I’m Back!

After an extremely long hiatus I’ve decided to start blogging again. Hopefully life won’t get in the way this time!


GCSE English row rumbles on…

With November re-sits looming the controversy regarding this year’s GCSE English exam continues to rumble on in the background.  As you will remember, back in August there was very much a shift of the goalposts with regards to the grading of these exams which meant that students who should have got a C, actually only managed to achieve a D after the grade boundaries were altered. As you may (or may not) know, I have worked in schools on and off since I left college and much of that has included exams and assessment. Schools have done the best they can and sent many exams off to be re-marked but this has made little difference with most papers only gaining or losing a mark. The most recent news on the matter is claims by Ofqual that teachers had been too generous with coursework marks

The most saddening thing about the entire debacle is the effect on the children; who seem to have been forgotten in the arguments surrounding it. The comments made of Ofqual does nothing but devalue student’s qualifications and make their two year English GCSE course seems pointless. Additionally, it does a disservice to the many students which have toiled over their coursework and exams which I’m sure they did not find ‘easy’. I will be frank, some teachers do spoon-feed students and offer them too much guidance with coursework but the notion that teachers ‘tell students how to pass exams’ does not hold much weight. No matter what a teacher tells you, sitting in an exam hall under intense pressure is enough to make a student forget their name! Secondly, isn’t that the whole point of teaching? Making a student prepared for their exams? There should be no ‘trick’ questions on an exam paper – it should have what the student has studied and thus should be highly predictable.

The introduction of the new English Baccalaureate does not fill me, neither those who work in the education sector with any promise. Many reports have suggested that it won’t even be piloted before being introduced into schools. It should be made clear that actions such as these are effectively treating student’s education like a lottery. An A-C in GCSE English or whatever it predecessor shall be called is the basic requirement for most jobs. I find myself thankful that I passed this because it is an entry requirement for a PGCE for example. It is an injustice that students were not able to make the grade in summer because it has the potential to have such a large impact on their future job prospects.

If we really want to improve education standards, we must not do so at the expense of our future workforce in this financial climate. It doesn’t take a genius to tell you that Mr. Gove!

Going backwards…

The Political Idealist

What’s the latest set of poorly thought out and regressive initiatives that the bunch of fools who’ve somehow made it into high office have decided to inflict on the British public?

Actually, today I cannot muster the will to explain how particularly stupid the new English Bac exams system is. Or how socially irresponsible it would be to allow benefits to fall in real terms. I’ll talk about these later.

Instead, I shall briefly reflect on two inspiring items.

Reason to be cheerful #1
Mitt Romney has done a great job of shooting himself in the foot. The Republican candidate has topped Gordon Brown’s feat of alienating a large percentage of voters with a secret recording of them demonstrating their loosening grip on reality. With Brown, it was dismissing all with concerns about mass immigration as bigots. With Romney, it’s claiming that all Democrats, 47% of the electorate, pay “no…

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The Political Idealist

You will probably have heard by now of the Housing Minister’s endorsement of a plan to sell-off high-value council houses, build cheap houses elsewhere, and pocket the profit made. In other words, they want to sweep the underprivelleged out of quality houses in pleasant areas, and complete the process of ghettoising low earners. Unsurprisingly, this has proved unpopular with the progressive wing of British politics, though we have yet to see if this becomes official Government policy.

One myth perpetuated about council housing is that it is state-subsidised. All that the state pays is the Housing Benefit bill, which is highly inflated due to the fact that working families simply cannot pay the rent demanded by private-sector landlords. In fact, the nationwide stock of council housing returns a modest profit, even with rents being a fraction of market levels. What does this say about the state of the housing market?…

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Think Left

An Open Letter to Michael Gove

Re Blogged from Chris Edwards

An open letter to Michael Gove from an English teacher on a dark day for Education.

Dear Michael Gove,You will never read this, but I feel compelled to put it out there in the faint hope that more people will realise the repercussions of your latest initiative.
I am proud to work at a small school, on a small estate, in the most deprived ward in the county. The life expectancy in this ward is a full 20 years lower than the neighbouring village, which tells you a little bit about our intake. Add to this that within our 530 students, we have 36 different languages spoken and over 40% of students do not count English as their first language. Effectively, we are everything you hate and everything you would like to abolish. We are the skidmark on the…

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Why we need an overhaul of Jobcentre Plus

After watching Dispatches on Channel 4 I was stunned by the incompetence of Jobcentre Plus, yet at the same time not completely surprised. Anybody could tell you that this has now become a place to claim benefits rather than a service to get people back into work. Apart from the introduction of the Universal Credit in 2013 however, it doesn’t seem that much is being done to improve Jobcentre Plus or the DWP as a department although it is clearly in need of an overhaul.

For those of you who may have missed this program, Dispatches enlisted the help of two people who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and carried out a number of tasks to test how efficient the system was. As you may have guess, a number of flaws were exposed. The most comical of these flaws was that someone was able to fill in their booklet with a shopping list and still received his benefits because the adviser didn’t bother to look at it. One has to wonder what the point of filling in these booklets is, short of red tape and bureaucracy. More embarrassing was that discovery that the Jobcentre does not advertise DWP jobs on its own website – a find that left the head of the organisation ashen faced to say the least.

What conclusions can we draw from this show?

The first is that Jobcentre Plus is not the best service for finding people work. I have spoken to numerous people who have had arguments with advisers for just processing their benefit whilst making very little effort to find them work. Personally, I have never ‘signed on’ because I find that agencies are a much better way of finding work, even if temporary. It appears that the sole function of the service is to hand out money – making it very easy to stay on benefits if you want to instead of working.

The second conclusion is that advisers have not been trained to get people back into work. I’m not just referring to people with little qualifications and work experience, but people with degrees or who have worked in a professional environment. I think it is an insult to make anyone work for free in this financial climate and we have to think about who this actually benefits. I’m sure employers are not complaining about free labour but it can be demeaning; especially for those who already have significant work experience.

Getting people back into work should be involving courses for those who need help with numeracy, literacy and IT but also building self-esteem and making people confident that they are worthy of the jobs they are applying for and a larger change in the culture of benefits in which some people express sentiments in being ‘better off’ by staying at home. Until we have an overhaul of this system, despite the claims that unemployment levels have fallen recently, the changes to the type of benefit will do little to resolve the problem.

Top 5 gaffes London 2012


5. On a visit to the UK, Republican Candidate for the US Presidency, Mitt Romney held a press conference with Ed Miliband. Although I accept that Ed may not be a household name in the US as of yet, he should be a familiar figure to any senior politician. For Mitt Romney to conduct the press conference and refer to Ed Miliband as “Mr Leader”, was unprofessional, hilarious and slightly worrying. His advisors may find themselves out of a job very soon…

4. As the North Korean women’s football players took to the pitch at Hampden Park, their pictures and names were displayed on the big screens alongside the flags of their native country. Well, they should have been. What they got instead was their pictures and names, alongside the flag of arch-enemies South Korea. Needless to say, the North Korean delegation were not impressed.

3. Welcome back, Mitt Romney…

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