Stop, start, boing, boing, it's spring all right

29th April 2005 at 01:00
We have reached that time of the year when I feel very embarrassed to be telling families, yet again, that we have more weekend holidays coming up.

Easter and the school holidays were no sooner over and the 12-week summer term stretched ahead than, one week later, we had another break. It was our Monday spring holiday, though the weather was like mid winter.

Two weeks after that, it is the May Day bank holiday on Monday. And two weeks after, we have the Victoria Day holiday (a day for staff, two for the pupils).

So what do we do with all of this free time? Watch a little bit of television for a change. What better than celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Supernanny? (This only goes to show that I can never really leave school far behind.) School meals have been a hobbyhorse of mine for some time and I would really like to see our pupils getting a healthy and nutritious mid-day meal before I retire. I fear that one outcome of Jamie Oliver's well watched Jamie's School Dinners programmes was to dismiss any possible problems north of the border with a comment that we were ahead of our English colleagues by addressing our problems with Hungry for Success, our book with all of the answers.

This reminds me of a time when the messages were that there were no problems in primary schools but secondary schools needed help with, for example, Standard grade developments. While primary teachers smiled a little smugly, little funding flowed their way for curriculum development.

This left a river of funding flowing into Standard grade developments to help design courses and relieve secondary teachers from endless forward planning, which primary teachers still do.

Let's not be diverted, then, by ideas that we have solved our school meals problem in Scotland.

The one Jamie Oliver programme which I did watch showed many very stressed dinner ladies. These ladies had been employed to serve up the same turkey burgers which our pupils have been served for so long. Cooking is a very different task from reheating turkey burgers. It perhaps requires a very different job remit to select staff who can cook from scratch with fresh ingredients.

We do have new menus with some more fruit than before and fewer chips; but we are still playing at improvements. We need kitchens where real cooks serve freshly cooked food to children who are used to eating real soup and fresh vegetables. That probably means we need mums and dads at home long enough to cook real teas for their families.

Instead of leaving school behind me at this point, I was drawn to watch one episode of Supernanny. Far be it for me to suggest that any of us might have children in our schools who are capable of behaving like the children in this programme. No, I've changed my mind. I'll put my toe in the water and confess that, yes, I have seen children like that. Perhaps it was just at the school in the next village.

What is wonderful is to watch some of our very skilled teachers, who do give children fair rules and remain consistent, setting high standards of good behaviour. Teaching does remain a very exhausting if rewarding job with 30 pupils in a class every day of the week.

That brings me full circle to those holidays. I suspect that the children need all of the holidays they get; their teachers certainly do too. Parents could well benefit from joining their children in these holidays if their employers could see the benefits of this for our whole society.

Add the new hobby of home cooking and we really will have completed the circle.

Sheilah Jackson is headteacher of Queensferry Primary in Edinburghwww.queensferry-pri.edin.sch.ukIf you have any comments, email

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