The remotest school in the country

The Key
The Key
Kielder Primary School is located in the most remote village in England, in Northumberland, on the border of Scotland. It currently has 17 pupils on roll and two permanent members of teaching staff, as well as part-time support staff. The village of Kielder is very small and has less than 200 inhabitants. We spoke to headteacher Fay Hartland about the joys and challenges of running such a small and remote school.

How did you become the headteacher at your school?

I started teaching in my late twenties, and first taught in a challenging school in Gateshead, which was a baptism of fire. Then I went part-time when I had children. When they were teenagers, I decided that I was ready for the next step in my career and I decided that I wanted to become a headteacher.

I was initially seconded to Kielder for a year, having just completed my NPQH, as the school was unable to recruit a headteacher.  I fell in love with it and am still here 7 years later!

How would you describe the ethos of your school? How do you maintain it?

We are fully inclusive, constantly changing in order to meet the varying needs of our children and their families.  Due to our size, we work across age-groups and we encourage children to learn from each-other. Our staff work extremely well as a team.  We have many challenges but continue to overcome them.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It is never boring.  I love the craziness and the relationships we build with each other, as a staff, with the children and with the parents and carers.

There’s huge variety in my role and I wear many hats. I am both a full-time teacher and headteacher, but I also muck in when other jobs need doing. This morning I was gritting the path and defrosting the minibus and now I’m catching up on my headteacher admin.

What’s the biggest challenge you face personally in the role? How do you tackle this?

The main challenge is balancing the different elements of my role. I tackle this by prioritising tasks and working well with partnership schools.  My staff and governors are very supportive which makes a huge difference.

Another challenge is teaching pupils of different age groups. In English and Science, this is manageable, as the curriculum has common topics which can be adapted for varying age groups and key stages. However, with Maths it is much more difficult – we end up having to conduct one to one teaching. The benefit of having mixed-age classes is that younger children aspire to catch up with their older peers and can end up achieving at a higher level than their age group.

What gives you the confidence to take tough decisions and the motivation to keep going?

Our school continues to do well so we must be doing something right.  I keep going because I enjoy it. And if I come across something that I feel unable to do myself, I call upon our local network of six schools, where I have a very good relationship with the other headteachers. I’m also lucky to have such a wonderful team around me, all of whom are very supportive.

To read our interview with Fay in full, visit the our ‘Leaders like you‘ area.

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