All I want for Christmas is ..

18th December 2009 at 00:00

Michael Russell, Education Secretary

Twelve months ago, I was Minister for Environment, a dream portfolio covering everything from forestry to ferrets. Now I am Cabinet Secretary for Education, and between times I held (for 10 months) the culture, external affairs and constitution brief. So I suppose my ideal Christmas gift would be stability, at least in employment!

That might be the ideal gift for Scotland's teachers too, given the headlines of the last few weeks. But the reality of Scottish education is that, every day, hundreds of thousands of good pupils are being taught by tens of thousands of good teachers in thousands of good schools. Certainly there are problems (and some upsetting ones, like post-probationer unemployment) but they can (and must) be solved by collaboration, new thinking and hard work. In fact, the only thing that will stop them being solved is the over-application of alarmist rhetoric, which the media loves but which never helped resolve anything.

My father was a teacher, my mother had been a teacher when she married, my wife is a primary headteacher and I have cousins and second cousins and beyond sprinkled all across Scotland's schools. I was also a columnist for this paper for over three years and shadow education minister for three years before that.

It will, I am sure, take me a bit of time to get back up to speed, but I promise I will work hard and long to try to help the whole of education and lifelong learning to the best of my ability.

So, given the amount of reading I am going to have to do over the Christmas holidays, perhaps Santa might be asked to bring me a bookstand, mobile enough to let me baste the turkey with one hand, while turning the pages of civil service briefing notes with the other.

Neil McLennan, Principal teacher of history, Tynecastle High, Edinburgh

I hope to find Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain at the top of my stocking. I have been absorbed by his recent television series. He has carefully and skilfully woven the history of realpolitik with the oral history of the people in a majestic way.

I'd also like Neil Oliver's History of Scotland to be there - I have not had much time to watch his series but have taped it all. It has caused a bit of a controversy, I know, but then sparking controversy and debate is what good history is all about.

And I hope to put the finishing touches to my Active History books, which come out in the spring and will support Curriculum for Excellence outcomes. My main hope is that we can see more efforts to ensure further exemplification for CfE is shared among the profession.

Tam Baillie, Commissioner for children and young people

All I want for Christmas is a DVD that captures the daily life of young people from 50 years ago, because we all know that today's youth don't bear comparison. In fact, it's worth asking: "What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

Well, these aren't my thoughts, but those of Plato writing in the 4th century BC. It makes you wonder when exactly the golden age of youth was. When was the time that we didn't castigate the manners and morals of young people compared with their predecessors?

It seems as if we have always fretted about the "youth of today", with the implication that things are always on a downward spiral. There are plenty who say control is the solution and others who say it is engagement but - as the quote above demonstrates - our tendency to vilify and criticise young people is hardly a modern preoccupation.

I don't expect I will get my Christmas present, because it doesn't exist. There was no golden age of youth; no time when we could favourably compare the past with the present in any reliable way. My belief is that we should look forward to the new year with a resolve to celebrate our young people, their achievements and their right to maximise their potential in all aspects of their lives.

Martha Morton, S4 pupil, Brae High, Shetland

All I want for Christmas? You? Nah, I'm not Mariah Carey. For Christmas I would like to get into the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. An A amp; F bag would be nice too. And snow, because everyone loves snow.

I know I can't control the weather, and there is only so much you can nag your parents into buying you an expensive bag, but I know I can at least try to better my chances of playing the cello in NYOS. Practise, practise, practise, that's what they always say. But auditions for orchestras are a nerve-racking business. As soon as you leave the audition room, you have that dreading feeling in your stomach, criticising every minute detail of your performance. And then there is the three-week wait to find out whether you are in or out.

NYOS is such a great opportunity to meet new people and to improve your skills as a musician. Although this is my first year auditioning for the youth orchestra, I have been in the National Children's Orchestra of Scotland for the past three years.

So, hopefully, the man in the red suit will be good to me this year, because in Mariah's almighty words, "I don't want a lot for Christmas ."

Leslie Manson, President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland

My wish is that we can advocate so that children's services are valued and supported and protected from budget cuts. Arts, culture and outdoor learning could be easier targets - I hope we can continue to appreciate the value of these services.

I hope the spirit of Christmas helps us use Curriculum for Excellence to re-energise some parts of education. In the national debate in 2003, the education community spoke with one voice. It might be a bit naive, but by working together we can make learning more relevant, active and fun.

I would like Santa to listen more carefully when I hint about an iPhone. It's to make me a more effective professional, of course. I'm not interested in toys and gadgets!

I'd love to be able to dance like some people on Strictly Come Dancing. Failing that, I would settle for a new set of knees. The ones I have are 56 years old. Another wish would be that the flight from Orkney to Edinburgh, which I'm taking about twice a month, was at 8.40am - not 7.40am.

Nicola Rooney, Post-probationer, Glasgow

Only one in five probationers from last year is employed as a teacher. I am one of the fortunate few, and this year I am working within Glasgow City Council's Curriculum for Excellence team - such a grand title for a new teacher and such a grand experience I have had!

Really, I should not be asking Santa for anything this Christmas; I have health, happiness and a job. However, I still have a list for dear St Nick.

1. Chocolate Santa - last year, I was given one but I left it beside the fire and it was a puddle by Boxing Day. This year, I should like the chance to eat one.

2. A round-the-world flight ticket - my favourite teacher at school could always relate any subject or topic to a story about a spectacular city or site that she had visited. It fascinated the class and kept me engaged. I'd like to be that teacher who inspires and can draw on her magical experiences to teach.

3. A permanent job - I should love the chance to use the knowledge and experiences gained from this job with a class I am based in all the time. I want to see one class flourish and progress within the new curriculum and evaluate my teaching of it. And I need cash to pay for next Christmas!

Sioux Hamilton, Depute head, Carleton Primary, Glenrothes

"All I want for Christmas ." do we really know what it means?

Or have the lines become all blurred between our wants and needs.

At Carleton Primary School, we are a "Rights Respecting" lot,

So when we think of Christmas, do we consider wants - or not?

I thought I'd ask around the staff to gauge their festive feeling,

Only to discover that their list of "wants" was somewhat more appealing.

A diverse list came back to me, from diamonds to dates

(With Sir Cliff Richard no less - that one will have to wait!)

Whilst goodwill wishes with family and friends made it to the list,

Policies, curriculum and outcomes seemed destined to be missed.

Is it a time for selfishness, to list material things?

Or should we count our blessings as the Christmas bells all ring?

Stirling Mackie, Headteacher, Irvine Royal Academy, Ayrshire

Dear Santa,

Some time ago you brought me the best possible present. I had dreamt about it for ages. It was shiny and new, and made up of lots of different bits that all fit together beautifully.

Yes, it was my new Curriculum for Excellence. I couldn't wait to get it out of the box and play with it.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that there was a vital bit missing, and without it my Curriculum for Excellence wouldn't work properly!

That nice Mrs Hyslop kept promising that the missing bit would arrive any day, and yet the longer I waited, the more difficult it was to imagine how it could all possibly fit together and work. Worse than that, I couldn't get my pals in the staffroom to play with me and my new curriculum until it arrived.

So Santa, please, please, please could you make sure that the assessment arrangements for my new curriculum are in your sack this Christmas, and I promise to put it all together and make it work.

Thank you.

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