A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.



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Category archive: UK

Monday July 28 2008

As I said, maybe the occasional thing:


Photoed in a local newsagent lask week.  Well, I’ve always thought that children can sometimes also be teachers.

Typical media coverage here.

Tuesday July 22 2008

If you want educational fun, read what is being said at the Coffee House about the nightmare day had by Ed Balls, the politician doing his best not to take the blame for the SATs disaster.  Here, here, and hereHere is what opposition spokesman Gove has to say.

Sunday July 20 2008

Today I was at a party, and talked with a lady who teaches/helps to run/is involved with this school, which is run by this enterprise.

She expressed extreme pessimism about computers in education.  She said that pretty much all the vast amounts of money spent on computers in education so far has been wasted, and that all further expenditure on computers will likewise be money down the drain.  They spend enough time staring at screens as it is, without them being encouraged to stare at yet more screens when they ought to be learning things.  Computers do not encourage concentration.  They destroy it.

As for me, I don’t know.  Really, I don’t know.  I’m just passing on what she said.

If you want an old-school school, hers sounds pretty good, and there are still places going spare.  She talked about the Synthetic Phonics stuff that I have already researched, and clearly knew her stuff.  She has been asking around about a similarly good approach to maths, but has not yet found how that ought to be done.

She also said that during the last year or so, regular state schools have maybe been making some actual progress in the literacy department, what with the literacy hour, and with word getting around about Synthetic Phonics.  This despite the obfuscations spread by the government, who don’t want to admit how wrong they have been in the quite recent past.

Friday July 18 2008

Coffee House did a posting today about the SATs fiasco, and this comment, from “Sam”, caught my attention:

Now, we must remember that ETS, the American company entrusted with the contract for this year’s SATs grading, was only allowed a look in because of EU regulations. The regulations allowed for a closed bid and the lowest bidder wins. Nothing to do with, say, competence or familiarity with the system? No. I certainly didn’t vote for that, did you? There’s more than Balls cocking things up, that’s for sure!

I can remember when clever Thatcherites were rejoicing at how clever they were to be compelling public sector institutions to buy things from the lowest bidder.  And I can remember lefties saying it was daft.  In this case, the lefties have been proved correct.

Thursday July 17 2008

One of the commenters on this particularly impressive posting by Miss Snuffy, about Ray Lewis, links to this blog.  Looks good.  To the blogroll.

It’s about time I had a picture here, so this is the picture at the top of that blog:


Teaching as warfare.  That’s a very common meme, I find.  Here made absolutely explicit in the name of the blog: “Scenes from the Battleground”.

With that picture at the top, of WW2 US General Patton, as enacted by George C Scott in the movie of that name, you’d think that the blog would be about America, wouldn’t you?  But it’s not.  Subtitle: “A Blog About Teaching in Tough Schools in the UK”.

Wednesday July 16 2008

From the Times, yesterday:

The fiasco over delayed school test results affecting millions of children could result in the company responsible being sacked and forced to pay back tens of millions of pounds.

Ken Boston, the head of the exams regulator, said after an emergency hearing of MPs yesterday, that the testing system was under stress and needed modernising. He added that problems were unlikely to be resolved in time for next year’s tests.

Thousands of parents are expected to challenge the results, encouraged by the adverse publicity surrounding this year’s exams.

This week Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said schools were reporting “all kinds of problems” with marking, and told parents that they should not rely on SATs [national curriculum test] results as the sole indicator of their child’s progress. He urged schools to give parents teachers’ assessments of pupils, as well as SATs results, and advised that these be treated as “provisional”.

Yesterday Dr Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, claimed that the company, ETS, had failed to respond to 10,000 e-mails. His officials were forced to set up and pay for a call centre to cope with complaints to the company.

However, MPs also raised questions about Dr Boston’s future, ...

The free market is one thing, and the government awarding the national contract to one national contractor is quite another.

Johnathan Pearce wants the child labour laws relaxed:

It seems to me that in part of the discussion about what “should be done” about feral kids armed with knives, there ought to be a recognition that one of the main problems that young people face in and outside school is boredom. And that can be cured, possibly, by working. We have to overcome our strange squeamishness over the employment of minors in actual jobs. I think that the rules and regulatory burdens should be relaxed so that apprenticeships become much easier for an employer to provide. I think some, if not all, of the young tearaways who are so worrying policymakers might actually feel proud of having a job, of earning money, of being able to brag about this to their lazier friends.

