Saturday, October 31, 2009


Sorry about the lack of posts, I've been away for the last week and have just returned in time for the annual festival of Licensed Begging, otherwise known as Halloween.

I have just been reprimanded on my doorstep by an anxious parent, because my ill behaved dog escaped my clutches, chased their child and apparently "frightened 'im! " I thought the whole idea of Halloween was to be frightened, but maybe I'm behind the times. Mrs C apologised for my grumpiness and gave them some sweets.

I had to laugh at one little boy, who had clearly misunderstood the nature of the event and had come dressed as Guy Fawkes. I gave him a carrot; kids eat too many sweets nowadays.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cambridge Primary Review

Now in my early 40s, I started primary school in September at the age of 4, shortly before my 5th birthday. Those with birthdays after Christmas started four months later in January. I can only remember vague details; a large train set, playing with building blocks, lining up outside the classroom and sitting quietly whilst listening to our teacher.

I don't remember anybody being traumatised by this, or 'not being ready for formal teaching'. I do remember that we all learnt to read, write and do simple sums. I can remember landmarks such as learning my five times table a couple of years later and doing hundreds of addition and subtraction sums from a large textbook. I think that we learnt most processes like this; hardwiring methods into our brains by repetition, which is probably why I can pick up a pen and do a long division sum without thinking today, despite not having done so for decades.

My parents probably gave me a head start as did many others. I don't recall ever seeing any of the examples frequently quoted by experts of children who cannot line up, sit still, or learn to hold a pencil without throwing it on the floor. We all learnt to do these things simply because the teacher told us to, and any mucking about was discouraged by a slap on the legs.

There is much debate at the moment about the Cambridge Primary Review, whose 600 page report calls for a raising of the age that children start school and a delaying of what they call 'formal learning' (and I would just call 'teaching') along with the abolition of SATS (to avoid 'teaching just to pass the test') and a broadening of the curriculum. (There is a constant battle between those who want to concentrate on the '3 Rs' and those who want to teach more broadly) The report claims that in other countries, children start later but apparently overtake us by age 11. Maybe other countries still slap them on the legs if they don't sit still.

You can read more learned opinions about it here or here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BMy Charity

I'm always getting emails from people raising money for charity, usually with a link to JustGiving, which enables you to give money online very easily.

Being the nasty cynical type, I always wonder where the money actually goes; so I wasn't too surprised to see that JustGiving takes 5% of your donation which helped pay their Chief Executive Zarine Kharas £170 000 last year.

A bit of searching about turned up BMyCharity who do exactly the same thing, but don't charge any commission; instead they appear to make their money through sponsorship and advertising (And I don't know what their boss earns either)

I don't have any connection to either of these two sites, so comments from anyone who has would be interesting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Terry Leahy

Terry Leahy has 280 000 employees and whatever we might think of Tesco, he certainly isn't daft. He's not alone in his condemnation of State Education either; the CBI found that over half of the employers they surveyed, said that the basic literacy and numeracy of school leavers was unsatisfactory.

Mind you, we know it can't be true; their GCSE results are better than ever...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Law and Order

Here's two examples of recent incidents which say a lot about the state of Law and Order in this Country.

In the first, two men take the Law into their own hands with the result that a couple of yobs receive a well deserved beating. (I love the way the man in the black dress carefully retrieves his handbag after delivering such a great punch). In the second, a family is driven up the wall after they do the correct thing and call the Police after their car is vandalised.

The motto: I'll leave it to you to decide...

MP's Expenses Fiddles

As the row about MPs Expenses starts up again, I do wonder if I'm the only one who doesn't understand the following:

If I were to 'accidentally' claim the full cost of a Buy to Let Mortgage on my Tax Return and then get found out, I wouldn't just be able to say to the Inland Revenue; "Oh sorry about that, I made a mistake because I didn't understand the rules; I'll pay it back"

No, they would say; "OK Mr Chalk and by the way we are fining you the same amount again as it is your responsibility to know the rules."

If I were an officer in the Armed Forces and was discovered to be claiming for something that I was not entitled to, I would be lucky to keep my position. Excuses involving the phrase; "I didn't realise" would simply not be accepted. Once again, it is considered the claimants responsibility to check what they allowed to claim for and if there is any doubt; not to do so.

