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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Britain’s Hardest Trolling

The liberal-leftie biased BBCCCP are producing a programme, apparently, pitching low-paid workers against each other to win more cash than they can afford on their pitiful salaries.

Britain’s Hardest Grafter sounds like a dystopian gameshow, a BBC3 Hunger Games, a Running Man for the loom band generation. Following on from Channel 4’s Benefits Street, Immigration Street, Fat Poor Bastards Who Smoke Street and Too Many Kids And They’ve All Got Flat Screen TVs Street, it continues a worrying trend.

We love to hate. As Channel 5’s series of poor-bashing programmes including On Benefits And Proud, Gypsies on Benefits and Proud, People Who Shop At Argos And Smell And Proud, and Obese Benefit Claimant Gypsy Single Mum Immigrant And Proud showed, we love to hate the poor. Hate and judge. Judge and hate. Soothe yourself knowing there are grasping scum out there to steal your job, take your pension and smoke cheap fags – and GUESS WHO’S PAYING.

Let’s be hopeful. This BBC programme could be a trojan horse, a bait and switch “make u think” device to lure viewers in with the promise of poverty porn but then confront them with the reality of their prejudices. It could be a spoof.

Or, let’s not be hopeful. While once the TV Tristrams were handwringing liberals, now they’re sneering Thatcher Children, hungry to bash the baddies – the fat, the poor, the smelly unwashed – for money. Maybe it’s what we want. Maybe it gets the ratings. Maybe – and I’m not a tinfoil hatter – it’s a subtle way of making lefties hate the BBC enough to allow it to be smashed up. Why bother with the Beeb when they had Andrew Neil Masturbation At Election Night, and now this? But perhaps that is a bit too far a stretch.

The answer, I suppose, is not to watch. Or for people earning below £15,500 – which includes me – to flood this awful programme with applications and rot it from the inside. Or just keep up the outrage. I don’t know. Is there an answer to toilet television like this?

Blame us, though. We asked for this, apparently. We wanted this. We’re paying for this. We will switch on, and hatewatch, and the Tristrams will pat themselves on the back and say it was jolly well done. And poverty carries on, and no one does anything about it.

Because it’s all so entertaining, if it isn’t happening to you.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The war on average

There’s a war on average. Schools must not be average; they must be better than average. Michael Gove once memorably gave his reasoning for the war on average:

Michael-Gove-21

Yes, it is theoretically possible for everyone to get better all the time. It is possible for every school to give every pupil good or outstanding progress. If you imagine that every child is a bag full of skills, rather than a human being full of complicated stuff, you can imagine it to be possible. Yet when you start teaching, you notice that sometimes some children make faster progress than others; some make slower progress; some make progress at first, then plateau. It’s almost as if they are tiny people with lives. It’s almost as if, no matter what you do as an educator or as an institution, there are a million and one other factors. Curse those children, and their lives.

Of course, I’d hate to be seen as the kind of Enemy Of Promise that would want to make excuses for every child not making outstanding progress all the time in every school all the time. And in order to avoid the likes of me, the Government sensibly decides that all schools should be good. Not what we used to call “satisfactory”, which is now “requires improvement” – but “good”. We must all be “good” – and if we can’t be, maintained schools must become academies, because that will solve everything.

In my local area, there are 40 schools at risk of being forcibly converted into academies because they “require improvement”. Leave aside the debate about academisation for a moment, and suppose that the Government might have completely benign reasons for wanting to force-convert schools. I’ve worked in six out of the 40. They aren’t coasting. They aren’t going through the motions. I wouldn’t say – though what would I know, as a mere educator-drone – that they are average, or below average.

I’ve also worked in many other schools not listed there, rated as “good”, which have been rather mediocre; I’ve worked in others, not listed there, which are academies, and which aren’t magically better than their maintained counterparts by dint of being academies. But this is where we are: forced academisation is the only solution, it would seem.

