Holyrood

20th February 2009 at 00:00

Kenny Gibson, a self-confessed PE phobic, seemed to be suggesting at the Parliament's education committee meeting last week that PE teachers should be paid less than their counterparts who taught English because they had less marking.

English teachers were being "ground down" by the weight of 120 essays a week, he told fellow MSPs. Yet the Glasgow SNP member reported, clearly aghast, they were paid the same as PE teachers whose responsibilities after hours were limited to "taking the rugby team out on a Saturday".

How do we make sure the burden on specific groups is not overwhelming? he asked the inspectors who were there giving evidence on their Improving Scottish Education report.

The education committee is well-used to Mr Gibson's more meandering approach to the questioning of witnesses, and his habit of sharing personal opinions and tit-bits on the way to that glorious destination called The Point. Usually, these pearls of wisdom are less inflammatory.

In the past, for instance, we have learned that he used to be nicknamed "statto", that there were 59 pupils in his P1 class and that his children like to eat lunch together.

Last week, as well as highlighting the plight of English teachers, we also discovered that his son was sitting his Highers, which led to further insightful questioning of HMIE. "He will not be asked if he had a fulfilling, holistic education," Mr Gibson declared. "He will be asked how many As and Bs he got."

But schools with poor attainment were getting good inspection reports. Why, he demanded? Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector of education, could have been forgiven for rocking gently in his chair, given the constant accusation that HMIE is too focused on attainment.

Mr Donaldson, though, remained composed and assured him there was no "down-playing" of attainment in inspection reports. As if.

Perhaps, however, it is his SNP colleague, Education Minister Fiona Hyslop, to whom Mr Gibson should be directing his concerns. After all, the new qualifications framework will iron all these things out, won't it?

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