19th December 2008 at 00:00

Acts of intolerable cruelty were being considered at the Parliament's education committee last week. Or so you'd have thought had you wandered in late to hear convener Karen Whitefield busily plotting a "winding-up scheme" for older teachers.

What could she mean? How exactly were they to be "wound up"? Perhaps she was advocating a policy of mocking more mature teachers for their ineptitude. Groups of old duffers would be lined up in front of a baying mob of smart-arsed probationers and derided for their ham-fisted use of interactive whiteboards.

Or maybe it was more literal: jaded baby-boomers would be given a new lease of life with the fitting of a clockwork mechanism connected to an artificial voice box, allowing only desirable educational jargon to be uttered. When they start to drone on about the good old days, simply wind them up and enjoy a rapid-fire incantation: "Four capacities! Excellence! Child-centred learning! Just how bloody good is our school?!"

Or perhaps it was something even more sinister, a chilling euphemism akin to the CIA's "neutralise" or the governor of California's "terminate". Rather than put contrary old teachers out to pasture, why not put them out of their misery altogether?

The truth is disappointingly mundane. Halfway through her spiel, a kindly fellow MSP leaned over to the convener and queried whether she might mean the winding down scheme, one designed to help ease experienced teachers into retirement.

And yet ... the committee heard that older teachers were increasingly disinclined to make way for new blood. Fiona Hyslop has been repeating ad nauseam that student teachers shouldn't worry because thoosans and thoosans of their elders are going to retire at any time.

Now Cosla tells her that, um, sorry, that was when we thought they'd all want to go at 60. Turns out they'd been putting their life savings into dodgy Icelandic accounts and would like to hang about for another three years, thank you very much.

If many more refuse to budge, perhaps Ms Hyslop will be tempted to look at the third, and the most extreme, of our winding-up schemes.

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