Show me a coasting school. Find me one school where they aren’t either terrified about Ofsted’s imminent arrival, or terrified about Ofsted’s next arrival. Show me one where they aren’t trying desperately to engineer (and that is the politest verb I can think of) above-average progress for all pupils, pupils on free school meals, vulnerable children, children with special educational needs, boys, girls, any kind of group you might care to think of.

I’m not saying that stagnation is a good thing. I’m not saying that some schools don’t fail children at times. I’m not saying that some children don’t get left behind. But I want to know if the war on average is the right way to go about it.

Also: what’s wrong with average? What’s wrong with – whisper it, through the shame – being below average? Were you – yes, you – always brilliant at everything? Was there something you struggled with? Well, imagine that you weren’t allowed to struggle with it. Imagine you had to be not just okay at it, but above average. How would that make you feel?

I can’t help feeling, the further I get into education, that we’re working essentially on two tracks. As my driving instructor told me: “I’ve got two jobs, one is to teach you to drive, one is to make you pass your driving test.” And that’s how I feel as a teacher. There’s my actual job, which is the useful bit, where children take on not only the basic bits of learning but also the learning skills they need to be curious, excited and inspired. Then there’s the bit that I get paid for, which is the bit where each child must make the right number of levels of progress in the right time.

Who cares if Child X’s dad had an accident last Christmas? Who cares if Child Y’s sister had leukaemia? It’s not good enough. They must get the levels. They must get the numbers, or I will have failed. And if I fail, my boss fails, and if my boss fails, their boss fails, and the school fails, and so on, and so on. Pressure, pressure, pressure. It presses on us, but no matter how much we try and shield the children, it ends up pressing on them. Lunchtime interventions instead of playing outside. Afternoon interventions in the core subjects instead of learning about the world. Reading interventions during PE time. That’s what we’re doing. We do it because we have to, even if we don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

We keep fighting the average. The average keeps on moving. We must get better. We must get better all the time. The children must get better all the time. The schools must get better all the time. And it ends up crushing children’s love of learning. But so what?

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Old

I never thought I’d start to feel old. I thought it would just sort of happen when I started getting my pension or fell asleep in my dinner. As it turns out, I have about six different pensions already, one of which is worth an amazing £1.55 (will I save it? or blow the lot on a packet of Werthers Original?) and I haven’t started napping during the day, though I don’t doubt that isn’t far off.

But, I feel old. Old. Very old. It’s my own fault for the career choice I made a few years ago, being a teacher. I go to interviews, bloody job interviews, with these twelve-year-old-looking kids who’ve never really seen anything in life, and then they end up having the job and I don’t get it. Do you see what I mean? That makes me feel like I’m old. Too old. I’m the oldest person in some of these schools. Even the caretakers are younger than me. I am an old, old man.

I didn’t mind so much when my teaching wasn’t very good, which it wasn’t. But now it’s good, better than good, and I’m still not getting jobs. “This isn’t the right school for you,” they say, even though they couldn’t find anything wrong with the lesson I’ve done. Really? Why is the school not for me? It’s a school after all. “You’ll do fantastically well at another school,” they say, imagining that there’s a school where they’ll on a horrendous old-but-not-very-experienced dinosaur. “We just felt that you would want to be a little too creative,” said one, this week.

It would be nice to interpret this all in a positive way, to imagine that really they do all think it’s not me, it’s them; but in reality, I think they think it’s not them, it’s me.

You get looked at with suspicion if you’re over thirty, let alone over forty, in my profession. Even worse if you’re old and you’ve only just started. People can’t process it. If you’re your age, you should be in management already, not only just picking up the skills. If you’re old you should be experienced; you’re not allowed to be old and only just getting there.

If you’re old you should know it all. If you’re going to take on a relative novice, at least get a kid in. They’ll do whatever you say. Old people are just trouble. They have opinions and ideas and want to do things their own way; the greener kids will just settle in and do what they’re told, because they don’t know any different, and you can work them into the ground.

