Thursday, January 31, 2008

Five Live

Five Live had a piece this morning about a new Government advertising campaign designed to attract 'high flyers' into teaching. They had a nice teacher from a good school, who had helped produce the adverts, opposite a raving loony from Hell Comp who believed that if we had some discipline in schools then we probably wouldn't need an expensive TV adverts; we'd be fighting off hordes of prospective teachers with a big stick.

During our discussion, I started to give an example of a pupil misbehaving in class and how easy it is for a single disruptive child to utterly destroy your lesson. The other teacher replied with genuine puzzlement:

'Well I'd just tell him to stop and he would'

I think he was serious and maybe it is as simple as that in his school. I pointed out that in my dump, the child wouldn't even bother to aknowledge that you had said anything, but I started to get that age old feeling once again, that there is such a huge gap in the public's (and many teachers') perception of what it's really like trying to teach in a sink school and just how bad some of our customers can be. After all, that's why I wrote my book.

Anyway, you can probably listen to it again if you can get the site to work. It was around 8.30 am. As with all interviews, you always think of much cleverer things to say, five minutes after you've been cut off. Feel free to point these out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Well, Burger Me!

McDonalds are offering 'A' Levels? It burgers belief!

Send me some more lines, so I can do a proper post.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


One of the numerous teaching unions, the NUT; is holding a ballot of its members to see if they want to hold a one day strike.

This is the sort of approach that we always see in teaching:

When there is a problem, first have a meeting, then get everybody's opinion.
Then do something that is completely ineffectual, but which is designed to make everyone feel like they are making a tough stand and taking firm action.

The main problem in teaching nowadays isn't the money, it's the working conditions. The low status, the mindless paperwork and weak leadership. The constant dumbing down of exams, the stifling PC culture and the fact that there are brilliant and inspiring teachers working alongside utterly useless ones for exactly the same pay. Most importantly of all; the appalling behaviour of so many pupils and their parents, which ruins what should be the best job in the World.

If you want more from your employer, then you either have to convince them that you are worth it, or threaten them sufficiently that they have to capitulate. A one day strike by a minority of teachers does nothing except irritate a few parents.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Minority Report

I have long held an interest in Minority Sports. I don't mean swimming in a Burkha, or stoning your wife; I mean sports that tend not to appeal to a wide audience and have little or no prize money. As a result they do not require hugely expensive high tech equipment and have tended to preserve values of sportsmanship that have utterly disappeared from many more popular ones. (OK, with the possible exception of Rugby)

Anyway, last weekend I was talked into supporting my friend, Jimmy who was doing an event called the Thames Path Ultra. This, believe it or not; is a 50 mile running race from Reading along the Thames towpath.

My job was arduous indeed; I had to drive between the checkpoints and meet Jim at pre-arranged locations where I was to be ready with both refreshments and encouragement.

That was the theory anyway. What actually happened was that the whole area was deluged with rain the week before, so much of the path was actually under water. The runners therefore had to navigate around the flooding, risk life and limb; or do both. It didn't make my task any easier, driving around with my TomTom urging me to 'Turn left now!' down what appeared to be a boat launching ramp into a lake.

What amazed me (apart from the fact that 200 people had chosen to attempt it on a rainy January day) was the sheer camaraderie and good will between the runners and also between their supporters. All the competitors, many of them soaking wet and covered in mud; received a rousing cheer as they passed and I got so caught up with the whole thing that I gave away most of the food and drink that I had brought for my good friend. Fortunately Jim felt too rough to eat anything, so I managed to escape his wrath.

What on Earth persuades anyone to do something like this? I spoke to several runners at the start and was very surprised not to see anyone howling like a wolf, muttering to themselves or sticking pencils in their ears. They all seemed very happy and excited and couldn't wait to be off. Many were obviously veterans of this type of event, with their miniature backpacks (there was a minimum emergency kit list that had to be carried) patched with duct tape, torn Ron Hills and shoes that had clearly seen some serious mileage. (One man was laughing at anothers tale of getting hopelessly lost on a recent training run that had started and finished in the dark) Others with cleaner and newer looking kit, seemed rather more worried about what they had got themselves into and were shuffling towards the back of the starting lineup.

