Friday, December 14, 2012

Eyes and Stuff

As there has been a sudden Email interest in my health, I will answer all questions in one go:

1) No I am not about to croak.

2) Several readers have asked "What are the symptoms?" So far I have resisted the temptation to reply that they are a little yellow cartoon family on the telly. The truth is that I noticed a small dark grey patch in the bottom left corner when looking through my left eye which (for those of you who did not pay attention in biology) means that the retina has started to peel off in the top right corner. If  you notice the same effect, then go to your nearest hospital straight away. DO NOT EMAIL ME!

There, hopefully I've done my bit for the public's health.

3) How long did I have to wait? It's classed as an emergency, so they did the operation within 24 hours.

4) Local or General anaesthetic? It's up to the patient- the op. can be done under both. I had local and it's pretty weird. Not painful at all, but you have to be able to keep your mind focused on something else. The operation lasts an hour and then they put a bubble of gas in your eye to push against the retina to keep it in place. (Don't ask what the gas is- it annoys the surgeon).

3) Afterwards? You lie face down feeling sorry for yourself for an hour, wear a patch for a day and you can go home once the pressure in your eye is below 30. (Nobody knows what the units are and only people like me ever enquire). One in three suffer from elevated pressure in the eye for a while (which feels exactly as you'd imagine it would), but it's easily treated with eye drops. Don't forget to take the eye patch home with you for future Adam Ant/ Pirate dressing up amusement.

For ten days you have to maintain a certain position as much as possible in order to keep the gas bubble pushing in the right place- in my case I had to have my head upright during the day and sleep on my left side at night. (I had the easiest regime- some poor sods have to lie face downwards or on their side for the first ten days.) You take drops and tablets for a couple of weeks, which unfortunately don't have any interesting side effects. All your friends will be moderately sympathetic until they tire of you shouting "Who said that?" every time they ask how it's going.

Outcome? It's like looking through a bowl of water at first then the bubble gradually disappears from your vision over a few weeks and now I can see one between one and two lines less on an eyesight chart. This isn't a major problem as I wore contacts anyway, so I just get a new prescription. Apparently the vision may improve over the next six months or so. (Or so my optician hopes, so he can sell me another contact lens).

Anyway, that's it. Now that you have all convinced yourselves that you have a detached retina, I shall await the News at Ten report that every Eye Department across the Nation is under siege.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

NHS Bed Shortage

About six weeks ago, I had to go into hospital to have an operation on my left eye, as I had suffered a slight retinal tear. Worry not, as the procedure went well and the next day I was told by the surgeon that I could go home.

"Hoorah!" I thought and paid no attention to the rest of his sentence: "- just as soon as your drops and tablets have been sent up from the hospital pharmacy."

Four and a half hours later, they duly arrived. According to the nurses, there was nothing unusual in this timescale and they assured me that it was much worse at weekends, or Bank Holidays.

"You can be waiting 8 hours then!" One of them added cheerfully.

Several times during my long wait, I thought of simply going home and picking them up later. However I couldn't drive, so would have had to scrounge a lift. It would have been an hour's round trip and no, the staff can't phone you when your medicines are ready. So I stayed put, wondering how much my bed cost per hour.

I finally received my bag of drugs, said goodbye to the others in my little ward and as I walked out I could hear the man in the bed opposite me asking the nurse how much longer his prescriptions would be (He had already waited over three hours).

Bear this story in mind the next time you hear on the news about a hospital beds shortage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teachers' Pay

So a Government Education Minister has finally decided on the radical step of paying good teachers more than bad ones. Needless to say, everybody is up in arms.

Introducing any kind of real-world market forces into Teaching never goes down well. The Unions oppose it because they have to be seen to be opposing things, the hopeless teachers don't like it because they will get paid less and the good teachers say they oppose it in the staffroom, but are secretly delighted. The main objection is that 'it is too difficult'.

Bradley and Jordan from Year 9 have used that excuse in the past to great effect.

I'd go further and pay more to those who teach subjects for which we are short of teachers. The howls of protest would put a werewolf to shame.

Here's an story about a Saudi Arabian man who got a bit carried away with his love for education.

Finally, best of luck to my good pal Jez Bragg who is starting today on a 3000 km run along the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. It goes North to South across both islands and you can follow his progress on his blog  here and on Twitter here  (He is hoping to be able to pronounce the name of the route by the end of January)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Student House Rental Sheffield

Well it's that time of year again, when students across the land start looking for houses for the next academic year. It seems to get earlier and earlier each year (I remember we didn't start looking until about Easter). If you happen to be lucky enough to be studying at Sheffield University and wish to avoid old fashioned, damp and mouldy houses then contact this guy who comes highly recommended from a friend

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Raspberry Pi

Having covered so many IT lessons which were simply typing by another name, the Raspberry Pi computer is like a breath of fresh air. Dirt cheap, easily programmable and you can muck about with it to your heart's content.

Here's a demonstration of how to use it as a simple web server. It won't be particularly practical but that's not the point. It enables kids to learn some useful skills and actually do something.

You can even make an Airplay receiver but I can't afford to fight Apple's lawyers so look it up yourself. Hook them up to other high tech stuff that is rapidly becoming cheaper such as miniature video cameras, GPS, 3D printers and motion sensing game controllers- the surface has barely been scratched. Private Schools have spotted the advantages enjoyed by pupils who can actually program and are ordering them at five times the rate of the State Sector.

This really is pioneering stuff and hopefully the next Steve Wozniak is furtively connecting dozens of them together in order to make a supercomputer in the back of a classroom near you.

Oh hang on I forgot- none of this is on the syllabus.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Comment Verification

Several readers have complained about how difficult it is to read those distorted letters that appear when you try to leave a comment. Apparently they are supposed to verify that you are indeed a real person leaving spam rather than a computer programme.

I apologise and admit that they are a nightmare. Unfortunately when I tried turning the feature off a few days ago as an experiment, I was immediately bombarded with almost a hundred comments hiding links to all sorts of rubbish.

Now this makes me wonder. Everyone operates on the same cost-versus-benefit rule, no matter what line of business they are in or whether they are honest or not. No matter how cheap it is to send out spam, it isn't free. Nor is it free to host a website. Therefore somebody, somewhere must be following these links and buying the products on offer.

