Music to thine ears

13th October 2006 at 01:00

Those of us who make frequent telephone calls to educational establishments (it comes with the territory when working for The TESS) have heard an interesting selection of music over the years when put "on hold" by school switchboards.

We were often cheered in the past, for example, when so many Strathclyde schools kept us waiting with a jaunty version of the theme tune from "The Sting".

But hats off to St Aloysius College in Glasgow - during a recent call they raised the cultural telephony stakes altogether higher, with a blissfully soothing choral rendition of Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus", while their charming receptionist put us through.

True, the motet's English translation might seem gloomy (presaging, as it does, the sufferings of Christ as a foretaste for us all in the trials of death) but, as it's sung in Latin, it's a fair bet that not many callers these days will be aware of this.

Rather, they can start humming along (as did we) and let the day's trials and tribulations be harmoniously washed away - until it's almost a disappointment to have our call connected.


David Paterson is the Aberdeenshire teacher who has put the cat among the pigeons by demanding that his local authority release the job-sizing toolkit, beloved of promoted teachers everywhere (TESS, September 29).

Who he, many readers might have asked? He is principal teacher of modern studies at Mintlaw Academy and, allegedly, not someone to suffer fools gladly - especially if they happen to be headteachers or education officials.

Perhaps he has mellowed of late, since his brother is a bureaucrat par excellence - none other than Douglas Paterson, chief executive of Aberdeen City Council, once director of education in the old Grampian Region and sometime primary headteacher.

Despite his pedigree, Paterson fr re has been something of a dismantler of education empires in Aberdeen. So from which side of the old Grampian border did the assault on the toolkit originate, we wonder innocently?


As part of his re-election bid, Jack McConnell has been urging a refocus on numeracy. Fans of these pages may need little prompting.

First we had the five national priorities in education. This led to the four capacities, thanks to A Curriculum for Excellence. Then we had the five minds from Harvard professor Howard Gardner. This was quickly followed by six hats from Edward de Bono, not to mention the frightening prospect in our letters page of multiple Brian Boyds from Glasgow teacher Hugh Humphries.

Presumably, the crunch questions, with which teachers will have to wrestle, are how we cope with a mind short of a hat, and whether the four capacities will be enough to occupy the multiple Boyds?


Multi-agency working is clearly essential for teachers, it would seem.

George MacBride, the education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland, illustrated this perfectly when he was talking recently about how the curriculum reforms would require more professionals in the classroom.

He recalled the time when one of his pupils had received a special permission slip, called a "go class", to leave their class to go to the toilet, as she had a urinary infection.

MacBride was trying to explain to her why it was important she not abuse this privilege and she should only leave the class when absolutely necessary, when the school nurse intervened and put it much more succinctly: "You are getting this because you have to pee; there's no pissing about with it."


From our staffroom forum comes the following gem on the funniest thing a pupil has said, and this in an RE lesson no less.

Discussing different religions in the class, one boy put up his hand and said: "Miss, I'm a Catholic." Another chipped in: "I'm a Protestant." It was then time for a third boy to put up his hand and declare: "Miss, I'm a Capricorn."


News reaches us (somewhat belatedly) from the start of the new session at Gatehouse of Fleet Primary, courtesy of the Galloway Gazette.

Readers learned of new classes and staff, with a breakdown of who had come and gone. But it was surely taking things too far when the paper reported:

"Mrs...., classroom assistant, continues to be off on sickness absence."

Schools are big news in the south west.

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