Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ballet Teacher

Given the choice of being kidnapped by a bunch of Somali pirates or ballet teacher Sarah Pirie, I'm afraid I wouldn't be choosing a stay in East Africa's Riviera. The bloke that she is pictured with doesn't look very happy though.

Before anybody asks- if it was a male teacher with a 15 year old girl, then I wouldn't think it was funny at all. I have never denied being guilty of every -ism known to Man (sorry Person).

School report full of errors

Gleed Girls' Technology College in Spalding, Lincolnshire is claiming a new record after one of their (I mean- its) teachers sent out a school report with 14 spelling mistakes in it.

I'm not surprised at all. Comprehensives haven't insisted on correct grammar or spelling for a couple of decades or more, so the young teachers are victims of the same system. Mind you it has become perfectly acceptable for them to say "Oh I'm not very good at spelling/maths/grammar" rather than to actually try and improve.

Commentators should feel free to mention pots and kettles if they wish.

Snow Closure

For the third year running, St Thickchilds has managed to be the first school in the area to declare itself closed due to the 1.5 cm of snow that fell on the hills several miles away. Beating local rivals Scagtown Comprehensive by almost 11 minutes, Headmaster (or Lead Learner as he prefers to be called) Mr Sandal proudly declared:

"Where we lead, others follow!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Student Houses Sheffield

Well it's that time of year again, when students across the land start looking for houses for the next academic year. It seems to get earlier and earlier each year (I remember we didn't start looking until about Easter).

If you happen to be lucky enough to be studying at Sheffield University and would like to live in the Crookes area, then why not avoid old fashioned, damp and mouldy houses and contact this guy who comes highly recommended from a friend.

Friday, November 26, 2010

State School PE

The British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine have finally said something that has been obvious for the last 20 years. State School PE lessons do not give children any useful exercise.

Schools complain that Government spending cuts is wrecking sport, yet no money at all is needed to provide physical fitness, agility, coordination and strength training (just ask the Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners who despite being far poorer than any of us, nevertheless win everything in sight).

Meanwhile our children's physical fitness has fallen to appalling levels and pupils are simply allowed to opt out if they don't wish to take part.

Is it any wonder that we are plagued by ever worsening levels of obesity?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Howard Flight and Lord Young

So Howard Flight is now in trouble for saying that those on benefits are encouraged to breed whilst the middle classes find it very expensive. Something that is blatantly obvious but falls into the category of 'things you cannot say'.

Last week Lord Young said that 'most Britons had never had it so good'. For those with secure jobs and mortgages linked to the base rate this is also obviously true. The only question is whether they are in the majority. Nobody dared look up the statistics and he ended up having to resign.

David Cameron shamefully offered no support to either man and instead wants to spend a few million quid on a survey to find out whether we are happy or not. I'd certainly be a lot happier if he stopped wasting my taxes on daft things.

For reasons of foolishness, I originally wrote Lord 'King' rather than 'Young'. Thanks to Kynon for pointing this out.

Even More Protests!

Every time we see students vandalising police vans and fighting with the Police (safe in the knowledge that ours are not allowed to respond like they would in any other country), more and more people just think:

"Sod them. I don't want to pay more taxes so they can lie around watching daytime TV and talking rubbish."

Some great quotes from students yesterday:

Girl with funny coloured hair: "We deserve the right to be able to get an education for ourselves to our fullest potential!"

Yoof in shell suit: "We voted for Nick Clegg and he's turned round and slammed it in our face!"

And best of all, this tremendous chant from a group seeking to overturn the laws of Physics:

Student Grant: "What do we want?"
Followers/Future shelf stackers: "A future!"

Student Grant: "When do we want it?"
Followers "Now!"

Full credit to the girls who tried to stop the Police van from being trashed though.

ps What is this 'kettling' that we keep hearing about? Is it the same as 'cottaging'?

Ski Season in Austria

If anybody fancies spending the winter in an Austrian ski resort, with blue skies, snow and plenty of sunshine rather than grey skies, wind and lots of rain, then contact Yana at the address below. I have copied the email she sent me and the resort is Wildschonau, near Soll, Sheffau and Kitzbuhel.

