Marking, pupil misery and seasonal goodwill slung in

16th December 2011 at 00:00


I am exhausted by marking activities. The past weekend was especially bad, with Higher literature essays demanding full attention, and first-year homework proving a daunting task.

"If you didn't set the homework, Morris, you wouldn't have to mark it," remarked Frank O'Farrell of social subjects, betraying his singular lack of professionalism.

I countered strongly, adding that marking youngsters' compositions often gave me a real insight into their lives. "In fact, sometimes too real," I added, holding a jotter aloft: "I'm taking this one to Mike Baggs to see if we should make a social work referral." Aaron Galloway's essay had sent shivers down my spine, for the boy had narrated a gruesome - and apparently autobiographical - tale about the previous weekend, when he had been locked in a darkened room with bars across the window, handcuffed to a wooden block, and left without food and water.

"I wasn't sure about its authenticity, but when I asked him this morning, he just stared at me with soulful eyes and assured me it was true. So I'm getting guidance involved, but I don't want to alarm him, and just left it at that this morning."

"Good luck," he replied. "Although, frankly, I believe there are worse things that could happen to Aaron bloody Galloway."


Frank O'Farrell is aghast at the latest National 4 and 5 syllabus outlines for history. He has already expressed outrage at the reintroduction of "Projects" (or "Added Value" units, as they are more properly known), but he was recounting this morning how a friend of his had been asked to refine the draft syllabus proposals at the beginning of the session, and was moved to remark that they bore all the hallmarks of being started just before the summer holidays - and then dropped mid-stage as the bell went for the end of term.

"And d'you know what he said once he'd read through everything that was there, Morris, and was asked what he could do to make the draft more presentable?" he whispered confidentially.

I confessed my ignorance.

"He said - and I think it's a wonderful description of the current stage of curriculum design - he said: `How do you polish a turd?' Seemed to sum it up, really."

I have to confess I'm glad that our daughter Margaret will be sitting Standard grades next spring. Before "Apocalypse Now", as we have started to refer to the introduction of N45.


The full panoply of social care services descended upon Aaron Galloway after Mike Baggs took his English jotter to social services yesterday. The boy was taken out of my class this morning for extended interview with a care worker, as Greenfield Academy demonstrated its determination to fulfil its responsibilities under the Getting It Right For Every Child mandate.

To my surprise, he re-entered the classroom before the end of the period, seemingly without a care in the world, a state of mind that was explained forcefully to me by Mike Baggs after the class had left.

"Morris?" he questioned me. "How much did you ask Aaron about the contents of his essay?"

"Well, I asked him if it was true, or even close to being true. I didn't like to cause any re-experience of trauma. You know how careful we've got to ."

"Yes, I know that," he interrupted. "But it didn't take long for that social worker to discover it was certainly true, and ."

"It was? How awful! What are we ."

Mike held his hand up. ". and to realise that it was based upon his Scouts' trip to Inveraray Jail last weekend, where they take great delight in re-enacting punishments of the 19th century. Even if I'd like to use some of them in the 21st," he muttered grimly.

The whole episode has left me feeling rather foolish, I have to admit.


I helped supervise the second-year Christmas disco this evening. It was very different from my own school days when our stern, ferocious rector would patrol the dance floor looking out for any couple embracing too affectionately or - even worse - kissing. In which case he would bang their heads together with an admonition to "stop that at once".

Tonight, the way most of the kids were carrying on, it looked as if the guidance team must have been handing out condoms on arrival. And, as you can imagine, our headteacher was nowhere to be seen.


We were due to attend the Christmas pantomime tonight, but I found myself with yet another backlog of marking, so suggested to Gail that I could run her, Margaret and Fraser into town, then come back to do my marking and pick them up afterwards.

"You what?" she almost screamed at me. "You spent last weekend marking, you spent the weekend before marking - and there's no way you're spending tonight marking as well, Morris! Just think how upset Fraser will be if you don't come."

Fraser didn't look too concerned, frankly, but his face suddenly crumpled, as if on cue - possibly the result of Margaret standing on his toe - and he began to cry. I relented at once, and decided to join in the festive spirit, with the result that two hours later I was cheering the goodies, booing the baddies - and the woes of Greenfield Academy seemed light years away.

There's nothing like Christmas in the bosom of your family. And I managed to do the marking once we got home.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today