Friday, February 27, 2015

A pork pie, but not as we know it...

When my mate Keith left school he got a job putting the glaze on pork pies for a now defunct bakery in Leeds. The job was only a stopgap - he was waiting to join the Royal Artillery, which was probably just as well, because the supply of pork pies would have presented a serious threat to health, had he not answered the call of Queen and country. Fast forward more years than I care to remember, and yesterday I was tempted by a growler in Morrison's. The only thing this dessicated article had in common with those of rose-tinted commestible memory was pork and pastry: gone was the glorious glaze and the glutinous jelly. All that remained was a dried hulk of pastry and unnaturally pink-dyed pork. Morrison's should hold their corporate head in shame. Keith's erstwhile employer might have gone the way of all flesh (hastened, it must be said, by a particularly nasty salmonella outbreak), but their product is not forgotten - certainly not after yesterday's sorry episode.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spent a couple of days in the Lake District

Spent being the operative word, particularly when it comes to parking. The national park authority has been busy since my last visit, installing number plate recognition gizmos at its pay and display car parks Waterhead Car Park, Ambleside Charges have also increased, with £2.00 being the minimum stay and £8.00 for a full day stay. Payment can be made by cash or card, but no change is given for cash, so the authority turns a nice little profit either way. Just what happens if you turn into a full car park and then leave after only a few moments is not spelled out on the signage. Could this be met with a £2.00 min charge and £60.00 fine for non-payment within 48 hours? Constantly upping the charges levied on visitors, in the supposed name of improving the national park - and this includes 20p to visit the loo - risks alienating the very people the authority relies on for its income. A sense of proportion is needed, but seems to be sadly lacking at the present time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Year of the sheep at the Magic Wok

An evening in Windermere after a day walking in the Grizedale Forest and dinner at the Magic Wok. Decor a bit dated, but food and service were great. Walk from Ambleside tomorrow. More Lakeland magic on the way.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bigging up those 'traditional values' - selling fee-paying schools

The local fee-paying grammar must be feeling the pinch - they've taken to sending out leaflets, advertising the 'benefits' of sending children to a school first established in 1648 that 'upholds traditional values'. What the marketing hype doesn't say is that for most of the last century the school was LEA controlled - only reverting to independent, fee-paying status after reorganisation in 1974 (a craftily worded clause in the charter allowed to leave the LEA free of charge). Exploiting loopholes - traditional enough, I suppose. As is putting fear into middle class and aspiring middle class families that their child will do better in smaller classes, where, as the blurb has it 'pupils flourish academically in a happy and stimulating environment'. Also equips them with the sharp elbows the middle class need to stay ahead - mean, lean and ready to fight for whatever the Daily Mail tells them is important...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Better times for Little Germany

Bradford seems to have a talent for turning itself into a wasteland. The inner-most part of the city centre has been a building site for nearly a decade - due to the long-delayed completion of the Broadway development, which was intended to break the 60s ring of concrete and deliver a vibrant retail complex, but instead became mired in delay due to the recession. But the city's older buildings are also in need of care and attention. In the late 80s and early 90s much was made of the prospects for Little Germany, an area of mill buildings and commercial premises developed by German immigrants, including the family of the composer Frederick Delius, who came to the city eager to build links between the Yorkshire and German textile industries. Unfortunately, the thriving businesses, bars and cafes that moved into the area have now almost all gone - leaving behind near empty converted apartment complexes and flyblown alleyways. I spent a while in the Guzelian cafe and gallery, itself a bold attempt to create a vibrant watering hole opposite the cathedral where the works of the Guzelian photojournalism agency are displayed on the walls. It opened in December last year, but now faces the prospect of the road outside - one of the main routes into Little Germany - being turned into building site that will see cars largely banished from the area. The streets that once held so much promise now run past silent buildings with boarded up or broken windows. The Tuetonic entrepreneurs have long gone; and I was left wondering, along with the cafe-gallery manager, whether Bradford will manage to turn things around again, after so long in the economic doldrums. Hope that Guzelian will be around to capture the renaissance when it comes.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Yorkshire Sculpture Park - scenes from a walk: a triangular boat, an octopus and Ai Weiwei's tree

On a journey - the road to nowhere...

Eldest son's high school is in special measures after spectacularly failing an Ofsted in May last year. This damning situation was reinforced recently by a follow-up visit from HMI, which found little improvement. This is inspite of a number of - rather frantic - messages from the senior leadership team (SLT) to the effect that they have 'embarked on an exciting improvement journey'. Language like that chills my blood; it means absolutely nothing - and all the while reputation and lack of real progress ebbs away at morale (staff and student) - no-one wants to learn or teach in that sort of environment. Now, however, there is progress - a new name and blazers are on the way! Quite how this fits into the journey, or will lead to any concrete improvement in leadership or quality of education is hard to say, but we're all just so excited by it, not. I'm tempted to suggest a Latin motto for the new badge, something along the lines of Stercus non potest poliri.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A miffed-off former MIfL

The Institute for Learning (IfL) is no more. The unwanted 'professional body' for FE teachers, foisted on them by the last Labour government was finally laid to rest at the end of October 2014. In reality, most of the one-time captive membership had largely drifted away when Gove ended compulsory registration in 2010. Round about the same time, the DfE - following recommendations in the Wolf report into 14-19 vocational education - also accepted that the anomalous situation whereby FE teachers couldn't teach in schools, but school teachers could teach in FE should end. However, this was dependent on FE staff obtaining Qualified Teaching and Learning Skills Status (QTLS) - something that Post 16 teacher training qualifications didn't automatically confer. As with much Goveite thinking, details were sketchy as to how this would work out in practice and pronouncements from on high seldom reflected either conditions on the ground or the substance of subsequent regulations put out by the DfE. Yesterday, I found out how... As a post-16 FE qualified teacher I recently started working in a local secondary school sixth form on maternity leave cover. In spite of showing both my degree and PGCE paperwork to the HR people, I was bemused to learn that I was classed as an unqualified teacher: some mistake, surely, I thought - after all, I'm teaching 16-18 year-olds studying AS and A2 courses. Ah, came the reply, you haven't got QTLS status, and pending confirmation of this from something called the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) you're 'unqualified' in our eyes. A few emails later and the awful truth dawned. The IfL might have gone, but a new quango has risen in its place, literally in fact - ETF has the same address as the IfL, and is in the business of charging £485.00 for those FE qualified teachers who want to work in school on parity of pay with school teachers. But the thing that sticks in my craw - alongside the threat of being paid less if I don't undertake the supposedly 'voluntary' process - is that I'm teaching the same courses to students of the same age: the only difference is that they are sitting in a school's sixth form classroom, as opposed to one in an FE college. Gove and the IfL might have gone, but their influence lives on, unfortunately.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Immigration Enforcement Agency convoy heading west

Just scene a convoy of three Immigration Enforcement Agency driving through Hipperholme. Shame they weren't greeted by a dishonourable guard of tutting UKIPpers and Daily Mail readers: plenty of both in this neck of the woods.