Why are MPs considered to be above such sanctions? They didn't admit to wrongdoing, they were caught and then confessed to 'errors' and 'mistakes' without any real fear of punishment. Incredibly, some even tried to make a virtue of paying their stolen money back. Since when has paying back what you have dishonestly taken, been considered a punishment? Imagine a judge who said "OK Mr Scrote, just pay back the £50 you nicked from Mrs Miggins and we'll say no more about it."

The first leader to announce that they will unconditionally sack every one of their MPs found to have been wrongly claiming expenses, can have my vote next year. (ie I'll probably save myself a trip to the nearest Primary School)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Xmas Time

I have just seen my first advert for something to do with Christmas. It has caused me much distress.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Jock, Polack, Wop, Yank, Cockney, Limey, Paki, Mick, Spic, Zipper Head, Eskimo, Geordie, Honky, Taff, Chink, Frog, Gypo, Aye Tye, Nigger, Scouser, Kraut, Sand Wog etc etc.

All of these are slang names for people from different parts of the World. I'm sure there are hundreds of others. The only difference between them is that some earn you more compensation than others.

I just wish I'd thought about the possibilities for financial enrichment before I became Self Employed.

Barnsley Chop

Spare a thought for the poor parents of Barnsley, who aren't even allowed a quiet drink to calm their nerves in preparation for the return of their dreadful offspring.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Another Gem of an Idea

I can remember being told on Teacher Training over 20 years ago about the amazing idea of sitting bright pupils next to dim ones so that the clever ones could help the unclever ones. (I think they were probably described as 'less highly achieving children' or whatever the fashionable term was back then.)

I can also remember foolishly suggesting that we could take it one stage further; pair off the pupils into bright and thick, then just go home and leave them to it.

Although my comment raised a few hastily smothered giggles, the bearded blatherer delivering the lecture was not amused. We must embrace new techniques and look to more modern methods blah...

I eventually nodded off, as I did in virtually every PGCE lecture and thought no more about it until last week when a friend told me that he had been in a 'Best Practice Session' (Note: Chalk's 9th Law states that the importance of something is always inversely proportional to how important its title makes it sound). He had been forced to sit for half an hour listening to some imbecile expound the virtues of this exact same idea.

Can you imagine how delighted you would be as a parent; to find out that your child was doing their teacher's job rather than pushing ahead and learning more for themselves? I would go absolutely mad and immediately storm into school ranting, raving and waving my arms about like a loon.

This is a classic case of an idea which appeals to those who believe that as long as every child gets a 'C' then that's ok. It also conveniently lets the teacher off the difficult task of stretching the bright kids.

Lock 'em Up

I cheerfully plead guilty to locking at least half a dozen pupils in cupboards for being a damned nuisance on various occasions during my time as a teacher. It was a quick and effective way of dealing with them and enabled me to get on with teaching those who wished to learn something.

Spare a thought for this chap, then

Once I even forgot about one of them, left the room at the end of the lesson and had to hastily return fifteen minutes later to let him out of my stock cupboard. (To the horror of the teacher who was teaching French in my classroom)

Gran Torino

Saw Gran Torino last night- what a great film. The next time a 78 year old tells me to get off his lawn, I shall do exactly that.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bitter's Back, Emin's Off

Mind you it's not all bad news: my 'Back to Bitter' campaign appears to be working at last and Tracey Emin's off to France!

Hide and Sikh

Just in case there is anybody out there who doesn't think that our Country has gone stark raving mad, have a read of this story where Gurmeal earns a quick £10 000 for not wanting to wear a helmet during riot training.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Martin Henderson

Future Archaeologists will no doubt be astounded when they find the remains of Martin Henderson, Head of Westmorland Primary School in Greater Manchester. Unique amongst the Headmaster species, he appears to have a spine.

He has had enough of wretched parents swearing at their offspring and each other on the school premises. He has declared that from now on, anyone doing so will be told to leave.

Now whether he does actually do this; or whether some Human Rights organisation decides to stand up for the rights of the Underclass to express themselves freely, remains to be seen.

For now however, he deserves to be our hero of the day.