Hugh Reilly: Easter leave sets up troops for exam push

FOR pupil conscripts and war-weary frontline teaching troops, Easter holidays provide much needed R&R before the spring offensive of SQA examinations.

Demobbed last year, I stoically bear the pain of missing out on the unbridled joy of leaving school on a Friday for a fortnight’s respite from the cherubs.

In days gone by, one’s happiness clicked up a notch knowing that some of the slow learners/fast forgetters under one’s tutelage would be frogmarched off to Easter revision courses by parents mightily disillusioned with the academic efforts of their progeny. All faith in exam success was placed in the grubby hands of private companies eager to cash in on the well-founded fears of hitherto backsliding pupils.

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I must admit I truly admired the sloths’ optimism that two weeks of tuition delivered by an unknown teacher could rectify two terms spent doodling and texting in the classroom. Like a General Haig of education, I ignored the hundreds who were doomed to fall on the barbed wire of exam failure, choosing instead to celebrate the valiant few who would confound expectations; after all, their shocking success would be reflected in my examination pass rate.

Parents with young children had hoped that the recent spell of unseasonably warm weather would have encouraged their issue to swap the sanctuary of the PlayStation-game-filled bedroom for The Great Outdoors. Unfortunately, pushing kids outside the portals requires an inordinately high-voltage cattle prod or, in extremis, the threat of an extended visit to a Dobbies garden centre.

The latter does, of course, possess the potential to spectacularly backfire should the smiling child with a twisted mind inform mater and pater that just such a trip would be splendid. His malice aforethought utterance awakens long buried memories of cruising round a heaving car park frantically seeking a bay for your vehicle, annoyed that all the available spaces are reserved for the possible arrival of the Blue-badge-bearing cars.

In my experience, a child’s request to visit the local park should be violently resisted. Thanks to the nation caving in to bleedin’ heart liberal sensitivities, municipal green space is no longer a haven of tranquillity. Gone is the foreboding list of byelaws at the park entrance that instilled a sense of dread in every park-goer. Orderly behaviour was maintained by stern warnings such as KEEP OFF THE GRASS and NO BALL GAMES ALLOWED. Transgressors faced the humiliation of being ejected by brown-shirted park-keepers who patrolled their territory with a beady eye and an ear-piercing whistle.

These days, park wardens sit cocooned inside their vans, hazard lights on as they drive at walking pace through the throng of bare-chested men with beer guts and ubiquitous dangerous dog in harness, democratically exercising their human right to intimidate the lieges.

A trip to Edinburgh Zoo pleases parents as it affords mum and dad the opportunity to gape at fellow animals who feel trapped in meaningless lives. Perhaps the layout has changed since my last sojourn but I do recall doing a bit of Munro-bagging to see the tigers at the top of a steep hill.

For those staycation folk who desire a somewhat edgier man-with-nature experience, a visit to Blair Drummond Safari Park is a must. With car windows securely rolled up, a death-defying slow drive through a pride of lions should be the highlight of the excursion. However, any fears young children have of being savaged by ferocious lions quickly disappear on discovering the fact that the Kings of the Stirling jungle appear to be in a state of permanent hibernation.

Times are hard, thus only a minority of teachers, parents and kids will be able to fly to foreign destinations. During school breaks, holiday companies find themselves reluctantly pumping up prices, collateral-damage victims of merciless supply versus demand economics.

Standing in line at the check-in, Sir experiences a heart-stopping Midnight Express airport-departures moment as he eyeballs the queue to ascertain if any of his pupils are on the same flight. His palms sweat, his heart beats rapidly but the coast is clear; desperate prayers to God, Buddha and Mohammed were not in vain.

Enjoy your Easter jolly!