Seasonal high spirits to close a gloomy year

It's the last day of term for most schools. The children have had their visits to the pantomime, performed their Nativities and Christmas shows - with or without camels - exchanged cards with friends and given presents to their favourite teachers (p6). Everyone is trundling home, laden and weary, probably packing in some Christmas shopping on the way.

It has been a hard start to the school session, for secondary teachers in particular. Janus-like, they have been pushing their fourth, fifth and sixth-years to perform well in their prelims, while, at the lower end, they've been working hard to deliver new interdisciplinary courses for first and second-years. In between times, decisions are being taken about how to tackle the challenge of next year's S3 - the culmination of a three-year general education, if the Scottish Government's vision is to materialise (p33).

But the old issues still rumble on and sectarianism is currently at the top of the Government agenda. Scotland has made little progress, at least when it comes to football fanatics, although cities like Glasgow have done a lot to tackle it. Segregated schooling doesn't help, but there must be some prospect of success when you read how well Northern Ireland's Sharing Education Programme has helped Derry's deep-rooted divisions (p10).

Add to all that the number of redundancies in primary and secondary, due to local authority cutbacks; the pay cuts for supply teachers; the abrupt halting of the chartered teachers' programme, and proposed changes to pensions, and it's easy to see why the profession is unhappy. So much so, that many of its members walked out on strike for the first time in 25 years.

FE staff haven't had it any easier. With severe cuts to college funding leading to redundancies, and the whole governance of colleges up in the air, proposals for mergers and regionalisation have led to even greater job insecurity and strikes (p8). Their fear must be that the universities' pound;1.02bn windfall for next year, announced on Tuesday, will be at their expense. Anne Pia, a former HMI, condemns the Government's argument for regionalisation as "neither well made nor properly informed" (p30).

There certainly won't be instant or easy resolutions to any of these disputes. As the economic recession dips and dips again, so too will teachers' spirits over the coming year. So, to lighten the mood for the start of the holidays, we've got our annual panto reviews by children (p14), some seasonal "educational" TV listings (p29), an original Christmas carol from first-time contributor Splendeat Lux (p34), and Kids Talk on why pupils are looking forward to Christmas (p38) - oh, and for followers of Anne Thrope (Ms), she's celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve (p28).

A Merry Christmas, one and all, from the team at TESS., Editor of the year, (business and professional).

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