Feeling old. Old, already. Jesus Christ. Forty years old, and too old to start again. Yeah, I’m sure that at another school – not ours, we don’t want you – I’ll do fine. Always another school. Always somewhere else.

Old.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Who are the Left?

A lot of people have been talking about The Left over the past few days. Confused about what The Left is and what these evil scum want to do? Don’t worry. This simple guide should help you.

The Left

Do you ever feel like people being taxed on their earnings would be somehow quite a good idea, rather than depriving the honest-to-goodness salt-of-the-earth wealth-creating silent majority of their rightful money? Then you belong to The Left. The capital T of The is essential, because it makes it more scary.

Whenever anyone on The Left, whether they are a protester chucking paint on a pensioner or a politician sending pictures of themselves in their pants, does anything, you have to understand that you are responsible. If you are on the Left, everything anyone does on The Left belongs to you. If someone on The Left is antisemitic, so are you. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. Whenever one person on The Left does anything, it’s collective responsibility – since you Stalin-loving Internationale-chanting idiots love collectivism so much, you deserve it.

The Hard Left

Have you ever joined a trade union? Gone on a protest? Found yourself among people in army surplus clothes blowing whistles and selling copies of Socialist Worker? Then you are on the Hard Left. Don’t argue; you are. If you’ve ever decided to protest about anything, you have smashed windows, chucked petrol bombs and tried to murder our hard-working police officers. You are the sort of vile individuals who make sure that nervous swing voters in Basildon will never vote Labour again, you idiots. It’s all your fault. If you just accepted your fate and enjoyed the fact that 37% of voters wield 100% of power, like you should do, you childish serfs, then everything would be all right. But oh no.

The Loony Left

The Loony Left is something we thought we’d left behind in the 1980s, but it’s going to come back. Not actually come back come back, you understand, but since we’ve Conservative government, any group with the slightest glimmer of power, whether local or national, can be safely and instantly dismissed as being from the Loony Left. Any Labour-run council which does anything other than close libraries and sack everyone can be described as “Loony Left” from now on. Loonies. Because it’s important to say that giving a monkey’s about other human beings is a product of insanity.

The Old Labour Communist Left

As you sip a chai latte from your Ed Miliband “Controls On Immigration” mug, you must be wondering where it all went wrong. Was it that you were too left-wing? It must have been. If you want any other political path than selling off everything to the private sector, you are the Old Labour Communist Left. If only you’d listened to Tony and Peter, everything would have been all right. But no. You wanted to have “principles” and to do things because they were “the right things to do”. Shame on you for having emotions, and feelings, and things like that. Do you want the Tories back? Well, do you? No? Well then you must recreate a Tory party and call it Centre Left with slightly nicer logos and branding.

The Liberal Guardianista Left

Have you found yourself burdened by something over the past few years? Every day you’ve probably woken up thinking, ugh, some terrible thing is weighing me down, what on earth can it be? Yes, of course, it was the horror of being allowed to have so-called “Human” so-called “Rights”. We have a Government dead-set on removing this blight of so-called “Human” so-called “Rights”, and anyone who dares to oppose this is a sandal-wearing mung-bean-munching yoghurt-weaving fair-trade Guardianista liberal. Pah. You are a naive idiot, a Useful Idiot exploited by the Old Labour Communist Left and the Loony Left to allow Stalin through the back door.

Your instinctive (and wrong) squeamishness around things like war, torture and bombing people is exactly why the Left are a dangerous menace and can never be allowed near power ever again. So you think so-called “Humans” should have so-called “Rights”? Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. What a silly, sixth-form-politics load of nonsense. So you think Islamophobia is a real thing? Fool. Grow up.

