Anguish hits a high note in the depths of despondency

16th September 2011 at 01:00


I keep waking up at 4am, worrying about Curriculum for Excellence. In particular, I'm anxious lest we're "found out": we've been "doing CfE" in Greenfield Academy's English department for over a year now, and nobody seems to have cottoned on to the fact that we're doing what we've always done, but labelled all our 5-14 departmental folders differently. Level D equals level 3, and level EF equals level 4: the only difference is that we're now spreading two years' worth of work over three years.

Such is progress.


My wife Gail attended a primary in-service session this afternoon, where the venue made appropriate reflection of our austerity-strapped era. Gone are the days of luxurious hotels and five-star buffets: today's event was held in a recently-closed school which has even been deemed inadequate for overspill accommodation needed by schools which are "being PFI'd".

Thus it was that she found herself listening to Richard Conlon, our "QIO for CfE and the 21st Century", proclaiming our authority's commitment to its valued staff in a draughty gymnasium from the 1960s, sitting on uncomfortable plastic Day-Glo orange chairs and refreshing themselves with tea served in polystyrene cups and UHT milk portions.

"It was depressing, Morris," she confided this evening. "Conlon finished off with a session called `The Way Forward', and I couldn't help thinking how many plenaries with that name I've heard in the past 25 years. And are we any further forward? Not to my mind. So I'm thinking of proposing a session for the next in-service entitled `The Way Backward'!"

"How d'you mean?" I queried.

"Well, it would suggest that in primary schools we go back to teaching them basic English and maths skills for most of the day, with 25 exercises to follow each 40-minute lesson, plus some rote learning and a diet of regular homework!"

I don't rate her chances of acceptance too highly, and suggested she avoid mention of the proposal in her annual appraisal.


I have been distressed to learn that all of my appeals for Higher English students under my tutelage last year (whose results were extremely dispiriting) have been rejected. Not by SQA, I hasten to add; I still have fervent belief that they would be better disposed than our headteacher, who has refused to forward them to SQA on the grounds of cost and, especially, "incomplete evidence and a plagiarised preliminary paper in the public domain" (her words).

It's all very well, but I didn't set the prelim paper, and if she's going to complain about that sort of thing, then maybe she needs to consider the wisdom of appointing a curricular head who's a modern linguist with no expertise whatsoever in the other subjects over which she allegedly holds sway!


An ironic reminder in my inbox this morning alerted me (once again) to the imminent Scottish Learning Festival. Alas, as in every previous year that I have been in receipt of such an invitation to attend, I find myself unable to do so (I have a teaching timetable to consider, unlike most attendees), as well as being bewildered by the contrasts on offer, as millions of pounds are spent on such grandiloquent displays of educational bounty - yet here in Greenfield Academy (and Rockston Primary), requisitions have been pared to the bone in a reality far removed from the glad, confident mornings that will be trumpeted abroad for public consumption next week.

Mr Walsh in computing, for example, found himself unable to order new mouse balls this session, due to the cuts, while Gail remains constantly infuriated by restrictions on A4 paper for her pupils - especially as her new Forward Plans to match CfE guidelines have taken up five times as much paper as her old 5-14 ones.

Oh well. Maybe I'll catch the SLF Keynote Address on Glow - if I don't have any classes of real children to teach.


Gail is wondering about putting in for early retirement. We can't afford it, but I sympathise with her over a multitude of small matters building up to a crescendo of professional grief over two incidents today.

First of all, it was the response of her school's janitor, when she asked him to move a box that she considered too heavy for her slight frame. Apparently, he looked at the box, drew a sharp breath, then nodded his head in grudging admission that he could probably manage the task, before pointing out - in line with recent union admonitions - that: "Ah'll dae it this time. But things urr gonnae be changing round here, Mrs Simpson, an' ah'll no be daen' it again, OK?"

Second, it was the astonishing ignorance of Wayne Kerr, a recent admission to her P6 class, who has been in eight different schools in his young life, and who, when writing his Daily News Report, bellowed out the plaintive cry: "Mrs Simpson? Ah've come tae the end o' a line. Whit dae ah dae now?"

"They're getting stupider than ever, Morris," she complained over dinner. "And who in God's name would call their offspring `Wayne' when their surname's `Kerr'. Don't they think about what will happen at school?"

"Obviously not," I replied. "But if you think it's bad at primary, just wait until he gets to us, and puberty sets in."

I think I'd better give advance warning to the guidance staff.

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