Frank Gerstenberg

Frank Gerstenberg

Radical measures to deal with the crisis of teenage drinking

FRANK GERSTENBERG, Education writer and former principal, George Watson's College

Children need to learn life isn't fair and adults must stop complaining

DONALD wasn't a real moaner - the lad was generally a pretty positive boy - but he was clearly incensed by the punishment I had given him.

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The best judges of teachers by far are their pupils, who are rarely asked

TO see ourselves as others see us is the supposed wish of all Scots, but how many of us welcome the reality? How many teachers are good at seeing themselves as their pupils see them? Yet surely the mark of a sound professional is that he or she should posses such self-awareness.

We should give pupils every opportunity to immerse themselves in the Chinese language

THERE have been a lot of Chinese whispers recently, suggesting that Chinese should become the main foreign language taught in our schools.

How Scotland could learn from English state boarding schools

IT MUST have come of a bit of a shock to parents of newborn children to read that the cost of nursery care is as much or more than sending a child to an independent high school.

Raising school leaving age so quickly won't work - pupils need more choices

IT SEEMS that north and south of the Border our politicians are planning to raise the school leaving age to 18. Some might find it ironic that, when young people are maturing earlier physically, and when politicians are desperate to lower the voting age even further, the same politicians should be wanting to keep our youngsters at school longer, thus delaying their entry into the adult world.

Cheats must be dealt with to restore order

TO CHEAT, or not to cheat? That is the question many youngsters are faced with nowadays when they take their Standard Grades and Highers, or GCSEs and A-levels.

'Safe' holidays won't serve language skills

THE safety police are at it again. Their latest inanity, courtesy of Scottish Borders Council, is to ban pupils from staying with host families on foreign trips, because of fears they might be at risk from predatory adults. What a load of nonsense. Borders Council has not even revealed whether any child in its schools has ever been abused on such a foreign trip.

A little corruption never hurt anyone

THE little lad was having one of his days. At school, he was being uncooperative to say the least. When his mum came to collect him, hoping to do some shopping on the way home, he made his views quite clear - he was going straight home to play with his toys - now! But suddenly the promise of an ice cream while mum was shopping changed everything; it was too good an offer to miss.

How can independent schools shake stigma?

"SCANDAL at school for toffs!" So ran the headline in one of Scotland's more "popular" newspapers a few weeks ago. The school was independent, though not one widely known to the public. But it was not the word "scandal" that upset the headteacher, but rather the use of the word "toffs".

Reason and runny noses just don't mix

FROM the first day that I started teaching, I knew I could never have been a primary teacher. I love little children - their openness, their inquisitiveness, their innocence and their honesty; all qualities that secondary teachers wish would survive into the teenage years, but rarely do. En masse, however, I just could not have coped with the high-pitched voices, the difficulty of employing reason as a weapon and the eternal need to wipe runny noses.

You have to learn how to control 30 students

IT IS currently the season for confessions, so I might as well confess to being party to a sordid crime during my student days.

Good intentions have dire effects

AT LAST the powers that be south of the Border have woken up to the fact that the huge amount of coursework required for some A-levels and GCSEs has led to plagiarism and cheating on a massive scale.

Culture change needed to tackle underage drinking

I MAKE no apology for returning to the subject of binge drinking and our licensing laws.

A Polish veni, vidi, vici

SCOTLAND has recently experienced an influx of East Europeans, among which are many Poles. But it is not the first time so many Poles have settled in Scotland. Following the invasion of Poland in 1939, a large number fled to Scotland, and many of these fought against Hitler during the war.

Long taken for granted, headteachers fight back

IT WAS one of those dreary days when nothing seems to go right. I was trying to come to terms with the consequences of a threatened work-to-rule by the teachers' union to which most of my staff belonged, when my secretary told me that the union representative wanted a word. My heart sank. A work-to-rule in a day school is inconvenient, but in a boarding school, as this was, it can have horrendous consequences for the welfare of the children.

State reform does not bode well for future

"POWER to the Parents!" That was the slogan Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly announced to a startled England, and an even more startled Labour Party, last week. Their White Paper promises independence to all schools south of the Border, albeit they will still be funded by the state. On the face of it, Blair has put forward a daring, thoroughly Tory plan for England's schools, giving parents greater choice and considerable power over their children's schools.

Doomed to fail if we just treat the symptoms

DISCIPLINE once again seems to be all the rage these days. South of the Border, ASBOs are being thrown around like confetti, parents are being threatened with fines if their children play truant, and teachers are to be allowed to physically restrain violent pupils.

Educating young minds by the book now easier

IT IS very rare that an author succeeds in writing a book for teenagers which is also a "must read" for their parents and teachers. Nicola Morgan has done just that with her Blame My Brain. It does not seek to excuse anti-social teenage behaviour, but it certainly goes a long way to explaining it. Teenagers regularly get a bad press, not just in the papers and on TV, but also at home and in school.

Is university right for 17-year-olds?

THIS week's most depressing statistic should concern every Scottish parent and teenager. We have been used to being told that more and more Scots are going to university, but now we have learnt that more and more are dropping out by the end of first year. The average drop-out rate in Scotland was 10.7 per cent last year, against 7.8 per cent for the whole of the UK. Three Scottish universities experienced rates of more than 20 per cent.

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