Monday, March 16, 2009

In Like Flynn

Like David Flinn, I once had three girlfriends; but unlike him, it wasn't their demise that caused me problems. When they all happened to meet, following a series of extremely unfortunate coincidences; it was my own death that looked like being the most likely outcome.

Meanwhile, Alex Dolan teacher and journalist might soon be Alex Dolan, Journalist. She is in trouble with the General Teaching Council for exposing the fiasco that passes for education in many schools. She carried a hidden camera and filmed a few lessons for a Channel 4 Programme at the same time that I was writing my book. (I kept my real name secret because I didn't fancy my chances of paying my mortgage as Frank Chalk, Author.)

Another teacher (Angela Mason) did a similar thing for Channel Five and believe it or not, was actually condemmed by the teachers' own Union, the NUT. She was also suspended for a year by the GTC. So there you have it; keep quiet and keep your job.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teacher Training

I spent a year training to be a teacher in the late 1980s. Apart from a couple of months spent teaching in a school, the whole thing was an utter waste of time which I enjoyed immensely; as it was very easy and enabled me to be a student for another year, but with more money. Also, the girls were better looking than on my Degree Course.

To be honest, teaching is one of those jobs that you can either do or you can't. If the course had been three weeks long and simply involved following a few teachers and getting some useful tips, then I can't honestly say that I would have been any better or worse at the end than I was after the best part of a year sleeping through endless waffle on educational theory, didactic somethingorother, multicultural lesson plans etc. Oh and copying; sorry- writing a few essays, which of course simply regurgitated what our lecturers had said. (Actually, I could usually only speculate on what they might have said)

I recently spoke to someone who had just finished their PGCE Year enthusing about how beneficial it had been. After hearing a bit more, I realised that it sounded just like my course was 20 years ago but with new buzzwords!

Now the Government is proposing to cut the course down to 6 months and the Teaching Unions say that this is a Bad Thing.

Monday, March 09, 2009


The unarguable fact that the gap between Comprehensive and Private Education has widened in the last ten years makes the slogan 'Education, Education, Education' seem very hollow indeed.

Parents, pupils and schools all play a part in this; but not to worry, the Department for Children, Schools and Families have decided that:

"Our policies are working and the gap between rich and poor is closing."

You just can't respond to that.

Up in the morning's no for me...

Dr Paul Kelley, Head of Monkseaton High School has decided that the best way to help teenagers prepare for a successful career is to allow them to lie in bed for another couple of hours each day.

Whilst his announcement was no doubt applauded by Britain's youth, alarm bells will have begun to ring in wiser heads on hearing the following logic:

Early Starts = Creation of Teenage Zombies
Therefore school should start later!

Instead of:

Early Starts = Creation of Teenage Zombies
Therefore tell the parents not to allow them to stay up so late!

The bells will have become deafening by the end of the second paragraph where we hear the dreaded words: 'Research shows' and 'profound impact'

How did we ever manage in the past?

He saves the best for last however with the revelation that pupils scored 90% in a GCSE Science Exam despite never having studied the subject. This is because GCSE Science has become an utter farce. (My dog has complained about the 'C' Grade that he was awarded.) The only sensible suggeststion is that kids need frequent bouts of exercise.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Maths and B+Q

Maths teachers up and down the Land are to be sent a little booklet showing them how to teach their subject. Apparently Ofsted, the Schools Inspectors reckon that the kids are just being taught to pass the exams.

This is of course absolutely true and has always been the case, whether it was for the 11+, the 'O' Level or whatever. For the vast majority of people, Maths just isn't very interesting and 99% of the population will never need to do any algebra or solve a quadratic equation after they leave school.

The fact is, most of them can't do the things that might be of some use. For example if are at B+Q and you want some skirting board which comes in 3 metre lengths and your room is 17 feet by 13, then a grasp of mental arithmetic and estimation might well save you an extra journey (and if I had to give one benefit of mathematics it would be avoiding a trip to B+Q)

My 60 year old handyman can do this easily, (and he left school at 15) but if you ask a selection of school leavers, most will look around helplessly until you provide a calculator which will enable them to get the wrong answer.

Try asking "what's 20% off £15?" for a similar response.

Throughout my teaching 'career' (don't laugh) pupils would ask me "why do we have to know this?" and wave a page of their textbook at me. If nothing else, I was always honest and would reply:

"So that you get a certificate which might help you get a better job, or allow you to learn more things"

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Going, Going, Gone!

Every school I ever worked in had at least one dimwit in the Management Team. They were always easy to identify; just let them speak one sentence and they give themselves away.

However poor old Rachel from Pennsylvania has raised the bar by accidentally selling one of her mobile classrooms on Ebay for a dollar. Does she remind you of anyone from your place?

Andy Drzewiecki

If Andy Drzewiecki (who represented us at the Moscow Olympics in 1980 as a weightlifter in the over 105 Kg category) told me to go to the Heads office; you can rest assured that I would be out of the room faster than a falling barbell, without even a parting shout of "You never won a medal!"

Unfortunately the pupil that he did send to the Head decided to put in a complaint against him.

Now ask me, did Mr D receive the support of the Head and the Local Education Authority? No, don't be silly. He was hung out to dry.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bathroom Cabernet

Rather than hand over my hard earned money to Tescos in exchange for a bottle of Blue Nun when Mrs C and I were invited out to dinner last Friday; I just walked round to my local hospital with a screwdriver and left with a bottle of Vintage 2006 Handwash Gel.

Surely it would be far more effective simply to make everyone take off their shoes before coming in and tramping round the wards. No doubt this would have the added bonus of offending a few people.

Barry Sheerman

Well done to Barry Sheerman for bringing up the awful situation many teachers face when they are accused of doing something wrong by a pupil (or sometimes, sadly by another teacher or classroom assistant). In the vast majority of cases, the accusation is trivial and has been made up by a wretch looking for revenge on a teacher who has confiscated their mobile phone, given them a detention or thrown them out of the classroom for being a pain. There's an article here

In every case I ever saw, it could all have been sorted out in less than an hour if all parties involved had been immediately interviewed by the Head. If a child is making false accusations then they need a severe punishment and if it looks like the teacher actually did something seriously wrong then the police could be involved.

What actually happens is that the unfortunate teacher gets suspended whilst a tediously slow 'investigation' is carried out. Months later when the pupil is found to be lying there is no comeback on them, so they cheerfully do it again.

(Incidentally it's not uncommon for pupils who have worked out how the system operates, to threaten to make a complaint against a teacher, when for example you attempt to remove their MP3 player. It' a very effective move)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Other Blogs

Winston Smith works in Social Services, but I can't help but worry that his days are numbered. He seems unable to spout politically correct nonsense and talks far too much plain common sense. I'd start looking for another job if I were him...

EggsBaconChipsandBeans is a blog dedicated to researching the Great British Breakfast. You just know that anyone who can describe a portion of chips as 'looking like salmon leaping over rocks to dive into the beans' or display his favourite condiment photograph; just has to be a good bloke.

Bob the Taxi Driver will entertain you with tales of the characters he gets in his cab, from the righteous to the wretched.

Biased BBC explodes the myth that the BBC is even slightly impartial. (In case you hadn't realised that several years ago)

The excellent Bad Science shows up the astonishing number of basic errors in both Science and Maths that can be found in every newspaper. It is also an excellent debunker of well marketed traps for the foolish such as homeopathy.

I have never found any of these in the lists of Top 100 Blogs that are sometimes published in the Sunday Papers, presumably because they don't say what mainstream journalists and their editors think that you should hear.