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Further adventures of Phil Harrass private HMI

I WAS BACK on the job. For three months I'd been taken off my private HMI cases and assigned to protection duties at the Scottish Qualifications Authority. One thing about the fiasco stuck in my mind. It was the way the story made the national rags on both sides of the border. Were those in the south really that interested?

Or, having been repeatedly told the Scots education system was superior to theirs, were they demonstrating that they were just as capable of Schadenfreude? I abandoned such thoughts and nosed the Favorit into the car park of the joint I'd come to inspect.

It was a strange case. The place had been wired for a computer network six months ago. Every room had a PC and a data point. Two weeks after it was all installed, exclusion rates and discipline referrals fell to almost zero.

No one could work out why, but the staff were pretty happy. Then, a week ago, they had all walked out. I was there to find out why.

As I walked to the main entrance, a solitary brat lounged against a wall. He saw me take a pull of Irn Bru from my hip-flask.

"Ur ye no' worried Big Brother'll see ye daein' that?" asked the kid.

"What are you on about, son?" I asked.

"They're aye lookin' at us!" the boy replied. "Classes, corridors, shunkies . .

. eerywhere there's yin o' these wee rid een!"

"Pal, you ain't making a whole heap of sense," I told him.

"Just find the web address, nane o' us can," he said. "Then ye'll see!"

I walked off, baffled. It was time to visit the head.

"It's awful," he said as we sat in his office."There's an atmosphere of total paranoia. And things were so good on the behaviour front!"

I told him about the pupil and his comments about Big Brother and finding the web address. Suddenly he shot upright. "Good grief!" he said. "I know what's happened. Oh, God forgive me for a comment I only ever made as a joke."

"What is it, Bub?"

"When the network was put in, one of the kids asked what all the cabling was for," he explained. "I told him they were putting web cams in every classroom so that their parents could log in and watch them at any time of day.

Obviously, he believed me and passed it about. Now the staff have got wind.

They think they're being monitored!"

We managed to calm things down and convinced staff and pupils alike that the flashing red lights on the sensors in each classroom belonged to the school's alarm system. Then I hushed it up completely because someone, somewhere, would surely think it was a good idea.

Gregor Steele

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