Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Solar Power Feed-in Tariff

Watching my neighbour's roof turn blue, I briefly wondered just what industry the solar power feed-in tariff is supposed to kick start. The panels are made in China, as are all the electrical bits such as the control panel and inverter (if they aren't then he is paying too much for them). The company installing the panels is British and the men up the ladders were presumably local roofers or aerial installers before they saw the light.

Would it not have been cheaper to just send them all a cheque for a few thousand quid and let them go back to their old jobs?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Denise Milani

Thank goodness that despite cuts to front line Public Services, there is still money for initiatives such as Denise Milani's poetry competition to celebrate International Women's Day.

Unfortunately this is only open to police officers in the Met, but I'm sure that somewhere in teaching there will be a similar position (and I shall certainly be applying for it).

Denise is paid around £75 000 per year as Director of Diversity (ie to be black and female). Now to be fair, she has fulfilled all the criteria on her job description- she hasn't done a Michael Jackson and painted herself white, not does she appear to have become a man, so we cannot fault her there. You may however be wondering whether there is a job that pays you to be a white male and sit around all day coming up with mad ideas- if so, drop Fred Goodwin an email.

What does bother me though is that whenever I find myself thinking
"Great! This is the maddest thing yet", something immediately comes along and beats it hands down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Word Education Games

The World Education Games take place 6-8th March 2012. Here's a link to their site. so you can see what it's all about. There's a video here where members of the public are unable to answer some very simple questions.

If you have any bright sparks in your class then get them to have a go. Your Head might be pleased with you if somebody won a medal. When the kids ask you if there's any decent prizes, just blather something about the Olympics.

By the way if you have any seriously bright kids then you might want to look at the British Maths Olympiad
which is a qualifier for the International Maths Olympiad.  (North Korea has been disqualified twice for cheating)

Knowsley Schools

Astonishing discoveries have been reported from that centre of cutting edge research- Knowsley in Merseyside.

1) Spending £157 million on new buildings does not guarantee improvements. Knowsley now has one of the lowest pass rates at GCSE in the Country.

2) Renaming the schools 'Centres for Learning' and the teachers 'Performance leaders' doesn't help much either, but gives the rest of us some amusement. Amazingly, the idea of calling the classrooms 'Warehouses' and having 'Democratised Spaces' didn't have the Head of Eton banging on the door looking for tips.

3) Keen to make capital out of this foolishness from the previous Government, Michael Gove declared that:

"Children in Knowsley suffer from some of the worst educational outcomes in the Country." 

Educational Outcomes!?! Didn't these used to be called 'results'. He has clearly picked up a bout of the same disease.

Anyone from Knowsley should feel free to comment. (After all, the schools might have been even worse before all this money was spent).

There's obviously a theme going on here as their local Safari Park advertises itself as the 'Best loved' one in Britain- I'm not quite sure what that means either.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Facebook and Shouting

I keep telling you- be careful with Facebook. That Zuckerberg fellow will get you all fired.

Also a study carried out by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (Fruits) at Durham University has decided that kids who shout out in lessons do better in exams. Their Director of Somethingmad, Dr Christine Merrell wants to see see how these pains can be encouraged to shout out as part of the lesson, whereas I just want to give them a smack.

Why not write to her and volunteer a teacher you don't like to take part in this important research?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Boris and Facebook

Boris Johnson asked today why we can't manage to create an internet business like Facebook?

He suggested that young people lacked the necessary single-minded ambition and also blamed our society's reluctance to praise success.

Now unfortunately you are going to have to read my tuppence worth before deciding on your own reasons.

1) He is correct in blaming lack of ambition in many young people. State education does not allow failure and teachers are actively discouraged from criticising pupils. Being repeatedly told how good your work is from the age of 5 is not likely to stoke the fires of great ambition. 

2) I'm not sure about us disliking material success in this country. There isn't much criticism of billionaires such as Richard Branson, Alan Sugar or Ken Morrison. It is however considered fine to say the most appalling things about the rich in general, without offering any justification or considering for a moment what would happen if they were not around to employ millions of people and pay a large proportion of the taxes that fund the NHS, State Education and the Benefits System.

3) Our ever increasing anti-risk, health and safety culture, along with the growing tax burden, endless new workplace regulations and our Government's willingness to go along with whatever crazy human right is dreamt up by some Brussels bureaucrat, does not exactly encourage the entrepreneur. Just try employing somebody or borrowing money in Britain.

4) Shouldn't Boris be doing something to help matters?

Right, now it's your turn. Where is our Mark Zuckerberg?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


The Inland Revenue, now known as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has got to be near the top of the pack when it comes to sheer utter uselessness.

If, say you earn a few pounds doing something else outside your main job then you must declare that income. Fair enough, but the procedure features that mind bogglingly unnecessary complexity that only a huge public sector body with no concern for time, results or value for money could come up with.

First of all you must find out your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). Phoning the number given on HMRC website might seem like a good idea for the first 15 minutes or so whilst you listen to the irritating music occasionally interrupted by a voice telling you how they are receiving an unusually large number of calls at the moment (you will hear this claim whether you phone at 8 am or 3pm on June 5th or Jan 12th). When you do finally get through, you will be told that your UTR cannot be given over the phone (even if you know the answer to every possible security question about yourself), nor can it be emailed to you.

No, no Sir- the UTR must be sent to you by post and this will take up to ten working days! At this point you may be tempted to point out that Amazon could deliver you any one of 5 million items tomorrow if you asked them to, but remember you are not dealing with a private company concerned with their customers' satisfaction. HMRC staff know perfectly well that they will not go out of business no matter how badly they perform.

When your UTR arrives (and it really does take them a fortnight to get it to you), you will rush to your computer, with all the excitement and expectation of a child opening their Christmas presents. After you type it in, you will then be given a 12 digit  'User id' which you must note down as you will need it next time you log in.

(You may be tempted to complain that 12 digits could specify every person on Earth 10 times over, and you have just waited two weeks for your supposedly unique reference number, but don't spoil the moment. You are making good progress and will soon be declaring your hard earned pennies in order to pay your tax to enable some nice Afghan lady to live in a £3 million Kensington home.)

Oh dear! After entering your postcode, you will discover that you need an 'Activation Code' in order to progress further, which of course can only be sent to you in the mail and will take... etc. Now is the time to put your head in your hands and weep. (Don't worry, the nice Afghan lady should be ok).

HMRC is the same organisation that lost the records of 25 million people in 2007 and paid out over a billion pounds in tax credits by mistake. Who better to be put in charge of Customs and Excise with the duty of keeping our borders secure and preventing smuggling?