Holyrood sketch

20th January 2012 at 00:00
Elizabeth Buie sits in on the education debate and learns how our MSPs got to be where they are today

There's a saying that "behind every great man there's a great woman". Judging by last week's education debate in Parliament, that should be "behind every Scottish politician there's a teacher".

One after another, MSPs prefaced their contribution to the debate on "improving learning outcomes" with: "My wifehusbandmumdad, grandfather is or was a teacher."

The education secretary, Michael Russell, did not on this occasion mention that his wife is a primary head, when referring to his raising attainment group of headteachers, but has done so at numerous headteacher conferences.

His recipe for improvement was collegiality and capacity-building, but Labour's new education spokesman, Hugh Henry - who can boast a briefish spell as a teacher in his younger days - wanted action to resolve "confusion" about the new exam system.

Mr Russell was having none of this "negativity", whereupon Mr Henry shot back that he would be irresponsible not to raise real concerns - such as supply teachers being employed on the cheap. He had the facts at his fingertips, quoting TESS's recent News Focus on supply not once but twice. So maybe he doesn't need a teacher wife for educational pillow-talk, since he obviously reads TESS in bed.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith, who was exercised about college cuts, also used to be a teacher and Clare Adamson (SNP) is married to a teacher, is the daughter of a university lecturer and has an uncle who was once a headteacher in Glasgow's Calton district, she told Parliament.

Fellow SNP member Jamie Hepburn also knows a thing or two about Glasgow's poor communities. His mum taught in the Gorbals and Drumchapel and his stepdad in Possilpark.

Labour's Graeme Pearson was next to declare - wife and daughter headteacher and teacher respectively. He was remarkably well-informed on the plight of unemployed PE teachers.

Murdo Fraser (Mid-Scotland and Fife) wound up the debate for the Tories, not forgetting to add that his wife is a teacher.

And Alasdair Allan, minister for nearly every subject in the curriculum, stood up to conclude the debate - although the presiding officer had to tell the unruly mob to be quiet. Maybe Dr Allan needs to marry a teacher to pick up some classroom control tips.

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