just another secondary school course in amongst a whole plethora of other courses covering different subject areas at different levels?
But it isn’t just another course; it was written after lengthy consultation with local crofters and was specifically written for Uist (although it is easily adaptable for other areas), with one eye on the past and one eye firmly on the future and yet fulfilling all the stringent requirements of the Scottish Qualifications Authority. It is different from the normal school diet, focussing unashamedly on the day-to-day work on the croft with theory backing up the practical rather than the other way around. It taps into a current interest in all things sustainable and it is easy to capture the undoubted enthusiasm of the students.
For crofters it shows that there are young people who are both interested in crofting and prepared to devote their time and energy to acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to set themselves up in crofting.
It was therefore with some satisfaction that I set off with three of my students early one morning last month to catch the early morning ferry from Berneray and make our way to Stornoway, to be part of the youth focus at the Future of Crofting conference.
Since the start of our course, we have become part of the nationwide Crofting Connections project and it marvellous to be in contact with other schools in the Western Isles and across the crofting areas of Scotland who are also focussing on crofting. There is a tremendous feeling that we are engaged on something very important and that we are at the start of one of those journeys where you are not at all sure where you are going to end up but you know that there will be some great experiences along the way. It was as part of Crofting Connections that I was asked to speak at the conference and introduce one of my students, Calum Martindale, who so eloquently represented all those young people who want to make crofting their life.
I was truly heartened by the number of people who spoke to me after the conference to offer their encouragement for what we are doing. Once again, over to Calum…
Steve Carter, Crofting Teacher, Sgoil Lionacleit, Isle of Benbecula