The Decline and Fall of the English Language

I was going to blog last month about how a BBC2 documentary found that 80% of Britons cannot recite a single verse of poetry. This is not helped by the fact 58% pupils never study poetry in school. Not a line. The ones who do read Carol Ann Duffy, the Scottish lesbian who was just named the new Poet Laureate. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Miss Duffy’s poetry, but reading a single living poet does not constitute a sufficient literary education.

Like I said, I was going to blog about it, but I’d just be whinging once again about the state of education in this country. Then yesterday I was having a conversation with a couple of 14-year-olds. It start with me telling off one of them for using a participle that is an inappropriate term derived from an innocuous noun. He had no idea what a participle is. Okay, that’s not a big surprise. I probably didn’t learn about participles until at least the 9th grade, maybe even the 10th.

The disturbing thing is that neither he nor his friend knew what a noun is. This is something I learned well before the 5th grade, because by then we were parsing sentences. Now with the average 14-year-old, I have trouble getting them to write in sentences. I had a 16-year-old who handed in an entire 1500-word coursework without using a single mark of punctuation. I’m not exaggerating. But back to the boys in Year 9. . .

They had heard the term “noun” before. They just couldn’t agree on what it was. One of them thought it was a “doing” word. The other thought it was a “describing” word. He contended it couldn’t be a “doing” word, because that was an adverb.  These were not pupils in the bottom English set. They were not pupils with special educational needs. Because I was teaching a mixed-ability group, there was a top-set girl who actually knew that a noun was a “naming” word.

No poetry, no grammar. Is it the end of the English language or the end of civilisation?

One thinks of Eliot. . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

No, wait. That would be trite  to anyone who has seen this over-used reference to Eliot.  And on the other hand, clearly it would be lost upon anyone with a secondary education in Britain in the last decade. I believe the general response would be, “T. S. who?”

Professional Secrecy

I didn’t blog last week about Alex Dolan, when she was suspended by the General Teaching Council for undercover filming in schools. The footage was shown on the Channel 4 investigative program Dispatches and actually brought the state of Britain’s schools into the open. She showed very bad behaviour in four different schools, including teachers hiding badly behaved pupils from Ofsted inspectors, and pupils openly threatening violence against her. She revealed that the education emperor has no clothes and the GTC did not take kindly to being exposed.

This week it is the turn of Margaret Haywood, who filmed the neglect of elder patients in a hospital for Panorama, the BBC investigative program. Even though all the patients gave consent after they were filmed, she was charged with breaching confidentiality and struck off the nursing register. Because she was too concerned about patient care, she was declared no longer fit to be a nurse.

I’m also reminded of the cops who beat up newsagent Ian Tomlinson from behind as he walked down the street with his hands in his pockets during the G20 summit. Tomlinson later died. Apparently the balaclavas over their faces are part of their uniform to protect them from fire, but they are still supposed to wear their identification number. Their numbers were not visible, so it took a while to identify them from the video footage.

Is it any wonder that three of the areas of public service people know aren’t working are education, nursing and law enforcement?

Children and Society: Cause and Effect

Some people on Facebook seemed surprised recently at my willingness to return to what has now become the Obamanation. Though this is not possible for a number of reasons, the newspapers continue to be filled with good reasons flee. I continue to marvel at the British Government’s lack of ability to discern the relationship between cause and effect, instead destroying the remnants of this society, completely baffled by both.

Side by side today in the Mail Online, were a stories about a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old. The older boy shot a teacher in the face with a pellet gun at Beal High School in Ilford, Essex. He got a 15-day suspension. His friends who helped conceal the gun after the incident got shorter suspensions. The teacher was lucky to have been hit between the eyes and not in one of them.

While I agree with the spokeman from the National Union of Teachers that children who use violence against teachers should be expelled rather than suspended, this is the same union that wants all faith schools in the country to be stripped of everything that makes them unique, better performing, and over-subscribed.

The 8-year-old refused to get ready for school on morning. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to go to school, but just because he got up late and was not doing as he was told. His mother smacked him with a hairbrush. A teacher found out. The mother was charged with assault and the boy taken into care by Somerset County Council. She now gets to see him for two hours a week. His long-term future will be determined when she is sentenced later this month.

The court will have to hear from social services whether they think the mother has been re-educated sufficiently to know that even though the law allows for “reasonable chastisement”, social workers are ultimately the interpreters of this language. If they like you, you get your child back. If they don’t, they can (and will, from countless stories in the press) permanently sever the parental relationship. Once an appeals court finally says that bureaucrats have over-stepped the mark, they may also say that unfortunately it’s too late for parents to have their children back.