I don't know her at all, so if she tells you that you have won the Nigerian State Lottery and asks you for your bank details, PIN number and mother's maiden name then that's your lookout.

We run a hotel in a ski resort in the winter in Austria. We also run a ski race academy for children from the age of 8-13/14.
We are currently in need of a teacher to tutor these children (the class number will vary from week to week - could be one on one or as many as 6-8 pupils) on a weekly basis from the second week in January though to the end of March.
We are happy for the successful candidate to spend the whole winter in resort from December through to April should this suit. Having employed a teacher previously, the hours are more or less each afternoon , Monday to Friday for around 12 weeks of the season. There was plenty of time for skiing or snowboarding.
We run a happy and relaxed team who all work very hard to achieve the fabulous reputation we have earned over the last eight years.
We hope you can help.
Thank you in advance.
Kind regards


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Protests

Great footage on the news of some Student Grant complaining that 'Our rights have been impeded upon'. No doubt he was studying English at some bizarre institution.

What I haven't heard is anybody saying the obvious:

"Let's just pay for the clever ones to study sensible subjects"


"Too many lessons are dull and uninspiring" says schools inspection agency, Ofsted today. When you look at the detail, it emerges that half of all lessons were judged to be better than 'satisfactory' and obviously the other half were either satisfactory or worse. (So it's possible that 100% were 'satisfactory' or better)

Anybody judging a large number of anythings, whether they are marrows or lessons will pre decide an average grade (ie satisfactory) as you look a bit silly if you always judge things to be 'excellent' or 'rubbish'.

The worst case conclusion from these results is that half of lessons are better than average and half are worse. Well I'd never have worked that one out. What a great use of public money.

I'll go through Ofsted's criteria for judging lessons in the near future (and if you're the parent of a bright kid, you will be horrified).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Royal Wedding

I think that over the next five months I am going to get heartily sick of hearing about the Royal Wedding.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gill Goodswen

When I heard that Gill Goodswen had become the new President of the National Union of Teachers, I couldn't remember where I'd heard her name before. Then it came to me. She was the Headmistress who heroically took a stand on one of the biggest issues in education today- ie the urgent need to change the words in traditional children's stories in order to avoid offending Muslims (who aren't offended and frankly couldn't care less according to their own leader Ibrahim Mogra)

Anyway she has just signed a statement backing the planned walkouts by the kids on Wednesday to protest about Universities being allowed to charge up to £9000. This does seem a bit odd for the leader of a couple of hundred thousand teachers who presumably will have to deal with the consequences of all these kids wandering around the playground chanting slogans and singing songs (not Three Little Pigs hopefully).

I'll repeat my usual statement:

Why can't we have a sliding scale of further education grants, so we pay for the cleverest and not the dimwits? Like any idea, it is prejudiced against some group but I'd rather it was the clown doing Media Studies than the bright spark doing Physics.

British Summer Time

I have had enough of this winter already, you get halfway through the afternoon and it starts to go dark. Lets have British Double Summer Time where we keep our clocks one hour ahead of GMT in the winter, so it never gets dark before five pm and two hours ahead in the Summer. (Who needs it to be getting light at 4 am?)

I thought this was a new idea but it was first tried for five years from 1940-1945 during World War Two and between 1968 and 1971 we tried staying on British Summer Time all year round.

I'm tempted to take unilateral action if the Government won't do it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

League Tables

Announcing in a comprehensive school staffroom that you think the School League Tables are a tremendous idea, elicits roughly the same response as declaring that you collect Nazi memorabilia or have a bit of a crush on David Cameron. One thing that unites public sector teachers above anything else is that the tables are a BAD thing.

Unfortunately almost all parents think that they are a very GOOD thing.

So who is right?

My view is that although they do not give a perfect comparison of schools, as they can be fiddled slightly (by concentrating the best teachers and resources on the c/d borderline kids and entering pupils for even easier GCSE 'equivalents', the bottom line is that they are better than no comparison at all. After all most parents are only comparing a small number of potential schools in a limited area, who will use similar tricks to boost their results and if one school is significantly better than another then this will show up.

