For once, life is a little less frantic here at Greenfield Academy: with my senior classes on study leave and a student taking half of my remaining pupils, the classroom pressure is diminished. However, our faculty head Madeleine Nichol has ensured that the devil makes work for idle hands: she has set me the task of updating our S1-S3 course note folders by replacing their covers (which currently say "5-14 Levels EF") with gaudy laminate ones that say "Curriculum for Excellence Levels 34".
"When will we have something to replace the contents?" I asked artlessly as I presented her with the bundle.
"We won't," she pursed her lips. "Nobody knows what's supposed to be in CfE, and HMIE says we can fulfil it with existing resources. So we will."
It's certainly one way to ensure we're satisfying the Education Secretary's demands to be ready for August.
Today saw the Intermediate and Higher French examinations take place, in among a plethora of other languages this week, a quantity that gave Frank O'Farrell of modern studies cause for complaint as he studied the staffroom wall timetable.
"Just look at all these bloody useless qualifications!" he swore angrily. "Latin! Russian! Urdu! Gaelic - even Gaidlhig, whatever that is! And d'you know how many candidates they had last year?" He swiftly moved to a PC to consult the SQA website, whereupon he reported in derisory terms: "Two for S grade Russian, seven for Intermediate 2 and 13 for Higher!
"And how about 118 for Higher Gaelic, 84 for Gaidlhig and 58 for Urdu? With Latin positively oversubscribed at 199! And all of them taking up the same setting, verifying and moderating time as for 60,000 S grade English candidates! My God, the SQA could save a lot of money if they cut out these deadwood subjects!"
He seemed unusually exercised, but I learned the underlying cause of his anger with our national awards body: apparently, they sent him clarification of the plans surrounding overnight stays when he is acting as a member of their marking team, and it means he is going to be deprived of the usual hotel accommodation - including dinner, bed and breakfast - on several of his planned summer and autumn meetings.
"Look at this!" he ranted, as he shared a letter with me. "If I can leave my house after 6.30am and get to the meeting, then I no longer get to stay the night before! And if I can get home before 10pm on any day I'm supposed to be there, then it's the same! Ha! I wonder how many of the SQA team are going to be out of their houses before 6.30am and returning after 10pm each day?
"Honestly, between this and the new payment arrangements they've introduced - shafting us completely under the guise of an increased rate per paper - I've had just about enough! It's time they remembered that they depend on us to see these exams through successfully, and that they should start treating us like valued colleagues instead of part-time sales assistants at Tesco! They want to look after their bloody appointees instead of wasting money on exams that nobody wants to sit!"
I thought I should hear him out. And he did seem to feel better for his outburst.
Although my extra non-contact time is very useful, I am worried by the linguistic standards of Richard Symons, our English student. I was sitting in on a poetry lesson today, and found it difficult to distinguish between the verse of Tom Leonard and the man teaching it: "Right," he instructed 2N: "yous'll aw' need tae sort out what's went wrong wi' the poet's mood, here. Izzi bombed oot oan drugs, urriz he puttin' it oan?"
Irritatingly enough, 2N seemed to respond well to his use of the demotic terminology, and set to discussion with a will, but I took him aside afterwards and advised that he ought to remain closer to the Queen's English when his tutor came to call.
He nodded uncomfortably: "Yous're right, Morris. Ah've never went big oan grammar, an' ma tutor's mentioned it a few times."
I offered assistance, should he require it, and went back to the staffroom, wondering how he managed to attain a 2:1 in English.
The "Icelandic fallout" continues to affect several staff, not least Mr McManus of biology, who has been enjoined by the education department to make up the extra time that he lost when delayed by the volcanic ash crisis. He was eventually repatriated by his budget airline, but they have so far refused to refund the excessive bar receipts which accompanied his compensation claim.
"An' if that's no enough tae aggravate me," he complained at morning break, "ah'm still huvin' tae work ma non-contact time tae make up fur an absence that wisny ma fault!"
I made the point that our employers could well have docked his wages and expressed my view that the council had dealt with the matter extremely fairly, but he refused to budge.
"Well, I hope you're using the non-contact time to productive effect," I reasoned. "Perhaps it's giving you the chance to get CfE materials ready for next session?"
He seemed to find this remark extremely funny, and left the staffroom heaving with laughter.
Richard Symons took me up on my offer of assistance this morning, this time with a lexical query.
"There's two words, Morris," he queried, "where ah keep getting' the spellin' confused ."
I opened my hands in consolatory gesture. "A common problem, Richard: like `practice' and practise' or `stationery' and `stationary'. What are the words?"
"It's the word `definitely' with the letter `i' and the word `definately' with the letter `a'. Ah've never understood the difference."
I put my head in my hands. It grieves me to think he'll be certified to teach in two months.