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 →
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?
I know that, as a responsible citizen with a fully paid up TV licence, I should have been watching the Prime Ministerial debates during the election campaign. And I did, I really did, listen to part of each of them on the kitchen radio following the Guineapig family’s various Thursday evening jumping around activities in disparate parts of East Lothian. But I only listened to part of them because on Thursday evening at 9.30pm Outnumbered came on the box. The series is now finished, sadly. Political debate v Outnumbered? Scripts v improvisation? Adults arguing like children or children arguing like adults? No competition.
Anyhow, one of the best episodes of the election campaign was the one where the family discovers that Ben’s a whizz at chess. It suits him because spear wielding knights can charge through the opposing army and lay waste in all directions while alien pawns come hurtling in from outer space. As part of the discovery process there were dicussions about the relative merits of letting your child win as opposed to playing to win yourself. Of course, when Ben trounced them all they all protested that they’d just let him win. No, they didn’t fool the viewers. It set me wondering, though, at what point I stopped playing GP2’s Scrabble hand as well as my own and started playing for my own survival. I’m just about hanging on to my winning record, but only just. And when did I start finding the crossword has been done by one of the children before I get there?
I was struck, at the school bus meeting, not by an angry parent but by the general negativity in the room. Scattered amongst the “what about your expenses” and “you’re not listening to us” comments were mutterings about the Curriculum for Excellence. Why, people were asking, was money being wasted on this scheme that people clearly didn’t want? Now, I can’t profess to knowing a huge amount about the CfE but from what I do know, I wish it had been introduced early enough to benefit my two guineapigs, now in the closing stages of their school careers. I think there’s a huge selling job still to be done.
I’ve always thought that it must be extremely difficult to introduce real change in education, change beyond tinkering around the edges. The problem is that everyone thinks that their experiences were the best. They want the system they know for their children. The popular pundits tend to bolster this view. And children are in education for such a short space of time. Yes, I know it seems forever on that first day when they walk up the road in their smart new uniform, clutching their superman lunchbox and you’re choking back the tears, but believe me, it zips by. Continue reading →
Parents’ Evening could have been worse, I suppose, but you do have to read between the lines. A little conversation ensued on my Facebook page, to help me in the interpretation. I though you might all like to join in.
“I used to get comments like, easily distracted, can do it if he makes the effort. Not to mention the poor splelling 😉 “
“My best was for p.e. – J. would benefit from a more active approach to this subject”
“Teachers’ code. Lazy ass who needs a kick up the backside. But we are not allowed to say stuff like that.”
“Teachers’ code: I know a teacher who refers to the pupils as E.L.F.s (evil little f…ers) Made us laugh lots.”
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 →
Apparently that is my sobriquet amongst GP1’s friends, due in part to my whimsical tendency to insist that he occasionally tears himself away from the X Box to do his homework (well I try) and in part to my – sorry, our – bizarre and totally unreasonable refusal to allow TVs, games machines or computers in the bedrooms. I found this out last weekend when we took twelve teenagers paintballing. Twelve? Yes, twelve. That’s the result of having two birthdays in the same week and then, as happened last year, choosing to have major surgery that very week. There’s a lot of making up to do. Bad planning, some might say.
Anyhow I thought it was a bit unfair to call me The worst mother in the world, albeit with a huge smile, when Continue reading →
Standard Grades seemed so simple. Were they ever an issue? Did I ever worry that GP1 might not be working hard enough? Surely not. The fact that GP2 is sitting his SGs this year is really just incidental. Because, dear reader, we have Highers looming. I have written very little about GP1 and his meandering journey towards Highers for the simple reason that I find it all too distressing. It’s also difficult not to get too personal about it all. Why, I wonder, am I the one waking in the middle of the night worrying about oldest son’s English essay? I’ve got my own report deadlines to worry about, thank you very much.
But I was cheered the other day by an email comment from the wonderful lady who is struggling to tutor him through English and I thought perhaps Continue reading →
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 →
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:-
This is going to be a very selfish, mean-spirited, churlish, curmudgeonly, whingeing and Grumpy Old Woman sort of post. There. You’ve been warned. For more enlightened, friendly, positive, cheerful reading you could try some of the links on my blogroll instead. Iota’s started posting again about life in the States and she’s always entertaining and currently much more enthusiastic than me. Or there’s Reluctant Memsahib who writes about homeschooling, schooling of the boarding variety but mainly day to day living in the Tanzanian outback. And you could try Potty Mummy, Mother at Large and Pig in the Kitchen for general entertainment and cooking tips. Oh, and I nearly forgot Fidra books who are offering to give away books to schools. I hope you’ve all gone now so I can complain in peace.
Well, brother-in-law got engaged at Christmas. Good news! Exciting news, even, as his fiancee only appeared on the scene in September; Mother-in-law had, I think, secretly started to give up hope of any more grandchildren and suddenly hope came galloping into our Christmas celebrations. Sister-in-law to be, who keeps Continue reading →
In fact, it goes on at such a pace there doesn’t seem to be time to write blog posts. And that’s with no significant work to do for a week or so. Bliss! Christmas shopping and meeting fellow bloggers without feeling that there’s something else I should be doing. Make the most of it. It won’t last.
So, in the last ten days I’ve had my second round of chemo, which was no problem, although I think it took a little longer to get over than the first. I did manage to get myself along to the EduBuzz meeting but was feeling slightly spaced out so I’m not sure I contributed anything coherent. In fact, I may have agreed to write something; it’s rather akin to agreeing to something at a party or with a pint in your hand. You wake up the next morning thinking “I said I’d do what?”. Anyhow, as I’m fairly certain I haven’t said I’d swim the channel for charity, I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Just something I didn’t get around to writing the other day, when thinking about S3 Standard Grades.
What are the perceived benefits of bringing the exams forward? Please discuss. I think it was explained to us at the time that there is a big drop in learning during second year, and that bringing the exams forward should keep the learning momentum going into exams. Or something along those lines. I seem to remember that, at the time, a fair proportion of parents thought that pushing the children towards earlier exams had to be a good thing. I don’t know whether or not they still think that. I was a doubter from the start but as this is now the system we find ourselves in, we have to make the best of it and the grapevine suggests that a lot more schools are going to be moving in that direction.
As I said – or tried to – in my earlier post, my main problem with it is the early reduction in the syllabus. I do think that this is potentially of considerable benefit to the less able children who are are able to drop subjects they loathe and concentrate earlier on improving grades over a narrower syllabus. But the more able children, who may well go on to higher education, can probably cope with a wider range of subjects for longer. They are having to drop subjects they enjoy and would be happy doing for another year without the pressure of exams. Once you’re onto that exam roller coaster, there is no let up until well after University. The trouble is perhaps that a comprehensive system within the constraints of school organisation has to be designed to suit everyone at once.