The Left Diversity Nazis

Ever felt like there’s a possibility of it being a problem that every institution you can think of is overwhelmingly white, middle-class and male? Think that it’s somehow wrong that people are disadvantaged by their gender, race or anything else? Then congratulations; you are a Diversity Nazi. Often seen as a subset of the Loony Left, Diversity Nazis include all feminists, all anti-racists and everyone who has ever felt slightly uncomfortable about prejudice. How dare you demand ‘fairness’ or ‘equality’ of any kind. And if you suggest some kind of positive discrimination or affirmative action, you are clearly traitors who are punishing the real victims.

After all, don’t forget that actually, lefties are the real racists, while white men are the real victims. There was once a white private-school-educated man who once complained that he found it hard to get a job at the BBC… I mean, he got one in the end and ended up becoming hugely rich and successful, but that was despite his struggle, and not because he enjoyed any advantage whatsoever.

The Centre Left (Progressive Left)

The Centre Left are the good guys. You’re allowed to be on The Left if you’re on The Centre Left, because The Centre Left is composed of pragmatic, progressive people. I don’t quite know what progressive means, but it’s okay because nobody else does, either. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. Want to cut back the welfare state, but slightly more slowly? That’s progressive. Want to stop spending, but still spend a tiny bit, a token amount? Progressive. Want to destroy the public sector, but feel a bit bad about it? Progressive. Centre. Good. Right. The only acceptable form of Left. All else is misery, doom and Communism.

So, those are the main categories. See how many you can spot being referred to in the coming weeks and days, as Labour ignores the incoming Toryland and concentrates instead on tearing itself apart.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Sats pressure

It’s Sats week. All across the country, children are being judged. Whatever the rights or wrongs of national testing, it’s here and it’s happening. The one thing you can say for certain is that there’s going to be pressure.

First, there’s pressure for children. Don’t call them “students” when they’re tiny; it’s insulting and wrong. They are the biggest victims in all this. There’s pressure on children to get the expected results. They will have sat test after test after test since Christmas, or even before. Their brains will be a slushy, over-crammed blur of maths word problems, reading comprehension questions and grammar terminology. And then it all comes down to this: one test, where you might or might not know the answers to the questions, and if you don’t, you just get to sit there in silence, feeling stupid.

There’s pressure on parents, too. Nowadays most parents are clued up about where their children should be in their levels – though all that is changing (and see this post here for a great summary of exactly how it’s changing). Is your child as bright as next door’s child? Should you get private tuition? Should you give them revision tests at home? Should you not care, because none of it matters when they get to secondary school really?

Then there’s pressure on teachers. Get the right results. For every child. If it’s not every single child, no pay rise for you. No excuses. We don’t care if little Johnny’s dad got hit by a car on Wednesday before the Sats – why didn’t he go for a Level 6 grammar paper? Why didn’t you do any better? If he made six sublevels of progress, why didn’t he make more? Why didn’t everyone do better? Why? Someone else could have done better. Data is everything. You miss, you fail.

It all comes down to this, a week of pressure for everyone. It’s hard to keep smiling, though you must. The best thing to do would be for schools and teachers to say to children, try your best and be as brilliant as you can possibly be, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t do a question, because there are a million and one other ways in which we know you’re growing and improving and doing amazing things as tiny people. But the reality is, if we did that, and we didn’t get the numbers, we’d be doomed. The numbers matter, unfortunately. Maybe they should matter. Maybe the overall performance in standardised tests really is the one and only way in which you should measure how schools and teachers and parents and children – not “students” – are doing.

This is where we are. A week of pressure. A week of pain. A week of judgements. Is there a better way of doing it? I don’t know. All I do know, from my limited experience, is what it feels like to be there in Sats week. A week of stress, pressure, pain and struggle. For all of us.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

G-g-g-g-Gove

It’s easy to dismiss Michael Gove. (If only someone would.) So simple to call him names. But let’s not stoop to simplistic prejudice; let’s focus on what we know.

