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Exam diary


The sun is shining, pupils are shedding layers of clothes at a dramatic rate, girls are complaining about burned shoulders and Stephen is still wearing his winter anorak. It is spring and the SEB, sorry SQA, exams approach.

The first exams, Standard grade art and design, are on Thursday, followed by Higher art and design on Monday. Study leave for Standard grade pupils starts on Tuesday, when they sit their English. Letters about study leave have been issued and returned with a parental signature and travel arrangements have been made for the pupils whose exams finish after our normal buses have left. There is an air of anticipation.

Joyce, our chief invigilator, went over the final arrangements with Iain (assistant head). She foresees no major problems. She never does. I consider how lucky we are that excellent people will do the invigilation for the meagre payment on offer.

Jim (business studies) informs me of a possible problem with the office and information studies practicals. The two teachers from his department who are going on a school trip to Strasbourg will be away on the day of the exam. The old-fashioned local network in one of the rooms has been playing up and he worries that it may fail during the exam. He asks me to find and employ another business studies teacher for that day in case the problem occurs. I will think about it.

Iain issues a list of the rooms, apart from the hall, that will be needed for exams. He gets the usual complaints: "Why are you using my room four times when you are only using Peter's twice?" Later Peter tells me he is battling with Iain because English rooms are being used too often.

Wednesday May 10

I looked again at the agreed targets for Standard grade. Even before any student sits an exam, I see we will fil to meet our maths target of 96.7 per cent gaining 1-6.

Our September roll of 159 has declined to 156. Scott has not been at school since November, despite the efforts of the attendance council, children's panel and social work. Liam is staying with an aunt in Manchester. Peter is taking Higher Still access units and will not sit the maths exam. If everyone left gains 1-6 our result will be 96.2 per cent.

Thursday May 11

Water has been pouring from overflows from hot water tanks in art since March. The plumber arrives on the day of the art exam to fix them.

Checked with Joyce to see if there had been problems with art. The kids had been fine but the Ex 6 forms had not arrived and Joyce had to write out the attendance lists by hand.

She had just telephoned small parcel deliveries to find out if the missing 50 per cent of Standard grade English papers were on their way. No one knows when or if they will arrive. If they don't arrive, we will need to photocopy more or, as Joyce suggests, allow the students to share the papers.

What are the security implications? Do I personally do the photocopying - with my eyes shut? Will our unreliable machine work at the required time?

Friday May 12

A huge bundle of Ex 6 forms has arrived.

Just before 4pm a delivery of papers turns up. I hope it includes the English ones. I muse that SQA must be following best business practice of "just in time delivery".

Discuss with Colin (modern studies) the amount of assessment in his subject at Higher. He has two unit assessments to complete next week but has only had the courage to tell the students about the first one. We discuss the stress on students under this assessment load.

John Mitchell The writer is headteacher of Kilsyth Academy, North Lanarkshire

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