School Diary - Cost-cutting has us less than glowing

18th June 2010 at 01:00

Monday

Here, at Greenfield Academy, we've been intrigued to learn that the Education Secretary is writing to all parents of P7 pupils, reassuring them about Curriculum for Excellence, and explaining its aims and intentions.

"Well, I certainly hope Mike Russell copies us in!" exclaimed Frank O'Farrell of modern studies, as he scanned the All Staff Glowmail containing the news. "`Cos if he doesn't, we're going to need to ask the kids for help when they enrol in August - which at least should fulfil the ethos of child-directed learning!

"And what's this about wishing all the best to Pauline and Sharon as they move on after their probationary year?" he swivelled round to ask the pair. "I thought you'd both got jobs here against all the odds?"

"We did," explained Pauline. "That's what she told us last week, with `just the paperwork to be completed'. But the council phoned on Friday, said there was an embargo on permanent posts, so she'd have to get supply or new probationers next session."

"That's awful," I sympathised. "What are you going to do?"

"We're leaving the country - just like any other teacher who's been trained at the expense of the Scottish Government but was stupid enough to believe there was a job at the end of it."

How sad. It seems that Mrs Slater's Glowmail doesn't always have the uplifting effect on morale that one would hope for.

Tuesday

Gail and I had some friends round for drinks this evening. Fiona teaches in the same primary as Gail, while Andrew is a head of English at Abbotsgrange Academy, a nearby independent school.

Inevitably, much of the conversation centred on education, and I was sharing my enthusiasm for Glow, our national intranet service, but was brought up short by Andrew's sardonic bark.

"What's wrong?" I queried. "Don't you see much potential for it in the independent sector?"

"Oh, I see lots of potential for it, Morris," he agreed, "but we're not invited to the party."

"What d'you mean?"

"We can't access Glow from Abbotsgrange, and nor can any independent school. Unless they want to pay at least three grand start-up plus another nine or ten per annum, and despite what everyone thinks, we don't have that kind of money."

"I hadn't realised ."

"No, a lot of people don't," he gritted his teeth, "and it annoys the hell out of me that here's a programme that's been funded to the tune of pound;57 million by our all-inclusive Scottish Government - that is, by our kids' parents as well as yours - yet they exclude the kids whose parents are already paying twice over for their education!

"The only thing that keeps me from mounting a proper campaign about our non-access is that when I log on at home via Fiona's user name and password, I can't actually see anything I want to use - but as soon as I do, by God I'm going to write to my MSP about it!"

I decided it was time to change the subject, so we moved on to discuss our summer holidays.

Wednesday

I still found it hard to believe what Andrew said about Glow last night, so I phoned Learning and Teaching Scotland for confirmation. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with the connection, a problem we've had since our business manager moved us on to a new telecoms provider.

"What's up, Morris?" asked our depute Kevin Muir.

"It's this damned phone system," I explained. "I'm trying to phone LTS but I keep getting this recorded message in Polish or something, so I just put it down and try again."

"Morris," explained Kevin patiently. "That's their Gaelic message of welcome that comes before the English one, which comes before the message that tells you to listen carefully `because their options have recently changed' - although they've been `recently changed' for the last year as far as I can remember."

I thanked him, and tried again, this time waiting until the end of the message, after which Andrew's information was confirmed by a customer adviser. It does seem terribly unfair.

Thursday

This morning I started my annual clear-out of surplus jotters and assorted stationery. It's amazing how much debris can accumulate in a year, and my shelves are looking a lot clearer now. Plus, it gave 2N something to do that fitted in with our new eco-school programme, as everything was carefully placed into recycling containers. Also, of course, it ticked several boxes in our Skills for Life scheme, should any of our students ever go for a career in civic amenity waste management.

Meanwhile, we've received the news that we are to lose the full-time services of Mr Cameron, our business manager, whose post has been amalgamated in a reshuffle that sees half the council's BMs placed in a hub, responsible for several schools. And the other half made redundant.

Kevin Muir explained the move as part of the draconian cuts being imposed: "We've got hardly any money to spend - so we need hardly any people to spend it!"

Friday

Mrs Slater is on the costs warpath, and has ordered the retrieval of most of my discarded stationery, which she was horrified to witness as she left school. Thus it was that 2N accompanied me to the bins to engage in a spot of more recycling by tearing unused pages out of discarded jotters and rescuing all but the most dilapidated ring-binders for future use.

And our head's taken to checking up on our phone call costs! The immediate result is a ban on calling "non-geographic" numbers (that is, ones that begin 0870), as these do not come under the terms of our call package, and incur hefty daytime national call charges.

Unfortunately, the number for Learning and Teaching Scotland comes into this category, so it looks as if our future guidance on curricular matters is going to be severely limited. Not to mention the chances to practise our Gaelic.

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