Thursday, May 26, 2011

Unauthorised Absences up!

The papers don't understand the difference between truancy (kids bunking off to drink cider in the park or rob your house) and Unauthorised Absences, which are the kids who are away from school without the Head's permission (ie the above crowd plus those who are out shopping with their parents, sunning themselves on holiday in Spain or attending the religious festivals of a country that their family has come here to get away from).

Despite what this article claims, all we really know is that Unauthorised Absences have risen to an average of 64 000 a day for the Autumn 2010 term. This is simply because Heads have stopped authorising as many term time holiday requests. That's all there is to it, I'm afraid.

I don't like it when I can't justify a Daily Mail style rant, so instead let's have a laugh at Louise Bamfield, spokeswoman from Barnardo's. She wants to know 'the reasons why the persistent absentees are so averse to being in the classroom'. Well I can help her out: it's because they can have a lot more fun running around causing mayhem than they can sitting quietly, learning things and answering questions.

When there is no real punishment for bunking off, it's amazing more kids don't do it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Miss Wade

I am about to ask Science teacher Miss Wade from Education: My Part in its Downfall whether she once suffered a similar accident to this poor chap

Education: My Part in its Downfall

Please use the comments section on this post to let me know of any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes in the new book, so that I can fix them. One of the major advantages with e-books is that they can be updated within 24 hours, rather than having to do a whole new print run as you would with a paper book.

Oh and anyone who thinks that I am simply asking you all to be unpaid editors and proof readers, is of course correct.

Parents in Pyjamas

Eleven schools across Middlesbrough have written to parents asking them not to turn up to school in their pyjamas looking like lazy scuzzers. OK that's not exactly what the letters said but the idea was there.

I love stories like this as they bring out the best in all of us. I couldn't care less if they are just dropping the kids off by car which every parent seems to do if their child lives more than 100 metres from the school (although you are going to look pretty silly if you have to change a puncture). It sends a clear message saying "I am bone idle", but that is probably not a message which requires them to wear pyjamas in order to broadcast.

It's a different matter if they are coming into school dressed like this however and it must provide great amusement to the staff. If I were the Head, I would take pictures and hang them all up on a board marked Wretches. (Which I suppose probably explains why I am not in charge of a school).

Then I remembered that we were talking about Middlesbrough. 

ps Before anybody is tempted to remind us all that Winston Churchill used to conduct important wartime meetings in his dressing gown, then let me say that these people are not Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Private versus State Sport

Hard to believe, but the Girl's Schools Association claim that two thirds of Independent Girls' schools in Britain have pupils who regularly compete in sport at International level.

Three years ago at the Beijing Olympics, 37% of our medal winners had been to Private Schools even though only 7% of the population attend them.

Mind you when you see what passes for PE and Games at many comprehensives, it all becomes clear. The 'pursuit of excellence' doesn't really get a look in.

Now for something that's a bit easier to believe. Serial End of World predictor Rev Harold Camping has announced that he made a slight arithmetical mistake last week (easy to do when you are dealing with Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and has announced a new date of October 21st 2011.

Don't say I didn't warn you...

Tuition Fees

From 2012 British Universities can charge up to £9000 a year tuition fees. So...

Will the number of students decline? Or will the kids just say:

"Stuff it, I don't need to pay anything back for a while and even when I do it won't be that much."

Nobody really knows yet and we won't get much of an idea until next Spring. My prediction is that the well respected Universities will continue to increase their numbers whilst the comedy institutions that make employers double up with laughter will decline a little bit, but still keep going.

Monday, May 23, 2011

End of the World

Tens of thousands of people living in one of the World's most primitive countries must have been slightly confused yesterday when Rev Harold Camping's promised Global Armageddon did not arrive.

I suppose at first you'd be delighted to have survived the End of the World, but if you had entrusted your bank details, credit cards and PIN numbers with his church for safe transit into the Promised Land, then you might be slightly annoyed.

I've given him a call offering to help check his sums because it's all to easy to make a mistake when you are calculating Global Catastrophe. (As poor Harold realised on September 6th 1994 when he also predicted that it was curtains for us all).

You have to admire his cheek, building a career as an End of World predictor.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Concentration Spans

The declining concentration span of modern kids has been a popular topic in the media for a few years now. The theory holds that because the pace of our lives has increased so much, our attention cannot be held for as long as it once could.

There's definitely something in this- I see it in myself. Rather than read through a whole newspaper I tend to just briefly scan the news headlines and perhaps look at a couple of articles that interest me. I suppose this is the nature of the Internet. It encourages us to flit from one thing to another rather than read through a long report. (I'd like to see a quantitative analysis of this though- by what factor has the pace of our lives increased over the last 50 years say, and has our attention span decreased at the same rate?)

This article claims that boys can only read for 100 pages before losing interest. It doesn't say whether they were just fed up with what they were reading though. I remember being bored to death having to read Macbeth, A Tale of Two Cities etc 30 years ago and I was an academic kid. I wouldn't want to read Jane Austen now, never mind when I was 13, when I would much rather have read a book of war stories or alien invasions.

I can't help but wonder whether we put children off reading for life by forcing them to study deathly dull books that they don't want to read. Actually, do we call these books 'classics' just because they are old, rather than for the quality of their story lines? Not being an English teacher I have no idea whether this has been properly looked into. (Another opportunity for some PhD student).

Maybe these stories were good in their time but their old fashioned English and settings that we cannot relate to, prevent them from grabbing our attention nowadays. One thing's for certain, they aren't going to compete with a Playstation.

Either way, I suppose the most important question is: how do we lengthen children's attention spans and are they really that important?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Education: My Part in its Downfall

Education: My Part In Its Downfall has just arrived on Amazon. Click here or on the picture in my right hand sidebar to download it to Kindle, laptop, Ipad, portable telephone etc. You can read it on anything that can run the Kindle software (which you download here) but the Kindle reader is actually really good- I'm a converted sceptic.

As you might expect from me, there's been a couple of cock-ups. For a brief while the title had an apostrophe in "its" and the price is currently £4.43 but will drop to £3.79 tomorrow. (I didn't realise that they add VAT on top of the sale price as ebooks have to pay it but paper ones do not)

I hope you enjoy the book and please feel free to ridicule any mistakes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Table of Contents

If anyone can explain to me in SIMPLE ENGLISH how to make a clickable chapter list on Kindle (I think that it is called a TOC or 'Table of Contents' then I would be forever in your debt (well sort of).

Why on Earth you have to be Bill Gates to add such a simple feature is beyond me.

Madeleine McCann

Kate McCann's book has knocked It's Your Time You're Wasting off the Number 1 spot in Kindle Non-fiction. Deservedly so as well. She did nothing that I and a million other people wouldn't have done, but has had to suffer not only the loss of her child but numerous unpleasant comments and baseless accusations in the media.

Hats off to her for being brave enough to write about her tragedy and let's hope that despite the long odds her little girl is found one day safe and well.

Education: My Part in its Downfall

The new book is finished at last and should appear on Amazon very soon. Will keep you informed...

(Oh that's me on the cover- Dan Collins was the model (!) for 'It's Your Time You're Wasting')