Monday, March 29, 2010

Sub £500 Laptop

If anyone could recommend a laptop for under £500 then I would sing your praises forever...

ps Sorry, as one poster wisely pointed out, it would gave been helpful if I had thought to say what I wanted it for...

Mainly word processing and web browsing, so a decent screen is important, but I don't want to watch DVDs or play games on it. Battery life of 2-3 hours is fine and portability isn't a major factor as I don't carry it around every day.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter is a time for giving...

Next Monday, people with no hobbies or outside interests will attend the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers where they will debate weighty matters such as whether the practice of giving your teacher a present has become too competitive.

Myself and Mrs C regard competition as a thing to be encouraged. She even goes so far as to send parents a list of suitable presents.

I once received a book on Great British Scientists from a pupil who, to put it mildly was not one I would have expected a present from. I was genuinely grateful and mentioned it whenever our paths crossed, until I discovered that it had in fact been stolen from the local library. On another occasion, I was presented with a sturdy wooden book case. As I carried it across the school car park, I heard the footsteps and cries of a small, well behaved child who accosted me, claiming that it was his woodwork project. I expressed my doubts at this claim until he pointed out his name on the back of it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Boy not Stuck in Tree Shocker!

Well it looks like there's more to yesterday's story than meets the eye. The Head of Manor School has written a couple of letters to parents giving their side of the story (basically, nobody stuck in a tree and a loon on the premises.) Here's their school website

Whereas you might expect nothing less from me, it is a bit shocking that virtually every newspaper, even the ones who don't believe in crystal healing, flying saucers and horoscopes; simply printed the story without doing any checks whatsoever, as did Chris Evans and co. on the radio. Actually I suppose it's not really that surprising- it happens all the time.

Anyway, I apologise in advance for callously deceiving you all if the story turns out to be completely wrong. See how many of the newspapers and DJs do the same.

I hesitate to bring your attention to today's story about a school that faked the shooting of one of their staff to encourage children to take an interest in Forensic Science. With my luck, by tomorrow it will have been revealed that they really did shoot him...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No, don't say "Health and Safetree" please

How can any of us sleep safely in our beds knowing that feckless criminals such as Kim Barrett are roaming the streets, wandering on to school grounds without permission and rescuing small boys from trees. Where will it end?

Thank goodness the quick thinking staff at Manor Primary School in Melksham, Wiltshire were on hand to 'observe the child from a distance', otherwise who knows what might have happened.

Fortunately common sense has prevailed in this instance, with a warning letter being sent from the School and a visit from a Community Support Officer. Hopefully this should put an end to any more of Ms Barrett's good deeds, although frankly, I think she needs to be locked up.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

After May

We are all going to get heartily sick of hearing about the General Election by about mid April, so I will get my posts on the subject out of the way now.

Whoever gets in, two things seem certain. Firstly the number of Academies (schools allowed independence from local councils) will increase.

I can't help but think that the Academies programme is a bit like painting over the cracks in your living room wall. It gives a quick and easy improvement, but avoids facing up to the fundamental problems. (Ever rising numbers of kids who won't behave, parents who don't care, Heads who can't lead, qualifications that have been dumbed down and a growing percentage of teachers who don't know much about the subjects they are supposed to be teaching.)

Nobody appears to be interested in tackling those things.

Secondly, there will be state schools run by private companies, charities and parents. Whilst I reckon that John Lewis School would be excellent, I'm not too keen on a job at Poundstretcher Comprehensive.

Feel free to suggest any companies whose schools would have amusing titles or mottos.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Polls Apart

The BBC recently published an article which happily repeated without question, various claims of an online poll (ie one where you have no idea who is answering the questions)

This article claimed that that 80% of boys knew that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and that more children want to win a Nobel Prize for Science than win the 'X Factor'.

They may well be disappointed however if it is true that a third of them thought that Isaac Newton discovered fire...

