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Out of Africa

Alan McKenzie, SSTA president, is an entertainment in himself and enlivened a douce affair.

Brought up in Sierra Leone, McKenzie knows a thing or two about firm discipline. "There were some pretty horrific practices - some of which I'm trying to introduce into my own school."

He was joking, we think.

An old stager, the Greenock Academy PT history spied something of himself in Mike Baughan, soon to be departing chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland, who is off to retirement and the hills in two weeks.

McKenzie announced: "Mike inhabits the same world as me - the fountain pen, foolscap paper and the Home Service." He also had no PowerPoint presentation as he addressed the SSTA multitudes - 9,000 members now, you know - and recalled his days as heidie at Webster's High in Kirriemuir.

Shortly after taking over, he came across an HMI report from July 1875 in "immaculate copperplate writing".

The report said: "The accommodation was ample and convenient. There were a number of intelligent looking pupils of a very respectable class. The staff was newly organised and liberally paid.

"We expected soon to see a school judiciously arranged, working out its plans in order and calmly. We expected to see a healthy tome of moral earnestness pervading the place. The pupils eager, vigorous, ambitious for success, innocently emulous of each other: the master strict, resolute, energetic, exciting the enthusiasm of the pupils, banishing levity and compelling respect by his own dignity, earnestness, extensive information and zeal."

Alas, it concluded: "The picture presented by the school falls considerably short of our expectation."

Or as Baughan put it: "So what's new, folks?"

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