Throwaway remarks darken the summer of our discontent

17th June 2011 at 01:00


As the end of term approaches, we are preparing for staff departures of epic proportions. We are losing many staff who have been offered early- retirement deals and many who haven't, as the stresses and strains of everyday teaching, married with the impossibility of implementing a new curriculum without any resources to do so, have broken spirits aplenty.

Take Mrs Harry of business studies, who explained her position at morning break: "For me, the final straw came with the bloody Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and its announcement that teachers aren't there to teach! If there's one thing that sums up why I'm ready to chuck away the last five years of my teaching career, then that would be it!

"So I don't care if they dangled an early retirement enhancement in front of me and then snatched it away at the last minute! Talk about playing with people's lives! I don't care if the kids I'm leaving behind are going to be left to sink or swim in a sea of Curriculum for Excellence that nobody's got a clue about! I've had it up to here - and so have thousands like me!"

I don't think I've seen her so impassioned since the Howie report.


We had a delightful Nigerian boy join our school for the final weeks of term, in preparation for sitting Highers next year. Obasi is extremely polite and articulate, which makes him fairly unique among the fourth-year cohort. His father is a doctor from Lagos, here to join the surgical team at Rockston General Hospital.

It has been good to have his input to my Higher English class, where his breadth of knowledge and width of reading puts the rest of the class to shame. Needless to say, Greenfield's finest have failed to grasp even the most rudimentary concepts behind our Government's "Show Racism The Red Card" programme: his fellow students Charlie Connelly and Alistair Wise took great delight in renaming him "Obastard", but he smiled in wry amusement as he gracefully corrected them.

"No, no, sorry, gentlemen," he smiled widely. "It is `Obasi' - it means `honour of God', and is a name I am proud to have bestowed upon me by my great-grandfather, a man highly honoured in our nation as a leader of 10,000 men ."

They didn't quite know what to say to that.


Mrs Slater has indicated her rectorial disapproval of the almost endemic staff use of the term "Curriculum for Sixtypence", which we have chosen as our preferred nomenclature for our shiny new curriculum, highlighting - as it does - the almost complete lack of funding to introduce our most radical curricular reform in 40 years.

At least, I can't help observing to myself, it's better than the terminology preferred by "Coarse Davie" McManus. He still won't refer to it as anything other than "Curriculum for Excrement". It's just as well that he's heading for the early exit door at the end of June.

And while still on the subject of our early leavers, our English departmental meeting was enlivened this afternoon by a discussion about the loss to our education system occasioned by the departures of so many experienced and knowledgeable staff.

"It's not just here that it's happening," opined Patricia Harrison. "It's everywhere - in the education offices, in the exam board, in the advisorate - all that educational knowledge, all that institutional memory, all the curricular enrichment these people have started but won't ever finish. It's like the elves are leaving Middle Earth ."

The English department nodded in sage agreement, but Madeleine Nichol looked bewildered and asked for clarification "for the minutes".

Seven faces looked rather embarrassed, until I plucked up courage to explain that it was a reference to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - the workers of yesteryear, who had contributed so much to their society and could still contribute so much more, recognised that they were no longer wanted, so departed to the western lands to live out their lives in peace and tranquillity. A wistful silence descended upon the meeting.

"Right. Thank you, Morris," Madeleine snapped. "Next item on the agenda?"

Talk about cultural barbarism. That's what comes from having a modern linguist as faculty head.


It was school sports day today, but our normally festive occasion was marred by the horrendous cultural faux pas committed by Mike Baggs of PE and (incredibly enough) guidance.

Having watched the efforts of several scrawny fourth-years to throw, never mind aim, the javelin in the field events, his gaze alighted on our newest student, clad in body-hugging yellow singlet and shorts.

"Hey, Obama!" he miscalled the youth, before making matters worse with the invitation to, "come over here, son: you'll know about how tae throw these things. Come an' show `em how it's done!"

Even Obasi looked momentarily shocked, but he covered his discomfiture by pleading a shoulder injury and walked away in dignified silence.


To nobody's great surprise, Obasi's father has withdrawn him from Greenfield Academy and enrolled him at a nearby independent school instead. His letter to Rosemary Slater cited "racial aggravation from pupils and, especially, staff" as the motivating factors behind his decision.

It is a sad day for Greenfield Academy. And a sadder one still for my 2012 Higher pass rate. Roll on the holidays .

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