Thursday, July 18, 2013


I can't help but think that we're getting a bit carried away with this 'heatwave' stuff. It's only been two weeks after all and the Met Office is issuing 'Level Three Alerts' on the News, whatever they are.

Global Warming is to blame, just as it was responsible for the cool, wet and windy weather that preceded it, the cold dry winters and the warm wet winters as well.

I'm so glad I'm not Global Warming- it gets the blame for everything.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independence Day

Today is the day when Americans get to eat loads of hot dogs, shoot things in the woods and be generally loud and obnoxious whilst banging on about how they are the best country in the World.

Yes, it's Thursday again.

School Holidays

On Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show yesterday, they were discussing school holidays and whether schools should just be allowed to decide their own dates.
At the moment, most State Schools have roughly the same holidays and the travel companies add on a huge price hike to go away in those weeks.

If every school just does their own thing, imagine a family with three kids, one at infants, one at junior and the other at senior school, all with different holidays? You'd have one of them at home virtually every other week! You could even end up with a couple who both worked as teachers but never had any time off together. (In some parts of the Country, statistically you would have at least two children and four grandchildren off at any one time with only three partners out of prison to help look after them).

However the bit I liked best was the person who said that teachers spend a great deal of the long Summer Holiday going into school and preparing for the next term. Maybe you need to if you are the Head or in the Senior Management, but any ordinary teacher who does this needs to get a life. One of the great perks of teaching is the long holidays and by refusing to admit this, we just make ourselves look silly.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Schools Direct

So we seem to be facing a shortage of teachers again. This has happened roughly every ten years since the Pyramids were built, usually because either:

1) The economy is booming, or
2) There has been lots of bad publicity about pay and conditions in teaching.

As always, the problem is most acute in the important subjects (A shortage of Drama Teachers would simply be cause for celebration).

Anyway, the Government has brought in a new program called 'Schools Direct' where you train at a school and get paid. Sounds like a good idea. However it's only accepted about half as many trainee teachers as hoped because:

1) Not enough schools have agreed to provide the training, either on ideological grounds or because they aren't being paid enough.

2) Nobody thought to advertise it.

3) Maybe, as with all targets, the numbers were a bit arbitrary anyway.

Heads of participating schools haven't been too impressed by some of the candidates they've received. This isn't surprising when you bear in mind that all the new comedy Universities are churning out hundreds of tonnes of dross each year.

'Half of Teacher Training places unfilled' makes a good headline, but the publicity it generates will be enough to boost the numbers by the time the courses start- you mark my words. (Just don't mark the applicants' words).

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Teacher Training

The best way to learn how to be a teacher is in a school. Despite what teacher training courses might tell you, (in order to justify their own jobs) there really isn't any important theory worth knowing. All you need is lots of practice with some guidance and regular feedback from a good teacher.

This statement assumes you understand the subject you are going to teach, which unfortunately isn't always the case.

I don't care what standard of degree teachers have because they won't be teaching anything at degree level. It's no more relevant than whether they can juggle three balls or stand on their hands. I do want them to have good  'A' and GCSE results in their subject because that is precisely what they will be teaching and if they weren't very good at it themselves, I'd rather not have them in front of my kids.

ps my first book's just had its 200th review on Amazon. It's worth scrolling through them as there are some quite amusing rants

Bizarrely the sequel only has ten reviews, for which I have no explanation

Monday, July 01, 2013

Independent Financial Advisors

The Financial Services industry has reportedly shed 10 000 jobs in the last three months according to the Financial Times.

Now you will no doubt be distressed by this news, but dry your eyes and read on. I'll get to the point.

For years I struggled desperately to keep a straight face whenever a friend or colleague told me, usually in hushed and solemn tones, that they had "spoken to a Financial Advisor". Before the recent changes (which should have taken place 20 years ago), these actors would feign great interest in your financial future, speak very seriously about planning, security, risk and return, before recommending that you buy whichever product made them the most commission.

