Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gravitationally Challenged

The language police are out in force again, attempting to ban 'fat' 'obese' and 'overweight'.

This constant fuss about not using certain words or phrases, just reinforces the message that saying the right thing is more important than actually facing up to reality and dealing with a problem.


Once upon a time, schools used to be given lots of notice before Ofsted turned up so that they could expel all their really naughty kids and send the worst teachers away on a course somewhere. The remaining staff would worry themselves to death preparing ridiculous lessons which impressed the inspectors immensely and were a complete waste of the pupils' time. The caretaker would be told to paint everything in sight, pick up all the litter and put out some nice plants in pots. This pantomime suited everyone very well.

Then the system was changed so that schools were only given a couple of days warning. There would be a frenzied panic whilst everyone frantically covered their classroom walls with examples of the children's work, stayed up all night trying to get their books marked and delivered a wacky but pointless lesson on the big day.

Finally it was proposed that the inspectors just turn up unnanounced and see what really goes on. 

Obviously this idea was dismissed as being completely ridiculous after the unions complained and today it was announced that Ofsted will now be telling the Head one day in advance of their arrival.

If anyone doesn't like this new plan, then just be patient and it will change again before long.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Microwaving Bacteria

I might have known that somebody would email me this question:

'Can you kill bacteria in a microwave?'

Without bothering to do any research or carry out an experiment (what else would you expect from me?) I'd say 'yes'. The microwaves used are at the right frequency to make water molecules vibrate, all living things have water in them and don't like being heated up for long. As long as the oven has enough power, then after a while they will croak.

How long you need to keep bacteria in the machine, I couldn't tell you.


First three were Orange, HSBC and Scottish Power. Fourth was Laithwaites Wine. Interesting comments on how good First Direct are, considering that they're actually owned by HSBC!

ps can anyone confirm whether the rumour I keep hearing about schools not allowing pupils to bring in the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls for craft lessons is actually true or just an urban myth?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bits and Bobs

Sorry I've not posted for a bit. Busy, busy and all that. Here's a few random musings.

The BBC reports today that there were 87 000 incidents of racism recorded in schools between 2007 and 2011.
Firstly why can't they adopt a standard unit of recording data (eg per year) rather than try and impress us with a big number?
Secondly, we are absolutely obsessed with racism in schools. Any incident perceived by the victim or some random passer by to be in the slightest bit racist is duly recorded in a book. This of course leads to ridiculous situations where I call you 'carrot head' and you respond by calling me 'chocolate face'.

Only one of us will be in trouble here and it ain't me.

Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary has called for Comprehensive Schools to teach their kids how to speak to people both in interviews and in public. This is an excellent idea, which has been suggested many times before. The gulf between how state and private school pupils speak to an adult is enormous and we should do anything we can do to catch up. It would be far more useful than learning about myths in RE or political correctness in PSE.

The CBI (which speaks on behalf of businesses in the UK) has once again criticised the GCSE for not preparing pupils for future employment and propose just having an exam at 18 (which will be the school leaving age by 2015- this bombshell has fallen out of the news recently). They usually also have a story about an employee who takes on someone with five GCSEs and then has to teach them basic Maths and English. (Does this surprise anyone any more?)

They have a good point though, as schools have been failing miserably for two or three decades to turn out kids who are ready for work.

Finally, I phoned up four companies yesterday and three of them greeted me with an awful automated voice which invited me to select from some options. The voice then asked me to select from some more, speak my reference number (which they could not recognise) and then played me some music which I did not want to listen to, told me how important my call was and about the unusually high call volumes that they are always experiencing. After a few minutes I was put through to a human who also appeared to be automated.

She asked for my reference number again and then announced that she couldn't help me, as she could only read out the options given to her by the computer. As she was obviously flummoxed by anything unusual, I asked to be put through to her manager and she informed me that he would only say the same. Bravely resisting the temptation to get sidetracked and ask how she knew this, I begged her instead to give him the opportunity to do so and was promptly put on hold. Several minutes and three songs later I gave up and put the phone down.

