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Category archive: Scotland

Thursday July 17 2008

This sounds like bad news, for Glasgow School of Art:

Glasgow School of Art students have less chance of finding a job when they graduate than those studying anywhere else in the UK, according to figures.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency suggested 18% of its students were out of work six months after graduation - the highest rate in the UK.

The school’s principal said the survey was misleading as artists’ careers were not as structured as others.

As in “misleading”, but true.  What the principal is saying is that the survey is true, on account of it being true, which is clearly very unfair.  Did they include other art schools, I wonder?  If they did, that sounds like a very black mark for Glasgow.

But then again ... this might not mean is that Glasgow School of Art is bad a teaching art.  What it might mean is that Glasgow art graduates are more determined to be artists than the graduates of other art schools, and they stick with their “unstructured” careers (i.e. stay unemployed) for longer.  Instead of going off and becoming conference platform designers and interior decorators and people who assemble fake kitchens in shops, and such like.  And maybe they are staying unempl ... unstructured for longer because they reckon their artistic prospects are better than those of other graduate artists.

On the other other hand, being unstructured in Glasgow might be easier than elsewhere, because unstructure benefits are easier to get, because seeking structured employment in Glasgow is one thing, but getting it is quite another.

On the other other other hand, maybe Glasgow School of Art just turns out unemployable lunatics.  Who can say?  Interpreting statistics is also something of an art, I think.

Overall, Scottish graduates have good employment prospects with 95% going into work or further study - 1.5% more than in England, according to the figures.

Napier University in Edinburgh had more than 97% of graduates employed or in further study, the highest number of any Scottish institution in the survey.

So, at least the problem is not Scotland.

Friday May 30 2008

Snapped yesterday, on my travels:


Story here.

Sunday May 18 2008

Andrew Neil, here:

Those who regret the demise of the grammars pose this question: if you destroy the centres of educational excellence for bright kids from ordinary backgrounds, but keep those which are reserved largely for children who have well-off parents, why would you be surprised if public school kids started grabbing all the glittering prizes once more?

Makes sense.  He’s talking about this.

Monday March 31 2008

"Are schools being inspected to death?” I saw that title on the right, while reading this implausible piece, and thought, hm, another piece about too many inspections and not much improvement.  Worth a look.  I never expected it to be about an actual death:


The death of Irene Hogg was, in the normal run of things, a very local tragedy. The popular and apparently devoted head teacher of a small rural primary school was found dead in a remote area, in an apparent act of suicide. The shock resonated within the families of her 81 pupils; flowers were left at the school and her local authority chief spoke of losing one of his most experienced and valuable staff. “The word ‘love’ keeps coming though,” he said. “She was so highly regarded.”

More condolences here.

And there, frankly, the story would usually have ended. The passing of a 54-year-old unmarried woman - a dedicated professional who lived for her job and a round of golf at the weekend - could easily be put down at the door of secret sadness, hidden depression: the myriad private disappointments and inner conflicts that can overcome people at a certain point in their lives. Very sad, of course, but none of our business, and of no larger significance.

But the ripples from Irene Hogg’s death, which would ordinarily have stopped at the borders of her community, have spread. Because in the week preceding her death, two school inspectors came to visit for five days. The head had spent weeks beforehand in preparation, ensuring the school, which she had run for ten years, was at its best. It seems her best was not enough. At the end of their visit, the inspectors told her verbally of their criticisms. No one knows officially what they are, for the report on the school, in the Scottish Borders, will not be published until June.

I wouldn’t like to be writing that report now.

A friend, however, has claimed that the criticisms were “silly”. They are believed to include that a wooded area at the back of the school was not used (when locals knew it was contaminated by dog dirt); and that Ms Hogg was to be reported to the council for not filling in a complaint form. Ms Hogg was apparently angered and “very disillusioned” by what was said to her, and she failed to reappear after the Easter weekend. Her body was found the next night in a lonely part of the hills.