So this begs the question:

Just who exactly believes that they will get a cheap Rolex watch by visiting a website based in Russia? Or that a reputable chemist is waiting for them at the end of a link entitled "Best Cheap Price Viagra"? I want to meet the person who sends their money off to buy a "Lois Vuitton" handbag from Nigeria and more importantly, I want to know who was responsible for their education.

We should teach kids the meaning of the word 'gullible'? (Which by the way, isn't actually in the Oxford Dictionary)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tutor Kings and Queens

"If you want to be a top tutor, it definitely helps if you are young and attractive" says young and attractive Kelly Mok from the amusingly named Hong Kong tutoring company- King's Glory. More on the phenomenon of celebrity tutors here

Must dash, as I think the postman has just arrived with an invitation to start a new life in the Far East.

Monday, November 26, 2012

New Teachers

It has been fashionable to criticise the younger generation ever since Ug was a caveman, but nevertheless, you may be interested in a conversation I had last week with  two Science teachers James and Ivan. Both men are in their mid-fifties and I was asking how teaching had changed since they started in the late 1970s.
(Please bear in mind that this is not a Scientific experiment with reproducible results- it's simply three guys talking in a pub).

Their first admission was that the new teachers worked so much harder than they ever did. Ivan pointed out that 'in the olden days' the staffroom was always full of people chattering and at lunchtimes they would play darts or pool. Nowadays they said, the room is almost silent and the young teachers are always marking and planning.

"They are under so much more pressure than we ever were" agreed James.

"We were pretty much left to get on with it, whereas nowadays you always feel like there's someone looking over your shoulder. "

Both men admitted that they were glad their circumstances would enable them to retire within the next few years and felt that they were luckier than young adults nowadays. They had not had to pay to go to University, could not imagine teaching until the age of 68 and felt sorry for people starting off in teaching.

Ivan qualified this by pointing out that half the country goes to Uni nowadays, whereas it used to be much more selective academically, so many of those who get a degree today would never have been given one in the past. We got slightly sidetracked at this point with a calculation that our nearest University now had four times the number of students that it had thirty five years ago. All three of us agreed that a huge con was being perpetrated on the current generation by telling them how clever they all were and pushing them into 'debt and dodgy degrees'.

This led to James claiming that the present generation of teachers were on average less intelligent than his own. He emphasised the 'on average' bit, before adding that in his opinion half of the 'new ones' wouldn't know how to work out an average anyway. Ivan agreed that subject knowledge along with standards of English and basic maths had dropped considerably in the last 30 years, but also pointed out that he had heard the same claims from older teachers when he was young and it was blamed on the arrival of electronic calculators.

"The young lads dress better than we did" admitted Ivan. "I used to wear a leather bomber jacket for school and you used to wear jeans half the time (indicating James)- whereas they tend to wear a nice suit nowadays."

"Yeah, but what some of the young female teachers wear these days is unbelievable!" Announced James enthusiastically, spilling some of his pint and barely able to sit still.

"Teaching methods have changed massively too. We just did chalk and talk so if you were having a bad day you just sat down, buried your head in a pile of marking and got the kids to do an exercise in silence from the textbook. Both laughed. "Now you're expected to provide non-stop entertainment".

They agreed that the job had become much more demanding. Ivan had started out when their school was a Grammar and recounted the shock that they all had when the Comprehensive intake arrived and suddenly the ability range broadened.

"The older teachers (at the time) just couldn't cope with a load of kids who could barely read. But even so, they were streamed from the minute they arrived in Year 7, not like now where you've got two years of mixed ability to deal with and all the Special Schools have closed so you've got all the head cases in there as well"

"And all this multicultural stuff- all the problems with the foreign kids' different culture and language. We never had to deal with any of that." James added.

"Looking back the discipline was so easy. We might have complained about the odd naughty kid, but nothing like today. At least there was a little bit of respect for teachers back then, both from the kids and parents- now we're just dirt.

Finally I asked them both whether they would recommend the career to a bright 21 year old graduate.

After a slight pause, they both shook their heads rather sadly.

I pointed out that job security counted for a lot these days and teaching was pretty safe. They agreed, although James pointed out that this would not be the case in a few years time when most schools had become Academies and could hire and fire teachers much easier.

He paused and added:

"Accountability and professionalism are all very well, but once they go too far and the job just becomes unpleasant then you'll only recruit those who can't do anything else"

"Like you, Frank!" They both added in unison.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Doom and Gloom

So inflation's going back up, the gas companies are ripping us off, the BBC's in crisis- can it really get any worse?

What? They've let who out of jail?..

Monday, November 12, 2012

International Aid

How on Earth can we expect India to fund an £800 million space exploration programme if we're going to start penny-pinching and not send them any more money after 2015?

Likewise, if we cut back on the river of cash flowing to Nigeria each year, how will they afford to let people know about their £251 million win in the Lagos State Lottery? Or that a long lost Auntie has unfortunately been involved in a plane crash and left them a fortune, which can be sent out after a small administration fee has been paid?

Still, at least we are boosting aid to Pakistan. Their defense budget rose by 10% this year and some of their nuclear reactors could really do with a bit of modernisation work. Maybe they'll be able to sell us some electricity once our lights start to go out?

It's no wonder Amazon, Ebay and Google don't want to pay taxes in our Country. They're just saving us from ourselves.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama Wins

Well at least we don't have Mad Mitt in charge of things over the Pond, although the impression I got last year was that most people would reluctantly vote for Obama simply because there was no serious alternative.

Oh and today's top tip- don't go cutting any of your pupils' hair (even if it is too long)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

School Dinners and Jamie Oliver Again

The canteens in schools which have become Academies don't have to follow the same nutritional regulations as those in schools which haven't. Now I've no idea whether these rules make the food better or worse (anyone can call themselves a nutritionist as it's not a protected name like 'Doctor').

However I do know that if nothing is done, then Jamie Oliver's chubby grinning face will appear on the telly faster than you can say 'chip butty' and we all have a duty to try and prevent that.

