Don't lose your heads

8th April 2005 at 01:00
We cry her Mrs Nae Offence,

That's whit she likes tae say,

Afore sayin somethin awfie,

Then heidin on her way . . .

Hopefully, most of you recognise that verse, having rushed out and bought Blethertoun Braes, Itchy Coo's latest Scots poetry collection for kids.

"Nae offence" is indeed an excellent device, giving one carte blanche to be utterly abusive without fear of consequence.

Another ploy I have discovered is to precede a rabidly controversial statement with "just playing devil's advocate for a minute . . ." An even more disingenuous version of this goes: "As Arthur Daley might have said, just playing devil's avocado for a minute . . ."

Just playing devil's avocado for a minute, perhaps the idea of replacing heads of biology, chemistry and physics with a science faculty head isn't such a bad one after all. As yet another report, this time from HMIE, brands science P5-S2 as a wasteland, it is surely time to try something new.

A PT science could ensure that the individual subjects worked together to produce a coherent, strong general science course that would prepare pupils better for S3 to S6 and motivate more of them to opt willingly for more than one science beyond second year. If such a person had time to liaise with cluster primary schools, a pre-S3 science course could really be made to sing.

The arguments against are strong and do not really need repeating. Taking off my Arthur Daley hat and camel-hair coat, I do not believe that a single head of science is the way forward. I am not about to start a "bring back the assistant principal teacher" campaign either. APTs science were often dogsbodies who did at least as much as the individual subject PTs for less money.

My ideal has a superPT science on a mid-ranging scale point who manages individual subject PTs. These PTs are down near the bottom of the scale.

Some schools, including my own, had a similar pre-McCrone structure with a PT and three assistants. The advantage of this over the inverted pyramid structure that is still cherished in many quarters is that the person at the top has the status to take on board whole science issues.

Actually, that's not my most favoured option. I'd like two superPTs, one with a 5-14 remit and the other with a remit for S3-S6. But you can't have everything. Beware the disintegrators.

There are those who are trying to unpick S1 and S2 science in order to teach physics, chemistry and biology from the day pupils enter secondary. I have to say I question whether this is done for the benefit of pupils or staff. Nae offence.

Gregor Steele likes Arthur Daley's "the world's your lobster" phrase.

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