Thursday, May 27, 2010


Let's spend a moment thinking of events 70 years ago, when over the next nine days a third of a million men were evacuated across the Channel by over 700 boats, some of which would have been more suited to a boating lake. There were huge losses- over 200 boats were sunk and 400 aircraft shot down whilst trying to protect them against the Luftwaffe

40 000 men did not make it onto the boats; most became prisoners of War and were marched back to forced labour camps in Germany but a few escaped, making their way into Spain before being smuggled home. There must be a thousand tales of heroism, sacrifice, betrayal and sheer luck buried in those events, which almost seem to belong in a different world.

Mind you if I was in charge we'd have a National Holiday, financed by paying no Benefits for a day.

Two Year Degrees

The 'students' at my local University are just finishing their exams at the moment and the next academic year begins at the end of September.

As we hear constant (and often justified) complaints about the level of debt that students end up with and bearing in mind that most of them aren't exactly overworked during the six weeks or so of the year when they do actually have lectures; why oh why do we not just compress all the non serious subjects into two years?

University Intake

Poor children are still struggling to get into decent Universities according to the Office for Fair Access (which strikes me as an organisation that ought to be axed immediately as it has clearly failed)

This is no surprise whatsoever. If you live in a poor area, you go to a poor school (which makes the arguments about Academies bringing in a socially divisive education system seem a bit odd considering that's exactly what we have already). Cambridge University took more State school pupils in 1970 than it does now (because of Grammar schools).

Poor schools do not attract many academic teachers. Funnily enough, they go to the schools where they can actually teach their subject rather than spend the day giving out coloured pencils and trying to prevent a riot.

What poor schools do sometimes manage is to encourage their best pupils to apply to study some Mickey Mouse course at an institution whose name no employer can read without collapsing into a fit of giggles. Three years later they have a colossal debt and a worthless certificate.

It could hardly be more obvious that unless schools can select by academic achievement, then the Office for Fair Access will be copying and pasting the same report in another 10 years time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Academies Again

It would be interesting to hear from a teacher who worked in an Academy...

Are they as bad as the teachers' unions make out (and if so, why don't they try and do anything about them)


Michael Gove is inviting all State schools to become Academies. This means that they find a private sponsor (who pays £2 million) and gets a little bit of say in what's taught (they don't have to follow every part of the National Curriculum, just the Maths, English and Science bits), the new school building if there is going to be one and what the school will 'specialise' in (all Schools nowadays are supposed to have a speciality- don't send yours to one that is a School of the Performing Arts if you want them to do well at Maths rather than dancing about like the kids from Fame). Funding comes direct to the school, cutting out the Local Authority and their army of advisers, facilitators, outreach officers etc etc. which means that they get more money. Each school is allowed to select up to 10% of their pupils by ability in their specialism.

It's probably true that the majority of teachers don't like the idea. Chris Keates of the NASUWT said that it was a 'costly and unnecessary solution to a problem that does not exist' (she has obviously never visited my school) and that it was wrong not to allow Local Authorities to have a say (My Local Authority can barely empty the bins never mind run schools). Mind you, she wasn't very happy about proposals to get rid of all those quangos that cheerfully wasted vast sums of money without any obvious return, either.

Now I'm sure that there will be problems with the odd loon trying to sponsor a school so that they can try and get some bizarre idea taught, whether it's Flat Earth Theory, Creationism or the Joy of Jihad. However it's easy to look up a sponsor's details nowadays and overall I can't help but think that it's an idea worth trying. Academies might not be the ideal solution, but at least they offer a chance of improvement without massive cost to the taxpayer. Let's face it; they can hardly do much worse than many of the schools we have at the moment.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White Pointy Hats

I've pinned this article to my classroom wall to remind me of the possible consequences of encouraging the children to dress up as the Ku Klux Klan. No way will I repeat the mistake of last year, when my form goose stepped into School Assembly all dressed in Nazi uniforms for the German exchange visit..


Most Government spending is about as efficient as burning giant piles of ten pound notes to keep warm on a winter's night, but unfortunately the people who get to decide where to make the cuts tend to be the ones whose own jobs should be got rid of first.

Anyway, here's a top tip: get a list of everyone who works in the Public Sector and send a P45 to all those whose job description contains one or more of the following words:

Co ordinator
Liason (I mean 'Liaison'- sorry my spelling is getting worse)
Best Practice

There are probably a few people who have all those words in their job descriptions. Just put them up against the wall...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ashes To Ashes Final Episode

So Gene, Alex, Chris, Ray and Shaz were all dead, Gene is Copper 6620 and Jim Keates represents the devil...

Good heavens! I'm not used to having to concentrate whilst watching the telly. Apparently there(sorry) were loads of clues that gave it all away but I missed most of them (apart from wondering why Shaz was so frightened of that screwdriver).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Winston Smith

Congratulations to Winston Smith for winning the 2010 Orwell Prize! (And for successfully proving me wrong when I claimed that all social workers were beardy-weirdy, sandal wearing hippies!)

Bill Newman

I get loads of people asking me to link to their blogs, but since most of them are as dull as Set 5, I rarely bother. I think this one might be an exception though. Bill is a new copper just starting out and neatly contrasts what they were taught in training with what the reality of the job is. He's only done a couple of posts so far, but I like his style. He writes with humour and knows how to tell a story, which puts him in the top 1% of blogs straight away.

