Whither GP1?

It seems a long time ago since I started this blog. My concerns at that stage seem so distant. Life has indeed moved on. It is over a year now since Tim (aka GP2) left school and Standard Grades, Highers, SQA, Curriculum for Excellence, Leaps, are now of no more than passing academic interest. Time for a round up.

So, Chris/GP1/Ginger left that fine academic institution that is Ross High School three years ago with a respectable assortment of Highers, Advanced Highers and various other SQA offerings. I can’t really say, hand on heart, that he ever quite got studying but hey, he did what he needed. We suggested he took a year out to figure out what he really wanted to do before moving on to more studying but he didn’t want to, so onwards it was. I think perhaps he couldn’t visualise the alternatives to the school-college route – it was a sort of comfort blanket that didn’t require too much thinking. LEAPS summer school (he didn’t really get that, either) was followed by Sport Science at Heriot Watt University.

Oh dear. Oh Heriot Watt – do you have no student support system that flags up when things are not going as they should? It was obvious to us by Christmas Continue reading

Onwards and upwards

Life has moved on in the Guineapig  Household this summer.  In fact, I was wondering if it was time for a name change but I’m really quite attached to Guineapigmum so I think I’ll stick with it for the time being.  The biggest change is that Number 1 son, GP1, is now in residence at one of those institutions where teenagers practice sleeping, drinking and spending their parents’ money.  Yes he’s now at university. It’s not quite as far afield as originally planned. He got cold feet at some point during the summer (it may well have been the point at which he hitched up with a new young lady) and changed his UCAS options. He’s now in halls somewhere on the outskirts of Edinburgh and learning to cook, drink (did I mention that?), run up phone bills and play. And he’s home almost every weekend.  Well, you get fed at home, don’t you?

He didn’t work quite hard enough during 5th year Continue reading

I’m not nervous!

So, 10am I dropped off a jittery, jumpy, couldn’t-sit-still GP2 for his first exam.  “I’m not nervous” he said.  Hmm.  By the time we got to the school he had my stomach turning somersaults.  Maths.

It started yesterday, 3pm.  “Mum! My calculator’s broken”.  “It’ll be the battery” she said sagely and spent the next 20 minutes extricating one of those tiny silver buttons, the sort you never have spares of in the house, from an impossibly tight casing.  Dashed up to town for spares.  Dashed home to insert.  It still didn’t work.  Emergency phone call to GPD to purchase new calculator on his way home.

“I can’t do this question! How do I work this out? We’ve not done this.”

GPM thinks: Continue reading

In denial

Three weeks and counting…

Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag

GPM:  “That’s 3 weeks. THREE weeks. Well OK 23 days and a few hours until Higher English.  You won’t be able to put it off any longer then.”

GP1:  “I kno-o-ow.”

Nag. Nag, nag, nag, nag.

“So have you learned that poem? Read that book? Written out those quotes?”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.  Sigh.”

Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag.

Bup-a-lup goes MSN.

Nag, nag, nag, nag.

I think I’m turning into a moany old nag.

And I wish someone would move that wall that’s making lumps on my head.

Nag, nag, nag. Nag, nag.

It must be summer – exams are upon us.  It’ll all be over soon. Thank goodness. Until next year, that is.

And until then…

…nag, nag, nag, nag…


Boys: a miscellany

One hitherto unforeseen advantage of trundling round the house with the vacuum cleaner is that it gives you space to compose blog posts in your head.  One disadvantage is that the instant you switch the machine off, those wonderfully crafted words disappear, sucked up as far as I can tell into the Dyson. 

Anyway, there I was, mulling over the apparent impossibility of getting GP1 to even think about doing any revision for the forthcoming prelims or perhaps even making a list of what he needs to do.  I don’t ask for much.  His younger brother, on the other hand, also faced with exams, comes out with such gems as “Mum, if I do this past paper could you mark it so that I don’t cheat?”  You’d throw up wouldn’t you, if he wasn’t your own son.  So I just laugh, lavish praise,  agree and wonder why the application genes couldn’t have been divided equally.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to auction tickets for someone to accompany me to Parents’ Evening tonight.  Continue reading


Timetable in a Norwegian school by Edublogger.It was the end of June and so the end of term when I found myself reminded of the reason why I adopted Guineapigmum as my nom de blog.  Three years ago (was it really that long ago?) the school decided to bring the Standard Grade exams forward a year.  The students would choose their 8 subjects at the end of S1 (Year 8 ) rather than S2 and sit their exams at the end of S3  (Year 10) instead of S4.     They would choose their 5 subjects for Higher at the end of S3, do a 2 year instead of the more usual 1 year course and sit Highers as normal at the end of S5.  Got that?  Come on, keep up at the back of the class.  If you stopped gossiping you’d know what I said.  

GP1 was in the first year group to go through this system and so he sat his Standard Grades a year ago, in 2007.  With this first cohort, the teachers had to deal with two entire year groups Continue reading

Tutors – help!

School’s out.  It’s the last day of term.  Yay! 

But there’s a small problem, and I know I’m probably too late to post this.  Everyone’s suddenly on holiday but we need to find a tutor for English Higher for next term.  Can anyone in the East Lothian/Edinburgh area point me in the direction of anyone?  So far I’ve only drawn a blank.

Breaking the habit of a year or two, here’s my email in case anyone has any bright ideas:-

christine at amisfield1 dot fsnet dot co dot uk

The personal touch

45656455_ed1f145c5c.jpgSo there we are.  External exams are over for another year.  Next year will be the big one – GP1/Highers (I’m trembling and pale at the prospect) with GP2/Standard Grades (an entirely different proposition).  This year, though,  was a relative breeze. 