We need more rules for Academies
Governing chips, potatoes and peas.
So write to your MP today.
And together we'll keep Jamie away!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Vanessa Greening and Jeremy Vine

A quiet word from the Head should have sorted out this nonsense, but instead Vanessa Greening received an assault conviction and her school will now 'carry out an investigation' before deciding what to do with her.
I don't mind admitting that I did exactly the same thing a dozen times.

Do we hear her Union speaking out in her defense, as they would do if she didn't know anything about her subject, couldn't be bothered to try and control the kids, or never came in to work?

Also, well done to Jeremy Vine last week for highlighting the madness of teachers marking their own pupils' coursework when they are themselves judged on how good the marks are.
More on this in

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.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

School Sport

The current government heavily criticised the previous one for allowing 200 state schools to sell off their playing fields to developers in ten years.

The previous government is now criticising the current one for allowing 20 schools to do the same in the last two years.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


They call it God's County and you have to hand it to them. If they were a country they'd currently be an unbelievable seventh in the medal table.

Here's a list of words I've learnt the meaning of in the last week:

Omnium, double pike, Keirin, dressage, yuko.

I've got to say- even though we won a gold in it, the Keirin really does look bizarre. I definitely want to ride that motorbike in Rio...

Monday, August 06, 2012


PE departments across the Country will be bombarded in September with requests to try gymnastics, judo, rowing and cycling to name but a few. It could be a marvellous opportunity to find and encourage the next generation of athletes and point them in the right direction to achieve success.

Are we able to rise to this challenge in the state sector?

Sadly, I think the chances are smaller than Tom Daley's trunks.

7% of children in Britain go to Private schools, but they make up a much higher percentage of Team GB. Feel free to supply the reasons for this, but I suspect that ideas like "non competitive sportsday" play a major part.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


The best possible legacy from these Olympic Games would be if women were to start to value exercise and physical fitness above looks, shopping and celebrity following.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Heather Stanning, Helen Glover...

Helen Glover, Heather Stanning, Lizzie Armistead, Kate Walsh, Loius Smith, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas, Max whitlock, Dan Purvis, Brad Wiggins, Tom Daley, Zoe Smith... the list goes on and on.

Are we finally realising that there are real heroes out there? Exchanging our love of vacuous, self indulgent celebrities with people who can actually do great things, yet conduct themselves with modesty and dignity?

Saturday, July 28, 2012


What a great opening ceremony! Totally incomprehensible to the rest of the World.

A bit embarrassing to hear the BBC commentators this evening talking about the Men's Road Race which they clearly didn't understand at all. The reason Team GB couldn't help Cavendish win is simple- no other country seemed to want to do any work at the front. It doesn't matter how good your team of five is, you can't stay at the front for the whole race, pushing air aside for everyone else- you just end up exhausted. Simple physics really.

And how come we seem to have loads of empty seats?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Aren't we supposed to have the Opening Ceremony before the events start?

Whoever mixed up the North and South Korean flags is probably looking at a change of Korea. Thing is, it's our Olympics and if anyone gets stroppy about the odd cock up, then just tell them to go home. We should be proud of our sense of humour and mix up stuff for a laugh- hoist a pirate flag if Somalia win and play the theme tune to Borat if Kazakhstan end up on the podium.

Top Tip: Take an empty water bottle and fill it up for free once inside the venue

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


So here's my solution:

1) The Government should cancel the contract with G4S immediately and refuse to pay them a single penny. Let them sue if they dare. They are a bunch of halfwits who cannot be trusted and will simply mess up if given the opportunity.

2) All security should be done by the Armed Forces because at least we can rely on them to do the job. It's a last minute panic measure and the soldiers will hate it. Many will have their holiday plans ruined, but reward them all with a huge bonus, free tickets for their families to any event they fancy and guaranteed leave after the Games have finished.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mont Blanc Avalanche

The word 'extreme' is so often added to the most mundane of pastimes to make them seem more dangerous or exciting than they really are.

Mountaineering has never needed any such label, because it is really is dangerous, exciting and physically hard.

Condolences to the families of John Taylor, Steve Barber and Roger Payne; killed in an avalanche on Mr Maudit near Chamonix yesterday.

At least they died pursuing a dream, rather than sitting in front of a computer screen or a giant TV.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Immigration Queues

Those of you who try to escape the wretched weather by heading abroad, may well find that you are greeted by a mile long queue at Immigration on your return.

This happened to me at Luton a few months ago- only half the desks were manned, the new speedy e-passport checking machine wasn't working and we all stood waiting for the best part of an hour. There were sporadic outbreaks of slow hand clapping, whistling and the odd queue jumping accusation. I've faced pretty long queues in other countries, including the US, but that doesn't make it ok for us to be rubbish too.

Immigration Minister Damian Green has proved himself incapable of fixing the problem and has simply resorted to denying its existence and blaming the wind. We should just let Keith Vaz sort it out. (He's pretty good at shortening queues as the Hinduja brothers could testify).

Monday, July 09, 2012

Schools Let Down Their Best

A study by the Sutton Trust claims that English schools are letting down their brightest Maths pupils.

Non-maths teachers should be up in arms- one of the cornerstones of the comprehensive system is that we let the brightest pupils down equally in all subjects. What other outcome would you expect when schools are graded on the number of pupils who gain a 'c' grade at GCSE.

Obviously all the best teachers are put in charge of classes on the c/d borderline and those children are offered extra help after school. The best pupils are left to fend for themselves, as are the worst.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Charlie Taylor Behaviour Czar

Charlie Taylor is the Government 'Behaviour Czar' (who did he upset to receive such a daft title?) He met with the Education Select Committee yesterday and told them that:

"Some children are too disruptive to fit into regular school life"

Well goodness me, there's a revelation. 

Now you might imagine that his solution would be to send them to Borstal or something along those lines. but no, they must not be blamed or punished for their actions- instead he proposes that 'help and support' are what's needed. God save us.

It wasn't long before he degenerated into complete gibberish with such classics as:

"The trajectory of pupil behaviour is improving"

before describing some pupils' behaviour as 'challenging'. Why is it that nobody in charge can ever grit their teeth and actually say the word 'bad'?

