School diary - Credit crunch hits Greenfield Academy

19th September 2008 at 01:00


Excitement is building in Greenfield Academy's staffroom as we look ahead to the Scottish Learning Festival next week. Rosemary Slater, our new headteacher, is keen for staff to attend, and has secured a number of cover teachers to allow the excursion.

Personally, I've booked into one keynote speech and three Spotlight sessions (on Glow, Experiential Learning and A Curriculum for Excellence). But I'm especially keen to attend the subsequent Topic Surgeries, where I'll have the chance to quiz speakers about the best means to implement their proposed dynamic educational strategies when our school hasn't got any money.

In fact, I've been examining the funding allocations announced by each Scottish council in a TESS article last February. It appears that nearly every single one followed the same pattern, in declaring a modest rise in educational spending - and then following up with autumn cuts that make Margaret Thatcher's "milk-snatching" of the 70s look like benevolent generosity.

For example, I gather from inner sources that the "clawback" from Greenfield Academy's budget for the rest of this year will be in the region of 12 per cent of previously announced money. And I can't help but notice that the figures are always loudly trumpeted and released to the papers when the money's being dished out - but there never seems to be an equivalent press release when it's being called back in.

Maybe I should start leaking.


We have had our first stress-related staff absence of the session, which is something of a record: Malcolm Saunderson usually only lasts until Week 3 at the latest. I expect we'll see him back just before the October holiday.

Meanwhile, we are beginning to get the measure of our latest first- year intake: they seem, if anything, to be even dimmer than last year's, and that's saying something. This morning, for example, I came across one of them wandering aimlessly in the corridors between Periods 1 and 2 with a confused look on his face.

"You, boy," I called out. "Where are you going?"

"Ah'm no sure, surr. Ah've furgoat ma timetable. An' ah'm no' sure werr ah'm meant tae be."

"Well, where have you just been?" I questioned him.

"Geography, surr."

"OK, then - what's your name?"

"Billy, surr. Billy Logan," he looked about to cry, so I adopted my most sympathetic mien.

"Right then, Billy. Think hard. What did you have after you were at geography last week?"

He pursed his lips, screwed up his eyes, and then ventured hesitantly: "A roll and sausage, surr. But that wis Thursday."

I sighed. "I meant after geography on Tuesday, Billy."

I could see we weren't going to get anywhere, so sent him to the office and noted his name. He looks like one to watch for the future.


Four more staff absences today have meant increased numbers of "please- takes" for those of us left behind - and the budget cuts keep biting, as I discovered when taking Mrs Cunningham's computing class this afternoon, where pupils were sharing one book between four.

"It's all down to the authority's outrageous IT infrastructure spend, Morris, and it affects all subjects, not just ours," explained her head of faculty, Mr Walsh, afterwards.

"The council signed away all rights for overseeing the service until 2016 to the procurement company - and they swallow up most of our budget to little practical use and our complete financial disadvantage. I call them the Robber Barons: heartless, cruel and vindictive."

And here was me thinking they were supposed to be our partners in education! I wonder if I should raise this at a Topic Surgery next week?


The second-year pupils are starting to grown horns, as they often do when moving up a year. Charlie Connelly, in particular, has developed a vicious and unpleasant streak, which manifested itself this afternoon just after I'd set them an experiential activity based upon the demands of the Writer's Craft program.

Unfortunately, experiential activities are not really best suited to pupils like Connelly, and the vulgarity with which he greeted my suggestion that they could all "find their inner selves" by means of this activity was completely unacceptable.

I sent him with a referral sheet to be signed by Mr Muir, and he ambled from the classroom with insouciant air, returning five minutes later to hand me a crumpled ball which, he assured me, had been signed by the depute head. And then he watched with evil intent as I unrolled it to ascertain the truth of his claim - only to be greeted by the disgusting viscous remnants of a glutinous nasal discharge.

I glared fiercely, but questioningly, at him as he turned to face his classmates, then watched aghast as he placed a forefinger on the outside of each nostril and made a loud rasping noise, leaving them - and me - in no doubt as to the contents of the referral sheet. My stomach turned, but I kept my self-control, and despatched him with a new referral sheet to face the wrath of Mrs Slater instead.

What a disgusting creature.


My trip to next week's Scottish Learning Festival has been cancelled, along with those of several colleagues. Alas, we now have five staff members absent with predicted long-term stress in addition to the normal litany of other illnesses, and Mrs Slater now regrets that funding is unavailable for the additional cover required. She assures us that all relevant information will be cascaded to staff by those in attendance, that is, her and the SMT.

As usual, then, the event will be attended by too many of our chiefs and not enough Indians: and those of us left behind on the ranch will have only the delights of Charlie Connelly's runny nose to appreciate, with no opportunity to ask the funding questions that deserve to be asked.

Maybe I should email my thoughts directly to the Education Secretary instead.

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