Simple as that. The reason I can say this with such confidence is that it's exactly what I would have done in their place. We can assume that a fair percentage of the population are just a self interested as I am and out of those people, a disproportionate number are attracted to jobs which require very few qualifications and the opportunity to earn lots of money.

The old commission system was as crazy as getting teachers to mark their own pupils' exams. Oh hang on a minute...

ps as an Independent Book Reviewer I'd recommend that you take this book or this one on holiday to read on the beach. Remember, your future happiness is very important to me.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Contains only Natural Nonsense

Can we all please agree to stop using the word 'natural' to make things sound good? I've just seen a sports drink advertised as containing only 'natural sugars' as if there were any other types.

Natural things occur in Nature ie Arsenic, Mercury, Bubonic Plague, Deadly Nightshade, Cancer and Radioactivity. Just remember, Nature isn't just Pandas, Penguins and Koala Bears. It's chock full of things that are always trying to kill us.

Nasty 'artificial' things include central heating, Vitamin C tablets and most medicinal drugs.

Death of the High Street

The following story neatly illustrates how most traditional High Street shopping chains deserve to go under, as they don't try to offer something that the Internet cannot.

A friend of mine wished to buy some road cycling shoes and as her city had two large cycling chains, Evans and Edinburgh Cycles, she imagined that the task would be a doddle.

Instead she described it as a wasted afternoon of total frustration. Hardly any staff and no shoes in her size. (No she doesn't have size 13 feet, she's a very average six). Both shops made vague offers that they might be able to get some by Wednesday or Friday but couldn't guarantee it because they have to go via central depot- it's the way the ordering system is set up... blah, blah blah.

Believe it or not, they both wanted her to put down a deposit before they would order the shoes in her size! I can't think of a better way to put customers off, but apparently that's their policy.

Instead she simply went home and later ordered half a dozen pairs from the internet shop 'Wiggle', which arrived two days later, (with the brilliant option of having them delivered to a local newsagent). She tried them all on without having to drive anywhere, kept one pair and simply returned the others via the same newsagent for no charge.

I'm not getting paid anything by Wiggle, but which business do you think deserves to survive?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jeremy Forrest

So 30 year old Maths teacher Jeremy Forrest got five and a half years. Whilst we probably agree that what he did was wrong, should he really spend more time in prison than a mugger,  a burglar who attacked a woman in her own home, or a robber who almost killed his victim?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Invisible Children

Chief Inspector of Schools, Michael Wilshaw has discovered yet another group who are being let down by teachers- invisible kids from seaside resorts:


Before this, teachers were busy letting down poor white kids, but only after they had finished letting down black pupils, girls, inner city kids, children from rural areas, disabled pupils, naughty pupils and the ones who didn't come to school at all.

Maybe if teachers weren't told to spend all their time on nonsense such as group work, differentiation, filling out endless unnecessary forms, peer assessment, role play and any other fads that Senior Management Teams dream up whilst stoked out of their heads on LSD, then they might have time to search their classrooms for invisible children.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coursework Capers

Normally if a child hands in coursework that is worth a 'D' grade, then that pupil is told how to improve it, the work is returned to them and they bring back a new improved version in a couple of weeks time. (Note that this extra help is only for the 'D' grade children because they are the ones that matter.)

As the deadline to send off the marks to the exam board draws near however, panic sets in amongst the staff, as there will always be a few lazy pupils who haven't redone their work.

A novel approach was explained to me last week by a friend whose department simply reports all the 'D's to the exam board as 'C's and only bothers getting the kids to improve their work in the unlikely event that the exam board select one of the inflated pieces of coursework to be sent off for checking.

Everyone's a winner. The teachers don't have to chase as many kids, the department gets more Grade 'C's and the school's exam results go up. I don't know why the practice isn't more widespread.

Oh hang on, it is.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

House Repossession

Many people are threatened each year with the awful prospect of having their home repossessed by their mortgage lender because they have suffered a change in financial circumstances which leaves them unable to meet the full monthly mortgage repayments.