Finally he reassured everyone by claiming that 'no-go areas where teachers fear to tread' are becoming rarer. This would be good news if we were discussing Helmand Province, but not so great when it is our own schools and the only cure suggested amounts to little more than a friendly chat over a nice cup of tea.

To be fair to Charlie he has come up with some sensible suggestions in the last year, such as telling parents not to keep their children off school for trivial reasons and proposing not paying child benefit to parents of kids who truant (I think he pinched both ideas from my book), but he needs to get a grip as far as pupil behaviour is concerned.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Natural and Organic

'Natural' and 'Organic' are two words which provide a licence to sell all sorts of expensive nonsense to the unwary. Combined with the right packaging, they are a marketer's dream, giving comfort and reassurance whilst discouraging us from subjecting the ingredients list to any scientific investigation.

Cyanide, anthrax, and radioactivity are all natural- that is they are found in Nature. Ebola, swine flu and cancer are all organic- ie related to a living organism.

'Herbal extracts' is a close runner-up in this race to fleece the foolish. A herb is simply a plant that has no wood in it and as most plants don't really like being eaten, it should be no surprise to learn that many of them have evolved all sorts of defences to dissuade animals from doing so.

However, never let it be said that I don't have the highest double standards, so keep an eye out for Chalk Industries' latest product.

Our natural, organic rat poison with plant extracts will be hitting the shelves soon. (The 'plant extract' is the cardboard box it comes in).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The BBC claims that Heads who have been sacked because their schools failed miserably are now being employed by Ofsted to inspect other schools.

I wonder whether the idea behind this is that they are familiar with bad practice and can recognise it from their own experiences. I'm surprised they haven't offered me a job.

Or you could argue that it doesn't really matter whether they were any good at running a school or not, as they might well have been great teachers in their time. When the inspection consists of ticking a load of boxes on a form that the teachers have seen and have had time to tailor their lessons to fit them in a way they never normally would, then a trained chimp could do the job equally well. (Especially that one I saw on the tv a few months ago doing sums)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Alan Turing

Monday is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, one of Britain's greatest Geniuses. Prof Jack Copeland suggests that his death may have been an accident rather than suicide as is generally believed.

The Daily Mash has an equally insightful article pointing out that although Turing would not be persecuted today for his homosexuality, he would instead risk a beating simply for being unfashionably clever.

Western States

Congratulations to Ellie Greenwood on a brilliant win at Western States yesterday. Well done to Ian Sharman, bad luck to Jez Bragg.

If the above means nothing to most readers, just put it down as the rantings of a deranged loon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Francis Gilbert

Here's Francis Gilbert losing it on BBC news in a debate with Toby Young:

Francis is a well known education commenter and unlike me, is very knowledgeable on the subject. He is very left wing (which is presumably why he sent his son to a private school). He is probably not my greatest fan, once describing my book as 'vituperative' when we were interviewed together.

I thanked him profusely, not having any idea what the word meant.

I shouldn't be nasty about him as he means well, but the video is quite funny.

Pub Complaints

Am I the only one being driven mad every time I am served beer in a glass with no line on it to indicate a pint? I'm sure that they always used to have these things, but recently the glasses seem to have become smaller and the pint level is assumed to be right at the top, presumably in order to make an extra profit of around 10% (my estimate).

It really annoys me, because even if you are stroppy as I am and ask for it to be topped up, the beer is then almost like a bubble on top of the glass and you invariably spill some of it over your freshly laundered shirt on the way back from the bar (and look a bit silly). If you are buying two or three then you end up having to drink a bit out of each of them before daring to walk away, which makes you look like a wino.

Whilst we're on the subject of pub madness, why do I always have to have a new glass rather than just have my old one refilled, thus saving the energy required to wash it up? Is it some imagined 'Health and Safety' risk? Neither can you bring your own oversized glass with a pint mark on it, because it might not be something-or-other to do with breaking that I can't remember.

Finally has anyone been to a pub where you can keep your own pewter tankard behind the bar? I've never tried beer from one but apparently it improves the taste.

It's strange really, when pubs are closing down all over the place, that we have so many silly little things that just put people off and encourage them to stay at home, where at least you know how much is in your supermarket bottle of lager and can drink it from your own boot if you so choose.

Michael Gove, Nick Clegg and Education

So just to sum up:

Michael Gove thinks that the GCSE has become dumbed down (which it has) and that having five exam boards competing to see who can offer the easiest papers has resulted in 'a race to the bottom' (which is also true- what else would you expect competition in this area to do?)

He proposes going back to the old system of more rigorous O Levels for the academic kids and more basic CSE exams and presumably vocational courses for the rest. The National Curriculum would be abolished.

Nick Clegg is furious at all this and has been phoning up from his hotel in Rio where he was sent to get rid of him for a bit.

These proposals raise a lot of questions which of course are too difficult for me to answer.

It's an awful lot of upheaval. Teachers have been messed about a great deal in recent years with course changes, constant new initiatives, alterations to the syllabus, new approved methods of teaching and marking, Ofsted etc etc. There would be some disruption for the kids but not too much.

Would the non academic kids really be given the resources to learn useful vocational skills. This isn't going to be cheap, but it is vital.

There would be lots of blather about a 'two tier education system' which of course we have already with private schools, good state schools and bad ones. Fashionable newspaper columnists and people paid to talk on Newsnight would go on and on about 'social mobility' and 'a return to the 1950s'.

Why not just make the GCSE harder (with just one exam board) and bring in serious, respected and properly funded vocational courses as well? If we throw out the prevailing idea that we are somehow all academically equal and everyone must pass whatever exam they sit, then we just might halt the decline in academic standards over the last 25 years and at the same time, produce some employable young adults. (Although I suppose in reality, this is exactly what Michael Gove is actually proposing, but without changing the name of the exams).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Round and Round

Michael Gove read 'It's Your Time You're Wasting' back in 2007 when he was Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families. He described it as:

'A terrifying condemnation of the Education system from someone who really knows what they are talking about".

