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Shaggy Blog Stories

My friend Rach has managed to get one of her fantastic blog posts into a book! It’s a collection of 100 short humorous pieces from the UK blogosphere called Shaggy Blog Stories. All profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Comic Relief charity.

Rach is working as a VSO volunteer in Windhoek, Namibia and her blog makes fantastic reading. Have a look if you like.

Back again

Well, I didn’t really go anywhere – except for the dark depths of S3/4 prelims and reports. As I have four classes at this level it’s been an interesting couple of weeks! At least I can get back to the normal workload – plus S5 prelims of course.

Unfortunately, I received some bad news towards the end of last week. A colleague of mine from when I was working in Namibia has passed away. When I arrived as a regional advisory teacher in the Caprivi I had very little idea what I was going to do – I had only been teaching three years and I was going to have to train experienced teachers. There wasn’t even anyone doing the job already.

Many of the Namibian advisory teachers were understandably quite wary of this young white fellow coming out to tell them what to do and as a result, I was left very much to get on with it on my own. The one encouraging and helpful face I had for my first few months in post is no longer with us.

He always did his best to help me anyway he could and he was clearly a very intelligent and enthusiastic educator who had become trapped in the straight jacket of Namibian bureaucracy.

About 2/3 of the way through my year, he began to have a lot of time off work. He looked sicker and sicker each time I saw him and I assumed that he must have been HIV positive and had now developed AIDS. This is not an incredible assumption to make in the Caprivi as the infection rate is estimated to be 40%. This was explained to us during our induction as almost every second person you pass in the supermarket could be infected. A very sobering thought.

It was actually only last week when I wondered how this colleague was getting on. To be perfectly honest, I was wondering how long it would be until I received an email saying that he had passed away. And then the email arrived on Friday.

Very sad. My thoughts are with his family. Especially his beautiful kids, whom I’ve never met, but seen many times pictured all over the walls of his office.

3 Answers. 2 Marks.

I’m in the middle of marking prelims at the moment – lucky me!

One thing that has really struck me since picking up the mighty red pen in Scotland is just how many exam questions there are here which require more answers than the marks available for the question. There’s lots of things like “3 correct = 2 marks, 2 correct = 1 mark, 1 correct = 0 marks”

As far as I can remember, these are very rare down south. I find it weird writing a zero next to a correct answer. These Scots really make you work for your marks – “You know a correct answer? Pah! You’ll be having nothing ’till you can come up with two.”

What a strange difference.

Biggest Difference?

Sorry I’ve not written anything since my first post. I’ve no excuse really. I will try to do better from now on.

I thought it might be a good idea to start by thinking about what is the most noticeable difference between teaching in England and Scotland. Before making the move, I would have predicted that it would be something to do with Highers and A Levels, or GCSE’s and Standard Grades. I would have been wrong. As a Science teacher the most striking difference when you walk into your classroom is that it looks as if half the kids haven’t turned up!

There is a cap of 20 on class sizes in Science on this side of the border – and in my limited experience it’s often less than this. I initially assumed that this was some sort of new initiative, but during a discussion with my colleagues a few days ago I discovered that this was introduced nearly 30 years ago!


When I taught in England I had classes of up to 31. Even my sixth form classes were often over 20. When a class of 30 twelve year olds where carrying out a practical using bunsen burners I no longer felt like an educator, but a health and safety supervisor – making sure no-one hurt themselves was all I could really think about. What really confused me back then was why the technical subjects had a maximum of 20 students in their classes, but we did not.

And now my wish has come true. Any teachers reading this will appreciate the difference it makes having a few less kids in a class. Three or four absentees can have an enormous effect on your lessons. Well, for me at the minute it’s a bit like there are always ten pupils missing!

Hello world!

So, I’ve decided to give this blogging thing a go.

It seems to be that everyone is blogging these days, but I have to admit I’m not entirely convinced that there’s always a purpose. I worry that by having a blog I am just making more work for myself and that it’s all a bit egocentric. Despite this I’ve decided to go ahead anyway. This is mainly due to the fact that I’ve thought of a possible reason for me writing a blog. I’ve trained and taught in England and I’ve made the move North of the border.

I’ve seen and heard quite a few discussions about making this move. Most of them have been along the lines of ‘is it possible?’ and ‘how hard is it?’. It’s also interesting to compare the two systems, and I have experience of one and I’m gaining experience of another.

Why have I ended up in this position? Well, I left Northern Ireland after school and did my biology degree in Scotland. I then decided that teaching would be a potentially good career for me. So I went to England to do my PGCE where they were offering lots of money and my plan was to try to come back up after the PGCE. Unfortunately this was the year that Scotland introduced the guaranteed job for one year for NQT’s. Because of this there were no jobs being advertised and I stayed down South.

With three years in a girls’ grammar school in the South of England behind me, I worked as an advisory teacher in Africa for one year. Returning to the UK was then the perfect opportunity to finally make the move back to Scotland.

So here I am, a few months into Scottish Education and my head is still swimming with terms like ‘standard grade’, ‘NAB’, ‘higher’, ‘arrangement documents’, ‘intermediate 1’, ‘LO3’……..

If you like, you can follow me while I try to unravel this confusion.