Morris Simpson's School Diary - Madeleine left screaming blue merde at gig boys' bum note

20th May 2011 at 01:00


My faculty head has been planning requisitions during the senior study- leave period. The English department feels hard done by in comparison with modern languages, but Madeleine Nichol denied the charge of favouritism when I raised the issue at a departmental meeting.

"Morris, it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference, even if I'd taught technical for the last 15 years! There just isn't enough money to go round! The boss tells me that the February quick-spend looks like the last of it for this year, and the drawbridge has gone up along at the council offices."

I accused our headteacher of passing the buck: "So she wants us to continue with the implementation of a brand new curriculum without any new resources? Looks to me like it's not so much Curriculum for Excellence as Curriculum for Sixpence!"

My joke went down rather well, if I say so myself, although Irene Donnelly suggested that Curriculum for Sixtypence had a more euphonious ring. An eventual vote was taken in favour of her amendment. So Curriculum for Sixtypence it is.


Madeleine Nichol is worried about two students who failed to turn up for their Higher French exam today. She had conducted the standard "phone-call round-up" of all candidates to ensure they were awake and primed, but Brian Niven and Liam Cooper proved impossible to find.

"It's a real pain," she admitted this afternoon. "Out of all 19 in the class they stood about the best chance of a B grade, and this could seriously affect my pass-rate."

I don't know what shocked me most: the fact that Greenfield Academy's 1,000-plus roll could only muster 19 Higher French candidates (most of them "C" material) - or the fact that Madeleine's main concern was for her pass rate rather than her pupils.


Brian Niven and Liam Cooper turned up today and explained that they had decided against sitting their Higher French yesterday in favour of - and I quote - "gaun tae a gig in Birmingham".

Ms Nichol was beside herself with frustration, and told them in no uncertain terms that they'd "let themselves down, let her down, and let the school down". They seemed singularly unconcerned about it all, as Niven artlessly posed the question: "How come? Kin we no' appeal? Remember, miss, ah goat a great prelim mark, an' so did Liam!"

Madeleine struck her forehead: "For one thing, the appeals process at SQA now gives you as much chance of success as getting a front row seat at the Olympics opening ceremony! For another, it costs a bomb! And finally, even in its most generous hour, I doubt whether SQA would accept `attendance at Birmingham gig' as a genuine reason for absence!"

They still didn't "get it", as Niven's follow-up question revealed: "Could ye no' jist say we hud a virus? Or the runs?"

To her credit, Madeleine chose not to reply.


Mrs Slater has received a furious response to a recent rectorial letter she sent to parents of fourth-year pupils, in which she reversed a policy decision that had been designed to allow their children to take a number of Highers over two years rather than one, thus spreading their academic burden in a sensible manner.

However, since the news broke that universities are looking more favourably upon applications from students who pass their Highers at one diet, she has redrawn the entire senior timetable and returned to the traditional - and, as previously described by her, "universally discredited" - system of four or five Highers at one sitting.

I can see why some parents are angry, although if I were them, I'd reserve my ire for the universities: considering that most students these days achieve their degrees by simply turning up for classes, handing in an occasional essay, and accruing continuous assessment credits, I think they've got a bloody cheek demanding five exam passes at one sitting!


Mr O'Farrell of social subjects has become incensed at the latest news of the future assessment drift in Curriculum for Sixtypence, most especially its successor in the guise of National 4 qualifications - or "Qualifications for the Unqualified", as he has so unfairly described our putative national assessment outline.

"I can't believe they're including `Projects' in the history proposals," he complained at lunchtime.

"Isn't that the `value-added' mechanism to allow students to demonstrate their own investigative verve and enthusiasm?" I queried.

"Exactly!" O'Farrell confirmed. "Projects. Just like when they were at primary school. And the next thing you know, SQA will be asking for them to be verified and moderated by getting the parents to sign their work and the kids to self-evaluate - just like primary school! Honestly, Morris, the whole system's going to hell in a handcart if they can't realise - or remember - what happens when you include home- assisted projects in an assessment framework.

"Either the parents do it - and increase the grade. Or the parents don't do it - and the student's grade suffers."

Oh dear. I'm not sure whether I'll be up to that kind of help by the time Fraser's at that stage. I was never too good at school projects.

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