It does bother me that there so many good police blogs compared with other careers. Where can I find a new teacher to even up the score?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lydia May

Good news! Art teacher Lydia May has been found not guilty of hitting loon child with a Pritt Stick. God knows why such nonsense is clogging up our courts whilst the real crims just walk free laughing.

On an unrelated topic- I used to love playing cricket at school, (and after school on a local field that is now a housing estate) but this article claims that they don't do so any more. I wonder how true it is? The 'non competitive' bit wouldn't surprise me at all- there are no limits to how daft we can be in the state sector.

ps. Regular readers will no doubt be disappointed in the lack of gluey puns in the Lydia May post, but it is a serious story, so I decided to just stick to the facts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Day We Lost It

I'm sure that today will be remembered as the day when we finally lost the plot. After concluding that Abid Naseer and Ahmed Khan were a serious threat to us, we decide to let them stay here just in case something bad happens to them back home in Pakistan.

Mind you on second thoughts, there have been lots of other days with a good claim to this title in the last few years. Maybe we should just hope that these two are as incompetent as the 'Sizzling Sons of Allah' who tried to drive into Glasgow Airport back in 2007 and just celebrate with a mass bark at the Moon.

Pritt Stick Payout

Far more important than class sizes, national curriculum and SATS is the ever present danger of being taken to court by the compensation hungry parents of some ne'er-do-well.

Over the years we have allowed badly behaved kids to morph into 'children with behavioural difficulties' (ie absolving them of any responsibilities for their actions) and now we are reaping the rewards.

Monday, May 17, 2010

National Curriculum

Our new government is proposing to give schools 'more freedom over the curriculum', but what will this mean?

The National Curriculum was introduced in 1989 in order to make sure schools across England taught roughly the same things and could be compared using standard tests (SATS) and their results put into league tables.

The idea was loudly denounced in staffrooms up and down the Country. I can remember pretending to listen as one teacher after another ranted that they should decide what to teach; that it was yet more government interference, central control which undermined their authority; showed a lack of trust in them; Mrs Thatcher should be hung...etc etc. I just nodded wisely and thought it all sounded great.

The bottom line of course, which you cannot say in the staffroom; is that although some teachers would use their vast knowledge and individual expertise to come up with brilliant original lessons, which would thrill and educate every pupil; most would not. I was more than happy to be told what to teach and when to teach it. It just gave me one less thing to worry about.

As long as the bottom kids can be made exempt (which they can) and be taught something that will be of use to them (ie how to read, write and get up in the morning) then I've got no problem whatsoever with a National Curriculum. We will probably never all agree on its exact content, but it has to be better then no guidelines at all.

If you think differently then feel free to comment...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Free Schools

Well it looks like the idea of 'Free Schools' (allowing groups of parents or companies to run local schools) will go ahead. The details are a bit sketchy at the moment, but more will be revealed in the June budget.

The teachers unions vehemently oppose the plan, so it can't be such a bad idea. I'm certainly not going to criticise groups of parents desperate for a decent school to send their kids to; who have enough about them to make a serious attempt to run their own, especially when Local Education Authorities and Headteachers have made such a complete mess of so many schools up and down the country.

Whilst there should be concerns about the motives of some groups and companies who want to get involved, you do have to ask; could they really be any worse than those currently in charge?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paul Chambers

Paul Chambers has lost his job, been fined £1000 and now has a criminal record.

For what exactly? Sending a joke message on Twitter; something that I would have done without a second thought at his age if the technology had been available. (In fact if I knew how to use Twitter I'd do it right now)

Nobody for one moment imagines that he was doing anything other than voicing his frustration. It does make you wonder when we will actually start addressing the real threats to our safety, rather than over reacting and making our country look stupid. (Which given the current state of the election, we really don't need any help with)

SATS Boycott

This week the SATS are due to take place across England to test those in year 6. Some teachers and headteachers are boycotting them for a variety of reasons such as:

Schools spend too much time teaching specifically to pass these tests.

Children are put under too much pressure at an early age simply for their school's benefit

The tests do not give a reliable indication of pupils' ability.

The results are used to publish league tables of schools which humiliate the awful ones.

Other teachers and parents support the SATS tests claiming that:

Without them parents would have no idea which schools were effectively teaching their children Maths and English and which were not.

It's only one set of tests- we had tests every year at school. They also get children used to sitting exams.

If we get rid of them, what do we replace them with?

No doubt you have your own views on the subject which are of course welcome.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Rabbiting On

Leporiphobia or 'Fear of Rabbits' is no laughing matter. This poor teacher from Germany has been unable to return to her school after one pupil thoughtlessly drew a little bunny with no thought whatsoever for the consequences.

I suppose it was a case of 'hare today, gone tomorrow'.

Thanks to Inspector Gadget for that. (Have a look at his video of Brown and Mandelson singing)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Election 2010

So Cameron got the most votes but didn't win; Gordon got voted out but isn't going and nobody voted for Nick Clegg but he's pulling all the strings?

And I thought education was in a bad way...

Downing St

Chinese President, Hu Jintao has just delivered a large box of Viagra to 10 Downing St after hearing that Gordon Brown was having trouble with his election.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Joburg Football Stadium

I'm not really interested in football, but I do wonder what possessed the South Africans to make their stadium look like a burning car tyre?