Not many people have accused me of such a thing, however since becoming Education Secretary he has pinched almost every single one of his ideas from my book. In fact, if you want to know his policies for the next three years just buy yourself a copy and astonish your friends by announcing: "I bet he says this before long".

He even comes out with them in the same order I did, to make things easier for you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Staff Absenteeism

I often used to wonder whether my school was built over a plague pit, such was the level of illness. I don't mean the kids, I'm talking about the staff.

Whilst most teachers realise that they are actually supposed to come into work and are good attenders, there is always a hardcore group who are forever off and amazingly, nothing is ever done about them. Their reasons range from the vaguely believable to the utterly bizarre. (Strange allergies, mysterious 'viruses' and 'flu' every time the wind changes direction- a disease specialist would be fascinated.)

Short and regular absences are simply accepted without question and for longer ones, it's well known that a doctor will sign you off just to get you out of the room and even if they won't, no problem- just ask for an appointment with a different one until you find a soft touch. If I had my time again, I'm not sure that I'd ever come in at all.

What I never understand is why most of the other staff just accept this, muttering about "not giving it to the rest of us" despite it being well known that most infections have passed the contagious stage by the time you even realise that you are unwell. It's considered taboo in many staffrooms to criticise those who are 'attendance challenged' and unfortunately the vaguest mention of 'The Unions' is enough to make most Heads (who often don't know much about the law, but are very aware that they won't receive any support from the Council anyway) back down from taking any action in the face of skiving that would have you sacked in the corporate world.

Compare this laissez-faire attitude with that of our more successful companies who employ a doctor whom the staff must see as well as operating a 'managed return to work scheme' where the person who is ill is regularly monitored rather than just being allowed to fester at home. Funnily enough their absence rates are half of what ours are. Every time one of the workshy plays the system, it simply gives the Government more ammunition against us.

Until teaching gets a grip on staff absences, we will never be taken any more seriously than Council workers.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jubilee Celebrations

Now I'm not bothered either way about the Monarchy. Sure, they cost £x each year but they generate £y. I don't know whether x is greater than y, nor do I care as the difference wouldn't pay our Benefits bill for a single day. If we got rid of Queenie and Co, we'd only have to replace them with some awful Tony Blair / Simon Cowell / David Beckham figures.

As it is, we can always rely on Phil the Greek and Prince Harry to provide some good entertainment.

So, I'll get to the point of this post. Whilst waiting for a train the other day I overheard two girls, probably in their early twenties, talking about how they were going to some anti-Jubilee protest. I had no idea that any were planned, so I listened with interest. They were complaining bitterly that the Royal Family had been born into privilege, had never had to work and shouldn't be given our money.

The irony of the situation was lost on them. They were both British- ie lucky enough to be born into the top 5% of the World's wealth, with opportunities available for the taking that a Chinese peasant or an African farmer can only dream of. Through no talent of their own, they had managed to exist in an era of unprecedented wealth, with free healthcare and a social security safety net that have been available for about 60 out of the last million years. They had enough money to travel by train and were well dressed in comparison with the average Eastern European, South American (or for that matter- me). One had an iPhone and the other had a tattoo and some ironmongery in her face.

These things require disposable income, as did their takeaway drinks from Costa Coffee. The majority of the Earth's people do not have a single penny to spend  on anything but survival and even the concept of having 'free time' to attend a protest, ie being rich enough not to have to dedicate every waking moment to work, preparing a meal or bringing up children, must seem an almost unbelievable concept.

I did not discover whether they actually paid any taxes or not, as my attention was distracted by a prettier group of women arriving on the platform, babbling about their Jubilee Party. Whether we can draw any conclusions from their relative attractiveness, I do not know.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


No doubt you will all be aware of the huge event taking place at the moment- The Grand Union Canal Race, a 145 mile footrace along the canal from Birmingham to London.

Next time someone tries to impress you with claims to be training for a marathon or some expensive but not particularly difficult desert run for accountants, just ask them if they have done GUCR and watch them shrivel up before your very eyes. This is the number one race for anyone serious about proving themselves in Ultrarunning (the crazy notion of running very long distances).

The race starts Saturday at 6 am and has a cutoff of 45 hours. If you happen to see any of the competitors (you'll recognise them because they will be on the canal towpath, have a number on their chest and quite possibly seem a bit the worse for wear) then cheer them on and tell them they look great.

You can get updates here:

or do the really modern thing and look on twitter

Friday, June 01, 2012

Education: My Part in its Downfall

I've noticed that a couple of reviewers have commented on formatting and grammatical errors in the new book, but unfortunately they haven't identified them. After downloading a copy myself and skimming through it today, I can't actually find any.

Whether the Kindle publishing software has been updated I do not know, (it used to have a tendency to insert gaps in text, repeat words and throw in the odd blank line), but if anyone can help me by pointing out exactly where any problems might be found, then I would be extremely grateful and promise to fix them. You can even have your name listed under 'Editors' if you want.

The book can be purchased here

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gravitationally Challenged

The language police are out in force again, attempting to ban 'fat' 'obese' and 'overweight'.

This constant fuss about not using certain words or phrases, just reinforces the message that saying the right thing is more important than actually facing up to reality and dealing with a problem.


Once upon a time, schools used to be given lots of notice before Ofsted turned up so that they could expel all their really naughty kids and send the worst teachers away on a course somewhere. The remaining staff would worry themselves to death preparing ridiculous lessons which impressed the inspectors immensely and were a complete waste of the pupils' time. The caretaker would be told to paint everything in sight, pick up all the litter and put out some nice plants in pots. This pantomime suited everyone very well.

Then the system was changed so that schools were only given a couple of days warning. There would be a frenzied panic whilst everyone frantically covered their classroom walls with examples of the children's work, stayed up all night trying to get their books marked and delivered a wacky but pointless lesson on the big day.

Finally it was proposed that the inspectors just turn up unnanounced and see what really goes on. 

Obviously this idea was dismissed as being completely ridiculous after the unions complained and today it was announced that Ofsted will now be telling the Head one day in advance of their arrival.

If anyone doesn't like this new plan, then just be patient and it will change again before long.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Microwaving Bacteria

I might have known that somebody would email me this question:

'Can you kill bacteria in a microwave?'

