Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gadget in the Telegraph

Have a read of Inspector Gadget's article in the Telegraph about the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington. As usual he hits the nail squarely on the head with regard to where the problems really lie.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I've written about Coursework before- how it used to be a complete farce when the pupils did it at home. (Those with good parents got them to help, or pay me to do it; whilst those whose parents wore gold chains and football shirts simply lost it)

No doubt entirely due to my rantings, the system was changed so that Coursework is now done in school under something like exam style conditions. This has been a big improvement and generally results in work being handed in that has mainly been done by the kids themselves.

So far, so good. Now their teacher marks it.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say. Their own teacher actually marks their exam work? Oh yes.

My friend Ernie is a strict marker. If it's wrong then it gets marked wrong. Unfortunately this results in his groups getting lower Coursework marks than the others, which reflects badly on him. His protests that the other teachers mark far too softly have fallen on deaf ears, as the marking guidelines are open to a huge range of interpretation because the questions themselves are often vague. Last week he showed me half a dozen examples of answers where the pupil clearly had no idea what is going on, but they had been given almost full marks by others in his department. It was very sad to see.

"There's only one thing for it!" he declared sagely. "I need to sort myself out and start marking these wrong answers right. That's the way forward"

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Over a year ago, I abandoned the useless monolith that is BT and bought a Dongle from Orange so that I could continue to waste my time on the Internet. It works extremely well.

Yesterday however, I got my comeuppance. In a last ditch bid to join the Modern World, I attempted to sell my first item on Ebay. After spending an hour working my way through the advert, taking a photo and uploading it; I was informed that I wouldn't be able to go any further because I did not have a landline.

I have a bank account, a credit card, mortgage, driving licence, and passport (What a rip off they are now- seventy odd quid and half the people I saw last month at Luton airport smugly joining the special queue couldn't even get them to scan.) However because I lack a plug in telephone, the tired old rustbucket that once carried us proudly around the country must remain gently decaying on my drive.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Very Impressive

In a world of ever increasing regulation and "can't do that" culture in schools, it's good to see two kids showing a huge amount of ingenuity, resourcefulness and just $150 to take photographs of the Earth from a height of 17 miles (about three times higher than a commercial airliner flies at)

Here's the link to the newspaper article and here is their own website

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For God's Sake Even I Can Do This

Try this little test:

Imagine that you are blindfolded and there is a bag in front of you containing a large number of five different types of sweet. How many must you take out of the bag to be certain of having chosen three of the same type?

Think about it for a few minutes, it's not that hard.

Now if you got the right answer, phone up your local Primary School and offer to teach the staff.

(The answer's in this article)

Apparently only one in five new British Primary School Teachers can solve this problem, which according to their spokesperson; means that 75% can't.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Last week's news (what else would you expect from me?) included a survey claiming that teachers often looked at their class lists for the new year and made judgements on what the pupils would be like, purely on the basis of their first name.

The article was clearly inspired by my award winning game Top Set, Bottom Set. What really shocks me though, is that only 49% admitted to judging by name, indicating a worrying decline in the IQ of new teachers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Up and down the Country, tens of thousands of students will be hugely excited at the prospect of starting University next week. For many it will be nothing less than the start of a new life.

But for an ever increasing number who are not particularly academic, it will be the worst decision they ever make.

They will either leave after three years with a £25 000 overdraft and a Mickey Mouse Degree, which offers little more than a job in a call centre; or drop out after finding that the course they were recommended is actually way beyond their ability. These young people will quite rightly feel a great anger towards their schools and former teachers for never explaining these possibilities to them. Instead they were constantly praised and given A and B grades in exams which they could not have even passed 25 years ago.

I've said it a dozen times on this blog and in my book; University should have remained for the top few percent of the academic spectrum. That way we could have avoided the dumbing down and consequent reduction in value of so many degrees along with the introduction of all the comical ones, which bring further ridicule to a once highly regarded qualification. (I don't even need to list them anymore-just make up a few names that sound much too ridiculous to be genuine, add the word "Studies" then use Google to find half a dozen places that proudly offer them)

With far less students, we could easily afford to pay for Course Fees and give them a decent grant to live on. Latest Monday Books Author, trumpeter of all things positive about Britain and Apprentice Rachman; Steve Pope might not approve, but even he cheerfully admits that his tenants are getting dimmer than the new energy efficient lightbulbs he has to change for them.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Maths Ability Compared with The 70s

"According to a recent survey" which is a phrase I usually assume means "This may or may not be true"; standards in Maths are no better than they were in 1976 despite the fact that 55% pass GCSE compared with 23% who passed the O Level then.

My own completely non-scientific opinion based simply on my experience as both a pupil and teacher, is that ability in basic Maths has declined considerably.

The Raleigh Chopper was also a lot cooler than the bikes you see youngsters riding today.

Cheer Up!

If you're feeling down about the new school term after being bombarded by new initiatives filled with phrases that sound like gibberish; then cheer up, because at least you aren't a teacher in South Africa. Last time I was there, the Asian taxi driver who was taking me to the Airport pointed out two Bars opposite each other on a street in Johannesburg and commented:

"10 years ago under Apartheid, I couldn't go into the one on the left because it was Whites Only"

"Now I can't go into either, because I'd get beaten up by the Black gangs that run them both."

Thursday, September 03, 2009


If you are at all into mountainbiking, have a look at this video of Lance's recent win in the Leadville 100 in Colorado just a few weeks after the Tour de France.

Now tell me that you don't want to do it next year...

Girls, Boys and Bullying

Girls currently get better GCSE results than boys, which is undoubtedly down to the fact that they are more likely to be drunk. (As is anyone who thinks that GCSE's haven't been dumbed down to become a joke qualification nowadays)

The table halfway down this article also shows the clear link between enjoying yourself at School (Turkey) and bullying (Turkey again)

Raining Training

Mrs C went back to school yesterday for the celebration of nonsense otherwise known as Training Day. A deluge of new ideas, strategies and plans was breathlessly announced by the Senior Leadership Team (go on-try and say those three words with a straight face) which varied from the merely unworkable (kids with ADHD go straight to the front of the canteen queue) to the downright bizarre. (Wearing a different coloured hat, depending on something or other)

One that didn't make the list was:

"Make the kids sit quietly in neat rows and teach them something useful"


Am now back in the UK after a couple of weeks cycling round Slovenia (I wasn't quite sure where it was either until the plane landed) and very nice it was too, thank you for asking.

The Northern bit where we went is full of hills, forests and rivers- just like Austria but half the price. The natives are friendly and the language pretty incomprehensible: "Dwa Lashko Prosim! " usually causes a couple of beers to arrive and the rest is an amusing excercise in sign language. It's been a long time since I've stared at a restaurant menu and not understood a single word, with the result that two of us ordered the cover charge with an extra set of cutlery.

Anyway, the weather was lovely (in stark contrast with this morning's view from my bedroom window which looks like the end of the World) and my bike survived another plane journey, much to my astonishment.