Plunging hopes for CfE as a new passion runs higher

15th February 2013 at 00:00


Frank O'Farrell has been on the warpath again about National 5 content. "My God!" he exclaimed this morning. "I've just read the full outlines for loads of subjects - and as far as I can see, most of them have been put together by people who don't speak to each other, or by people who are out of their depth - or even by people who can't necessarily write! How the hell we're gonna get a nationally credible examination system out of the tosh that I've seen in these unit support notes beggars belief!"

I challenged his assertions and explained that the new qualifications were about assessment in new modes of learning.

"And anyway," chipped in Brian Lindsay, our dashingly svelte new PE teacher, "from what I've heard about the sample Nat 5 exam papers, they're just the same as Intermediate 2s with a few bells and whistles to pretend they're in line with CfE."

"Hmph!" exclaimed Frank. "And what would you know about it, sonny? I don't believe they're having an exam at National 5 PE, are they?"

"Maybe not," shrugged Brian. "But that doesn't stop me voicing my professional opinion, does it?"

"Hmph," exclaimed Frank again, before hunching his shoulders and leaving the staffroom. It was hardly what I would call a professional debate.


Mr Walsh of IT has been delighted with recent press reports suggesting that the future of education lies in smartphones and tablets. "It's about time the government brought us into the 21st century," he proclaimed at lunchtime, as he pinned an appropriate article to the staffroom noticeboard.

"I thought you'd have been tweeting something like that, Bob," I chastised him, "rather than putting a hard copy on the wall."

"I have, Morris," he countered. "But there are a number of dinosaurs on the staff who wouldn't know a tablet from a piece of fudge, and who still think the future lies in coloured chalk!"

As if on cue, Frank O'Farrell lumbered past and examined the offending article. "Hah!" he scoffed aloud. "Listen to what the reporting group's convener, Muffy Calder, says: 'The task we were set was ambitious - to scope a long-term user- centred future for Glow and to imagine a future for the service that provides a seamless user experience and connectivity on the one hand, and an open range of tools on the other. I hope we have done that.'

"My God!" complained Frank. "That's not going to win any plain English awards for Muffy Calder, is it? More like Muffy the Mule if you ask me!"

Once again, I am left pondering the level of staffroom debate in many a Scottish school, at least if Greenfield Academy is anything to go by.


Today's first-year parents' evening left us at the mercy of vocal and concerned guardians who wanted to be assured what their offspring's chances were of achieving top grades in National 5 - or to be told that they would at least be sitting National 5s, rather than be left in the academic wastelands that look likely to be the preserve of N4 candidates.

I lost count of the number of times I explained that it was far too early to judge whether their children would be entered for N4 or N5 - but even the hold-ups necessitated by such explanations didn't begin to explain the delays that were occurring around the PE department's table in the assembly hall.

All was explained when Mrs Butcher eventually arrived at my desk to discuss her daughter Chanel's progress - or lack of it - since she joined the school last December.

"Good evening, Mrs Butcher," I shook her hand, as I gazed at her tight-fitting micro-dress in some embarrassment, "And... er... ?" I enquired about the lady accompanying her, clad in equally scanty apparel. "Is this an aunt of Chanel's?"

"Naw, naw, this is ma neighbour, Charlene, Mr Simpson. She came along tae see that new PE teacher, Mr Lindsay. Chanel said he wis gorgeous - and so he is, eh?" Her lips softened visibly, as she and Charlene turned away again to view the object of their mutual desires.

"Mrs Butcher," I explained. "I think we should concentrate on Chanel's appalling grasp of punctuation, don't you?"

"Aye, whatever you say," she agreed willingly - before turning away to drool in the direction of Brian Lindsay.

Sometimes I despair.


Valentine's Day brought the usual rush of cards being distributed around the school by the sixth year - with a disproportionate number arriving at the PE staff base, all intended for Brian Lindsay. Unsurprisingly, there were none delivered to the English base...


Frank O'Farrell has at last got something positive to say about our new qualifications structures. "Guess what?" he announced at lunchtime. "I've just discovered that there's not going to be any need to do the new Highers in 2015, because they're going to run concurrently with the present ones.

"So I can revisit my N4s and 5s to try and get them right second time around, use my present Higher resources with the fifth year, then see the first exam for the new Higher before I teach it, so that I'll actually be ready for it. Unlike National 5!

"And, most of all," he concluded happily: "I can get my life back for six months!"

It all seems a long way from the aspirational hopes that so many people have for Curriculum for Excellence...

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