School diary - Snowballs and 'shag bands' start new term

15th January 2010 at 00:00


An exciting year lies ahead, according to our headteacher's "All Staff" email, in which she anticipates an educational golden age: by 12 months' hence, Mrs Slater fully expects Greenfield Academy "to have implemented Curriculum for Excellence and BTC 4 in virtually all curricular areas before contemplating our next major challenge - the preparation for National 4s and 5s to replace Standard grade in session 2013-14".

Davie McManus from biology could hardly contain his enthusiasm: "Oh, haud me back!" he scoffed. "I kin hardly wait for next session, let alone 2013- 14 . "

"But won't you be retired by then?" I queried.

"Exactly!" he confirmed. "So I won't need tae listen tae any more crap about Building the Curriculum. And don't get me started on National 4s and 5s. God help this year's Primary 7s when they get through a raft of internal assessments and then leave school tae find out they canny get a job until they've passed an exam set by their prospective employers."

"Why? Don't you think they'll accept National 4s and 5s as valid qualifications?"

"Morris," he looked at me as if I was a child with additional support needs: "It may be the case that employers still don't know the difference between Standard grades and O grades. But they know the difference between `exam' and `no exam'. And mark my words: within 10 years we'll be back tae externally set and marked national exams, wance they've discovered that the new system is twice as expensive tae run an' hauf as effective in givin' industry the faintest clue about what our school leavers can do."

Suddenly, it didn't seem as if we were on the cusp of a new golden age after all. Rather, I felt somewhat akin to a member of the Light Brigade preparing to enter the Balaclava valley.


I have been busy devising the Higher English prelim, as Mrs Slater has forbidden the use of commercial papers this year, due to whole-school appeals problems. Unfortunately, I'm a little behind, so I set 2N an essay on "Christmas - and what it meant to me", so I could finish off the prelim.

It was, therefore, with some annoyance that I had to break off from my labours to quell a disturbance among some girls. And it was with even greater dismay that I discovered Tracy Spence proudly displaying a Christmas present from her boyfriend: a complete set of plastic wrist bracelets, which I discovered to my horror go by the name of "shag bands", and which are all the rage among her peers, apparently.

To my shock, Tracy started to explain the significance of each colour, but I stopped her after she detailed the meaning of pink and resolved to check the fuller range with an internet search afterwards.

"Put them away, Tracy," I asked, "and maybe you could write about some of the more spiritual aspects of Christmas instead?"

Gosh. To think that these girls are the same age as my daughter: a little shudder went up my spine as I hoped Margaret hasn't cottoned on to this latest craze.


Staff irritation continues over our last year's St Andrew's Day holiday, which seems to have been granted in some authorities but not others, and which most staff members had understood to be an extra day's vacation in honour of our patron saint. Alas, it was subsequently revealed that a day had been transferred from our February break in order to ensure that our full complement of contractual days was fulfilled.

Such arrangements might have been all very well if the authority had told us this when they were handing out holiday dates last April, but it is highly inconvenient for those colleagues who had previously arranged vacations around the original February date.

At least the council has agreed to grant that further day as a special exemption to anyone who can provide documentary evidence of a previously- booked holiday. Which is why David McManus was looking like the proverbial Cheshire cat this morning as he announced the successful completion of his endeavours to get a backdated receipt from the travel agent for his recently-arranged short break to Bruges, where he plans to sample as many of that region's 600+ beers as possible, while toasting the rest of us stuck back here at Greenfield Academy .


Michelle Galloway, our (two days per week) supply probationer in French, has resigned. She had been having quite a tough time regarding discipline, and things came to a head today, as she tearfully explained to me at the end of school.

"It was the snowballs that did it," she explained. "Three of the fourth years threw them at me this morning."

I exuded sympathy as well as empathy: "Well, in this kind of weather, it happens, Michelle. In fact, only yesterday, some second-years threw some at me - so you shouldn't take it personally that they did it to you as well. The playground can be a dangerous place in January."

"But this wasn't in the playground," her eyes welled up again. "It was in the classroom! I'd just turned to the whiteboard to explain irregular verbs, when `Thwack!' in the back of my head, then `Pouef!' twice more as I turned to face them! They had a big pile they'd smuggled in and were picking up some more, so I just ran out and went straight to Mrs Slater's office to resign."

It's an educational disgrace to see such a promising career snuffed out by a snowball.


Margaret has some "shag bands". I found them on a chest of drawers in her room as I was clearing away four dinner plates and six glasses half full of flat fizzy drinks. Should I share the news with Gail? Or should I confront Margaret? And, if so, how will I bring it up?

Oh, the perils of fatherhood. It seems like only yesterday that I was taking her to see Father Christmas in the shopping centre.

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