Play that mike again, Sam

10th July 1998 at 01:00
At the recent childcare "summit" in Edinburgh, Galbraith won golden opinions. Not only did he address the meeting, but he stayed for the entire morning's proceedings. And not only that - he actually chaired the event, moving seamlessly from ministerial mode to presiding officer.

Then came the tour de force. "I'm going to come amongst you," announced the #163;69,339-a-year Minister of the Crown as he took the roving microphone and began conducting the question and answer session.

"OK, who wants to ask the first question apart from Sam Campbell?" asked chairman Galbraith, anxious not to have Midlothian's colourful social services convener get in the way of the practitioners' voice.

The honour fell to Raywyn Black of the West Lothian out-of-school network.She welcomed the Government's childcare strategy, said it was long overdue,pressed all the right buttons, delighted to see it, etc etc. "However... " she continued. "Ah yes, however... " Galbraith groaned.

Black followed her "however" with an attack on "outdated attitudes" among councillors and local officials. "Sam Campbell, I think you should respond to that," said the other Sam mischievously. "How long have I got?" asked Campbell. "Sixty seconds," said the even-handed chair.

As Campbell began helpfully to explain that Midlothian was just outside Edinburgh, he was rewarded with a magisterial "come on, get on with it" from the impatient children's champion.

Next on her feet was Sheila Cronin, head of Renfrewshire education's community and special services. "Now don't spend time praising our childcare strategy," she was advised. "We'll take that as read."

Other helpful tips followed. "You've got to hold the microphone close to your mouth, " Galbraith told one questioner. "Closer than that." As for his final questioner, nothing could be simpler. "I'll come to you," the chairman decided, advancing at speed. "You're at the front. It's easier."

Spot the joins

Sam Galbraith likes to claim he was the first to coin the phrase "joined-up Government" to stress the virtues of co-ordinated activity. So the childcare strategy represents "joined-up Government for joined-up solutions for joined-up problems".

Joined-up policies begin at home, of course, as Galbraith recognised. He quoted approvingly the director of education who observed that he looked on two parts of the Scottish Office communicating with each other "not so much as a coincidence as a miracle".

Culture killer

With the news of the "suppressed" curriculum report on Scottish culture ringing in our lugs, it should come as no surprise that visitors often know more than we do.

Take the Robert Burns Tour operating out of John Knox House in Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Standing by David Rizzio's grave in the Canongate Kirkyard, Burns (aka actor Derek Elsby) waxes lyrical about the "mixter-maxter of the political, the personal and the religious" motives of those who murdered the ill-fated scribe to Mary Queen of Scots.

At which point there came the interruption: "It was Darnley was the ringleader." A Scottish voice? Of course not. Yugoslavian.

To Russia with...

And so back to Galbraith - not Sam but Neil of that ilk. The chairman of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum is briefly forsaking the Scottish cultural scene to advise the Russians.

His fortnight's trip this month is in recognition of his experience as director of education in the Western Isles. He is joining a multinational team, funded by the World Bank, to advise the Russians on local authority education.

Galbraith's detractors at Stornoway's Nicolson Institute will be intrigued to learn that the financing of teaching staff and devolved school management are among the lessons he will be imparting.

Hot for some

We are glad to see Galbraith is using the holidays productively. His directorate colleagues, Bernard McLeary in Inverclyde and Graeme Young in Falkirk, drew flak for taking their children out of school in term time.

Young's sons attended the Brazil-Scotland World Cup match as "an educational experience". The McLeary daughters no doubt similarly benefited from their trip to Benidorm.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today