PUPILS at a flagship Gaelic school have been left without a permanent, full-time headteacher or deputy after education chiefs failed for the seventh time to fill the top job.
Annika Jansson, the Swedish, non-Gaelic-speaking acting head for the past two years at the Inverness primary, walked out on Monday after failing for the second time to get the post.
The school – called Bun-sgoil Ghaidhlig Inbhir Nis in Gaelic – has been forced to take its part-time Gaelic-speaking deputy out of the classroom to act as head while the job is advertised for an eighth time.
A council insider today admitted the situation was “ridiculous” and critics of the SNP government have said it exposed the shortcomings of spending money “willy nilly” to promote Gaelic.
Supporters of the primary see it as a role model for similar institutions in Fort William and Portree, Skye, but the school has now been without a permanent head for over three-and-a-half years.
Ms Jansson, who was the only candidate for the post at the £4m school, has asked to be redeployed to another school in the area.
Her interview panel consisted of three councillors and three members of the parent council who deemed her inability to speak the Gaelic would damage the ethos of the school.
After the unsuccessful interview Ms Jansson went home “for a period of reflection” and is not expected to return to the 169-pupil school.
A senior council insider said: “It’s getting ridiculous – how are we supposed to hire a new teacher and a new head teacher? Eight vacancies later and we’re still not seeing the end of the tunnel.”
“Now the deputy-head who teaches three days a week will have to leave the classroom and do the managerial duties.
“Ms Jansson left of her own accord and will now remain at home for a period of reflection.”
The source added: “It is unknown exactly what happened during the interview but what is likely is that the parents were unhappy with a non-speaker of the language getting the job.
“Ultimately the councillors have to listen the parents because at the end of the day it’s their kids at stake.”
In a letter to parents of Bun-sgoil Ghaidhlig Inbhir Nis, area education manager Clifford Cooke said: “As Ms Jansson was not appointed, I have agreed that she will be, at her request, redeployed elsewhere within the Inverness area.
“I am currently making arrangements for this to take place as soon as possible.
“In the meantime, I am liaising with a number of people to decide the best temporary solution for the continued smooth running of the school.
“The school staff are aware that they can contact this office for any support in this interim period.
“I do take this opportunity to thanks Ms Jansson most sincerely for the hard work and dedication she has shown to both the school and community whilst undertaking this acting position. I wish her well in her future career.”
Sarah Johnson, 46, whose seven-year-old twin daughters Keri and Orla attend the school, said: “I didn’t think for a minute they would make this decision at all.
“People are unhappy that it’s happening and they will be even more unhappy they’ve got no headmistress to lead the school – it’s a major mistake.”
Last week Alasdair Christie, chairman of the council’s adult and children’s services, defended Ms Jansson as the post was defined as a “managerial role” and speaking the language was not essential.
The Highland school opened in 2007 and was the first purpose-built Gaelic school in Scotland.
The only full-time teacher left the position in April 2009 – a position that has remained empty has there has only been three acting-head teachers in the role.
An online petition on Facebook called ‘Seeking Gaelic Head Teacher – A’ Sireadh Ceannard Gàidhlig’, believed to be set up by concerned parents, has also been taken down following the revelations of Ms Jansson’s interview.
At the last census it was revealed that Scotland has just over 59,000 gaelic speakers – a decline of almost 7,000 in ten years.
Government spending on gaelic education has also increased from £19.2million in 2009/10 to £21.7million in 2010–11.