Commenter Walter Boswell adds this:

The importance of that simple lesson that hard work equals money and money equals more independence cannot be emphasised enough.


Monday July 14 2008

Carlin Romano, who teaches philosophy and media theory at the University of Pennsylvania, writes about honorary degrees, in The Chronicle Review.  He begings his piece by arguing that honorary degrees do nothing for universities.  He quotes Jacques Barzun, who says: “the honorary degree as now commonly dealt out has lost its point”, and: “The Chairman of the Board of General Aphrodisiacs may be all that is said of him in the citation, but it is not a judgment on which the university should set its seal.” Universities should stick to rewarding measurable academic excellence.  MIT and Harvard eke out their existences without awarding any such degrees.  Others should follow their example, says Romano.

But then he gets to the matter of Robert Mugabe.


Yet for all this history and perspective, indicating that honorary degrees and their nullifications amount to tempests in teapots, the peculiar biography of Robert Mugabe makes the matter more complicated. Recent journalistic attention to Zimbabwe’s tragedies, welcome as it is, has provided little context about the man causing them. For that, we’re fortunate to have three incisive books on him published in the last decade: Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe, by Martin Meredith (Public Affairs, 2002); Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe, by David Blair (Continuum, 2002); and Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence, by Stephen Chan (University of Michigan Press, 2003).

All paint a portrait of Mugabe that may surprise non-Africa hands ignorant of his prepresidential life. Born in the Jesuit mission station of Kutama on February 21, 1924, the third of six children in a family abandoned by his father (a dyspeptic carpenter who moved 300 miles away and took another wife), young Mugabe could not have been more bookish as he rose to become a teacher.

“All accounts describe him in the same words,” writes Blair, “diligent, quiet, studious, introverted.” Mugabe shunned smoking and drinking alcohol and “excelled academically” at every institution he attended, including South Africa’s University of Fort Hare, the hotbed of African nationalism from which Nelson Mandela had been expelled earlier. During Mugabe’s 11 years of imprisonment, from 1963 to 1974, under Zimbabwe’s white-ruled predecessor state of Rhodesia, the future president enrolled in University of London correspondence courses and earned four degrees — a master’s degree in economics, a bachelor’s degree in administration, and two law degrees — to go with the three bachelor’s degrees he already possessed, in economics, education, and history and literature.

Meredith writes of how Mugabe in prison “resumed his studies with fierce dedication, his books piled on both sides of his bed.” The prisoner’s late wife, Sally Hayfron, then living in London, copied out whole volumes by hand and posted them as letters to her husband. When Mugabe finally won release from prison, in November 1974, he held seven academic degrees.

So even now, after more than three decades in which the former Marxist revolutionary leader — seen as conciliatory toward opponents at Zimbabwe’s independence — has evolved into a murderous autocrat, Mugabe’s lust for academic credibility may endure. In the paranoid recesses of Mugabe’s octogenarian brain, stripping him of degrees may exact a toll few can imagine.

In which case, it’s probably time for Michigan State University, which doled out an honorary doctorate to Mugabe in 1990, to step up. And what about those seven earned degrees? Can a university revoke degrees earned in a correspondence course? How? By sending Mugabe a letter? Why not leave him only the eighth academic laurel he famously boasts of — “a degree in violence”?

Now, after Zimbabwe’s latest parody of democracy, the man once called “Satan’s apostle” by his also-ruthless white predecessor stands as the re-elected president of Zimbabwe. If things keep going as they’re going, however, Mugabe can forget about retiring to one of those handsomely endowed chairs at a Florida university, the sort that draw Oxford dons seeking to up their pay in a sunny place.

He simply won’t have the credentials.

A degree in education.  How about that?

The idea of stripping Mugabe of his various degrees, honorary and real, was causing much mockery on Mock The Week, when I watched the latest manifestation of it a few days ago, as did England refusing to play cricket against Zimbabwe next year.  But it would appear that even if taking his degrees away won’t now do anything to stop Mugabe, this might cause him some small degree (so to speak) of hurt.

More Mugabe honorary degree complaint here.