Parents can’t discipline their children and schools are faced with increasing numbers of children who cannot be controlled at home and no power to control them at school.

Success is Failure in British Education

For the first time ever, a grammar school has failed an inspection. For those unfamiliar with British education, grammar schools are selective schools. Prospective pupils have to pass an entrance exam known as the 11-plus. Where they use to be commonplace, there are now only 168 remaining in England. In most places in the state sector there are only non-selective comprehensive schools.

So how did Stretford Grammar School fail inspection? Was it the location in a highly disadvantaged area? The 30% of pupils for whom English is a second language? After all, if the national average of good GCSE grades  (A*- C) when English and maths are included is 47%, how poorly must Stretford Grammar have been doing to have failed and threatened with closure unless the turn things around? I’ll tell you how poorly: 92% at grades A*-C. Nearly twice the national average.

So what did Ofsted find wrong with Stretford Grammar?

“These include the good personal development and well-being of pupils, the positive attitudes found among students, good attendance and behaviour, the feeling of safety and security in the school, positive pupil/teacher relationships, high staff morale and the good teaching and learning in the sixth form.” Oh, wait, sorry. Those were more of the good points.

So what was wrong with Stretford Grammar?

Lacklustre teaching. The inspectors didn’t like the teaching styles. They couldn’t tick the right boxes concerning what makes a good lesson. Oh, and girls weren’t making enough progress. This is surprising, because everywhere else the problem is that boys are underachieving. In other words, Stretford managed what other schools don’t.

So in case you were wondering, this is what a failing school looks like.

Busy Work

Year 11 reports are finally done. I thought the exam marking and report writing would never end.

I would say normal service will resume, but there are books and folders to mark that have backed up while the exams and reports have been done.

I am not deluded into believing there is any intrinsic value in any of this. Most of the parents will not care one bit about my report as they value my subject about the same as their children. The books and folders will never be looked at again by pupils after the end of the year – they are hardly looked at now. The paper is only there to prove to other people that some sort of learning has been going on in my lessons.

Back to Work

The last moments of freedom are slipping away. The Spring term begins in 18 hours.

On the other hand, the freedom of term break is very limited. I have been marking exams for the last couple of days. I would have started marking them as soon as we got home from Texas, but I couldn’t find them. The problems is that they were exactly where I’d left them. Unfortunately, The Woman had been clean out the car before we left, so I put a big plastic bag of rarely used school resources on top of them.

The bag draped over the sides of the box with the exams and it appeared that the bag was the only thing there. Then the terrier decided this bag full of papers and notebooks was her new bed, as she will sleep on anything however uncomfortable just to be off the floor. It is only because she got up yesterday afternoon and moved the bag slightly in the process that I saw the box of exams underneath.

Now I am furiously marking. The first set doesn’t need to be done for a couple of days, but I’ve got others to follow on that. I will hit the ground running on Monday.  I am starting new units with every year group at the beginning of the term.

I’m trying to do this while I am installing software on my Christmas present. I haven’t had a computer to call my own for quite a while. The second time I spilt tea on the computer I got during my teacher training year, it gave up the ghost. I have otherwise used by school laptop. With my first laptop in this job, it wasn’t such a problem. It was one of the better machines in the school. I installed some extra RAM and it did well. Until this screen died.

The cost of replacing the screen exceeded the value of the laptop, so I was issued an older laptop that had been used by a retiring member of staff. I’m sure it was a great machine in its day. I upgraded the RAM as best I could, but between that an the processor speed, it could not handle having a lot of browser tabs open, especially if they were running scripts like the Daily Telegraph or memory hogs like YouTube. If I was doing lots of online research, it would have trouble running Word at the same time.

I shopped online for several days and picked the machine that seemed to suit me best. A fast processor with lots of RAM and hard drive space. As it ended up, I got almost the same machine my dad bought my mother for Christmas (and that I set up over the holidays), but with twice the RAM.

Sacrificing Education to be a Good School

In English primary schools, children sit Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in May of Year 2 and Year 6. Children in those years (the age equivalent of 1st and 5th grade in the US) spend much of the year preparing for them. This is not because they benefit the child in any way. The tests are one of the Government’s way of judging whether a school is doing well.

Academic accomplishment these days is assessed with the use of imaginary levels. This is not just in primary school, but through most of secondary school as well. In each subject, the Government tells us what skills are required for attaining which levels. The SATs assess these levels in English, Maths and Science. The expected level for 7-year-olds is Level 2.

At a recent parents’ evening we discussed the Older Child’s upcoming SATs. The school wants him to do well… but not too well. This is because schools at all are judges very heavily on what’s called “value added”. They have to demonstrate how much better pupils are performing from one test to the next. As long as Older Child gets a Level 2, he can get a Level 4 at age 11 and the school will still look good. If he were to get a Level 3, a Level 5 at age 11 is only average progress. If he only gets a Level 2 now, a Level 5 at age 11 will look that much better.