Without bothering to do any research or carry out an experiment (what else would you expect from me?) I'd say 'yes'. The microwaves used are at the right frequency to make water molecules vibrate, all living things have water in them and don't like being heated up for long. As long as the oven has enough power, then after a while they will croak.

How long you need to keep bacteria in the machine, I couldn't tell you.


First three were Orange, HSBC and Scottish Power. Fourth was Laithwaites Wine. Interesting comments on how good First Direct are, considering that they're actually owned by HSBC!

ps can anyone confirm whether the rumour I keep hearing about schools not allowing pupils to bring in the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls for craft lessons is actually true or just an urban myth?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bits and Bobs

Sorry I've not posted for a bit. Busy, busy and all that. Here's a few random musings.

The BBC reports today that there were 87 000 incidents of racism recorded in schools between 2007 and 2011.
Firstly why can't they adopt a standard unit of recording data (eg per year) rather than try and impress us with a big number?
Secondly, we are absolutely obsessed with racism in schools. Any incident perceived by the victim or some random passer by to be in the slightest bit racist is duly recorded in a book. This of course leads to ridiculous situations where I call you 'carrot head' and you respond by calling me 'chocolate face'.

Only one of us will be in trouble here and it ain't me.

Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary has called for Comprehensive Schools to teach their kids how to speak to people both in interviews and in public. This is an excellent idea, which has been suggested many times before. The gulf between how state and private school pupils speak to an adult is enormous and we should do anything we can do to catch up. It would be far more useful than learning about myths in RE or political correctness in PSE.

The CBI (which speaks on behalf of businesses in the UK) has once again criticised the GCSE for not preparing pupils for future employment and propose just having an exam at 18 (which will be the school leaving age by 2015- this bombshell has fallen out of the news recently). They usually also have a story about an employee who takes on someone with five GCSEs and then has to teach them basic Maths and English. (Does this surprise anyone any more?)

They have a good point though, as schools have been failing miserably for two or three decades to turn out kids who are ready for work.

Finally, I phoned up four companies yesterday and three of them greeted me with an awful automated voice which invited me to select from some options. The voice then asked me to select from some more, speak my reference number (which they could not recognise) and then played me some music which I did not want to listen to, told me how important my call was and about the unusually high call volumes that they are always experiencing. After a few minutes I was put through to a human who also appeared to be automated.

She asked for my reference number again and then announced that she couldn't help me, as she could only read out the options given to her by the computer. As she was obviously flummoxed by anything unusual, I asked to be put through to her manager and she informed me that he would only say the same. Bravely resisting the temptation to get sidetracked and ask how she knew this, I begged her instead to give him the opportunity to do so and was promptly put on hold. Several minutes and three songs later I gave up and put the phone down.

When I phoned the fourth one, a cheerful bloke answered the phone, told me he didn't need any reference numbers as he could just look up my name and sorted out my non-standard request in less than a minute. He said that he would confirm what we had agreed by email straight away (And he did).

Feel free to suggest the identities of the first three and the final company.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Team GB Drug Cheats

Dwain Chambers and David Millar have been selected by Team GB to represent us at the London Olympics in a few weeks time. Both men chose to take banned performance enhancing drugs- blatantly cheating by any definition of the word.

When they were caught, they both initially denied any wrongdoing, but later expressed regret for their actions. There is no evidence however, that either would have stopped had they not been found out 

There has been cheating in the Olympics for decades and you can be assured that several athletes will be doing so in London. However, the selectors of Team GB had a golden opportunity to at least try and do something.

They did not have to pick either athlete- they could have issued a statement along the lines of:

Whatever the cost to us, even if it diminishes our medal count and we know perfectly well that other countries will send drug cheats to compete against us- we are going to take a stand and send out a clear message to our children who watch these Games and may grow up to be competitors themselves. We want to show them that we really do believe that cheating is wrong and we will not support those who put their own selfish personal gain in front of basic sportsmanship and honesty.

They could have said this, but sadly they didn't and it diminishes us as a result.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Post Office Savings Account

Last week I ventured back into the Dark Ages when I decided to close my Internet Savings Account with the Post Office because they were unable to give me a decent interest rate. (They offer a good rate to new customers but cannot transfer existing ones onto it for reasons that completely baffled me.)

So I phoned them up, went through all the security verification to prove who I was before being told that I needed to write to them in order to close the account, as they needed to compare my signature with the one they had on record. I protested that I was only asking them to transfer the funds into my nominated bank account (that they already had the details of), but soon discovered that I was wrestling with fog.

I gave up and sent them a letter. Yesterday I received a reply which asked me to send another copy of my signature because they did not after all, have the original one (that I used to open the account) on file.

I have duly complied with their request, but my brain hurts from puzzling over what exactly they intend to compare with what.

My next door neighbour, on the other hand, after being refused a loan for £5000 from his bank, went to "Lending Expert" for a loan and found them to be very helpful.

Laithwaites Wine once again proved their customer service second to none when they sent me a free delivery voucher to apologise for a trivial mistake on my account. Imagine that sort of service from your electricity supplier.

More Customer Service gripes and praises coming soon

Ofsted no-notice Inspections

The Government has now abandoned the idea that Ofsted should just turn up and see what really goes on in schools and will instead make them give advance warning of a visit. This should enable the school to put on a complete charade and pull the wool over their eyes. Advance notice also gives the teachers time to worry themselves to death whilst planning lessons that are nothing like the ones they would normally teach.

Thank God! The last thing I want is somebody else claiming to give you the inside line on what really goes on in schools today.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


When I read that a study for the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation had concluded that girls don't like PE, my first thought was-

I wonder if there is a Men's Sport and Fitness Foundation?

Of course there isn't, but there is a debate about the value and purpose of PE in schools going on.

Now this is something we can argue until the cows come home.(Which judging by the size of some of the kids and staff at my local school, happens each day at 3.30pm).

So what should the purpose of School PE actually be?