One of the reasons that we are no longer taken seriously as a profession is that we refuse to accept any form of accountability. The League Tables could be improved and we should be the ones pointing out exactly how this could be done, rather than simply rejecting any form of comparison out of hand.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Primary Schools and Snow

Winter is just round the corner and that special day will soon be upon us. Yes the day when it snows a bit and loads of schools close, giving the media a chance to claim that all teachers are bone idle.

Now if we leave Secondary Schools out of the equation (assuming that kids over 11 can look after themselves at home until their parents return from work) we are left with the problem of a Primary School closing. This is almost always due to not having the minimum legal number of teachers per pupil and it brings absolute havoc because of course, one parent must then stay at home to look after a child between 4 and 11. Either the parent or their employer must bear this cost, which is huge and completely unnecessary.

The solution is simple and obvious. Every teacher should register with the Primary school nearest to them and make their way there (with photo ID) if they are unable to get to their own school. Pre registering would do away with any identification/CRB check excuses and if there are still problems with teacher numbers then they can be sorted out well in advance. All that is needed is to keep the children occupied for the day and if the primary schools drew up a bad weather program in advance, then it's perfectly straightforward. Teachers would be hailed as saving the day rather than sleeping the day.

Why is this not done? Councils can't be bothered and the Teachers Unions would come up with some utterly farcical objections. Why not do the decent thing and ask your nearest Primary school if you can help out on the big day? (Remember though, a snowman competition is no longer allowed due to the all-white nature of the entries)

School Funding

The Government wants to fund schools directly, rather than the current method of giving the money to Local Councils, who syphon some off to pay for Black History Month, trips to cities they are twinned with and their additional level of bureaucracy, before allocating what's left on a random basis.

The idea was roundly criticised by the teaching unions, which is further evidence that it's probably a good idea.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Do NOT stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

I repeat- do NOT stone Yasmin Brown whatever you do, and more importantly do not under any circumstances suggest that I told you to.

Birmingham councillor Gareth Compton made a poor joke (although who am I to judge the quality of somebody else's humour?) by Twittering the following:

"Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell
Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really"

He has been arrested and released on bail. Whether he will be charged remains to be seen.

I do think that this affair raises questions about being offended and freedom of speech, as does the case of accountant Paul Chambers who texted jokingly about blowing up Doncaster Airport when it closed because of snow and lost his job as a result.

Here's a few questions that spring to mind:

1) If a comment is clearly not a serious threat (ie if Gareth Compton doesn't make a habit of calling for his opponents to be murdered and Paul Chambers' flat was not filled with explosives, detonators and books urging terrorist attacks) then should they really be arrested and have their careers ruined?

2) Is there a difference between comments made in private and those made in public?

3) If so, then where does the boundary lie? Where do emails, letters, blogs and Twitter fit into this?

4) Did the Police arrest these men for inciting Allah to burn British soldiers yesterday?

5) What will I do when all the people I've written nasty things about send the Police round to take me away?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joyce Walters

Mad payouts like this and this are just gifts to those who think that the public sector is living on a different planet.

£20 million paid in compensation claims to teachers last year. What has happened to our profession?

Black Boys

Katharine Birbalsingh, (the teacher who looks like the girl on Crystal Tipps and Alistair) recently made the point that black boys are often let down at school.

On average, the black boys I taught behaved far worse than the white ones and had more of a 'chip on their shoulder' attitude. Whilst this is partly due to their family backgrounds being on average less stable and being closer to a 'street culture' of crime and drugs, I believe that it is mainly because no white teacher ever dared to discipline them for fear of being accused of racism, which is the worst thing that can happen to you in teaching. Far better to have robbed a bank or mugged an old lady.

From the day they start school, allowances are made for the black boys and they are punished less harshly and less frequently than the white boys for the same misbehaviour. Kids very quickly work out where their boundaries are and behave accordingly.

