Look back in anguish

29th December 2000 at 00:00

At last, we are into the final spasm of a term that has been marked by the debacle at the Scottish Qualifications Authority. We've been completely behind our headteacher in his refusal to support the growing campaign for the return of examination scripts to schools.

"With our best examination results in the past eight years," Richard Dick told the board of studies this morning, "I am happy to draw a line under this issue and place my full trust in the integrity of the SQA. To my mind, the return of scripts to examination centres would serve little useful purpose I" "And would open up the biggest bloody can of worms since last summer's exam timetable," muttered Mr Greig of physics, proud possessor of a 50 per cent increase in examination attainment by his year 2000 candidates.

"And while I understand the desire of the geography and English departments to offer a wider range of curricular experience than hitherto, I'm afraid that I'm having to call a halt to the experimental classes for the International Baccalaureate and A-levels.

"The Scottish Executive and the SQA would clearly be embarrassed by such a move and I've given them my assurance that our alternative offerings were a temporary measure."

George Crumley and Simon Young, chief architects of the move to IB and A-levels, looked fit to explode, but Mr Dick carried on regardless.

"So Greenfield Academy will be submitting its full quota of candidates for SQA examinations next year. They are, after all, our national standard."

I think he's hoping for an invitation to join the SQA board.


Darlinda George of 1W handed me a note requesting leave of absence on Thursday and Friday this week. Apparently, she is to be a bridesmaid on Thursday and - as her mother so artlessly admitted in her sub-literate message - the family are likely to be "ooty wur boaxes" and therefore would be unable to ensure Darlinda's rise in time for school on Friday.

To be fair, the child is in a minority to even ask for absence permission and I had no hesitation in approving the request.

"So who's getting married, Darlinda?" I made smiling enquiry. "An aunt? Your big sister?" "Naw. Ma muther an faither," she explained. "They've bin talkin' about it fur ages an decided they should do it close tae Christmas cos it wis a religious time o' year."

"How nice," I bit my lip. "So which church are you going to?" "Wur no. Ma muther's a wiccan so they widny let us. Wur havin' it in the constipation oaffices an' then wur gaun tae The Roackston Arms lounge bar."

I corrected her about the registration venue for her parents' nuptials and congratulated the choice for the reception. Skibo Castle it's not, but I've always found The Rockston Arms to be very friendly, and I'm sure they'll all have a nice time.

Wednesday The first and second year dance always provides its share of surreal moments, but this evening's talent contest started the event off on an even more unusual footing than most.

To begin with, there was Tony McManaman and assorted cronies performing a tuneless and thumping rendition of a currently popular song entitled "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Who indeed? I thought to myself as McManaman jumped up and down in canine mould, a metal chain lead attached to a studded leather collar around his neck. What I couldn't have done with my hand on the other end of that lead, I thought to myself as the pubescent Baha Men strode from the stage.

The rest of the evening was somewhat marred by the constant outpourings of the junior clientele who insisted upon repeating catchphrases from a television programme that I have never seen but which is apparently extremely popular with the gormless bulk of our junior classes.

It started when Simon Sheridan asked me what I'd had for lunch. As it happened, Gail had prepared both of us an attractively decorated cheese baguette with accompanying side salad. But no sooner had I imparted this information than six listening children placed the backs of their hands against their cheeks and repeated my innocent response.

"Oooooh!" they minced across the floor with high-pitched voices. "Cheese baguette! With a side salad! Fancy! Let's just get a taxi to Paris for a cheese baguette!" I shook my head and walked away, bewildered. And then I walked into another one.

"Goanny no dae that, sur?" urged Peter Macleish of 2S as I gently removed his arms from around Katie Ross's neck.

"I think you meant to say 'Please don't do that, sir'?" I endeavoured to correct the boy.

"Naw ah didny. Goanny no dae it? Jist goanny no?" At which point he and his friends collapsed with uncontrollable laughter.

I was quite bewildered. "What's so funny?" I queried plaintively.