Here’s a man so toxic to voters he was cleverly hidden away by the Government, along with other repellant nasties like Iain Duncan Smith, Eric Pickles and Esther McVey, during the general election campaign. A man so reviled by educators of all stripes that he was quietly shunted away from his education brief ahead of his time as a branding exercise. That tells you something.

Here’s a man who has been accused of having a large ego. Is there any evidence we can find for that? Well, there’s the small matter of him having written a foreword to the Bible. Or writing parts of the curriculum on his own. There’s that.

How bright is Michael Gove? Some say he’s quite intelligent. But as an educator you learn about different types of intelligence: there are people, like Boris Johnson and Gove, who can be plausibly bright in a certain light when waffling on about the things they’ve read and studied, but who are, unshackled by the self-doubt that troubles so many critical thinkers, a total and utter catastrophe in terms of working with others, building relationships, reacting to situations or learning from mistakes. Arrogance isn’t smart. Not listening to others isn’t smart.

Pah, you might say, teachers, they’re always moaning. Leftie troublemakers, the lot of them. But Gove had a unique ability to unite small-c conservative teachers and the more militant elements in, not even quite hatred, but bemusement. People didn’t hate Gove; they just couldn’t fathom what on earth he was doing. What was he playing at this time? For what purpose? How was it supposed to benefit anyone, especially children? Was it really designed with that goal in mind, or simply a blunt instrument to correct a benighted view of educators from certain sections of the Right? Was it just a way of fluffing the Tory heartland that the damned teachers were being “dealt with” and parents being somehow “empowered”?

Look, I’m biased. I’m a teacher. Let’s get that out of the way. I’m not exactly an Enemy of Progress though. Change is needed in education sometimes, and everyone needs to constantly listen and learn from the best practice elsewhere in order to stay at the top of the profession. Unfortunately, the kind of change Michael G brought to education wasn’t any good. It’s not that I’m critical of reform, but critical of bad reform that doesn’t help. There’s a difference.

When a Times columnist, Gove called for the reintroduction of the death penalty and criticised the Stephen Lawrence inquiry (an inquiry which, as you’ll recall, has been entirely vindicated by subsequent events). So what? Maybe he was just a columnist, saying controversial things for money. We were all young once. We’ve all thought foolish things.

But then: what if he wasn’t grandstanding? What if he really meant what he said back then? If it is all true, he’s not just incompetent, but actively dangerous.

And so, freshly thawed from the carbonite he was placed into, he’s off to Justice. Working with the law. Legal people are tremendously decent folk, by and large, and they are open-minded. Perhaps he’ll be different this time. Perhaps he’ll have learned.

Or perhaps he won’t.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Aspirational

Labour lost, Labour has decided, because it wasn’t aspirational enough. In the rush to blame someone – anyone – they’ve decided to target the left.

Move right, forget ever taxing anyone ever again for anything, privatise everything, and it’ll all be all right. Those 25 people in Basildon and Swindon who decide the entire election under our beautifully wrong voting system are the only people worth appealing to.

What do they want, these aspirational pissbabies in marginal constituencies, whose every need and whim we must attend to and fluff? To shop at Waitrose, apparently. Because spending a few more pence on your shopping is aspirational. Ooh, don’t we all dream of buying slightly more expensive toilet rolls? It’s all we dream of on my estate, guvnor, gawd bless the Queen Mum, but we have to make do with Costcutter and that makes us SAD so what we really want, more than anything, is for really rich people in Surrey to never have to pay any tax, because even though it’ll never affect us, it might stop us from trying. I mean, what’s the point in working if there’s a chance that if you earn a billion pounds and live in another country, you might have to pay tax on it? I don’t know about you but that puts me right off.

Still, you do that, Labour. You appeal to these thick, entitled, middle class suburban simpletons and just imagine that, as in 1997, everyone else will just fall into line. I’m sure that’s going to work amazingly well.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized