Anyone for a few extras?

30th March 2001 at 01:00

Revision classes and study-aid periods are all the rage at Greenfield Academy just now. Sandra Denver's Brainscape Club - wherein she challenges pupils to explore the innermost reaches of their memory forces - continues to draw a wide range of scholars, from the desperately gullible to the plainly gullible but desperate.

And even Simon Young's had a reasonable take-up for his neatly entitled "Post-Prelim-Panic-Preventative" series of lunchtime tutorials aimed at a select and elite group within his fifth-year class: that is, any child whom Simon considers to have the slightest chance of attaining a C grade at Higher.

"If I can only get 12 of them through that barrier - and I think two of them might have a real chance of a B as well - " he claimed at morning break,"then I'll have doubled the departmental strike rate at a - well, at a stroke." It seemed an uninspiring target, but I suppose we all have to start somewhere.

Most conspicuous of all, however, have been the fulsomely attended biology revision classes run by David McManus (Coarse Davie), our singularly vulgar principal teacher of biology. These events have been crudely advertised with a poster outside his laboratory bearing the legend "SQA? Your chances of a biology pass are sweet FA without a McManus Minder Course".

Clearly, such an appeal hits home with the lowest common denominator of pupils who tend to take McManus's subject, and his classroom seemed abuzz with academic endeavour as I passed by during lunchtime corridor duty.

If, that is, you can call his treatment of the biotechnology unit an illustration of academic endeavour. I can still hear his appalling enquiry ("So if youse get a whole pile of raw shite gaun intae a river, whit's goanny happen tae the ecosystem? Eh?) ringing in my ears, even as I write this, some six hours later.

Still, if it makes them remember, then who am I to question the means of delivery?


As a school in receipt of special funding status, Greenfield Academy seems awash with cash at the moment. It's well seen that a general election is in the offing. In 16 years of teaching I have never known an academic session wherein our principal teachers have had to bemoan the fact they have too much money to spend.

George Crumley, for example, has replenished every set of geography textbooks he's ever owned; he's also re-equipped the department with every technological aid known to the profession, including a personal electronic organiser that he claims will allow him to synchronise his home-based school work and his school-based schoolwork (as if he ever did any of the former).

And today, in a desperate attempt to spend his entire allocation before the end of the financial year, he took delivery of 60 new desks for both of his classrooms.

It certainly caused the cessation of all studious activity, as 2S spent all of periods 3 and 4 marching out the old and then marching in the new. To be honest, there didn't look very much wrong with the old. Of course, I applaud the input of funds to education, but I sometimes wonder if it's all being spent wisely enough.


Coarse Davie's biology revision classes seem to grow in popularity with every passing day; so much so, that he has now launched an after-school class, and has even opened it up to non-Greenfield pupils.

Thus it was that a phalanx of unaccustomed adolescent charges pushed against the tidal throng of Greenfield students desperate to escape confinement at 3.30 this afternoon. Word of the special educational techniques employed by David McManus had obviously spread far and wide, with pupils from our neighbourhood cluster - and far beyond - pledging their allegiance.

I joined with Mr Crumley, eavesdropping on McManus's latest session of exam preparation: "Right, youse lot," he began in typically uncouth manner. "The bit youse've all been waitin' furr! Fornication!" My jaw dropped and I looked aghast at Crumley, as McManus continued with what turned out to be an appalling pun. "For'n'occasion such as this," - he waited for the laughs, but not many of his charges caught on, so he went on unabashed - "I'd like to welcome new members of the class to the latest McManus minder session."

I breathed a sigh of relief as I got the joke, but my heart sank once again as their tutor continued: "And yes, yes - it's awright. We're goanny cover sexual reproduction today, dinna worry. Or - as most of youse would say - wur daen' shaggin'! Jist as long as ye dinny say we've bin daen' shaggin' in the exam room! Wa-hey!" A gale of laughter erupted and I put my head in my hands. I know it's very public-spirited of McManus to extend his revision classes outwith our own school. But to think our once proud education system should sink to this.


George Crumley's classrooms were the subject of further upheaval this morning as the carpet fitters arrived. Unbeknown to George, Mr Dick had used some of his recently increased - and over-abundant, some would say - rectorial budget to re-carpet the east block classrooms.

Consequently, 2S spent this morning's double period removing all of the desks that they had so carefully ushered in on Tuesday. The carpet fitters moved in as 2S decanted to the huts, and the stench of glue pervaded the school for the rest of the day. Much, I would add, to the delight of Peter O'Farrell and Michael Willis.

Meanwhile, Pamela Blane has done a complete about-turn on the vexed question of "languages for all". It seems only a short time since our aggressive principal teacher of modern languages was asserting the birthright of every child in the school to be educated in at least one foreign language, possibly two, until they attained a Standard grade in the subject, no matter how long it took.

What a difference a decade makes. Plus, of course, the relentless drain on professorial energy that a lower-ability third year can have on the average language teacher's enthusiasm for spreading the ability to communicate on more than one continent.

In short, having bleated for years about the need to attract all pupils to modern languages, Pamela Blane has swallowed the latest report hook, line and sinker. It begs to suggest that language learning is actually only suited to the brightest of pupils in any one year-group.

Compulsion at Standard grade should therefore be dropped, it claims with utmost sophistry. And with an eye to the more obvious main chance of making the subject attractive once more to the legions of teenagers who have abandoned it in recent years: that is, the ones with more than two brain cells to rub together. O tempora! O mores!, I am inclined to remark. Not that many languages teachers would understand me.


Davie McManus is a charlatan and a fraud. I have discovered that he is actually charging all of the pupils who attend his revision classes. Yes, even those ones who attend Greenfield Academy.

And he remains completely unashamed that he is using local education authority premises, lighting, heating and textual resources to allow personal gain for himself.

The truth came to light after Karen Porter asked me if she could borrow pound;2 to "pay fur ma revision class, 'coas ah furgoat tae bring ma purse, sur".

While always happy to lend a supportive hand - and even financial aid - to a pupil in distress, I nevertheless thought to question Karen further, whereupon she explained that our PT biology requested such a sum for all of his revision classes, although he did offer a "loyalty bonus" to candidates such as herself who attended 10 or more sessions ("buy 10, get 2 free" appears to be the offer).

Apparently, there is even an "Easter bunny special" on offer over the impending festive break, wherein Karen and her ilk can avail themselves of the bold McManus and his services at a "3 for 2 crash-course-crazy" offer.

I was shocked and appalled, and confronted McManus at the first available opportunity.

"What's this I hear about you charging for your revision classes?" I charged him. "Don't you think thatI" "Market forces, Morris," he placed a calming hand on my shoulder.

"If there's a demand, and people are willing to pay for what they demand, then why shouldn't I make a littleI" "But it's appalling," I interrupted him sharply. "You're paid to teach these kids during school time, and I'd thought that all these extra revision classes you were offering showed a better side of your character than I'd hitherto experienced.

"I'd put it all down to an altruistic streak that you'd kept well hidden. But I can see that I was sadly mistaken: you're not as altruistic as I thought."

"Oh, but I am, Morris," he assured me solicitously. "I'm as altruistic as they come."

"Really?" I regarded him with suspicion.

"Why, most certainly," he replied coolly. "Especially when it's in my own interests. Now excuse me, would you? I've got the twilight class due to arrive very soon."

And he left me, forlorn in the corridor, as he walked away whistling most infuriatingly - a tuneless rendition of I'm in the MoneyI Whatever happened to the vocational imperative?

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