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Jeanless Labour fails to do its homework

Labour's man on BSE and Shadow Cabinet high-flyer Gavin Strang put education under the microscope last Friday in a cameo Brandon Lee role. As constituency MP, he donned the school tie of Holy Rood High in the capital and along with selected local notables did a morning shift as a classroom pupil to help celebrate the school's 25th anniversary.

Senior teacher Irene McLellan had already dispatched instructions. "A word of warning - the wearing of denim jeans and football colours is discouraged and detention will be given for unacceptable behaviour. The headteacher will expect you to report to his office at 10.15am. Don't be late."

Prompt and suitably attired, the doctor with a degree in agriculture and mad cows on his mind was invited to join a fourth-year biology class on cell structure.

Veronica Wigham, principal tea-cher of the subject, advised pupils it was to be a "normal lesson", despite assorted photographers, reporters and hangers-on. The young Strang (ex-Morrison's Academy, actually) dutifully sliced up an onion and slid the slivers under the microscope. Wigham, however, was not amused. Strang - tut, tut - had failed to hand in his homework.

"Gavin, detention at lunchtime," she said firmly, for all the world as if she were Madam Speaker.

The still beef-eating shadow minister had more pressing concerns and sped off before his lunch (ham, not beef). Attendance officers were apparently hot on his trail.

Elsewhere in the school, Jotter's correspondent was engrossed in a Standard grade maths investigation - at General level. His new companion in the front seat was more excited by an imminent game of football than the number of square feet involved in the problem.

Maths teacher Laurie McAlinden fired off his reprimand. "What part of 'sit down' do you not understand?" Meanwhile, the "new pupil" was bombarded with the fundamental questions of pedagogy. "What team do you support?" Beef and football. Are the two related?

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