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Cradle to grave

Nicol Stephen was, very obviously, the only person who could have opened the annual conference of the Association for Science Education (ASE) Scotland, held in Aberdeen.

Stephen is the local MSP. Plus, he is Deputy Education Minister. But - most important of all - his father was a physics teacher.

His address certainly challenged the normal boundaries of professional aspiration by asking the assembled science teachers what they would like to have inscribed on their gravestones.

"Would it be 'I helped deliver the National Qualifications effectively?' Or perhaps 'I was a loyal servant to my headteacher?' Or might it say 'I helped to inspire a generation of children in brilliant and imaginative science work - and I helped to drive the future'?"

Such advance intimations of mortality certainly shed new light on the demands of continuing professional development.

With a self-irony not always evident in his own profession, Stephen conceded that his own gravestone would probably say, somewhat lamely: "He was a politician."

Or maybe, he added with a twinkle, "a statesman".

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