Monday, October 22, 2012

Question Time

One question that I know the answer to and a couple that I don't- reminds me of my Finals.

1) Why do adverts for watches always show the same time- ten minutes past ten?

2) Why do I need an European Health Insurance card to get free medical treatment in Europe? (they used to be called E111s) when I have a perfectly good British Passport?

3) Is there a more infuriating website than Ryanair's?


1) Apparently it makes the watch look better (symmetrical and resembles a smiling face) whilst allowing the manufacturers logo to be seen between the hands. When this practice started, I have no idea.

ps Have a look at the review on the right hand side of the page (Scroll down a bit) under Most Recent Customer Reviews by JEM.

I don't reckon that they will buy the sequel...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mixed Ability

The year 7 class are having their first Science Lesson. Edward in the front row is bursting with enthusiasm, his little hand reaching for the sky as Miss Jones asks a question about the Sun. He knows all the names of the planets and is fascinated by anything to do with dinosaurs, Astronomy and things that go fast. He has a Chemistry Set at home and is desperately keen to learn how to blow things up.

Two rows back, Brandon and Lee do not know the answer. Brandon has a reading age of six and an ability level that prevents him from doing anything more complicated than drawing and colouring in. His writing is totally illegible and he cannot do basic arithmetic. He has no support teacher today, as she is only with him for three lessons out of five.

Lee has a similar ability but never even has a support teacher because he has not been statemented; a lengthy process which must be completed before any help can be paid for. For some reason his previous school never managed to do it, which is not unusual.

At the front, Miss Jones has a choice: she can either spend a huge amount of her time helping Brandon and Lee, or she can concentrate on the middle ability level of the group and simply let these two do something trivial. Either way, she has no time to answer Edward's numerous questions on asteroids and comets. She is starting to get fed up with him, as he makes her feel guilty. He keeps saying that the work is far too easy and is becoming bored and disillusioned with Science.

Let's not pretend or mince our words here- Miss Jones is simply wasting Brandon, Lee and Edward's time.

It's not her fault- she is only human and cannot possibly deal with such a ridiculously large spectrum of abilities. Deep down, she feels that mixed ability classes seem to let down the best and the worst. All she has ever been told however, is how great it is that the school is so 'inclusive'.

In my opinion, Lee and Brandon should not be in this lesson at all. They should be learning to read and write, to add up and subtract. They should be with people who are trained to teach these things, not Secondary School teachers. They should never have left Primary school until they have mastered these skills, because without them, they will never be employed.

Instead their next lesson is French...

Edward is also being let down and shouldn't be in this lesson. The school will not worry one jot about him however, as the chances are that he will muddle through and get a 'c' grade, so he is just forgotten about. In another scenario he would have grown up to become a great scientist.

The above story is happening right now at a school near me.

Unfortunately it's also happening at one near you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lance Armstrong

Very sad day for sport with the damning USADA report including doping admissions by several of Lance's former teammates who had all strenuously denied any wrongdoing for years.

I'd have said that we were more likely to see reruns of 'Jim'll Fix It' than a carefully worded confession from the saintly George Hincapie. It really does shatter any confidence in the riders, not to mention the drug testers.

Apparently, a group of former East German scientists and doctors are furious over claims that Armstrong operated 'the most successful and professional doping programme in history'. They plan to sue for libel.

Finally, just when it seems that things can't get any worse, the next scandal looks likely to be drug use by Kenyan runners.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Girls and Physics

In Biology, 55% of  'A' Level candidates are girls, in Chemistry it's 50%, but in Physics, it's only 20%.

Now my initial response was:

"So what?" If we were to look at the figures for Nursing, English or Sociology, we would find that boys were in the minority.

However that wouldn't make much of a post, so let's have a look at the three possible reasons.

1) Girls on average are not as good at Physics as boys.
2) Girls are not very interested in Physics.
3) Something else discourages girls from studying Physics.

Let's look at each in turn:

1) Doesn't seem very likely as girls do better at the Physics GCSE than boys. (As in pretty much all subjects.)
Now you could argue that the GCSE is female biased with its modular assessment and coursework. Maybe the male brain is more analytic and logical, which makes it more suited to studying Physics at a higher level rather than a woolly subject like Sociology for example. Maybe girls are also put off because of the Maths content.

Hard to say without doing a lot more research. It's also a taboo topic in teaching.

2) On average this is certainly true. My completely unscientific questioning of seven women (one of whom was a science teacher!) concluded that with the exception of Prof. Brian Cox, no aspect of Physics held any interest for them whatsoever. I then asked seven males and two admitted to finding the subject interesting. Maybe the things that most boys naturally gravitate towards- cars, guns mechanics, taking things apart, explosives, computers and football lead them in some way towards having more of an interest in the physical world.

3) Most Physics teachers are male, as are the vast majority of Physics students at University. (The same is true of Maths, Computing and Engineering). Most physics related jobs would involve working in a male dominated environment. I suppose that would certainly put off many females.

A BBC article stated that girls are much more likely to study Physics if they go to an all-girls school. However they failed to note that this might simply be because such schools are almost always private and tend to be very selective academically. Physics is one of the hardest subjects and so it's not surprising that more of the brighter girls study it.

Finally you could ask- do we actually need more women Physicists?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Here I am!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the internet...

Since I stopped blathering at the start of August, I've receiving dozens of emails asking me to come back, hundreds more begging me not to and half a dozen accusing me of having run off with Megan Stammers.

Jeremy Forrest could certainly have chosen a better time to disappear with his favourite pupil, than the week new legislation comes in to give teachers anonymity unless they are actually charged with a criminal offence, whenever accusations are made against them.

I've been banging on about this for ages, so I'd like to take some credit for its introduction. Like most things that I have anything to do with however, it is already being heavily criticised

The Guardian rather predictably claims that it might have stopped poor Megan being found, although I'm not quite sure how (It's hardly an accusation when there's cctv footage of them getting on the ferry). The paper also claim that just 15 malicious accusations were made by pupils in the last 'few years' (there's accuracy for you). I've had more made against me in a week.

Anyway, here's a new equation for Mr Forrest to ponder.

15 years + 30 years = 7 years.