Don't forget though, that this is a completely taboo topic in schools. Bringing it up is roughly equivalent to putting a giant Swastika up in your classroom, goose stepping down the corridors and shouting out "Sieg Heil!" when the Head walks into assembly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Clashes at Student Fees Protest

The huge increase in Degree fees is very unfair. Well it's unfair to the clever students who would have got to University at any time in the last 30 years. Why on Earth should they have to subsidise a load of drongos who can barely read or write but have been told by their schools that it is their right to go onto further education?

Charge the thickos and we will happily pay for the bright sparks.

Haile Gebrselassie

As always, I'm a couple of days late with the news, but it's sad that I didn't notice the retirement of Haile Gebrselassie in the headlines. Not just for his 20 year career at the top of distance running where he won everything there was to win, but even more for his sportsmanship, respect for his rivals and being a thoroughly decent bloke. (His apology to Paul Tergat after shattering his record in the marathon sums him up)

Rather than spending his money on prostitutes, daft cars and cocaine, he has invested his energies in helping his home country of Ethiopia, setting up running clubs, schools and employing hundreds of locals in his clothing business. He must be one of the few sporting heroes that I've never heard anyone say a bad word about.

I won't mention the obvious sport that could benefit from having a few men like him.

Shopping Around for Exam Boards

I wrote about how schools shop around for exam boards that 'are most suited to their pupils' ie easiest, in my book (which you should buy today) and it looks like 5 Live have got round to reading it too.

Entering huge numbers of pupils for worthless qualifications which count as 4 GCSE's is a good trick but if a school is under pressure to improve their actual number of GCSE passes then they look for the board with the most modular courses (ie more opportunities to resit exams), plenty of coursework (which the pupils can be 'guided' on) and bizarre new subjects which the board is keen to promote (and therefore have a low pass mark). In the serious subjects, look for slight variants such as '21st Century Science'

Schools that need to improve will have all their best teachers taking the C/D borderline classes as there's no point in wasting them on the bright children or the ones who can't read.

Having more than one exam board introduces competition and you don't have to be a genius to work out what that does to exam standards.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Michael Heseltine

Michael Heseltine reckons that we should get retired army officers to sort out the discipline in schools. This is an old chestnut which gets aired every few years or so. Coincidentally, last weekend I spoke to a friend who had just left after 22 years service. He reckoned that he would last about 15 minutes as a state school teacher.

"Some kid would start mucking about, I'd tell them to stop, they would answer me back and I'd give them a slap..."

Hmmm. I'm afraid that idea's not going to work, Michael. You can't fight a battle if you are the only one who wants to.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Lady Gaga

We will never be able to compete with the United States if we are always playing catch-up. Can it really be true that none of our Universities offer the chance to study Lady Gaga?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Prisoners getting the vote

I'm fine about prisoners being allowed to vote. I just want them to stay prisoners for a bit longer than the people in charge do.

Work for Benefits

The idea must be thirty years old by now, so why has it taken so long to start asking the long term unemployed to work for their money?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I'm going to try and build up a comprehensive collection of nonsense education speak. The page will go up on the sidebar and will become a useful resource for any reader facing an interview for a position in Senior Management.

To start the ball rolling:

1) Performativity (the emphasis on achieving targets)

2) Dialogic teaching (having a chat with the kids)

3) Articulated progression (allowing pupils to choose their next step in the qualification system)

4) Level descriptor (the National Curriculum level of something)

I look forward to your contributions (but don't forget to say what they mean)

Tuition Fees

So it looks like University fees are going to rise to £9000 a year. Add say £3500 for rent each year and £4500 to live on, then after a three year degree students are going to leave owing about £50 000.

This is a frightening prospect for the ones who are doing a sensible subject, but for those on a Mickey Mouse course, it is utter madness. No school will tell them this beforehand however, because it is not in their interest. They know perfectly well that their Ofsted report will contain a simple percentage figure of pupils going into Higher education.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Whilst others might be worried about cuts, up in Sheffield the Socialist Republic has just spent £15 000 on a new logo for the city.

This is what they got for their money. Amazing, I'm sure you'll agree. Why did they not simply hold a competition in the local schools with a £250 prize for the winning effort?

Ah, I know- because it's not their own cash they are spending.