Permission to break wind, Sir? Permission denied!

20th April 2012 at 01:00


Our headteacher has announced that she is going for a 2+2+2 curricular structure next session. "I have been moved to this decision after careful consideration," she explained in an All Staff email, "and hope that it will serve to reassure S2 parents that their children will be getting the fullest preparation for the 2014 diet of National 5 examinations by starting courses this year. Needless to say, I will be dependent on the professionalism of you, my staff, to implement the new syllabus, and I thank you in advance for your cooperation."

"Hah," bellowed Frank O'Farrell, entering the staffroom with a printout of the email. "She'd be better advised to depend on the professionalism of Mystic bloody Meg if she wants us to get an idea of what's going to be in the N5 syllabus!"

"Oh, don't be so cynical!" urged Pauline McDonald, his enthusiastic probationer. "It's a work in progress," she said, referring to the draft outlines on the SQA website, "but we're assured of lots of exam exemplars by the end of April."

"One exam exemplar, Pauline," Frank corrected her. "With maybe the chance of some more in October."

"Well we're going to get lots of materials from the government anyway," she said. "They're putting pound;3.5 million into the new programme, and lots of that will go towards producing course materials from Education Scotland."

Frank looked sorrowfully at her. "Pauline, could I suggest you go and ask some longer-serving members of staff what happened the last time they promised that? And ask them what the words `Central Support Group' mean to them?"

She looked quizzically in my direction, and I explained, "In the early days of Standard grade, Pauline, the Central Support Groups were charged with exactly the same remit. So we got voluminous forests of paper that were severely lacking in quality control and were, for the most part, completely useless. Especially when they forgot to put page numbers on the bottom." I recalled Martin Henderson, our 1980s PT history, famously dropping his several hundred pages of newly-printed CSG support materials - and then having a near-nervous breakdown when he couldn't put them back together again.

"But that was then, Pauline. And this is now," I said. "I'm sure Education Scotland will make a better job if it than the CSGs did. And I'm absolutely certain that they'll number all the pages properly."


Frank Atkinson, one of our depute heads, has sent out a rather ill-advised instruction on behavioural procedures to the third-year cohort for which he is responsible. Apparently, he has been in receipt of several complaints from teachers about third-year boys - Aaron McPhee and Ryan Moore in particular - who have been prone to excessively loud expressions of air from their nether regions. Which explained Frank's ruling in the pupil briefing sheet that "Any student wishing to break wind must in future ask permission of hisher teacher beforehand". He says it should "make them think twice before they let off". I think it's a rather foolish hostage to fortune, but time will tell.


Mrs Slater has reverted to a 3+3 curriculum for next year. The decision arose, she explained, "after a very constructive (sic) discussion with the director of education, who has encouraged me to look afresh at the positive outcomes that will accrue from letting our students enjoy a broader general education until the end of third year".

Feelings were mixed in the staffroom, with some accusing our head of gross capitulation at the hands of intransigent management, and others - the majority, if truth be told - letting out a collective sigh of relief at being handed an escape route from the path of interrogating syllabus outlines that seem, at best, opaque, at worst, impenetrable.


Unsurprisingly, Mr Atkinson's new school "farting policy", as it has become known, has been withdrawn before it could draw breath, so to speak. The boys in virtually every third-year class have spent every lesson with hands aloft, faces grimacing with apparent contorted anguish before seeking permission to break wind - whereafter they either succeed, noisily, or apologise for a "false alarm", and shuffle back on to both cheeks of their posteriors before starting the whole cycle again in a few minutes. It has certainly proved to be the most effective "low-level disruption" that I've seen in all my career.


Frank O'Farrell has announced UDI in his curricular structure for next year. "I'm getting next year's third year through N4 by June," he explained, "By the end of third year, they'll have done everything they need for an N4 award, then I can get ready for teaching them N5 in fourth year."

"But surely you're supposed to do N4 andor N5 in fourth year? What about the ones who aren't good enough to be presented for N5?"

"They'll do N4 again," he shrugged. "But I won't tell them. I'll enrich it, make it better, give them an N5 assignment - which doesn't exist - and then use it for evidence when I award them their N4 at the end of the year."

It seems a wilful challenge to the curricular intentions behind the N45 programme, and demonstrates the disarray within our own small school over the matter. At least the rest of the country's schools can't be in as much confusion as Greenfield Academy. If they were, then heaven help the future of Scottish education.

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