When I spoke to a few more at the end, I was struck by their modesty-despite having achieved something few of us can even contemplate (virtually a double marathon over pretty awful terrain) there was none of the hysterics that you see when a footballer scores a goal, instead I heard comments along the lines of 'Yeah, I had a few bad patches' (This from a man who had blood oozing from his shoe and appeared to be wearing the remains of his last meal on the front of his top.) Nobody moaned that the checkpoints were 10 miles apart and only gave out water. The race organiser was clearly one of those rare people who put tedious 'Health and Safety Regulations' secondary to the idea of 'You're an adult- take responsibility for your own actions.'

The whole thing was a very refreshing glimpse of a side of humanity that often goes unnoticed. (Especially on my blog.) ie acts of simple generosity, kind words and the sharing of limited resources. I think part of it is moving out of your comfort zone, which we never ever have to do in the modern centrally heated World. Even when I helpfully said: 'Keep going. You're looking good!' to a man who was on his hands and knees in the mud, retching; I received nothing more than a wry smile.

Anyway, well done to Jim and all the others who took part in something which I can honestly say; quite moved me.

ps Those of you who have suggested that my titles are shameless attempts to misdirect people looking for other topics; are of course correct.

If You Want To Know The Time...

The very best of luck to all those Plods marching on Whitehall today. Readers can show your solidarity with the Police by stopping the next one you see and telling them all about the abusive text messages that you have been receiving from your ex partners new ex.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Learning From Johnny Foreigner

We can learn a lot from other Countries; for example, how to eat animals we never thought were edible and ingenious new ways of requesting a stranger's bank details.

I'm all for following the The Germans (even though at the back of my mind, I do wonder whether it's just a way of sneaking an advance party into Russia) and The Americans are on to a great idea here.

Feel free to submit any more examples of good overseas practice (and I shall investigate them as part of my Diversity Training)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Country Ways

Herefordshire County Council have backed down on their plan to close or merge 37 schools across the County, probably due to much protesting by the locals. I'm not going to pretend that I know a great deal about all this, but I do know one thing.

As a general principle, smaller schools are better for kids than massive schools. In small schools, the teachers know every child and a fair number of the parents. In a big school the children are simply statistics.

However big schools are cheaper so that usually ends the argument.

Hitler, That Well Known Anti German

Jacqui Smith has shown her determination to monopolise all this week's posts by renaming Islamic terorrism as 'Anti Islamic Activity'

That should solve the problem. Osama will be quaking in his boots.

Let's not hear any mention of 'Newspeak' nor any suggestion that she should be renamed as 'Unemployed'

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Very Highest Double Standards

Jacqui Smith has announced that she would be frightened of walking streets of London alone at night. I would be too, but isn't it her job to make sure that the streets are safe at night?

Imagine the outcry if say, the Education Secretary said that they were sending their children to a private school because the Comprehensives where they live are terrible? It just couldn't happen.

Heavy Metal

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced that metal detectors will be used in some schools to try and prevent pupils bringing in knives. Like all ideas we need to think about how it could actually work in practise.

Let's assume that it takes on average 30 seconds per child (by the time they've triggered the damn thing with pencil sharpeners, belt buckles, watches etc and had to go through again, then triggered it again, then refused to go through it again, stormed off and returned with their mother who will want to complain about radiation, rights or something...)

Let's also assume that we are given two detectors so that we can use two entrances at the same time. With our 900 pupil school, we should be able to get everyone inside in just 3 hours and 45 minutes. So if we can make a prompt start at quarter to nine, then we will be finished by 12.30 just in time for lunch. Pupils found to be carrying knives will then be given a 20 minute detention. (Attendance optional)

Let's not hear any talk of ceramic knives, baseball bats, or chair legs and don't even think about windows or Fire Exits.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Doctor Who?