Should it try and encourage pupils to lead active healthy lifestyles when they become adults?
Should it try and give the kids experience of as many different sports as possible?
Is it about letting them experience Teamwork, obeying the referee and learning the value of competition?
Or should it simply be an opportunity for the bigger pupils to bully the smaller ones?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

No Shows and No Goes

It doesn't surprise me at all to hear that when offered jobs, seven people didn't even bother turning up on the first day. It just shows that they have paid attention in school, when we taught them over and over again that there are no consequences to their actions, that they are the most important people in the World and they can do whatever they want.

What does surprise me however is that Trunki, the company who make those brightly coloured suitcases that children can sit on and cause chaos at the airport, are bringing production back to Plymouth from China due to rising production costs over there combined with an increase in shipping costs due to the high price of oil.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dock Benefits for Truancy

Behaviour tsar Charles Taylor (what a title!) has just finished reading my book and learnt that nobody gives a monkey's about Penalty Notices which are issued to the parents of children who truant. (Only half of those issued have ever been paid).

He therefore put on a stern face and suggested that maybe if parents can't be bothered to send their kids to school then we should take the fine out of their Benefits payments. (I'm not sure what the plan is for those who have a parent earning over £60 000, ie not eligible for child benefit). The NUT oppose the move, but don't offer any alternative solution. I'd make the parent attend school for a week alongside their child, so that they could see what the teacher has to put up with.

Maybe next week they will realise that nobody bothers doing Community Service either.

Learner Bites

I get quite a lot of email from this blog. Not because I'm any good, but simply because I have no idea how to filter spam.

Some urgently require my place of birth and mother's maiden name, whilst others offer to increase the size of my whatsit. Others wish to sell me an IPad for $50 and introduce me to girls from the Ukraine who cannot spell. I am proud to have won the Nigerian State Lottery 134 times.

The worst however tend to be from student teachers who would like me to read through a thousand words of unremitting tedium that they have written on 'Modern Learning Methods' or some other such guff. They invariably beg me to publish it on here, presumably to help those of you who suffer from insomnia.

Today's offering was about a resources website. There are dozens of these and I was about to delete it when I noticed that the sender claimed to be only 15. Now as a rule, emails I get from younger people tend to be quite good. They are often insightful, they usually like my book and they invariably make the perfectly valid point that "we're not all like the kids you teach".

James Dowen has written a website called Learner Bites which aims to be a 'one stop shop' for everything educational. He is making a good go of it and the site is a damn sight better than anything I could come up with nowadays- never mind at 15. Whilst there's lots of competition in this area, the market always has space for someone young and innovative who can offer a better product. The lad obviously has something about him, so I've given his site a mention and I wish him the best of luck (even though he has not sent me any money).

Friday, April 13, 2012

North Korea Rocket

Poor Kim Jong-un, seen here reacting with alarm after being told that dinner will be late

And here he is in happier times, receiving a new pet or possibly admiring tomorrow's lunch.

Have a listen to the song below, composed by his father, the recently departed Dear Leader back in 1985.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inspector Gadget and Sophie Khan

The latest celebrity pairing, police blogger Inspector Gadget and Sophie Khan, a solicitor-advocate, (whatever that is), are having a bit of a falling out in true Hollywood fashion.

On 7th April Sophie tweeted:

'Met Police aren't just racist while on duty, they're racist off duty too. They're members of BNP scum'

Gadget wasn't too pleased about this (I think he was offended by her terrible English) so he encouraged his readers to complain to her employers, GT Stewart, who wrote a disclaimer on their website and she deleted the tweet.

Personally, I think that their relationship might be on the rocks because she looks jolly cross with him in this photo.

Anyway, in round two Gadget's readers have started complaining en masse to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and in return she's now trying to 'out' him (presumably this means revealing his identity rather than getting him to admit that he cavorts with other men). Dan Collins, publisher of Gadget's Book is offering to spill the beans for £50 000 and in the spirit of David Cameron's "We're all in this together", I'm willing to undercut him at £47 500.

I do hope she decides to try and find out who I am, as I could really use the money. (To avoid paying any tax on it, I plan to donate the whole lot to my charity which helps middle class Brits buy ski chalets in the Alps)

Summer Hols

Schools in Nottingham may be moving to a shorter Summer Break, four weeks instead of six. Obviously the teachers aren't happy.

It's completely taboo to say this, but I don't mind admitting that one of the reasons I went into teaching was for the long holidays. I always made the most of them and thoroughly enjoyed every minute, regardless of whether I had any money or not. They are a huge perk of the job.

Unfortunately the idea of a six week summer holiday is bonkers. Many teachers and pupils simply get bored during them and it creates huge childcare problems for parents. It's equally mad that University students have three months off in the summer.

However if you cut the holidays without any increase in salary, you make the job even more unattractive.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Well I go away and look what happens?

The Government decides that teachers don't need a staffroom. Who in their right mind would take a job in a school that doesn't have a place where you can escape the madness and mayhem? Where you can enjoy a cup of tea in a dirty cup, whilst moaning about Kyle, Royce and Duane? I was supposed to be saying this on Radio 4s Today programme on Thursday morning but due to my own incompetence, I can't make it.

The Government also wants to introduce different rates of pay for teachers in different parts of the country. The NUT doesn't like this idea.

I'd go much further and allow all schools to pay their teachers whatever the hell they like and let the market set the rate, just as it does for plumbers, lawyers, hairdressers and accountants. Why not pay the better ones more than the rubbish? It's simply a case of giving the schools enough money. If we gave the worst schools a big wedge of cash to attract better staff, then we would see far more improvement than from all the endless new 'initiatives to raise achievement' and for a fraction of the cost.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Funding Circle

Does anybody have any experience of Funding Circle?


