School diary - Fighting and plagiarism are doing the rounds

19th February 2010 at 00:00


2N tried to spend most of this morning's lesson pestering me to reveal how many Valentine cards I'd received yesterday, a paltry excuse to brag among themselves about their own tallies. What was worse, Tracy Spence was intent on showing off her latest "shag-band", so I immediately halted further discussion, especially about these appalling wrist-bands whose colours claim to denote levels of sexual experience.

Frankly, I don't want to hear any more about them, since I challenged my 13-year-old daughter about the ones I found in her bedroom. It had been embarrassing to have Margaret explain that they were all charity bands that she'd purchased from St Ainsley's school Fairtrade stall in a demonstration of solidarity for the world's oppressed minorities.

I still cringe when I think of it.


Details of amendments to the English Higher have now been released, and they've met with a mixed response at Greenfield Academy. On the negative side, the personal writing pieces that are to form part of the exam are to be submitted as part of a folio, and will be subject to the same level of parental influence and downright plagiarism that has formed part of every such submission since Standard grades were born.

On the plus side, as Irene Donnelly pointed out when we were discussing the issue at our departmental meeting, it means "a whole swodge of money to fill the holiday piggy-bank". At which point, she rubbed a second finger and thumb together, raised them above her head, and chimed in cash- register tones: "Kerr-ching!"

Maybe I should think about putting my name forward for marking again.


This week has seen the beginning of Mrs Slater's initiative of "learning rounds", where all teachers have to follow the medical profession's example of "doing the rounds", that is, watching each other in professional action and discussing the learning outcomes that have been delivered.

This has scared me, and I looked forward to the lesson with 2N (to be observed by one of our depute heads, Frank Atkinson) with as much enthusiasm as I'd look forward to any medical inspection.

My worst fears were realised when Lee Bonetti arrived in a state of high excitement from his previous PE lesson, mingled with dangerous aggression occasioned by his simmering feud with Connor Moore over Tracy's affections. In short, he was spoiling for a fight, and it was my misfortune that he chose Period 4 to start it.

The lesson started badly when he interrupted my every sentence with a loud burp. Then he placed his hand inside his shirt, positioned it under his oxter, and started to make unpleasant squelching noises, followed by the peremptory challenge: "Who's farted?"

I ignored such low-level disruption, but when he decided to throw a textbook across his group-work table in the direction of Connor, I had no alternative but to intervene. "Lee Bonetti!" I challenged. "Retrieve that book at once, apologise to Connor, and return to your seat."

He stared angrily at me, then responded by picking up the stationery tray in the group's centre and throwing it in the air, scattering pens and pencils.

In some respects it was just as well that Frank was there, because he could see that an observatory role was pointless on this occasion. "Bonetti!" he roared, but before he could go any further, Lee had got to his feet and was leaving.

"Where the devil d'you think you're going?" shouted Frank.

"Tae yoor room," Bonetti shouted back. "`Cos that's werr youse wur goanny send me, yeh?"

Frank gave a good impersonation of a goldfish, and before he could compose a reply, Bonetti continued: "So ah'll see youse there, OK, Frankie? Don't be late!"


Frank took me aside and suggested we "forget" yesterday's learning rounds. "I'll say I couldn't attend, due to unforeseen circumstances," he said. "And we'll arrange another one next week, OK? I've got enough on my plate with next year's timetable."

I nodded grateful acceptance and queried his timetabling woes.

"It's IDL, Morris: inter-disciplinary learning. And although no one really knows what it is, what it means for me is that Mrs Slater wants next year's first- and second-year timetable allocation for maths and English to be severely cut, because in the brave new shiny world of Curriculum for Excellence, literacy and numeracy will be taught by all."

"Gosh. How's that going down with the English and maths PTs?"

"Well, your faculty head's not that bothered, frankly - she's a modern linguist, remember? But Bill Reid's not happy about his first PT post being marked by decline."

"No, I can see that," I conceded. "Plus," I glanced across the staffroom to observe the PE department locked in furious discussion about the fact that some dog faeces had been discovered in the long-jump pit where the first-years had been practising, and reflected: "I suppose the assessment of literacy and numeracy isn't going to be terribly high on certain departments' lists of priorities . ".


I took some weekend marking home and made a start, whereupon the potential problems for the new Higher English writing paper became even more apparent.

For example, Fiona Douglas had written a stirring and perfectly-typed defence of euthanasia, a topic which always arouses strong passion in senior pupils. Alas, my suspicions about the integrity of her submission were aroused by the measured prose and eloquent arguments espoused by a student whose normal prose style is "lumpen", to say the least. So it was with a mixture of disappointment and smug self-certitude that I came to the end of her essay, which finished with the immortal words, printed and underlined in true-blue hyperlink style: `For more information, click here . `.

I gave it 0.

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