Pay cuts, physics frenzy, pupil attack and police action
The staffroom at Greenfield Academy has been ablaze with fury about the proposed threats to terms and conditions, with Pauline McDonald, our young firebrand probationer, most outspoken of all.
"Have you returned your ballot papers?" she questioned every member of the coffee queue this morning. "We want 100 per cent support in favour of strike action, telling those jokers at Cosla that if they want to cut our pay and holidays, and make it a punishable offence to be ill, then they've got another think coming!"
There were encouraging nods from most, but Mr McManus of biology admitted a dilatory approach: "Look, ah'm two years aff retirement, Pauline, and ah hud ma fill o' strikes back in the '80s. It's great to see youse youngsters getting fired up about it, but it's no' goanny make much difference to me, is it?"
Pauline gasped. "You can't be serious, Davie? This isn't just about us, it's about the kids whose education these cuts will ruin. And anyway," she targeted her argument more carefully, "have you seen what they're planning for your pension?"
Davie's ears pricked up, and Pauline drove home the advantage. "Read the EIS circular, would you?" she thrust a copy into his hand, as he headed for his usual corner seat. It wasn't long before the coffee mug in his hand started trembling with ill-concealed rage .
Mrs Niven (mother of Brian, S5) has been on to me about her son's progress. Although I have no official guidance responsibilities any longer (and despite the fact that my conserved salary after losing them is now also under threat), I feel it's my duty to offer pastoral care, especially after she chose not to complain about a recent mix-up I had over Brian's use of a diabetic self-testing kit. "He seems particularly stuck with physics," she said. I explained that Mr Greig was on a course about the new Higher, for which he has volunteered to be an early adopter, but I would pass on her concerns.
Spoke to Gregor Greig about Brian Niven, and he eventually got round to discussing the boy after a good 10 minutes of vitriol directed at our national examining body for (according to him) abandoning the development of new Highers in his subject.
"Hah!" he exclaimed. "They say they'll be going ahead with them, but as they're disbanding the teams that were putting them together, I don't see how they can - and I'll have wasted a whole load of time getting ready for next August.
"Anyway, enough about that," he ran out of steam eventually. "The problem with Brian Niven is that he shouldn't be taking Higher physics at all, because he's not up to it - but he came in as a late entrant after Mike Baggs advised him it would be useful for his career choice."
"And isn't it?"
"What d'you think? It's the natural consequence of Brian having a PE specialist for his guidance teacher. Baggs told Brian that if he wanted to be a car mechanic, then he should do Higher physics because it included mechanics."
"But isn't that a completely different type of mechanics?"
"Of course it is. And I've told Mike, but there is nowhere else for Brian in the timetable, so I'm stuck with him and he's stuck with me. He keeps asking when we'll be doing some practical work on cars and I keep telling him never. It's pathetic, really: he thinks I'm joking."
I said I'd report back to Mrs Niven, but I'm not really sure what to tell her.
Shocking assault news from Mrs Jackson's ASN department, where she has been devoting considerable time to the additional support needs of Jason Bonetti, a sixth-year boy who suffers huge learning and emotional difficulties, not to mention various chemical dependencies.
"The boy's self-medicating," depute head Kevin Muir told me privately this afternoon, "and I don't just mean his Ritalin! God knows what he was on this morning, but I walked into B14 to discover him in a one-to-one with his hands around Pamela's throat and her eyes turning very glassy. I disarmed him with a chair, then did the same to him until he calmed down - which was just before he was about to lose consciousness, I think.
"Now, I know I should have sat him down to talk about it before launching an attack, but I'm afraid I didn't have time to think about that - and at least Pamela Jackson's still here to tell the tale."
Muir was still shaking with post- incident trauma as he finished his story, so I suggested an after-school libation. Unsurprisingly, he accepted.
Staggeringly, the police haven't been called in over yesterday's outrage. "We've got to keep it quiet, Morris," Kevin explained this morning. "Apart from anything else, I should never have assaulted the boy - so he has agreed not to press charges if Pamela doesn't press charges against him. Plus there is the negative publicity effect on the school. Plus on Pamela as well, come to that."
On other matters, Greenfield Academy looks like it will be returning a 100 per cent mandate for strike action, ever since Davie McManus joined Pauline's campaign, and became James Maxton, John Maclean and Jimmy Reid all rolled into one. Hell hath no fury, apparently, like a teacher who thinks he is going to have his holidays shortened. Even if he has only got a few more holidays left.