School Diary - The apocalypse is upon us - take cover

16th April 2010 at 01:00


Today's in-service day confirmed the depressing news that Curriculum for Excellence is going ahead in August, and an increasing sense of gloom engulfed nearly all staff as we broke for morning coffee. At least a degree of levity was apparent upon entering the staffroom, where Mr Paige of Art has hung a large cardboard artwork, which purports to be a movie advertisement: it's called `CfE: Apocalypse Now!', and features the Education Secretary in particularly manic pose leading a phalanx of helicopters into attack over a jungle clearing as teachers cower beneath an avalanche of enormous green folders.

I could hear the Ride of the Valkyries ringing in my ears .

Meanwhile, the afternoon brought an introductory session from Richard Carlton, our new QIO for CfE and the 21st century, wherein he elaborated upon the Education Secretary's announcement to give heads and schools who aren't ready for full implementation of CfE the chance to have tailored support.

"Now, Ms Slater has assured me that this doesn't apply to Greenfield Academy," he continued, "because you're almost fully prepared, but I just want to stress the availability of that tailored support, and check that all of the staff are with Ms Slater on that one?"

There was silence, except for a muffled snort from Frank O'Farrell, who leaned over and whispered to me: "Tailored support's the correct description, all right, Morris - as soon as anyone puts their head above that particular parapet to say they're not ready, the authority will have them stitched up faster than a Savile Row outfitters ."


Davie McManus's department apparently spent yesterday afternoon reading our latest guidelines on `Building the Curriculum 5'.

"And d'ye know what, Morris?" he confided in me this morning. "It turns out tae be as vacuous and platitudinous as BTC 3 and BTC 4, and wi' exactly the same amount of detail about assessment as well - i.e. zero, zilch - except tae say we're gaun' tae be assessin' skills, not stuff, in the future - so dinnae worry about it. Ah'm helluva glad ah'll be retired!"

I tried to cheer him with some news I've heard about his parodic song C.F.F.E., which he composed for last month's school talent show and which made some fairly cutting jibes about our curricular reform: apparently, the song's fame has spread beyond the confines of Greenfield, and its lyrics are adorning several staffroom walls.

"Really?" he perked up. "That's great tae hear - jist shows a prophet's nivvir honoured in his ain back-yard. Ah just wish someone could've recorded it furr YouTube, eh? We could've added it tae a' the other CfE stuff oan there."

I requested elucidation, and he told me about the increasing number of hilarious videos available on the topic by simply typing "Curriculum for Excellence" into the website's search facility.

Unfortunately, our authority's firewalls don't allow us to access that particular site through the school network - we're a little like China in that respect - so I had to wait until this evening to check it out. And a highly entertaining evening it turned out to be .


Mrs Harry was disturbed from her extra free period this morning (while she was illegally marking some SQA exam project work within school confines!) to settle a problem between the student teacher in her department and Shannon McTiernan, a fourth-year pupil whose Intermediate 2 studies had apparently been disturbed by the sun shining in her eyes through a faulty blind.

Miss Moore had suggested moving to another seat, but Shannon had refused, citing it as the school's responsibility to repair the blind, and a disagreement had ensued. Mrs Harry's Chamberlain-like attempts at appeasement proved unsuccessful, concluding with the immortal exchange: "But why won't you move out of that seat to another one, Shannon?"

"Because," announced Shannon grandly, I want to be my own person!"

Mrs Harry had snorted loudly, at which point Shannon suggested that our head of faculty was (and I quote) a "frigid auld bitch who should piss off!"

That was the end of the exchange. Mrs Harry is not one to take such insults lightly, and has demanded a letter of apology.


Rosemary Slater has told Mrs Harry to withdraw her request for a letter of apology from Shannon McTiernan, as she claims that "getting pupils to write letters of apology they don't mean is pointless and against school policy. Such studentteacher disagreements should be resolved by negotiation and conflict resolution techniques."

"It's enough to make me apply for early retirement," Mrs Harry confessed at lunchtime. "The balance of pupilteacher relationships has just swung too far in the wrong direction - next thing you know, they'll be wanting to allow pupils on to interview panels for teacher appointments ."

I can understand her frustration - but surely that scenario is a little too far-fetched to believe?


Mr Paige has added another artwork to his Apocalypse Now montage. This one has the figure of the Education Secretary topless on a battlefield, with a large Stetson atop his sunglasses, picking up an enormous folder with some difficulty, and announcing proudly from a speech bubble: "I love the smell of curricular documents in the morning ."

Meanwhile, I have definitely decided not to become an SQA marker this year. I mentioned the decision in passing to my faculty head, Madeleine Nichol.

"Oh really?" she remarked. "I'm sure that the SQA will be devastated after all the money they've spent trying to get new markers on board this year. Not to have hooked you, Morris, will be a real disappointment down at The Optima Building."

If that's what she calls the motivational imperative, then I think it's time she went on a man-management course.

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