Auntie's Christmas cracker

John Mitchell

John Mitchell unveils the surprises in store on BBC Scotland's education theme night

T wo years ago, we offered TES Scotland readers a sneak preview of a Christmas schedule being prepared by BBC Scotland in a frantic attempt to fill an evening with a collection of vaguely related programmes and call it an education theme night. Alas, the evening was abandoned due to several court orders and a libel suit.

Nothing daunted, the education unit at Queen Margaret Drive has gone back to the drawing board with a new set of proposals and a full battery of lawyers to prepare another such themed evening. Once again, we have been fortunate to obtain advance notification of the schedule.

6.00pm Listen With Jack An interactive phone-in begins the evening's events. Teachers are invited to telephone their thoughts on the state of Scottish education to Jack McConnell, The Listening Minister, and he promises to listen. So the show probably won't be terribly interactive.

6.30 Back to the Shop Floor Part 1: A repeat of a programme originally broadcast in May. Ron Tuck, then chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, went back to the shop floor and attempted some of the examinations on offer in his organisation's summer assessment diet.

Time runs out as he discovers it is impossible to sit three different exams in one day and summons an immediate and urgent board meeting to discuss the issues. Alas, the board can't agree a meeting date for another eight weeks. The rest is history.

6.45 The Money Programme Bill Milligan of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland explains how the McCrone committee's package should be divided in an equitable fashion.

"We want the bloody lot. Primary heads have had it coming to them for a long time".

David Eaglesham of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association agrees, but not in the manner intended. A lively discussion ensues.

7.00 An Inspector Calls A latter-day version of JB Priestley's classic drama, given an educational twist. A grey-faced Inspector Osler turns up at the Educational Institute of Scotland's Council Christmas dinner and implies that everyone is to blame except himself. Unsurprisingly, members of the cast beg to differ in an improvised final act. Contains some violence.

7.30 Chewin' the Fat: A Teacher's Guide An essential aid for teachers who haven't a clue as to why their pupils think this programme is funny. Includes tips on how best to respond to hilariously witty catchphrases such as "Goanny no' do that, sur?", plus advice on the best way to deal with children who keep saying "Oooh" in high-pitched voices.

7.45 Across The Barricades A torrid account of internecine warfare in a Scottish university. Ken MacDonald presents an award-winning documentary that seeks to explore and explain the place of organised religion in an autocratic management system.

8.05 Bonjour Bebe John Mulgrew introduces the new French course for infants and explains why compulsory modern languages used to be OK. But now they're not.

"Have you any idea how difficult it is to keep order in a class full of 16-year-old halfwits? We'd rather they went to the tekky department, to be honest."

8.15 Back to the Shop Floor Part 2: In this new programme it's acting chief executive Bill Morton's turn to see what life is like for SQA staff at the sharp end of the organisation. Bill's horrified to discover mailsacks of exam scripts lying unopened and struggles to come to terms with interpreting a set of results data from an operator's screen display.

"Um I I think your son's got an A for Higher English," he dons a telephone headset to inform an enquiring parent. "Woops, no! Sorry. Make that a C. Too bad. Better luck next time, eh?" There is a telling moment when the camera witnesses a clerical assistant shuffling a bundle of appeals before arranging them in two random piles. The QA argued for removal of this scene from the final programme but the makers insisted upon editorial independence and it stayed in.

8.45 Your Life in Their Hands A discussion panel chaired by Kirsty Wark. Should an organisation like the SQA have the right to ruin students' lives? Or is it better left to a more professional body?

9.00 Media MogulsToday North Lanarkshire; Tomorrow The World Michael O'Neill reports from the burgeoning publishing unit set up by North Lanarkshire Council and discusses possible merger opportunities with Reed International.

9.30 Business World Merger Mania A fascinating investigation into the effects of mergers on large-scale businesses. Economies of scale are all very well, but there can be immense practical difficulties when the organisations have completely different working practices and diametrically opposed ideological viewpoints. Not to mention being hundreds of miles apart.

As the Scottish Council for Educational Technology and the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum attempt to cement their new alliance, Andrew Neil examines the lessons to be learned after the Scottish Examination Board and Scottish Vocational Education Council became the SQA - or "CRU" as Mr Neil refers to them, for "Certificates R Us".

9.50 Company Doctor John Harvey-Wallbanger examines the management report on the SQA prepared by Delight and Touch and offers even further hard-hitting advice: "Thin the exams down. Cut out internal assessment altogether because everybody cheats and nobody trusts it. And appoint a chief executive with lots of management experience at a grossly inflated salary. Like me, for example. I'd sort the useless bastards out."

10.15 Castaway 2000 Review The members of the Scottish School Board Association have been stranded on a remote Scottish island for the past 10 months in the hope that they will start speaking to each other once again.

All seems to be going well until the summer, when self-appointed group leader Mrs Hill tries to make contact with a tabloid newspaper to declare the group's support for Clause 28. Not everyone agrees, so they refuse to let her leave the island for a photocall - and Mrs Hill misses another SQA board meeting I 10.45 Farewell My Lovely The final episode, as Professor John MacBeath boards the GNER express at Glasgow Central Station to head south for Cambridge and then discovers it has been cancelled due to track restrictions. The Shotts route to Edinburgh proves less alluring - and fraught with danger I 11.15 The Big Time A return of the show that plucks members of the public from obscurity and creates stars out of very ordinary people. Tonight young Wendy Alexander sets out to get her photograph in every national newspaper. And succeeds.

11.15 The Moderator Pilot episode of a new late-night thriller series. The Moderator is a cloaked figure of mystery who will arrive in schools at random and without any explanation for his actions. But he has a terrible aversion to FE colleges and refuses to go anywhere near them. Why? And does anyone in authority care?

11.45 Double Your Money A late-night slot for this welcome return of the Sixties quiz show, hosted by Jack McConnell. The Listening Minister asks a range of simple questions to a group of assorted teachers, such as "Will you mark my exam papers next year?" and "Will you please mark my exam papers?" 12.15am The Royle Family Alastair MacGowan with another edition of his regal tribute to Caroline Aherne's comic creation. This week, Prince William goes on a reconnaisance visit to St Andrews University and picks up his first piece of student lingo plus spends a rather dizzy half-hour as he tries his first "Jack Straw".

12.45 The Epilogue Former education minister Sam Galbraith deplores the "blame culture" in today's society and urges tolerance and understanding at this season of goodwill.

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