Glorious June?

7th June 1996 at 01:00
There are a lot of self-conscious young men and women on the buses these mornings. They are dressed neither in school uniform nor in the casual clothes of leisure time. Uncomfortably kitted for unfamiliar circumstances, they are on their way to work experience.

This is the peak season for weeks spent in factory or office. The Government encourages practical experience of the world of work. Research indicates that placement schemes operate reasonably well, although pupils and parents frequently question their usefulness. For secondary schools, sending out classfuls of youngsters is one way of tackling the problem of June.

The last month of the session is difficult for all schools. It could not be avoided even if Scotland was to abandon the end-of-June close season and adopt the English timetable, which puts back the holidays by three weeks. There would still be difficult weeks to fill. The school timetabler gets no help from the fabled railway accident investigator who, noticing that the most accident-prone part of a train is at the back, suggested leaving off the last carriage.

In secondary schools the weeks after the SCE exams coincide with pre-holiday expectation. But it would be impractical to move Standard grade and Higher exams nearer to the end of the session because the results timetable would be thrown out of kilter and with it the entry procedures for higher education. Likewise the idea of having a longer exam season, with Highers starting as Standard grade papers finished, has not met with approval either. Schools are already disrupted enough by weeks of exam leave.

Of course, June is a useful month. It allows schools to do things they cannot do at other times of the year. Sports days and class outings are obvious examples, although even these are nowadays meant to fulfil curricular criteria. Strands in the tug-of-war are not just of rope.

Getting a head start on next year is another favourite pre-summer device. Bemused four-year-olds come to see what "big school" means in practice. Primary-secondary liaison is at its most basic when next session's secondary 1 has a dry run at the mysteries of endless corridors and learning in 40-minute gobbets. True, many schools now have their induction day when the senior years are on exam leave, but even in June there are plenty of empty rooms since modern practice is for sixth-year pupils to fade away like old soldiers once their final exam is over.

Meanwhile everyone else moves up a class, but how much does telling pupils they are now in S5 help with the still unresolved two-term dash to Highers?

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