This article, written by Katie Macleod, was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 05/10/2017

If, as the dictionary definition explains, a signature is a “distinctive pattern, product, or characteristic by which someone or something can be identified,” what would the signature of a community look like? What would be its distinctive characteristics?

In June of this year (2017), the Education and Children’s Services Department at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar set out to discover the distinctive characteristics of the islands’ communities – in other words, their signatures – through a series of workshops held as part of the Outer Hebrides Community Signature project.

The aim of Community Signature is to help local authorities to focus on and prioritise what services they can deliver, and what the community can do for itself. Following successful workshops throughout Lewis and Harris this summer, and with more to come in Uist and Barra, the interim results of the project were presented to the Education, Sports, and Children’s Services Committee on September 26th.

“What the Community Signature is highlighting for us is that the key areas or strengths in the Western Isles are probably very similar to what people expect anyway,” says Neil MacLeod, the Comhairle’s Learning and Development Service Manager, of the results so far.

“What are the good things about living in the Western Isles? It’s safety, it’s trust, it’s health and wellbeing, it’s our natural assets.” In addition, “people feel their aspirations can be met. It’s a predominantly positive picture across the Western Isles.”

This article, written by Eilidh Whiteford, was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 07/09/2017

The success story of Apprenticeships in the Western Isles was highlighted during August as Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Employability and Training, met with local apprentices and businesses to celebrate the work of the Developing the Outer Hebrides Young Workforce (DYW) group.

During his visit to e-Sgoil’s building in Francis Street, Stornoway on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, Mr Hepburn said: “It was fantastic to visit e-Sgoil and see how this new group is helping to bring employers and schools closer together, providing young people with greater opportunities to learn more about the world of work.”

Started in 2014, Developing the Young Workforce is a seven-year Scottish Government programme to prepare children and young people for the world of work; its aim to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021.

This article, written by Katie Macleod, was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 07/09/2017

Last month’s launch of the new e-Sgoil satellite hub, in the old Carinish School building in North Uist, showcased a number of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s educational aims, from developing the islands’ young workforce to working within the community.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney officially opened the hub during a visit to North Uist on August 16th, 2017, where he said that “e-Sgoil shows the positive impact of digital technology on education in remote and rural areas by allowing all learners to access the curriculum, in both English and Gaelic, through online learning.”

John Swinney added that he was “delighted the Scottish Government is funding this great project”, and that the Government was “committed to ensuring that all learners can experience an education enriched by digital technology.”

Apprentices move into Isles workforce

This article, written by Katie Macleod, was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 07/09/2017

With the recruitment process now complete, September marks a new start for the careers of the 34 apprentices who will be taking up their posts throughout the Western Isles this month.

Following on from their official induction on 4th September, the apprentices – who represent a wide variety of both age and level of experience – will be entering the workplace, where in addition to studying for academic qualifications, they will also receive mentoring from a member of staff in their chosen field.

It’s not the first time the apprentices have come together in a professional setting, however. Last month their first informal “meet and greet” session in North Uist coincided with the visit of Scotland’s Deputy First Minster John Swinney, who officially opened the new e-Sgoil satellite hub in the old Carinish school building on 16th August.

John Swinney, who is also the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, said during the event that it was “great to see the Comhairle’s Apprenticeship programme continuing to flourish, as part of our drive to ensure all of Scotland’s young people are fully and fairly supported into employment.” He added that he was “very pleased to have the opportunity to meet the new apprentices” – and even tweeted a selfie with the apprentices afterwards.

This article was first published in EVENTS newspaper (available at on 07/09/2017

With the recent media coverage surrounding historic sexual abuse of children in youth football, groups in the Western Isles are being reminded of the need to have Child Protection policies and procedures in place.

The responsibility to develop such policies sits with the individual groups, clubs or associations themselves. This is required to ensure that children participating in youth groups across the Outer Hebrides can do so in a safe, protected environment.

Consequently, the Outer Hebrides Child Protection Committee is now offering to meet with any groups seeking guidance in respect of Child Protection protocols, whilst also providing the opportunity for their committee members, staff and volunteers to take advantage of the free of charge, multi-agency child protection training.