Piped aboard with an extraordinary motion

10th May 1996 at 01:00
Jim MacKenzie, headteacher of Dumbarton Academy, attended the Secondary Heads' Association's conference in Newcastle to offer advice on how Scottish heads are handling information technology.

When the alarm in his hotel went off at 5am, his firefighting training as a Royal Naval Reserve minesweeper captain made him offer other advice, persuading the night porter that even if the fire was thought to be extinguished the guests should not be sent back to their rooms before the fire brigade arrived.

There was to be no reward for the virtuous. Back in bed MacKenzie was soon reawakened when all the waste water and sewage from five floors above erupted from his toilet and bath.

He commented: "I must be the only Scotsman at the SHA conference who is in a position to bring a motion to the annual meeting."


SNP councillor Jimmy Mitchell went fishing at Renfrewshire's first education committee last week. The outspoken politician with the bobbed hairdo cast his line and reeled in the big one: Labour education convener Brian Oldrey.

During a heartwarming speech about closure-threatened Ardentinny outdoor centre, which for some inner-city kids provided "the only holiday they ever had", Mitchell urged the council to amend its plans and keep the place open.

In response to promises that alternatives would be found, he said: "We know what it's worth. We know what we have now."

Sensing he had a bite, Mitchell teased: "I'm not surprised by the convener's views. He comes from that other place." To which an exasperated Oldrey retorted: "I'm getting fed up of people referring to the fact I'm English. "

"I don't mean that at all," Mitchell replied, a picture of innocence as he reeled in his catch. "I just meant you come from Erskine and I come from Paisley."

Crossed purposes

Speaking of Paisley, assiduous followers of denominational education will know of the presence in the town of St Andrew's High. This is not to be confused with St Andrew's High, East Kilbride, or the similar sounding St Andrew's High, Clydebank. These secondaries are not related to St Andrew's Academy in sunny Saltcoats or St Andrew's Secondary in the east end of Glasgow.

Fortunately, there is only one St Andrews in Fife. St Andrew's High in Kirkcaldy.

Tendimus indeed

The theme of the primary headteachers' conference is "Quo tendimus omnes". Jotter had to seek a translation. "Where on earth are we going?" appears to catch the flavour. For next year's event, who is going to offer a Latin version of "Why are we so pretentious?" Twice blessed

Retired heads are undergoing a religious transmogrification as the new education committees are finding out to their cost, or perhaps their benefit.

On the Catholic side, Peter Mullen, ex-Holyrood, has a perch on Glasgow's committee; John Oates, ex-St Modan's, has found a niche on Falkirk's committee (and him a Stirling resident, too); Andrew McGarry, ex-Turnbull High in Bishopbriggs and Strathclyde education committee, has moved to East Dunbartonshire; and Bob Birrell, ex-St Joseph's primary, Edinburgh, and an Educational Institute of Scotland negotiator, has turned up on West Lothian's committee.

On the Protestant side, Henry Philip, ex-Liberton and EIS, has moved from Lothian to the Edinburgh committee, while the Rev John Taylor, ex-Auchenharvie, Church of Scotland education committee and EIS, is performing in North Ayrshire. Dumfries and Galloway committee has entrusted its religious interest to Elizabeth Smith, farmer's wife and former regionalconvener of education.


A Dumbarton primary project on Scotland from the tourists' point of view tapped a rich vein of invention. One of the more able participants was doing marvellously well on her poster, carefully sketching in pipers, deer, mountains and all the rest of it.

She even etched in a wee slogan. "Come and see the shigts of Scotland," she urged.

Sex SSTA-style

Classroom repartee was much in evidence at the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association in Dunblane. Craig Duncan, depute general secretary, invited trouble when he asked if they could hear him at the back of the hall. "Unfortunately," came the reply.

Fortunately, the sound system was in good order for the presentation of life membership to Sheila Fraser, a Dundee special needs teacher and home economist who recounted a cautionary tale about sex education. "One excited wee lad ran out along the corridor straight into the headteacher and blurted out: 'We've just had sex in the kitchen with Mrs Fraser'."

Delegates quickly got to grips with the crunch issues, such as the lamentable failure of the Government to publish the quinquennial report on the teachers' superannuation scheme for 1986-91.

"This would be an absolute best-seller," Bob McGarill, Glasgow, advised HMSO.

Alistair Fulton, one-time TESS columnist, now retired from that fray and from teaching, cannot be kept out of the action. It fell to the erudite classicist to introduce Gordon Kirk, principal of Moray House Institute as after-dinner speaker, "I knew him when he was only a mission hall," Fulton revealed.

Former president Marie Allan, meanwhile, was in some doubt over Labour's education manifesto.

"Can I say 'Scotified'?" Allan enquired of president Barbara Clark. "Only if Alistair is not in the room," replied Clark, once referred to by a gentlemanly delegate as "Mrs Chairman".

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