Biggles flies again

12th July 1996 at 01:00
It must have been that filibuster that did it from the SNP's Andrew Welsh, complaining about English MPs who "parachute" into the proceedings of the committee on the Scottish education Bill. But it certainly prompted Bill Walker, the North Tayside Tory, to lift his eyes skywards during the final week of the committee's debates.

"Biggles" Walker is, of course, the most famous flyer in the Tory Party, having been a squadron leader in the Volunteer Reserve. This was just the sort of chap to bring some common sense to the dogfight over national testing.

He has experience of teaching people to fly and of training instructors, William Connoll Walker (WC for short) told MPs. "All I can say is that the Royal Air Force would never consider abandoning regular testing because it maintains excellence," he argued triumphantly.

That will probably clinch the matter.

Testing does not always produce the right results, of course, as fellow Tory Phil Gallie of Ayr reminded the committee. He attended Dunfermline High in the 1950s, a grammar school of its time. This seemed to upset Gallie in retrospect since those who failed the 11-plus did rather better than he did.

"I found myself too interested in sport and not enough in academia," Gallie revealed. "As a consequence I dropped down to the D and E classes rather than the A and B ones."

Readers nourished on the diet of 5-14 will be aware, of course, that D and E were then the bottom classes, not the badge of the high-flyer (apologies to Biggles).

Michael Martin, Springburn's Labour MP, who chaired the committee, also found his mind wandering back to his schooldays. He recalled of his first day: "It's a nice enough place but I wouldn't want to come here on a regular basis. It took the Marist brothers, with all their patience, a few years to let me know that I was not there just to be out of the way of the buses."

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