The banks can be extremely inflexible, despite the generosity of the taxpayer in bailing them out when they were having difficulties and dealing with them is a daunting prospect. You can never get through to anyone who isn't simply reading from a script.

If you are facing the prospect of having your house repossessed then it's got to be worth contacting Repossession Stoppers. They will give you advice as well as making you a cash offer for your house.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Selling Your House

Even though the economy is starting to improve, many people are struggling to sell their house, as the banks are still restricting mortgages and asking for large deposits, which many people struggle to come up with.

Estate Agents charge a fortune for what they actually do and many sales fall through when the mortgage lender suddenly decides to restrict the amount they are prepared to lend because of something in the survey such as 'possible damp in the beams' which has been written in purely to cover the surveyor's back.

A much simpler and easier solution might be to look for a specialist cash buyer such as Ask Susan


Monday, April 22, 2013

Football and School

Footballer Luis Suarez bites an opponent in 2010, blames it on jet lag and is suspended for a few matches. No fine or sacking. In 2013, he does it again. This time he is fined a trivial amount and sent to 'Anger Management' classes.

At school, Jayden from Year 9 swears at a teacher and is sent to the Head of Year. He apologises, blames it on his teacher Mr Jones 'winding him up' and is given no more than a mild telling off. Three weeks later he does it again and is given another talking to. Have a wild guess at what he does next term?

We bring it upon ourselves.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Teachers' Union Conferences

One of the main reasons I and many others went into teaching was for the long holidays. They are a great perk of the job and it always saddens me that many teachers don't make more use of them. It's not lack of money holding them back (how much does it cost to go for a long walk?) It's all too often lack of imagination.

One Easter Holiday activity to avoid at all costs however is the various Union Conferences, whose main purpose is to provide the tabloids with more headlines to turn public opinion even further against us. Every daft proposal and every foolish statement is Manna from Heaven for the journalists.

Here's a much better activity for those readers who live in the North. Build yourself an igloo following the instructions below

The internet never ceases to amaze me. On learning of Amazon's purchase this morning of I repeated a phrase that I must have uttered hundreds of times over the last 15 years. Namely "Why didn't I think of that?"

Thursday, March 28, 2013


As a teacher it is important to regularly express your distaste for the Conservative Party and the 'Establishment' and absolutely vital that your colleagues know how much you hate the Daily Mail.

Such sentiment is not always unjustified. The Mail keeps its niche readership in a state of constant rage by playing to all their fears, whether it be of immigrants eating their babies or asylum seekers murdering them in their beds. It is not exactly renowned for supporting State School teachers, whom it regards (sometimes correctly) as a bunch of raving lefties.

The following article won't be news to anyone who works in a hell hole school, but it's worth a quick read if only for the comments. If you select 'best rated' then you will be surprised at how supportive of teachers they are. (Well they were at ten thirty this evening anyway). There's also some useful illustrations to remind you of what teachers, pupils and computers look like.

School Bans Triangular Flapjacks

For years I have warned of the dangers of these lethal biscuits, but would anybody listen?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Financial Advisers

For some reason an oily man who described himself as a 'Financial Adviser' wanted me to "talk over some investment possibilities" with him last week. (Seriously, this is how these people speak).

"Do you have an enormous house, a selection of holiday homes in desirable parts of the World, a posh car and a yacht?" I asked.

His baffled silence saved me from asking the obvious followup:

"If you don't know how to make a success of your own finances, why on Earth would I want your advice on mine?"

Taking financial advice from someone who isn't ridiculously wealthy, strikes me as being about as smart as listening to my views on diplomacy.

(Oh and someone is going to pull me up on the punctuation in that first paragraph).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kids of Today

Here's a bizarre BBC News article where a man in his early 50s goes back to the rather nice school he once attended and wonders why it it's full of aspirational, well behaved, mature young people rather than mindless yobs, vandals and dropouts. (Which of course is exactly how it would have been when he went there).

