Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whickham School

The row over Academies continues with staff walking out at Whickham School, Tyneside over plans to turn it into one.

Academies and 'Free Schools' along with the changes to Teachers' Pensions will provide me with plenty of material over the next school year. However, with five different teaching unions all having their own agendas, motivations and views, there is no chance whatsoever of defeating any of these proposals.

Vocational Qualifications no longer in League Tables

The Government has just announced that vocational qualifications are no longer going to be counted in the League Tables.

This is terrible news. Without Hair and Beauty, Travel and Tourism and Generally mucking About, how on Earth are schools like mine going to fool decent, honest parents into believing that we are just as good as the one down the road that spends all day teaching fuddy-duddy old subjects like 'Maths'.

The truth of course is that we shouldn't be competing at all. Schools like ours should be allowed to teach an entirely vocational timetable along with basic Maths and English (which is more than we teach them at the moment). We could also try and give the pupils a few other useful skills such as timekeeping, perseverance, motivation, money management, debt avoidance, basic cooking and how to avoid being taken in by advertising.

The academic kids should be sent to academic schools and be taught by academic teachers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Apprentice

Best Choice. You can find dozens of copies of all the others in any large company. Tom was the only one with a good brain and a bit about him as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

It Lives!

Hoorah! A cryogenic catastrophe has been averted.

As to why it has started working again... well I'm afraid that my inquisitiveness will be taking a back seat for a while. (And Mrs C need never know of my foolishness)

Thanks for the helpful suggestions. Have a nice weekend.

The King's Speech

As a result of a slight mix up when I was rushing to unload various food purchases yesterday, I can now confirm that leaving a rental DVD in the freezer for 6 hours does it no harm whatsoever.

Emboldened by this discovery and displaying the inquisitiveness and spirit of adventure that took Leif Erikson to America, Shackleton to the Antarctic and NASA to the Moon, I conducted several further experiments, with the result that I now have to report that a USB stick belonging to Mrs C no longer seems to work after spending just two hours at minus 18 degrees.

As my traditional excuse of "It just seemed like a good idea at the time" is unlikely to save me, does anybody know if the silicon situation is likely to improve before six pm, whether any remedial action is possible, or should I simply book a one way ticket to South America?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

La Marmotte

Regular readers will recall that around this time of year, I usually post something about the Etape du Tour, an annual bike race held over one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

This year for a change I rode the Marmotte, which is a fixed course of 108 miles in the French Alps, which starts in the village of Bourg d' Oisans (at the bottom of the road up to the ski resort of Alpe d' Huez), taking in such delights as the Glandon, Telegraphe, Galabier and just when your legs can take no more; the 21 hairpins of the Alpe, which has featured in more Tour de France finishes than any other climb.

It's a fantastic race with over 7000 riders. If you are British, then rest assured that in the interests of fair play the French organisers will give you a start number which places you at the back. Don't worry however as it is chip timed from the moment you roll over the start line (about 20 minutes after the leaders)

Obviously being a Brit, I hadn't read any of the race instructions, so the whole event was a voyage of discovery. Fistly I stayed at the top of the mountain in Alpe d'Huez and almost froze to death on the 6.30 am descent to the start at Bourg. (Foreign riders wear a smart jacket for this bit and later hand it to their supporters- Brits should wear an old jumper under a bin bag that can be chucked away). The next thing I learnt (and almost the last) was made about fifteen minutes into the race, when I realised that unlike in the Etape, they don't close the roads to traffic.

It wasn't long before the sun was beating down however and the scenery is absolutely stunning. The descent after the first climb up the Glandon is not timed in order to discourage racing on that stretch. (I was immensely disappointed when I was told about this during the evening celebrations afterwards because I had been under the impression that my descending had improved remarkably as I overtook hundreds of other riders on this stretch who all seemed strangely over-cautious).

The Telegraphe and Galabier are a long slog but the descent goes on for about 20 miles or more and is very fast and exhilarating. Keep your wits about you as some of the bends are quite tight. There are also three or four tunnels which are a little bit scary, but just stay calm and don't forget to whip off your sunglasses and hold them in your front teeth so you can keep both hands on the bars. Dropping your sunnies in a tunnel would be unfortunate, but not half as bad as wearing them in there. (There may well have been something in the race instructions about this also).

I carried 8 assorted energy bars in one pocket which I had unwrapped the night before in order to save time and reduce litter (unlike the Dutch riders, who just throw it anywhere). I simply pulled off a small piece of the resulting congealed mass and stuffed it into my mouth every 15 minutes or so. (At one point I did wonder why there was a peanut in one bite before realising that I had just dislodged and swallowed a bit of a molar). I also carried a ham sandwich in my other pocket as it stops you getting sick of sweet tasting things. I never stopped at any of the well stocked but chaotic food stations, just quickly filled my water bottles and left, as you can waste hours at those places.

These measures made up for my lack of cycling ability and I got round the course shattered, but unlike many poor souls that I saw pushing their machines up Alpe d' Huez; still on my bike. My final discovery (that staying up at the top in Alpe is actually the best option) was brought home to me very clearly when I saw a rider being loaded into the ambulance after crashing on the descent back to Bourg. He had already finished the race and was just going home.

Hope he was ok and well done to all the Brits who went out there. The ones I met were a great crowd.

The Apprentice

Along with the Tour de France coverage, The Apprentice is about the only telly I watch at the moment. Was Sugar right to chuck out Natasha last night or should Jim have gone for messing up the project he led?

Why didn't they ridicule the Pie Group a bit more for thinking Christopher Columbus was British?

Primary School pupils not being stretched

'Estyn' is the Welsh education watchdog. They have concluded that the most 'able and talented' pupils in Welsh Primary schools are not being stretched enough.

Well firstly, I have no idea what the real difference between 'able' and 'talented' is and secondly- it's exactly the same in England. We let down the brightest and dimmest kids, then carry on doing the same in Secondary School.