Saturday, September 30, 2006

Don't Make Me Go Back In There Again, Please!

I've got some more radio interviews coming up over the next few weeks. To be honest, I find them quite difficult. You sit in a little office wearing a pair of enormous headphones and there's a microphone on the desk in front of you. All of a sudden you hear a voice in your ears saying "Can you hear me Frank?" Followed by the stomach churning "You're on after the next record!"

It's just like making an international phone call used to be. When you speak, everything goes dead, then you hear a ghostly echo of your own voice a split second later. It's very disconcerting and I find myself wanting to say "Hello? Hello? Are you still there?"

As it's live, you've got to try not to keep saying "er, um...dunno" or just trailing off. You can't pick up any of the visual clues which normally help keep a conversation flowing. I have a bad habit of fiddling with things if I'm nervous; which almost led to disaster on a previous interview when I accidently pulled out the microphone jack plug, causing a huge burst of static.

Two minutes after it's over, you think of all the clever and witty replies you could have said and finally you realise that you forgot to mention the book!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Radio Ga-Ga

If anyone listened to me wittering on Radio Manchester this morning, could you tell me if they managed to edit out the enormous popping noise when I absentmindedly flicked the microphone?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Letter to Alan Johnson (Education Secretary)

Sorry I've not been posting for a few days, I had a few problems with my modem which exceeded my meagre technical abilities. Hopefully all is now ok. I'm going to send the following letter once you've told me what you think:

Dear Mr Johnson

You’ve been sent a copy of my book, so has Tony. Neither of you has bothered to comment or reply. Let me give you a further example of what I am complaining about.

A good friend of mine has a Year 7 class with 42% having Special Needs. Several can barely read a sentence, others cannot listen for more than a few seconds without shouting out or making stupid noises. Many of the group cannot sit still, most have no idea how to follow simple instructions either verbal or written on the board, as they have never been made to do so in Primary School. In short, it is bedlam. The school has no effective discipline policy and no effective leaders.

In this same class is a girl who today asked a probing question about a topic that will not be covered for two more years. Her ability is way beyond the rest of the class. There are three others who are also well above average.

Today one of the loonies (my words not hers) stormed out of the room after assaulting another member of the class. This is not the first such incident.

This teacher is renowned as being excellent. She is honest enough to admit that she simply cannot effectively teach such a wide range of ability especially with the huge behaviour problems that are also present. She despairs at this situation (i.e. no discipline and no setting by ability) that is forced upon her and feels that the majority of pupils in the class are being let down. The school does not set in years 7 or 8 and the other classes are similar.

She explained to me that she felt a great sadness that she was simply unable to do her job and is considering moving to the Private Sector, where in her own words:

"At least I will be able to teach rather than just attempt crowd control, which is all I do here".

You are directly responsible for Education in Great Britain. Your Government has been in power for 9 years. Please tick whichever box below that you honestly believe corresponds best to its performance in this area:


If there is any doubt as to the authenticity of the above example I shall be pleased to provide you with the exact details. I would also be prepared to forward you over a hundred emails I have received (after obtaining the senders' permission) detailing similar cases.

Any chance of a reply either to my email or to this site?

Frank Chalk

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Alan Johnson

The Education Secretary Alan Johnson (just what exactly does he know about education?) has announced that he is 'seriously considering' raising the school leaving age from 16 to 18 as there are too many kids leaving school unable to read, write or do simple sums.

Unfortunately Ashley, Dwayne and Leroy could stay at school until they were drawing old age pensions and they would still be unable to master these skills. This is because they do not want to learn such boring things and we have absolutely no means of making them do so.

His other proposal is to have schools opening on Saturday mornings. I can just imagine how the teachers will scramble to get into school for an extra three hours of mayhem with Ryan and Shane.

Forget these whacky ideas Alan. All we need is the power to discipline Nathan, Shazney and their awful parents.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Inspector Gadget

The excellent Police blogger 'Inspector Gadget' who can be relied upon to keep us informed as to why our streets are not safe at night (or during the day in many cases) has been 'outed.'

Either somebody has figured out who he is from a posting or more worryingly for the rest of us, his computer has been hacked into. He is being interviewed 'informally' on Tuesday.