Anyway, the important point is that Primary school kids seem excited by Science whereas Secondary school pupils are not. The reasons for this are simple.

Science in Primary Schools is new and interesting, whereas in Secondary Schools it has become extremely boring, due to a dull syllabus and over zealous Health and Safety rules which put teachers off attempting the more interesting (ie loud) practicals. Combine this with endless preparation for tests and a serious lack of new teachers with an in depth knowledge of their subject and you have a recipe for disaster.


Sorry I haven't posted for a bit, I've been learning to Cross Country Ski in Seefeld, Austria; the land of Lederhosen. If you have no interest in skiing then look away now.

Like most Brits, I'd never even tried Cross Country; (or 'langlauf' as they call it) always believing the rumours that it was just 'plodding about for old people'.

Now I know differently. It's like your first week of skiing all over again; with all the bruises, falls and sheer fun that this involved. It's like skiing on a clothes prop in a pair of wellington boots.

There's two styles- classic which we tried first, where you shuffle along ready made tracks and skating, which is what you see in the Olympics, where you glide gracefully along outside the tracks, like an ice skater. (Or in my case, you glide along in a stuttering fashion, frantically jabbing both poles into the snow, completely out of sync with your legs until spots start to appear before your eyes). Being British, we obviously didn't even consider taking lessons; with the result that by the first afternoon those who had gone to the Schischule were still walking up and down the beginners field, whereas we were miles away, covered in bruises, upside down with our heads sticking out of a snowdrift.

The two mistakes I made where to assume that the tracks were flat and that controlling the skis would be easy. The reality is very different. The tracks lead you up and up, puffing and panting, before the inevitable descent where you step out of the tracks and try to turn just as if you were on normal skis, before discovering that langlauf skis have no metal edges. As your speed increases, you start frantically snowploughing, which doesn't slow you down that much; then go into full scale panic, stepping about trying to do a Stem Christie turn before accepting the inevitable and desperately hoping to land in a bank of soft snow.

Whilst I admit that it is possible Johann the instructor tells you the secret of how to control the skis in his lessons; as far as I am concerned, you might as well go skiing on two giant sticks of chewing gum.

After a while you do start to get the hang of it though and trekking through the beautiful Alpine scenery on a sunny morning to your planned lunchtime destination is an experience which is hard to beat (You get a map and follow the signs- it's like going out for a walk but with a lot more screaming)

Despite currently walking with a limp as well as being black and blue, I'd heartily recommend it. Oh and try Bratwurst and Germknodel in the Gasthof (but not together)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Election 2010

It looks like there's going to be lots of arguments about Education in the run up to the election and no doubt both the main parties will be asking for my opinion of their proposals.

David Cameron doesn't want teachers with Thirds, but hasn't realised that you can get a 2:1 'Teaching in Primary schools' Degree without being able to add up, spell or string a sentence together. Labour on the other hand want to assess teachers' empathy, understanding and passion' (by asking them questions on a computer)

The Conservatives say that they want to provide more choice for parents when there are nearly 800 000 spare school places already; Labour are building ever bigger schools, where children can simply get lost in the system.

Neither party has so far come up with any simple, clear proposals on how to improve the thousands of sink schools and the quality of the Edutainment on offer in these places.

At least in Australia, the school battlefields are properly organised.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Set up your own School

At the moment you can educate your child at home with only the odd visit from the Council to check up on what you are up to, but you can't get together with a group of like minded people, set up your own school and expect the Government to pay for it.

Lots of groups in little villages and inner cities where there are no decent schools, want to create their own school and over the next few months, I reckon that we will hear a lot more about it.

There are a few questions to be answered though; what happens when a group of nutters want to set up their own school, preaching the joys of Religious Fundamentalism, Crystal Healing or Flat Earthism? How do we decide who is 'suitable' and what happens when the founding group lose interest and don't want to run the school any more?

Mind you; in many areas, whatever is set up could hardly be any worse than what we have already, so maybe it is an idea worth considering.