This article alleges that:

The bogus Irish International University (IIU), which offers sub-standard and worthless degrees, has been allowed to flourish in the UK - virtually unchecked by the government - for the last seven years'

Basically, they rip off a load of foreign students and give them a bit of paper which will make an employer double up with laughter. Shouldn't we be encouraging this? Most former Polytechnics have been busy offering sub-standard and worthless degrees for years. Cultural Studies anyone?

Prof. Frank Chalk (Dr. of Letters)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

You Gotta Have Faith

The Times reports that middle class parents (ie the ones that care about their children's education) are pretending to be deeply religious in order to get their children into Faith schools, which on average are much better than non faith schools.

Several friends of mine have had their child baptised and become best pals with the local vicar or priest, even though they have no more belief in Religion than I do. As you might have come to expect, my view on all this is quite simple:

The kids may well get indoctrinated, but at least they'll be able to spell it.

Mind you, nobody is pulling the wool over the eyes of the Teaching Union, NUT. They have spotted that: 'Faith schools discriminate against pupils from non religious backgrounds.'

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Economics Lessons

This brat has been taught that you can steal £44 and if you are unlucky enough to get caught then you must pay back £75.

Sounds pretty good odds to me.

English Lessons

Whilst I wish Mrs Gorman had been my English teacher, I can't help but wonder whether the punishment have been different if she had been male and the Sixth Former, female? Perhaps Mr Caudle-Wood can tell us? (When he gets out)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Soft Options

Soft 'A' Levels? How can anybody claim that Leisure Studies is an easy option compared with say Further maths? Oh, ok then.

The real scandal is that 35% of the students who take Further Maths are from Private Schools, despite the fact that only 7% of kids attend them. The Comps just can't attract teachers who are able to teach it, or teach students to a high enough level that they can even attempt it.


Oh no, I've just discovered that George MacDonald Fraser died last week. I slept through History at school because it was as dull as ditchwater and this brilliant author of the Flashman series of books is the only reason I know anything about the subject at all. He was banned in countless libraries and when the first book was published in the US several of the reviewers thought it was a genuine biography.

There are dozens of great Flashman quotes, one of my favourities being:

'Somebody screamed in terror- fortunately nobody heard me.' and

'You think twice about committing murder when you're over 70'

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all. I know this is a bit late, but I've been skiing. If you ever go away with Crystal Holidays, please bear in mind that it appears to be a pre-requisite of their Reps that they are utterly helpless in all situations and unable to speak one word of the local language.

Guardian of Law and Order, and winner of the 'Best Police Inspector's Blog 2007' award Inspector Gadget sent me this article enquiring if it was anything to do with me. It isn't, as the chances of me ever progressing to Head are lower than John Prescott's IQ, but it made me laugh. (Especially where the mother said that she had 'cried and cried')

(Incidently Gadget's book will be out in the next few months and I've heard that it is a cracker.)

I love local papers with their 'Cat stuck up a tree' or 'Mrs Miggins falls over in the High St.' stories. Here's one that strikes a chord though. Apparently they reckon that litter bins attract litter. A cursory glance around Downtown indicates that areas frequented by the Underclass seem to attract litter. (Along with feckless, shell suited lumps) No doubt sociologists would have a field day about 'deprivation' and 'poverty' but how much exactly does it cost financially to put litter in a bin or take it home? There is a cost in effort though, which explains everything.

Schools like St. Thickchilds are knee deep in crisp packets, takeaway cartons and chocolate wrappers. Nobody is ever made to clear it up for a variety of imaginary Health and Safety reasons explained by a Head who has undergone an operation to have his spine removed.

Jumping around a bit, I'm sorry that I missed this story (which is also a bit out of date) I'm not surprised that Santa has fallen victim to the PC Brigade, his days were always numbered and I've never really trusted any man with a beard. No, I'm more surprised that prospective Santas go on a training course.

I'm still only posting occasionally as Dan the Editor is unaware that slavery has been abolished in Britain. Good luck to those of you who are going back to school today