Half of the dance floor then appeared to assume an expression of glazed insolence, thrust their tongues into their lower lips and uttered an expression that approximated to "Mmmmmm". And then they burst out laughing!

Angela Slater tells me that the programme is all the rage and that I need to keep up with youth culture if I'm going to retain what little street credibility I might possess. Personally, I don't think I can be bothered. If youth culture is represented by repeating my utterances in a high-pitched voice while placing the backs of their hands against their cheeks and saying "Oooh!", then I don't think youth culture's come very far since the days of the ruddy Goons!


Senior dance this evening and I suddenly found myself pining for the junior innocence of last night.

To begin with, I had to contend with the absurd political correctness insisted upon by Ms Honeypot when it came to announcing the traditional dancing section. Thus it was that I found myself requesting that, instead of a Gay Gordons, "Gentlemen - or ladies - should take their partners for a Happy Gordons." I ask you!

Next, and more seriously, was the matter of staff supervision. Much of the junior dance had been taken up with either patrolling the dance floor for over-amorous couples whose exploratory fumblings were going too far or scouring the toilets for drunken pupils (once, alas, the preserve of the senior dance, but how times change). Tonight, drunken pupils were the least of my worries.

Having cleansed the boys' cloakroom of all but its most comatose contents, I ventured into the playground to check for gatecrashers. There it was that I glimpsed the disturbing sight of Damien Steele and Kylie Donahue in what appeared to be a fairly advanced stage of sexual congress against the gymnasium wall.

In her defence, Kylie was making minor protest of some kind. It was clearly with this in mind that Damien, catching sight of me bearing down upon them, turned his face towards me (only his face, mark you) and posed the question that will ring in my ears throughout the festive season. "Hiya, sur! Ye wouldny huv a sperr coandom oan ye, wid ye?" My jaw dropped and I raised a hand to point in the direction of the school hall. "Get I get I get I" I started to utter but words failed me.

They got the gist, however, because Kylie hastily separated herself from her erstwhile lover and dragged him past me. She, at least, was slightly embarrassed. Not so the bold Mr Steele, who complained loudly as they shuffled past: "Ah'm tellin ye, Kylie: the clingfilm would've bin OK!", Friday

Attendance was paltry as usual on this the last day of term. We had a small staffroom party to celebrate the end of term, but most of us were just desperate to get home.

Thus it was that I found myself alone in my classroom, contemplating the cigarette end of another year. And what a year it's been. For me, of course, it contained the saddest moment of all: the death of David Pickup, long-time friend and mentor to me, untimely ripped from this world only 12 months into his well deserved retirement. But the rest of the educational world kept turning notwithstanding.

It started - and continued - with mobile telephones in every classroom and text messages taking the place of furtive notes under the desk. It witnessed a damning inspection for Greenfield Academy and the - not entirely unrelated - early retirement of Mr Tod, as well as the departure of his depute head, Ruth Lees, to an educational consultancy firm.

It saw our senior students' study leave banned because the absences would count as "unauthorised" in the truancy league tables.

And it contained an examination timetable in the summer that made the Heathrow landing slots look like an exercise in relaxed lucidity. Followed by the travesty of a results procedure that will forever damn the Higher students of 2000 to the charge of possessing achievement certificates that are tainted with the dubious smell of uncertain assurance.

So whither Scottish education now?

As if in answer to my private thoughts, there came an imperious knock at the door. Margaret, now four and a half and looking forward excitedly to primary school in August, poked her head around the door, followed by Gail. "Daddy!" she shrieked. "Mummy says you're taking me to see Father Christmas!" I picked her up, gave her a tight squeeze and remembered that, as teachers, this was what we were doing it for: the hope of a brighter future, despite all attempts to confound us.

"Come on, Morris," urged Gail. "Time to go and see Santa."

I smiled, looked at my daughter and desperately hoped that the Scottish Qualification Authority gets it right by the time she's sitting Standard grades. Or whatever they're calling them by then.

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