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Whipping boy

Much embarrassment at last week's Scottish Office conference on promoting positive discipline when the key speaker, due on at 10am, failed to appear until 10.22am.

Talk of detention or punishment exercises for poor time-keeping did not, however, apply to Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister. He was late because, with you know what coming up, ministers are in deep discussion every Friday morning at 8.30. Political scheming therefore delayed his entrance.

Not that Robertson favours politics interfering with education. As he told a press conference, with a straight face: "It is tragic and shameful if education becomes a political football." Hear, hear.

Introducing Mike Marshall, head of Quarryhill primary in Aberdeen, Cameron Munro, head of the national attendance and absence initiative and Glasgow resident, agreed with Billy Connolly's view. "Aberdeen is the Gaelic word for hypothermia."

Marshall himself was not without the bon mot when it came to discipline. He sighed: "Playgrounds are the graveyards of headteachers' aspirations."

Iain Duncan, head of Bannerman High, Glasgow, recalled a teacher known as "You boy, out" who had more pupils in the corridor than in the class. Around Christmas one year "You boy, out" barked at a miscreant: "If you don't behave, I'll have to find out who you are."

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