Glasgow Govan High School

January 16, 2012 by staff 

Glasgow Govan High School, IN THE US, controversial Republican media pundit Glenn Beck caused outrage when he accused President Barack Obama of being a racist who had “a deep-seated hatred of white culture”. When CBS interviewer Katie Couric pressed him to explain what he meant by white culture, Beck’s previous eloquence morphed into rambling incoherence.

Last week, Ross Martin, advisor to the Commission for School Reform, called for an end to “the bog standard comprehensive”. If Katie Couric were to ask Scotland’s own Glenn Beck to explain what constitutes a bog standard comprehensive, I am certain Mr Martin’s response would make less sense than The Flowerpot Men.

The attacks on state education by Reform Scotland – the puppeteers who set up the Commission for School Reform and provide the financial strings that move Ross Martin’s lips – are becoming a tad tiresome. For a so-called think-tank, it never appears to reflect on the reasons why its pronouncements are taken as seriously as a picture of Ed Miliband appearing on the front page of The Economist under the headline “Great Leaders of Our Time”.

In my opinion, when it comes to finding a bog standard comprehensive, one is more likely to stumble across Sasquatch and a Yeti drinking cappuccinos in a tearoom.

In a teaching career spanning three decades, I can honestly say that no two schools were the same. In the Eighties, at my first school, St Ninian’s, Kirkintilloch, the children of a bank manager sat alongside the kids of parents made unemployed by Thatcher’s slash-and-burn assaults on mining and steelmaking.

In the Nineties, at Kingsridge Secondary in deprived Drumchapel, the children of single mothers sat next to the kids of a dad who’d robbed the bank manager in Kirkintilloch.

Perhaps Mr Martin’s bog standard school is Govan High, a secondary with just over 200 pupils, many of whom study vocational subjects at nearby colleges.

Or he may have had Glasgow’s Holyrood Secondary in mind, the largest school in Europe with a roll of more than 2,000 youngsters. Or his bog standard education establishment may be the sort found in Moffat where nursery, primary and secondary education is provided on a single site.

Admittedly, I don’t make up the rules, but having a Communicative Disorder Unit that allows pupils with autism and Asperger’s syndrome to attend mainstream classes may be the reason why Bannerman High School struggles to achieve bog standard status.

It could be that the non-teaching boffins at Reform Scotland believe that kids study identical subjects at every school. However, even a cursory glance at the SQA results for 2011 would glean the fact that subjects such as Mandarin hold some appeal in our schools. In secondary schools with significant numbers of Asian children, Urdu is often on the curriculum (Shawlands Academy has three Higher Urdu classes).

To its credit, Glasgow City Council has embraced the notion of specialist schools. For example, Knightswood secondary incorporates the Dance School of Scotland and the Glasgow School of Sport is based at Bellahouston Academy.

Some state sector schools present pupils for baccalaureate examinations – others don’t. Headteachers have been free for many years to make changes to the curriculum as they see fit and, in recent times, headmasters in various local authorities have given the green light for S3 students to sit Standard Grade final exams.

In stark contrast, other rectors have ditched Standard Grade, replacing it with Intermediate courses. In a few free-spirited schools, liberated department heads decide which type of examination candidates sit.

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