Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Telegram from Guernica, biography of George Steer

In which Churchill's recorded as being in favour of using poison gas against native uprisings. Mussolini got there first though. War in Ethiopia was orchestrated by Italian fascist regime and used copious amounts of the stuff against poorly equipped Ethiopians.

Summer, the first time...

Last Saturday, with my wife out shopping and eldest son skateboarding with his friends, I rashly asked my 12-year-old if he would like a barbecue. Not keen myself: risk of eating raw meat and amount of cleaning up afterwards, but he was very keen to take up the offer, so burger and sausages in hand, and charcoal nearly alight, the cooking commenced. Soon afterwards, there was a call from the first-born, could he and his friend AND TWO GIRLS also attend the charred meat fest? The upper case letters are there to denote a first: we haven't had a request for teenaged girls to join us before - my youngest son was horrified, and immediately said he would be eating inside (girls to him are classed as 'annoying' - the vast majority; or 'OK' - which means the like to play football and go nuts in the park with him). I declared the barbecue open to all - with the proviso that eldest son procured either more sausage or burgers as we didn't have anywhere enough for six people. The four newcomers duly arrived and I was amazed when the girls ensured eldest went for the extra food without my having to issue the request more than once, and took the lead in arranging an impromptu al fresco experience on the decking. Mind you, youngest still thought they fell in the 'annoying' category, they didn't eat any of the salad or offer to help with the clearing up. Still, a major civilising influence and a neat, yet determined, counterbalance to the usual testosterone-fuelled, YouTube video-watching staple of teenaged male-only mealtimes. They can definitely come again, no matter what youngest son says...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Know your place


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Patterson and Gove and the blobbies

First Gove derided one, now Patterson has blamed one for his ministerial demise. Both criticised 'blobs', environmental or educational establishment groupings that stood in the way of their pet theories. But delving into the alleged constituent parts of their respective blobs, a different picture tends to emerge. Take Patterson's Green Blob, where we find pressure groups - like Greenpeace and other lobby groups, the Green Party, and a vague identification of others opposed to Patterson's climate change beliefs. These aren't the dangerous elements he describes, but rather those concerned enough to take  stand against the arrogant/ignorant stance taken by ministers convinced as to the rightness of their cause, but lacking the empirical evidence for their frequently dogmatic assertions. It's not the blobs we should fear, rather the unchallengeable assertions of Tories with unshakeable views that don't stand up to reasoned argument. Bet IDS has a lot of blobs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Really enjoyed this surreal romp through 50 years of geopolitical history; even made grim, apartheid era South Africa funny. And the king even appealed to Republican me http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062329127/the-girl-who-saved-the-king-of-sweden

Monday, July 07, 2014

Zut alors; French cops on English streets - a Mail reader's nightmare

Along with 2.5 million others, I managed to catch sight of the peloton as it made its way through God's own country at the weekend. As I left Mytholmroyd train station to walk up the hill to Cragg Vale, the longest continual incline in England, I noticed a line of deckchairs on a grass verge, every single occupant of which was engrossed in the Mail on Sunday. Thought at the time that this was one of those quaintly British paradoxes at work here: a group of right wing media consumers out to watch a bunch of mainly foreign bike riders race past them. It was only an hour or so later that I realised they faced a threat to their well-being from the pre-peloton 'caravan' itself. By then waiting outside the Robin Hood pub, the first outriders appeared, but they weren't British bobbies on motorbikes, rather French Gendarmes or Police Nationale, and they kept on coming, either on high-powered bikes or in minibuses. The platoon of MoS readers must have been driven to apoplexy, I thought. Soon afterwards, I heard the wail of a siren, only for a Mountain Rescue Service ambulance to drive past, down the hill in the direction of the station. I learned later that it was called to treat someone who have fallen off a wall, not to defibrillate a MoS reader who'd been driven to cardiac arrest by the sight of so much French motorised law enforcement. This was probably a good thing, because the ambulance itself was Irish - first aid for the Tour being provided by the no doubt excellently equipped Dublin and Wicklow Mountain Rescue Service - Erin Abu.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Ofsted inadequate

Son's school has just had an Ofsted inspection that shows - achieving academy status AND opening a 'free school' FE vocational centre notwithstanding - that it's gone from a 'good' community high school to being so inadequate, across all four inspected areas, as to be placed in special measures.
All this decay took place against a veritable deluge of supposed good news stories pumped put at regular intervals via email and paid for mailshots. Strange, then, that notification of the Ofsted inspection was by way of a letter handed to pupils to bring home. Being suspicious by nature, I now wonder if they hoped to ameliorate the potential flow of bad news to the inspectors by using the least reliable method: after all, the Ofsted report itself mentions the low number of parental submissions. There's a parents' forum taking place in an hour, where I'm really hoping that serious questions will be answered, particularly regarding the findings of inadequate teaching in KS3 and 4 and the inadequate finding for pupil behaviour and safeguarding. But then again, perhaps I shouldn't expect too much, after all, in the (mailed) letter inviting us to the 'forum', the headteacher assures how keen they are to embark on their 'improvement journey'. From Michael Gove preserve us...

Forum update: Some very interesting questions about lack of quality homework - this is an area that the school has previously said senior management (SMT) were going to tighten up on, but nothing happened. Some parents also very scathing about internal organisation of recent Yr 10 mock exams. The new head did admit, in response to one of my questions, that attaining academy status had not worked for them. Seems to be more a case of being distracted by the 'freedom' of being run by the DoE, as opposed to answerable and accountable to the LEA, that they failed to consider the developments being made by other comparable schools in the locality. She even went so far as to admit that there had been no proper benchmarking undertaken for the best part of two years, so that the SMT were essentially 'flying blind' but happy to do so, given the nice warm feeling of being in charge of their own school and the new FE centre. All crashed down around them now. Gove not such a good replacement LEA after all. Not to worry - it's only our children's futures they're working with.