At Kings Cross Supplementary we are constantly inspected, by the parents.  You can see them looking around when they arrive, at the beginning to deliver their progeny, and at the end to collect them.  They listen carefully to what we say about whatever progress we are able to report, and no doubt compare it equally carefully with what the teachers at their regular schools are saying, and with what the children themselves say about it all.

If their conclusions about us are negative, they can cease paying for the service, and cease receiving it.  This means that if there is bad news about KCS, it will come in a trickle, and none of us teachers will be so discouraged that we will contemplate suicide.  If, on the other hand, they decide that their regular schools are not up to their mark, whatever that may be, their only recourse is to purchase help, from the likes of us.

If the parents are satisfied with our efforts, no second guessing inspectors have the power to make us miserable, or if they have I have not been told about it.  “OFSTED” is not a word I have heard mentioned in all my times at KCS.

Thursday March 27 2008

What’s this about then?

So we have a set of procedures that are not needed and a bureaucracy that nobody wants, all supported by a computer system that doesn’t work.

It could be about almost anything, couldn’t it?  Actually it’s about childminding in Scotland.

Friday January 25 2008

Quote from I hated school, a blog posting by climber and climbing coach Dave MacLeod:


Before I found a focus, I was in the same situation as many kids. I went to school and sat in classes where teachers spent a big proportion of the time keeping order and not developing interest. I didn’t enjoy it, and even as a kid I could recognise there was much time being wasted.

Once I started climbing, and began skipping school, I was the opposite from a draw on resources. I learned by myself, eagerly. Where before it took teacher time and resources to force feed me learning, now I took it in as fast as I could with no additional help at all. In an ideal situation, school should have been a place that focused this energy, and facilitated even faster, deeper and broader learning. But my teachers were too busy trying to get me to fit the straightjacket to get near this opportunity.

That’s not so much of an indictment as a sympathy vote for teachers.

The solution for youngsters – skip school and go climbing? Of course not! Try lots of things and find something that makes you want to stay up at night and read about video compression algorithms for whatever you want to shoot and get on youtube or something, or training for climbing, or… – whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.

This is exactly the kind of piece I am eager to learn of and link to, so deep thanks to Alan Little for alerting me to this one.  I was sorely tempted to copy and paste the whole thing, which is not so very much longer and well worth reading right through.

Many teachers will surely share MacLeod’s attitude to igniting the passion of pupils rather than just bashing a standard curriculum into them, and will surely feel just as strongly about that straightjacket that MacLeod hated, and which they too are obliged to submit to.  I deduce from this that the regime MacLeod endured dates from about 1990.  By now, the straightjacket may have got even tighter.

The picture to the right is a slice of this one.  More MacLeod (and others) in action snaps here.  MacLeod also does lectures.

Monday January 14 2008

I missed it last week, but here is a delayed link to Bishop Hill, writing about how someone called Judith Gillespie wants more tabs kept on people who withdraw their children from school, and about how the BBC misreported the story.

If all they wanted to do to Home Ed was create a register, then that would not be such a worry.  But many people want it stopped altogether, which makes the register very worrying indeed, and something to be opposed vigorously.

Monday December 31 2007

Bishop Hill:

I’d actually read this before, but it’s still pretty startling. In Scottish schools, sex education lessons are mandated, but contraception may not be mentioned.

He’s talking about this, where Devil’s Kitchen offers a different answer to the limitations of sex education:

You want the rate of teenage pregnancies to come down? Fine: stop paying young girls to have children.

In general, teenagers behave as they do at least partly because of economic incentives, that is, in response to the circumstances of the life they know that they are about to lead.  If a teacher tells them lies about this life, or if he/she merely ignores the realities of it, they will not be impressed or persuaded, as sensible teachers surely all know.

Meanwhile, that sex education thing is apparently all to do with the Catholic Labour vote in the West of Scotland.

Bad sex education?