When I phoned the fourth one, a cheerful bloke answered the phone, told me he didn't need any reference numbers as he could just look up my name and sorted out my non-standard request in less than a minute. He said that he would confirm what we had agreed by email straight away (And he did).

Feel free to suggest the identities of the first three and the final company.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Team GB Drug Cheats

Dwain Chambers and David Millar have been selected by Team GB to represent us at the London Olympics in a few weeks time. Both men chose to take banned performance enhancing drugs- blatantly cheating by any definition of the word.

When they were caught, they both initially denied any wrongdoing, but later expressed regret for their actions. There is no evidence however, that either would have stopped had they not been found out 

There has been cheating in the Olympics for decades and you can be assured that several athletes will be doing so in London. However, the selectors of Team GB had a golden opportunity to at least try and do something.

They did not have to pick either athlete- they could have issued a statement along the lines of:

Whatever the cost to us, even if it diminishes our medal count and we know perfectly well that other countries will send drug cheats to compete against us- we are going to take a stand and send out a clear message to our children who watch these Games and may grow up to be competitors themselves. We want to show them that we really do believe that cheating is wrong and we will not support those who put their own selfish personal gain in front of basic sportsmanship and honesty.

They could have said this, but sadly they didn't and it diminishes us as a result.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Post Office Savings Account

Last week I ventured back into the Dark Ages when I decided to close my Internet Savings Account with the Post Office because they were unable to give me a decent interest rate. (They offer a good rate to new customers but cannot transfer existing ones onto it for reasons that completely baffled me.)

So I phoned them up, went through all the security verification to prove who I was before being told that I needed to write to them in order to close the account, as they needed to compare my signature with the one they had on record. I protested that I was only asking them to transfer the funds into my nominated bank account (that they already had the details of), but soon discovered that I was wrestling with fog.

I gave up and sent them a letter. Yesterday I received a reply which asked me to send another copy of my signature because they did not after all, have the original one (that I used to open the account) on file.

I have duly complied with their request, but my brain hurts from puzzling over what exactly they intend to compare with what.

My next door neighbour, on the other hand, after being refused a loan for £5000 from his bank, went to "Lending Expert" for a loan and found them to be very helpful.

Laithwaites Wine once again proved their customer service second to none when they sent me a free delivery voucher to apologise for a trivial mistake on my account. Imagine that sort of service from your electricity supplier.

More Customer Service gripes and praises coming soon

Ofsted no-notice Inspections

The Government has now abandoned the idea that Ofsted should just turn up and see what really goes on in schools and will instead make them give advance warning of a visit. This should enable the school to put on a complete charade and pull the wool over their eyes. Advance notice also gives the teachers time to worry themselves to death whilst planning lessons that are nothing like the ones they would normally teach.

Thank God! The last thing I want is somebody else claiming to give you the inside line on what really goes on in schools today.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


When I read that a study for the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation had concluded that girls don't like PE, my first thought was-

I wonder if there is a Men's Sport and Fitness Foundation?

Of course there isn't, but there is a debate about the value and purpose of PE in schools going on.

Now this is something we can argue until the cows come home.(Which judging by the size of some of the kids and staff at my local school, happens each day at 3.30pm).

So what should the purpose of School PE actually be?

Should it try and encourage pupils to lead active healthy lifestyles when they become adults?
Should it try and give the kids experience of as many different sports as possible?
Is it about letting them experience Teamwork, obeying the referee and learning the value of competition?
Or should it simply be an opportunity for the bigger pupils to bully the smaller ones?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

No Shows and No Goes

It doesn't surprise me at all to hear that when offered jobs, seven people didn't even bother turning up on the first day. It just shows that they have paid attention in school, when we taught them over and over again that there are no consequences to their actions, that they are the most important people in the World and they can do whatever they want.

What does surprise me however is that Trunki, the company who make those brightly coloured suitcases that children can sit on and cause chaos at the airport, are bringing production back to Plymouth from China due to rising production costs over there combined with an increase in shipping costs due to the high price of oil.