Currently, a handful of blogs in the UK are exposing serious flaws in the Police, the NHS and State Education. They are hitting a raw nerve with those higher up who have always had the opportunity to say something or more importantly; actually do something, but have simply kept quiet and followed the official line. These people would much rather the reality was kept safely hidden away.

Inspector Gadget is the first to be found out and it will be very interesting to see what the outcome is.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

After School Clubs

The Government wants all schools to offer activities between 8 am and 6pm by 2010. (Presumably they assume they will still be in power then)

The main objections seem to be:

1) Children spending too much time at school/ missing out on home life.

2) Who is going to do the supervising and plan the activities? How much will they be paid? Will teachers be bullied into doing them?

3) Where's the money?

My opinion on these points is as follows:

1) This argument assumes that all kids have an idyllic after school life of climbing trees, building dens in the woods or reading and making things out of meccano.

Unfortunately, the after school reality for many kids involves climbing through other people's windows and building drugs dens in the woods; reading their Asbos and making decommissioned pistols fire again. It would be a very good idea to provide something exciting and legal for them to do after school. It will all hinge on what's offered, which brings us to the second point.

2) Teachers will want to be paid at their normal rate for doing these clubs and quite right too. Qualified instructors for interesting activities are also expensive, so what's left? Cover supervisors? Teaching Assistants? If we can't offer the kids something exciting then they won't come. Anyone who lets themselves be bullied into helping out needs to join us vertebrates.

3) Let's do some rough sums. 8 am till 6pm is roughly 3 and a half hours extra per day. Cost of employing someone is at least 50% above their pay, so lets say £15 per hour which makes about £50 per day for each person. 15 million kids need at least 500 000 staff so that gives us a wage bill of £25 million per day for 200 shool days per year = 5 billion quid.

The Government has budgeted £600 million between now an 2010 with no details of what happens after that. Oh dear... The kids will have to pay then, (and quite a bit too) which will be ok for some but will definitely stop those who would benefit most from going (their parents would rather invest the money in strong lager)

So to sum up- great idea; where's the details of how it works?

Hang on haven't we been here before?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Other Work Blogs

There are three areas of our society that cause great concern for many people at the moment

Law and Order

If you are interested in these topics, then you can spend your money on a newspaper and read articles by journalists with no experience of the above professions and absolutely no guarantee that what they have vaguely researched (or overheard in the pub) bears the slightest resemblance to the truth. If you do not agree with what you read then you can write a letter to the paper and never hear any more.

Alternatively you can check out the views of those who have worked in these areas and equally importantly, you can comment on our posts and tell us if you think we are talking rubbish.

Law and Order is a thing of the past in many parts of the UK and who better than PC David Copperfield to bring us news of the latest plans to punish the law abiding citizens whilst ensuring that criminals are kept safe on the streets.

Healthcare is the third great fiasco and Dr Crippen can be relied on to keep us up to date with the latest medical madness. Do email him if you are feeling at all unwell, or if you have had too much to drink and require an ambulance to take you home.

I like to think of us standing together, defending the truth against those who would like to keep it hidden. We are like the three pronged trident carried by that Greek God who lived under the sea (Spongebob I think he was called)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Just a quick apology to all those who've emailed me with questions , comments etc. and haven't yet had an answer. Basically my inbox is groaning under the weight of all the replies I've had to a survey I started a while ago here:

I didn't expect such an enthusiastic response but it obviously struck a nerve and I'm just finishing correlating all the info. I'm closing it now and will let you know some results in a few days time.

Many thanks to all those who took the time to reply.

Three Reasons We Let The Pupils Down

There are three reasons why our Comprehensive System is in such a mess.
1) Discipline has become a naughty word in schools.
2) We don't always put children in groups of similar ability
3) The National Curriculum

Let's look at each one in turn


I was once advised by my Head of Department to use a different ink colour than red to mark the kids' books, as it was 'less confrontational'

This sums up our problems far more neatly than I could ever manage.

