I still can’t quite believe that I got to spend time in Orkney for work, or that it really is my job to visit schools and communities and, to the best of my ability, tell their stories.

And yet here we are, at the end of a week-long special that has done just that.

Over the last seven days, The Herald has published more than a dozen articles in which I have recounted visits to nurseries, schools, football pitches, youth spaces and even a 900-year-old cathedral. I spoke to more people than I could count, and it was an honour to have them share their stories with me. I hope they feel that I’ve done them justice.

As I wrote at the beginning of this special, our coverage was never going to be able to offer much more than a series of snapshots, and those pictures could only possibly reflect my own experiences. Everything I have written is an honest account of my time in Orkney and, as a result, most of the articles have focused on positive stories highlighting just a few of the interesting, innovative and exciting aspects of Orcadian education. To do otherwise might have generated some more clicks but it would have been a gross misrepresentation of my time there.

During a brief appearance on Radio Orkney I was asked if the council were funding my trip, which they were not. I think this was a fair enough question, but also one that reveals a lot about the state of education coverage in Scotland.

Read more:

How a youth café is tackling the issues facing young Scots in rural communities

'It’s about making football accessible': Teaching adults about the beautiful game

Creating a home from home – and keeping students in Scotland's rural communities

It is, demonstrably, surprising to people to see coverage that isn’t predicated on failures and short-comings, or that attempts ongoing engagement with anything other than the latest rolling controversy.

However, as the stories about Amber and the Youth Café show, the reality of life in Orkney is far from perfect for many young people. It may be harder to slip through the cracks in smaller, closer communities, but it is by no means impossible, and there are always young people who feel – rightly – that they are being ignored, spoken down to, and failed.

I heard about other problems, too. Staff shortages are an obvious, and ongoing, challenge, and I heard specific concerns about schools’ ability to meet the additional support needs of all pupils. Some people spoke about Kirkwall the way others talk about Edinburgh or London – as the seat of, to borrow a phrase, a ‘remote and ignorant government’.

There are serious concerns, expressed to me in stark terms, about the mental health of young people throughout the archipelago, and about the difficulties they can face when looking for support.

As with almost everything else in education, it’s all very complicated, and Orkney’s unique geography, history and culture add an extra level of difficulty to some of the puzzles that our systems try to solve. Not everything is a success story, and those short-comings have been to tackled, but that doesn’t mean that the positives should be ignored either.

Orcadian education, like Orkney itself, is imperfect and improvable, but also very special, and it was a privilege to be able to help shine a light on a little bit of the good, the bad, and the utterly extraordinary.