The many degrees of Robert Mugabe
Making the students love ID cards
Posh cabinet ministers and posh Guardian writers
Musical youth
Babel Primary
Kindness on Sunday
“The era of the comprehensive university is upon us …”
Two French students murdered in London
Nice Balls nasty Balls
Teach children philosophy!
Chivalry and its absence
In which I recycle a posting by Bishop Hill
Physics blues
Expletive rewarded
A thought about teaching and interior architecture
Kealey contradicted by Professor Geoffrey Alderman and others
Fraser Nelson on the prize awaiting David Cameron
Terence Kealey says Universities are doing better!
Beanbag learning
Fabio Capello “makes you sit up straight in class …”
Nick Cowen on the state-imposed incentive to study soft subjects rather than the most valuable ones
Balls on privilege and Balls privileged
At Goddaughter 1’s Photography Show
Will our doubts be answered?
Ben Goldacre on the mathematical errors in Reform’s maths report
Education debts
State-funded Hindu school choice
Me elsewhere
Anastasia de Waal on tackling versus institutionalising
Measuring educational effectiveness
OFSTED inspection tomorrow!!!!
Britain is failing at maths
“Someone may get hurt …”
Why does Oxford now take a higher proportion than it used to of its intake from the private sector?
Does Warcraft improve the mind?
Stephen Pollard on posh but post-modern Boris Johnson
Going Dutch?
Another morning at Hammersmith Saturday
I hope the Kyra Ishaq case doesn’t lead to restrictions on home education
Labour soft on spelling
“Give it a five or your degree with be shit!”
Andrew Neil on public school kids grabbing all the glittering prizes - again
PFI schools won’t last!
Public school prime ministers
Tougher guidelines
Fraser Nelson (and a commenter) on problems with SATs (and GCSEs)
There ought not to be any debate
Jason and the Argonanut
Hub caps and phone photographs
“GB isn’t some hapless young temporary supply teacher …”
Video of a riding school for children with disabilities
“Competition, discipline - and punishment …”
“Every child emerges with at least two A Levels and three quarters go to university …”
“It is not the role of ministers to prescribe which songs children sing …”
Are Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper bad parents for not going private?
Who’d be a children’s minister?
Lecture notes for Law Boy
Encouraging parenthood by nationalising it
Giving them the paper at the end
Sixth-formers paid to teach
What schools provide depends on who is paying and for what
Harry Potter studies
Cutting red tape and freeing schools of bureaucracy
It’s not brain surgery and a teacher is someone who teaches
Oxford Entrepreneurs
A sledgehammer to skin a flagship
Kings Cross Supplementary Headmistress gives the thumbs up to Nintendo Maths Training
Paul McCartney, George Harrison and someone’s dad in an old school photograph
CCTV could be used in exam rooms
Never been near a school
You can’t be too careful with these pushy parents
Choice cuts both ways
On choice and inequality
Frank Chalk says that if the army doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger
Snuffy says don’t blame the teachers
Neil Turok on teaching the best maths students in Africa
The department for children, schools and families takes complete care of the children
The Stockholm Network on choice and competition in schools
Why no transfer fees?
South West Surrey Home Education
Bishop Hill on the beneficial impact of charging students to go to university
Carl Honoré on slowing down and mucking about
Fraser Nelson on the Grange Hill model versus the Swedish model
Eastern Europeans flooding into British universities
Exclusions overturned
Joan Bakewell asserts the Fixed Quantity of Education Fallacy
Education equals state education
The pressure to announce initiatives
Homophobia was not a problem at Leeds University – student housing was
Earn as you learn
British higher education is definitely now a nationalised industry
Smart Boy looks up Don Bradman on the internet
Nigella with a PhD
Belts not connected to anything
Very well informed consumers
Fleeing from a law introduced by Hitler
Asking Alex about internships in the City
Harry Hutton on nepotism and student writers
Another ugly university building
Home education grows because of bullying and testing
Going to a regular school doesn’t guarantee that you do much socialising
Ugly universities
Nehru returns to Cambridge
If they don’t know what makes a good teacher then we should all decide for ourselves
The diamond geezer says goodbye to Grange Hill
Martin Amis makes a good deal
Goodbye Grange Hill
A new strategy in the school war
Education through rugby
Tom Jones didn’t need no education
Summerhill on CBBC
Human whisperers wanted
Nothing is owed by the private sector to the public sector
BECTA versus Vista
“Where do you want to go next?”
“Company that lost hard drive also hold trainee teacher data”
Alpha Plus sold by Sovereign Capital to Delancey
New immigration law threatens the British higher education industry
John Louis Swaine remembers the educational equality debate
For British state education read Soviet tractors