We have forgotten that as teachers that we are supposed to be in charge, rather than the pupils. Making lessons entertaining has become more important than making them sit still and listen. Punishing badly behaved pupils has been made more and more difficult, as available sanctions have diminished and those higher up the school (and in the Local Education Authority) become less and less willing to back up teachers who try to enforce those that we have left.

'The Tail Wags The Dog' ie the pupils control the school.

Oh I've just remembered- in the red ink example above she'd actually just finished telling me off for using the word (in our department meeting) 'kids' rather than 'Learners' or 'Students'

Mixed Ability Teaching

Let's take the example of two Year 7 kids, Mark and Kylie. Mark can barely read or write and certainly cannot understand anything that is being taught to him. Kylie is highly intelligent. The school is attempting to destroy both of their futures by putting them in the same class. In a few months, Mark will have started to cause trouble because he cannot do any of the work and feels left out. Kylie on the other hand is bored senseless with the work she regards as trivial and is starting to look for her own distractions also.

Mark knows perfectly well that he is not as good at lessons as the rest of his group. The conventional argument (which was preached in Teacher Training) that putting him in a lower set somehow stigmatises him does not make any sense. In a group of his peers he would obviously not stand out.

Teachers can teach effectively to a narrow range of abilities. (It is taboo to say this however) If the ability range is too wide then we simply do not manage.

The National Curriculum

This has resulted in us having to attempt to teach Leon French, when he can barely read or write in English.

However, this is the one area that I am slightly optimistic about. If recent proposals come to anything (which is a mighty 'if') then worthwhile, properly structured vocational courses, which lead to a qualification can be offered to those who are simply not academic. This would be so much better for them than making them plod unsuccessfully through the same work as those with an aptitude for it. I can only hope that we make some progress in this direction.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blair and Johnson

We've now sold around 2000 copies of It's Your Time You're Wasting, so I'd like to say thanks to all those of you who've bought one.

For those of you who haven't, I should add that none of the material from this blog was used in the book. It's all new stuff so click on the link and buy a copy now!

Copies were sent to both Tony Blair and the Minister for Education, Alan Johnson for their comments, but they never replied. I can't think why we imagined they would; after all it's only about 'education, education, education' so why would they be interested in that?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Healthy Eating Again

Rawmarsh School in South Yorkshire decided to go in for healthy eating in its canteen, but didn't bargain with Mrs Walker and Mrs Critchlow (pictured holding her letters of support from local fast food outlets)

They are busy taking orders from the kids each day at morning break for pies, fish and chips, sandwiches, baked potatoes, burgers and fizzy drinks which they deliver at lunchtime by pushing them through the school railings. I swear I'm not making this up.

Before we rush to condemn them however (and you can rest assured that I'm sorely tempted to), we should consider the following points:

1) They claim (and I will find out if this is true) that the food in the canteen is absolute rubbish and that the school is charging almost twice as much for food such as baked potatoes as local takeaways do.

2) The sight of these two at the school gates would certainly put me off my lunch.

Use Your Head, Teach

In order to recruit more teachers the TDA has commissioned a set of adverts, based around the motto:

'Use Your Head, Teach'

You may have seen some of them in newspapers and on posters up and down the country. I'm not convinced about this one however.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Billions Spent on Schools

Something that's been on my mind since yesterday's post:

Could someone from the Government tell us just what was the point in spending billions on high tech tools when we don't even have the tools to make the kids sit still?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's in the News?

Billions spent yet no real improvement in our schools. I reckon most of it has been spent on new forms to fill in.

The kids still share textbooks, discipline has gone out of the window, lessons have become crowd control. Funnily enough, we struggle to attract decent graduates. There is no shortage of computers however.

Drugs education in schools isn't working. Well stone the crows, who would have thought that if you get a load of trendy yoof workers and well meaning teachers to tell the pupils about drugs it will do no good at all.

