Quiet! Exams in progress

2nd June 2000 at 01:00
Monday May 22

Start of activities week. All but eight S1 pupils spend the day at the Magnum Centre, Irvine, with 10 staff. Another group are at Strasbourg all week with six teachers. Out of our roll of almost 800 we have only 320 pupils in school.

Tuesday May 23

Telephone call at 8.35am: one of our seven buses has broken down in Lennoxtown. Parents say they will bring their daughter in for her exam. Fortunately the driver managed to restart the bus and the rest of the pupils were not delayed.

Today is the start of the Higher exams, although not yet Higher Still, since English is still on the old Higher. Three pupils were missing at the start of the exam. Stevie arrived late, as has been common for the whole of S6, and Katie is ill. Frantic telephone calls revealed that Archie's number gave the BT message "This number is unavailable".

Our system swung into action: phone the mother's work number; she cannot be found, so her work place checks the number - which is the same as ours. Archie has two sisters at school: one is in Strasbourg; the other is sitting office and information studies at 10.30am and has signed in but cannot be found, she is not in the study room and there's no sign of her anywhere else. Telephone the grandparent who is the emergency contact: no reply. Contact directory enquiries. Archie arrives having slept in. Joyce allows him to start late.

Having read today the leaks in the press about the McCrone report, which includes the same salary scales for primary heads and secondary heads, I muse whether our primary colleagues have the same scale of problems and difficulties as we have.

John (teacher of OIS), who is in Strasbourg with the school trip, telephones Karen (assistat headteacher) to ask her to wish his class luck in their exam.

Katrina, who has been struggling up until now with her seat numbers, is disconcerted to discover that seat numbers are not needed for the OIS exam.

Wednesday, May 24

Quiet day. No Standard grade exams. Higher grade art papers in the afternoon.

I wonder why this has happened and check the SQA timetable. In the morning English Higher Still courses are scheduled and the SQA was not to know that, at least for this year, these could have been listed as minority subjects along with Urdu and Latin.

Thursday, May 25

Today is an in-service day, so the only pupils in school are those taking our first Higher Still examination: mathematics. In the afternoon is the optional paper in French writing. Transport is provided to the school in the morning and home at 3.55pm after the Credit paper.

Our worst fears are realised when, again, one of the buses breaks down. Fortunately this happened early enough for a replacement to be provided and the pupils were not late.

Excitement during the break between exams. Newly born kittens have been discovered in the coal bunker. They are removed by a janitor but the mother refuses to come out. A coal delivery is due this afternoon. After a half-hour struggle involving two janitors, two teachers and an audience of several dozen, the cat is lured into a box and then runs straight out into the playground. The cheers certainly broke the tension of the students waiting for their next exam.

Friday May 26

School holiday but the exams roll on. The headteacher does not go into school: is this a first?

John Mitchell

The writer is headteacher at Kilsyth Academy, North Lanarkshire

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