A poll of 3000 teachers run by the parenting club website revealed that roughly half of teachers make assumptions about children based upon their first names. Their judgements are shown below and are pretty accurate. (Read my books for a description of the game Top Set- Bottom Set)

Naughty Boys                                Naughty Girls

1. Callum                                       Chelsea
2. Connor                                       Courtney
3. Jack                                           Chardonnay
4. Daniel                                         Aleisha
5. Brandon                                      Casey
6. Charlie                                        Crystal
7. Kyle                                            Jessica
8. Liam                                            Brooke
9. Jake                                             Demi
10. Brooklyn                                   Aisha

It's interesting to note that 8 out of 20 bad kids' names begin with a 'c'

Now we move on to children assumed by teachers to be clever

Boys                                                         Girls

1. Alexander                                             Elizabeth
2. Adam                                                   Charlotte
3. Christopher                                           Emma
4. Benjamin                                               Hannah
5. Edward                                                  Rebecca
6. Matthew                                                Abigail
7. Daniel                                                    Grace
8. James                                                     Alice
9. Harry                                                      Anna
10. William                                                 Sophie

Pretty accurate, I'd say.
Please do not write in to say that your daughter Aisha is very well behaved, as I do not want to know. Buy a book on statistics instead.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Kristy Bamu

Could the murder of Kristy Bamu have been prevented?
Yes, quite easily if our leaders had the slightest interest in regulating who comes into our Country.

Fraudulent Applications and Catchment Areas

Nottinghamshire headmaster Rob Mc Donough is advising the Government on how to stop parents making fraudulent applications to get their children into better schools that they do not actually live in the catchment area for.

It is an excellent example of Darwinian selection. The more a parent cares about their offspring, the greater the lengths they will go to in order to make sure that they get into a decent school. The child of such parents is likely to be similarly keen and entrepreneurial. A school with a bit more vision would adopt a policy of only taking pupils whose parents they suspected of lying and cheating on their application.

Finally, RIP David Rathband.

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?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Horses, Nails and Hair

Well bang go my chances of improving myself with a GNVQ in nail painting. The news today is that schools will not be allowed to count these vocational courses as 4 GCSEs on their league tables any more.

This move is only about ten years overdue. Vocational qualifications should be recognised, (a plasterer has a set of valuable skills that I do not), but the desire to compare schools at a glance by over simplistic league tables results in every possible qualification being lumped in together.

Canny Heads immediately look for whatever course gives the most points for the least effort and before you knew it, every child ends up with a qualification to look after a horse.

I suppose you could say 'Hair today, gone tomorrow...'

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hotter Shoes

Hotter Venture

In November English shoe manufacturers Hotter sent me a pair of Venture shoes to review. Here's a picture of one so you can see what they look like.

I must confess that I'd never even heard of the company, but anyway here's what I think of their shoe.

The first thing that you notice is how light they are. They feel very soft around your feet and the sole has a bit of flex, so if you don't look down, you would think that you were wearing a pair of tennis or running shoes. As a male, I just want a pair of shoes that are comfortable, hard wearing and won't provoke widespread mirth when people see them.

The shoes are extremely comfortable to walk in and the Goretex liner keeps your feet dry in the rain whilst still allowing them to breathe. After 2 months they haven't got any marks on them despite regularly walking my dog through wet grass and muddy fields and paying shamefully little attention to cleaning them. The sole appears to be soundly attached to the uppers, unlike the previous shoes I had.

Hotter have clearly taken aspects of sports shoes, such as lightweight build, removable insoles, soft inner and cushioned sole and successfully incorporated them into a shoe that can be worn to work, in the pub or walking over rough ground and wet grass without any difficulty. They are made in the UK, currently cost £75 and to sum up- I would buy a pair.

Here's their website
Oh and just so you know- they gave me a pair of shoes, but that's it. I'm not on commission.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Once again Ofsted plumbs new depths of lunacy, announcing today that the word 'satisfactory' will no longer be allowed as a grade.

It's always worrying when organisations ban words- I can still remember the Professional Association of Teachers debating whether to forbid use of the word 'failure' and replace it with 'deferred success'. Such ideas just make us seem ridiculous to outsiders.

In Ofsted's case, this distracts attention away from their main problem, which is that they are grading schools on criteria that are fashionable rather than useful to the children. I gave the example in my second book of how, if a teacher were watched a few days before their class sat an exam and they spent the lesson doing a past paper, then Ofsted would grade that teacher poorly, even though it would be by far the best way of spending the pupils' time.

Just ask the ten brightest kids what they think of the school and you would get a much more accurate answer and save lots of money.


Mrs C seems to have developed a remarkable interest in all things Astronomical recently, for reasons that escape me...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Teachers on the Radio

Why is it that whenever I hear a teacher being interviewed on the radio, they always manage to make us all sound like fools?

Maybe all the ones bright enough to string a coherent argument together are too busy teaching.

Getting rid of under-performing Teachers

Whilst I'm all in favour of getting rid of hopeless teachers, the problem we have is that teachers are being pressurised by their schools, their training and Ofsted themselves to adopt teaching methods that would be considered barking mad by any intelligent outsider.

Bright parents (and pupils) just laugh at nonsense such as 'peer reviews', 'question grading', 'market place activities' and all the other bizarre things that we are encouraged to waste the pupils' time with. However these practices get you lots of praise from those whom you must answer to, so what should a poor teacher do?

There is also a move to allow parents to come into lessons to see how the teacher performs. I think that many parents should be forced to attend school to see how poorly their own child behaves.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hair Cutting Incident

Headline writers across America were jumping for joy last night as a man called Mullet denied involvement in a series of hair cutting incidents. Political correctness of course prevents the BBC from cashing in on this comedy bonanza.

Scroll down the article and gaze in awe at his extremely impressive beard. I love the fact that he can't be tagged because he doesn't have any electricity in his house.

If only he had fled the scene and provided the bonus line of Hair today, gone tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Burwood School

I was about to write a post on the recent attack on two teachers at Burwood School in Orpington by a 10 year old boy.

Unfortunately for me however, the Autonomous News website has already done an excellent job, noting that as usual, the stories in the media are all copied and pasted mindlessly from the same source without any background research and how the BBC and the teachers' union rep tried to use the bogeyman of 'the cuts' to excuse it all. I'm amazed that nobody blamed the teachers for not entertaining the poor child sufficiently.

Here's a link to their article

Strangely, the website of Burwood School (whose motto ironically is "Where everyone matters") makes no mention of the incident at all in its 'Latest News' section.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Until David Cameron's recent comment, I hadn't realised how big Tourette's Karaoke really is.

This chap's poignant and moving version of Chris de Burgh's 80's classic: Lady in Red is not suitable for minors or those easily offended.