First up there was SVS.  Once I’d got my head round the fact that Continue reading

Some standard reflections

jane-on-cita-scillies.jpgNow that the silly grin is starting to wear off GP1’s face and school is back in earnest, I thought it was time to reflect on our experience of sitting Standard Grades in S3.  After all, this is pretty much where I came in, although my blog posts have since ambled off into all sorts of areas of general family life. 

Just to be clear at the outset, we are all very pleased with GP1’s results; 6 credits, a 3 and an A.  They’re not going to set the world alight but he has done averagely well, met most of the target grades and has good enough grades to move on to whatever he wants to do next.  It is something of a relief, given that he appeared to do very little work and I still think he had no idea how to work by himself at home – although he is conscientious and I’m quite sure he did generally work well in class. Those 2s could so easily have slipped down to 3s.  Certainly the subjects he got 1s in were the most modular, with the largest elements of assessment outside exams (I think!).  

Would he have done better if he had done the exams next year?  There is no way of telling and, in any case, it doesn’t really matter Continue reading


Standard Grade results are out and he’s done just fine!  What a relief!  I knew it wouldn’t in fact be the end of the world as we know it if he didn’t get the necessary grades – but respectable grades do make it so much more straighforward!  He got Credits in the 6 exams he sat at Credit level (mixture of 1s and 2s) and the highest marks he could in the other two, so we’re all happy. 

And even happier to know that he was one of the lucky 6000 who managed to get on line to get the results.   It did take a while and there was a minor password glitch, but he’d got them before lunchtime.  If they knew in May that 34,000 students had applied for internet access, how come the system crashed at 6,000?  They must surely have anticipated everyone trying to log on at once at 9 am (or 11 am for the real teenagers). In GP2s case, a reminder on the login page of the length/format of the password would have sorted that particular problem immediately.  Still, he got there and didn’t have to wait for the post tomorrow.

So, we move on to whatever comes next.  And the children have a couple more weeks holiday yet. 

The top’s just over the next hill

It was S3 parents’ evening last week.  protantheasmall.jpgWe got there early and fully expected to whizz round and be out in time for swimming club.  Wrong again!  I eventually sent the boys to help out on poolside, OH went to a squash match and I queued for 1/2 hour for the last teacher.  Finally arrived at the pool very late to find my fellow coach totally frazzled by the demands of my beginner’s lane.  Why do 7yr old boys, as a general principle, have the attention span of a gnat?  Or do they use up all their stores of attention in class during the day and just switch off as soon as they get home?  Answers on a postage stamp to…

 But back to parents evening.  It was good to meet all the teachers and this time I was very impressed by how friendly, professional, on the case and of course human they all were, without exception.  I do have to confess that this has not always been the case – on one memorable open night, after speaking to one particular teacher I voiced the opinion that “if there is any remote chance of that person teaching you next year, you won’t be doing that subject”.  Fortunately it didn’t become an issue!  Open nights are useful and first impressions do make a difference. 

But parents’ night.  Reports were generally more favourable than the tracking report had suggested, which was reassuring – there is such a big difference between talking to people and reading the permitted 30 words.  However, a recurrent theme from all of the teachers was the pressure of taking the exams a year early.  It is a lot of pressure on the children (and presumably on the teachers), a lot of work to get through and, at least for some subjects, we can’t expect the grades that they would get if there was another year. 

Maths, for example.  They will have covered all of the Int2 course but might only be entered for the Int1 exam, to make sure that they don’t fail.  But it doesn’t matter because the work they’ll have done will put them well ahead for Higher Maths, when they should be able to get a very good grade and that’s the one that counts. Still with me?  I struggled with this.  From what I understand, Highers will be done over 2 years rather than 1, which should improve Higher results.  Not being intimately familiar with the various syllabuses, I haven’t yet entirely worked out the logic.  Seems like it will be fine for those subjects that they continue with to Higher level, but that the subjects they drop at Standard Grade might well have suffered.  And it looks like he’ll be doing Higher Maths, come what may.   More to come on this & related themes in future postings.

One very useful outcome of the parents’ evening was the explanations we got of how the different subjects are examined.   For example, I had absolutely no idea beforehand that the students need to submit 5 folio pieces for English so that everything they are now bringing home to do counts towards their final mark. 14 yr old boys do not share this sort of information with their parents.  You need to understand for this that OH and I went through the English system more years ago than we like to think.  Grammar schools were the only schools worth considering, exams were exams, homework was homework and continuous assessment was something that bearded, sandal-wearing liberals discussed in the Guardian.  On second thoughts, Shirley Williams never grew a beard. 

I have found, since the day that the child minder told me I needed to register the boys’ names at nursery on their 2nd birthday and not a second later, that the system and all who work in it assume that parents are born understanding its intimate workings.  This is not the case.  We know nothing with the first child through the system and our children tell us nothing.  So please, could someone write a nice simple guide to what is involved in each subject at Standard Grade and perhaps subsequently at Higher.  This is for distribution either at the end of first year when they are making subject choices or at the start of 2nd year.  And what is an Advanced Higher and that even more mysterious 6th Year Studies? 

The present problem confronting us is how to persuade a 14yr old boy to get his head down & get on with it for a few months, that everything he does from now on counts, and has to be the best – no short cuts.  Doing work in little bits now will pay huge dividends next year.  Ears are deaf unfortunately.  We can tell him it’s only for a short time and that once the exams are over, that’s it.  But I know it’s a lie – as soon as this lot are over there are Highers, Advanced Highers, University, job applications, work, report deadlines….  The climb starts here and the top is always over the next hill.  I just have to hope that he gets better at dealing with it.