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Happy in their work.

"I'm not here to put a dampener on things." That was how HMI Douglas Cairns anticipated the way his contribution might be received on a day full of positive buzz when people who had been taking part in the Schools of Ambition programme gathered to celebrate their work in Edinburgh the other week.

The poor inspectorate - they must feel so unloved when they venture out and about. But we can console them, because it used to be much worse. In his History of Scottish Education, James Scotland records how inspectors used to be named and shamed in the 1870s and 1880s: "personal fads, of which Mr Dunn seems to have his fair share"; "the unhappy manner and method of inspection pursued by Mr Waddell"; "as a teacher (in North Forfarshire), I would be most happy to hear of Mr Muir's removal".

Things did improve, however, and Scotland records that, in the earlier part of the 20th century, "there was a general movement to stress the advisory rather than the monitory aspect of inspectors' work". Curriculum for Excellence anyone?

Glow goes glacial

At the international gathering of early years experts, hosted by Learning and Teaching Scotland on Glow (TESS last week), children's commissioner Tam Baillie talked about his consultation with younger children, A Right Wee Blether.

He has discovered how altruistic they are, the earthquake in Haiti being a frequent cause for their concern. One child thought he could stop earthquakes but, Baillie added sombrely, "that's beyond my powers".

Undeterred, the early years specialist from Iceland broke in: "I wonder if you could stop volcanic activity?"


It had to happen - a lecture cancelled due to the activities of said volcano. Husband and wife duo, US professors Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison had to pull out of their gig at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen last Tuesday. Their chosen subject? Ecology.

Steady, Eddie

The head of John Ogilvie High in Hamilton was recalling at the Catholic heads' annual shindig how he had told a conference last year that his problem with chartered teachers was finding out who they were - since he had no role in selecting them. Eddie Morrison had said he was "fed up being like the child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

At which point a "heidie woman" got up to say that any headteacher worth their salt would know who the chartered teachers in their school were.

"I found out later that she was head of a school in Dumfries and Galloway with 60 weans and three members of staff," said the man in charge of almost 1,000 weans.

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