Education, Eduction, Education. And Butteries

Oor Ain Folk – This week JONATHON M LEWIS, local Headteacher, on meeting the current challenges in Scottish education

The phone has been red hot here at Garioch Academy.  Mainly because the janitor had inadvertently wired it up to the mains. But there were also a number of calls from concerned parents following last week’s reports about the new exams pupils are due to sit in 2014.

I can reassure our parents that such concerns are wholly unfounded.  Here at Garioch, preparations have been underway for some time, and our new look curriculum is very much geared towards preparing our young people for the modern world.

The Mathematics department, in particular, has looked extensively at key topics such as percentages, fractions and calculus and has significantly improved results – by removing them from the curriculum entirely. And I’m pleased to report that the pupils have really come on board with the new topics, ‘Mobile Phone Contract Comprehension’ and watching Cash in the Attic.

In English the teaching staff have gone even further, by replacing outmoded texts such as the complete works of Shakespeare with more relevant materials such as Heat Magazine and the Evening Express Quick crossword.

The Music department has seen a move away from the now obsolete ‘Classical’ composers and a new, clear focus on singing the hits of Adele and developing a compelling back-story.

Many of our other departments have found ways to modernise – Art have taken to using colour by numbers, Home Economics have been buying in ready meals and Technical now bring in flat-pack from IKEA.  Physics, Chemistry and Biology have been unified in a single, all-encompassing science course entitled ‘Anything with Professor Brian Cox in’.

Such transformations have not been without challenge – some parents have even refused to pay our increased materials fees of £1000 per child – but we are a solution-focused school.  Those pupils are simply locked in the games hall until the end of the day, with all the equipment necessary for our Physical Education department to comply with the curriculum for excellence; two beanbags, a shuttlecock and a Nintendo Wii.

As for the pupils’ future prospects, the golden carrot for employers has always been good qualifications.  Given that many of these new courses don’t actually have an exam at the end of them and are marked by our own staff, I am able to categorically assure any parent that their child’s results will be excellent – without even having to ask them who their child is!


Introducing our very own ‘money saving expert’, king of the grips, KEVIN CASH

I see the price of stamps is up. 60p for first class?!  50p for second?!  Fa’s delivering them? David Cameron on a retired police horse? It’s a letter I’m sending, nae a manned mission tae Jupiter. Here’s my top tips on foo tae economise on communication costs

1. Dinna send letters oot.  Invite yer friends roon t’yer hoose for a drink.  Fan they arrive, hand them a gless o watter, their letter, and their coat.

2. Here’s an approach that mixes creativity with frugality.  Get yersel inveigled with your local Brownie pack and set them a’ an arts and crafts task – who can draw the best very small portrait of the Queen. In profile.  Affix to your envelope using a knocked-off glue stick, earwax or, if you have a cold, snochters.

3. Ask yersel, ‘Do I really need tae send a letter?’ I dae ahin by Twitter these days,  birthday greetings, sharing my news, dumping my girlfriend.  There’s no better or cheaper wye to get a message across than having it retweeted to twa million strangers by Stephen Fry.

4. Of course,  texts and tweets are nae appropriate for a’thin – like fan someb’dy’s deed. Or you’ve a bill tae pay. You’ve heard the expression ‘Free as a bird’? Weel, seagulls, craws and cooshie-doos mak very effective carrier pigeons, and there’s hunners o’ them ga’n aboot! To pay your council tax by post, simply abduct a bird fae outside Marischal College, tak it hame, row yer cheque up and attach it to its leg, and watch your payment literally wing its wye to the cooncil. Feed it on fig rolls and prunes afore ye let it go and you’ll communicate a powerful message at the same time. Dirt cheap.

That’s far the value is!


STRUAN METCALFE, Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire North and Surrounding Nether Regions

Once again, it appears  that I need to apologise unreservedly for recent comments made on Twitter. I absolutely regret making the following tweet:

“Just heard news about proposed EU ban on un-rendered fats. Embargo on newly-baked butteries with immediate effect. Better fill up your freezers now, people…it’s the end of the Rowie as we know it”.

I understand my April Fool’s wheeze – tweeted from my iPad3 whilst three sheets to the wind in the bar at The Marcliffe after a particularly rum-sodden Tory Party fund-raiser – caused widespread panic all over Aberdeenshire, a run on the Buttery and what I understand Grampian Police are referring to as ‘The Aitken’s Riot’. My sincere apologies to Esma Mitchell who is currently under observation at A&E having had to have a Yum Yum removed from an unmentionable extremity. But hey! Been there, done that – in my first year at Gordonstoun, fagging to Snorter Simpkins. Although in my case, it was a Millionaire’s Shortbread, natch.