The only people the kids respect are footballers and 'D' list celebrities. These should be all be rounded up, threatened with disgusting revealations about their private lives and sent round schools to dish out the message that drugs are for losers. A few horror posters showing the state of crack addicts and heroin users wouldn't be a bad idea either.

ps. I got an email today saying that I'd been censored on the Parents Forum! Not sure what the details are yet, but you can check out the thread here

They don't like me much!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New School Rating System

Good news! Ofsted Inspections are to be abolished and one inspector will simply turn up at random and rate schools according to the formula below:

School Rating = a*b*c*d/e*f*g*h*i*j*k


a= No. of yr 11 pupils attempting to dress as Goths (out of first 30 names on alphabetical Year List)
b= No. of boys with long hair in above sample
c= Percentage of teachers in attendance on day of visit
d= No. of ties worn by first ten male staff seen.
e= No. of Yr 11 pupils with a skinhead in sample used to calculate 'a'
f= No. of pupils called Ashley, Shane or Liam in sample used to calculate 'a' (If this exceeds 5 then school will be awarded 'Failing School' status immediately.)
g= No. of parents visiting the school between 2 and 3pm (ie with nothing better to do)
h= Total No. of tatoos, piercings and miscellaneous ironmongery visible on these parents
i= No. of football shirts worn by the above parental sample
j= No. of pieces of litter visible from main entrance to school (Average of result at 9 am and 1:55pm)
k= Items of grafitti found in a textbook (Average of 5 randomly selected from different classrooms)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Naseem Hamed

Wondered why I'd not had any comments on this but then discovered I'd forgotten to post it. Oh well, I've missed the boat but it's still worth a mention.

Naseem Hamed was released from prison last week after serving less than four months of his 15 month sentence. Am I the only one who thinks that if you get a 15 month sentence then you should be in prison for- let me think about this... 15 months. If you are well behaved in jail then you should come out after; I know... 15 months. If you have been naughty whilst in jail then you should stay until you do start to behave.

Anthony Burgin, who's car was was hit at 90 mph by Hamed is still a real mess. He suffered multiple broken bones and his wife was also seriously injured. They were hit whist Hamed was attempting to overtake another car- the driver of which, described the manouvre as 'suicidal'

Imagine how Mr and Mrs Burgin must have felt seeing the news coverage of the stretch limo arriving to pick up Hamed on his release.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


'If' by Rudyard Kipling was written in 1895 and 100 years later, was voted Britain's best loved poem in a BBC poll. It emphasises the unfashionable virtues of fortitude, stoicism and quiet determination so I've reproduced it here:

If you can face your Head when all about you,
Are staring at their feet to avoid your eye
If you can trust yourself when all of SMT doubt you,
And instead believe in Chesney’s obvious lie
If you can go along with the sad illusion;
That Wayne’s three day exclusion will be enough
To turn around five years of bad behaviour,
And lately getting Shazney up the duff.

If you can hear- and yet pay no attention
To the sound of Tamsin’s mother on the phone.
Complaining loudly at her daughters detention,
Just move the phone away so she can drone
If you can face a ninety minute lesson,
In the company of Nathan, Brett and Wayne;
If you can read yet take in not one morsel
Of the idiotic scribblings by Dwayne

If you can make one heap of Ashley’s Final Warnings,
When he says he really doesn’t give a toss
And find that nothing can be done about him,
As you have an ineffective boss.
If you can smile- whilst screaming deep within;
At the sight of Drama cover on the board
And the Supply teacher has left your room unlocked,
To be invaded by the screaming horde

If you can stifle yawns of boredom,
As England’s dullest man takes Training Day
If you can deal with stress and see its unimportance;
And you would rather battle on than stay away
If you can watch the good kids working,
Ignoring Leon with his finger in his ear
If you can snatch away his IPod,
Then face his imbecilic father without fear

If neither Coyne nor Ashley, nor Billie-Jo,
Can raise your pulse or blood pressure one jot
If you can grin on seeing that your timetable,
Contains classes you would wish that it did not
Meetings that drag with every passing minute;
As you fight the urge to leap to your feet and run
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s innit,
And-which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Healthy Eating

I called into my local Fish and Chip shop last night and found the proprietor in a very upbeat mood. When I remarked on this, he explained that he was celebrating the Government's new initiative on healthy eating in schools.

Somewhat puzzled, I listened to him explain that the Comprehensive a few hundred metres from his door has got rid of their vending machine and has taken chips off the canteen menu.

He spotted an opportunity straight away and installed a gigantic new fridge bursting with cans and bottles and has invested in a new double sized deep fat fryer!