Did the BBC never think to send him to St Thickchilds? Our inner city hell hole could have supplied him with plenty of miscreants to keep him happy. I'm sure that his face would be a picture of delight when some 'rebellious pupil' swore at him or spat on him as he walked under a classroom window. Just imagine how proud he would be on returning to his car to find that it had been scratched with a key by some young 'challenger of society's values'.

Most kids today are fairly sensible. Most kids always were.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Facts and Learning

When I did my teacher training in the late '80s, advocating any sort of rote learning (or indeed any learning) was about as wise as openly declaring your love for Margaret Thatcher. When I asked how kids were supposed to learn their tables or spellings, everyone laughed at my old fashioned foolishness. This is the modern world, our lecturer told us. There are new and more exciting ways to teach nowadays (and one day there may even be telephones that do not have to be plugged in to the wall.)

This is still the situation today. Critical thinking, group projects and working things out for yourself are far more important than simply learning facts. Why would children need to waste their time and clutter up their brains learning things when we have Google, which can tell us anything we wish to know.

Now my problem with all this is that if you have no facts to compare an answer with, then you can never judge it's authenticity. For example, if I ask you what the Gross Domestic Product of the UK was back in 1970 and you tell me that it was £25, then I need some related knowledge before I can say whether this is likely to be correct or not. We have been brainwashed in teaching to regard everyone's views as equally important and we think that simply having an opinion somehow has some value in itself.

Now whilst I'm not saying that everything should simply be learnt off by heart, I don't agree that it is a waste of time. Rote learning teaches young children to concentrate. We are forever hearing that pupils have much shorter concentration spans than they once had and this is blamed on the increased pace of modern life. Why don't we try and improve their concentration rather than just accepting it? There's also a nice calming effect which we could really do with later on as well.

Repeated practice is also immensely effective and enables you to recall a skill or fact years later. I still say "amo, amas, amat..." whenever anybody asks me whether I did any Latin at school, whereas I just stare blankly with my mouth open if they enquire about anything I did in Geography. I also never had a clue how long division worked, but was perfectly capable of doing it. Debates and peer-centric review? No, just learn and practice and you'll be fine.

(By the way, this post is not meant to offer any support for the teaching of Latin in school, which is a complete and utter waste of time).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Snow Again

Apologies that my recent output has been less than a Cypriot cashpoint machine, but I've been busy. (Well by my standards anyway).

Right, here's two things that have caught my attention recently

1) Many young teachers seem to be applying for promotions incredibly early on in their careers. Eg  a second year teacher got a deputy head of department job and another became a Head at 31. Now this either means that they are incredibly aspirational and talented, or that there is a preference for younger staff, or simply that older teachers just don't want the extra workload and stress that comes with these positions.

2) If the parents of kids at the top or bottom of the ability range at Secondary school ever found out how much resources are concentrated on the C/D borderline kids, there would be uproar. Getting Harriet an A* grade or teaching Jayden to read is of no importance whatsoever. The best teachers along with extra revision classes and intensive tuition days are thrown at that one important group.

(Oh, for those of you outside teaching, the A* grade was brought in because the ordinary A grade became devalued as they were awarded for little more than filling your name out correctly)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Well I suppose we can hardly complain about Britain's infrastructure and then whinge when those in charge try to fix it, can we? Mind you, wouldn't a couple of extra lanes on all our motorways help more, cost less and not spoil anybody's garden?

I also wish that we wouldn't make ourselves sound so ridiculous by quoting a finish date that is decades away. It just doesn't sound very likely to actually happen. If we are really going to do it, why can't we do it right now?

Also, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw that Sheffield's station is going to be at their out of town shopping centre. Residents in the South West of that city (the only group who will be able to afford to use the new service) will probably see their journey times to London increased.

Finally, I've just noticed that my 'autobiography' has more reviews on Amazon than Richard Branson's. That's got to mean something, but I'm just not sure exactly what.