He has had to take on an assistant to cope with the extra lunchtime demand and even admitted that to his shame, a few months ago he had gone on a march organised by local parents to protest at the quality of school dinners.

I laughed all the way home.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

You want to go on holiday? You've only just come back...

As the Government wishes to crack down on parents taking their children on holidays during term time, most LEAs instruct schools not to approve requests for holiday absences during the first two weeks of the Autumn term.

The Head therefore has a dilemma.

If they follow these guidelines and refuse permission, then the parents ignore this and the school's unauthorised absence figures go up (which looks bad on the Annual Report) Parents may enjoy their holiday knowing full well that the LEA will not take any action against them.

If they ignore the guidelines as most Heads do and authorise the absence then it simply encourages more parents to do the same.

All in all, a tremendous example of the popular idea that having a rule and writing it down clearly is all that is needed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Junk Mail

I've just found out that whilst I was away the Royal Mail have decided to start delivering us all a mountain of junk mail.

There are two solutions to this

1) There is probably some number you can ring and waste time speaking to one of my ex pupils who will annoy you with their imbecility and then pass on your details to every direct mailing company in the World.

2) Simply collect it until you have a good sized pile and do some junk mailing of your own. If you are anything like me, shoving it all through the letterbox of your local sorting office once a week will give you no end of quiet satisfaction.


One thing I love doing whilst on holiday is spotting souvenirs that have no connection whatsoever with the town they are in. This year's tally include the following:

A statue of a Red Indian on his horse, brandishing an axe. (Courmayeur, Italy)

A model of a lighthouse, with a proper flashing light (also in Courmayeur, at least 250 miles from the Sea)

A beautufully made, balsa wood giraffe. (Lake Maggiore, Italy.)

Do let me know if you think you can beat any of these.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book In Shops Today

"It's Your Time You're Wasting" is in the bookshops today, so rush out and buy two or three.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Letter to Parents: A New Term

Dear Parent/ Guardian/ Wastrel,

I have today been informed by the Chief Constable of Downtown that 1651 cases of arson, mindless vandalism, theft, muggings and shoplifting have been carried out by our students over the summer holidays. He has asked me to pass on his thanks for your help and constant vigilance, which have clearly paid dividends in reducing this figure from last year.

Soon it will be 'Back to School' time for those of you who bother to ensure that your children regularly attend. Please note that the new term begins on Tuesday 5th September, so try not to drink too much on the Monday night, in order to ensure that your child at least makes an attempt to attend school. We do not wish to hear any lame excuses such as “I didn’t know what day it was.” We are well aware of this already.

Monday will be a Staff Training Day. The SMT will patronise the Staff; boring them into a state of utter depression which will prepare them perfectly for the Autumn Term. There is no need to send us your wayward child on this day as we have no desire to see them for one hour more than the Law demands. Also there is no need for your child to bring their ASBO into school this term as a badge of honour; keep it at home in a safe place next to your own.

At the end of last term, in the interests of promoting fair competition we sent all parents an application form to help your child get into one of our two rival schools; Dimstudents Comprehensive and St. Lucifer’s Academy. The forms have already been filled out for you as some of the words are quite long. Please let us know if your application has been successful as soon as you can be bothered to get out of bed.

We would like to welcome a new member of staff Mrs. Blakewell; who previously worked as chief dog trainer at Scagton Kennels. We expect her to fit in marvellously at St. Thickchilds as long as she is prepared to lower her standards and expectations sufficiently.

A new School Year is a great opportunity to make a new start. Why not have your offspring adopted by some nice couple desperate for the chance to give a child a good start in life? Phone the school for more information as soon as you can tear yourself away from daytime television.

A final note: if your child has been taken away by Social Services or sent to a detention centre over the summer, please let us know so that we can find a better pupil to fill their place. If you happen to know of any other feral children, perhaps part of the interconnected web of chaos that you refer to as your ‘family’; who would like a place at St. Thickchilds, then please do not phone or come in to tell us.

With thanks to Mc Guigans Off Licence for their continued sponsorship and support of the school.

Yours Faithfully

Mr. Morris
Head Teacher