Government policy fails to take into account that children develop mentally at different times. It can only deal with uniformity. Everyone must progress at an accepted pace. The Government needs to create league tables, ranking schools from good to bad. Ofsted inspectors need data, especially since the new inspection regime is based much more on paperwork and spreadsheets than ever before.

If Little Johnny (or Older Child) is not the right number of pedagogically indefensible socialist all-must-have-prizes imaginary levels above the last assessment than the school has failed. Is it any wonder that schools and teachers are pressured to get children perform in such as way that benefits the school over the education?

The Swinging Vicar

I’m a bit surprised the Church of England has been so harsh on Teresa Davies.

Sure, there was the problem of showing up so drunk for services that she visibly swayed from side to side.

And then there were the swinging holidays in the south of France. She and her husband advertise on swinging websites. She admitted to the tribunal that she and her husband meet strangers for sex. She had previously denied she had sex outside of her marriage.

As a result a church tribunal has banned her from serving as a priestess for 12 years. I’m sure they will hear from the swinging lobby within the C of E on this one. After all there seem to be strong lobby groups for others who openly have sexual relationships outside of marriage. If anything, this seems to be a case of heterosexual discrimination. Maybe it will even go to an employment tribunal.

Within the team ministry in Daventry, she was given special responsibility for children’s work. She won’t have to give that up entirely. She’s now training to be a Religious Education teacher in schools. She can bring her values into that values vacuum that is British education.

If that doesn’t work out, after a few years she can always go back to being an Anglican priestess.

Ninety Years

At eleven o’clock this morning, the class I was teaching paused for two minutes of silence. Actually, it was a couple of minutes after eleven, because it took a couple of minutes to achieve silence. Thus while we were being silent, there was noise around us. There was no bell to indicate the time so that everyone was in synch.

Even though Year 9s cover the Great War in history, it is not until the summer term. The Year 9s I was teaching didn’t even have the benefit of knowledge to help them grasp the significance that we were observing the moment that exactly ninety years before has seen the end of the most devastating war up to that time.

When I was growing up in the States, we didn’t think much about that war. But then the US lost a mere 116,708 soldiers with 205,690 wounded. That may sound like a lot, until you realise that the UK with half the population at the time lost 994,138 with 1,663,435 wounded, it puts it into perspective. That’s why there is a war memorial in every village in the UK. They were engraved with the names of local boys lost in First World War with most of them amended with a smaller list from the Second.

Though my pupils sat through a Remembrance Day assembly a couple of hours before, it focused on those who served in all wars since 1918. Ninety years is a long time, after all. Most of my students don’t know who their great-grandparents (or reaching back to WWI, often great-great-grandparents) were, not to mention whether they took the King’s Shilling in the Great War. I doubt that even one of them remembered somebody during that 120 seconds at eleven o’clock who served in the War to End All Wars. It might as well have been the Wars of the Roses – history with no connection to the present. History only for the historians.

May enough people continue to care so their memory might be eternal.

Keeping History in Context

At the same time as the election of Barak Obama, in GCSE history we are covering race relations in the United States 1929-90. I’ve never taught this in an American school, but imagine the approach of the syllabus would be roughly the same. We look at the KKK, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the effect of the Depression on blacks, segregation in the Second World War, Brown v. Board of Education, Little Rock, Ole Miss, Rosa Parks, MLK, and the key events of the Civil Rights Movement. The key idea is that white people, especially but exclusively Southern white people, hated black people (though we aren’t authorised to cover that they were only called “black” for a brief moment in time in the shifting language from Colored to Negro to black to Africa-American). Whites were mean and evil to them, but somehow the black people passively resisted all the white people and eventually Barak Obama was elected.  That last bit falls outside the time period, but it is too good to not mention.

I was commenting on another blog about the relationship between Obama and the legacy of slavery, an institution which the blog owner referred to as an atrocity, saying the same thing I told my students when introducing the background of slavery in the US: we have to be careful in imposing the values of the present day upon the past. People in the mid-19th century lived within a completely different frame of reference. It is very possible that people living 130 years from now will be tempted to condemn aspects of the present day which we cannot imagine would be any other way.

C.S. Lewis says as much in his well-known introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation:

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

Thus I think about my cousin Melba. Melba was my dad’s first cousin, born in Kentucky in 1915. I got to know her before she died and I don’t think there was an unkind bone in her body. I don’t think I ever heard her speak an unkind word.

Melba and her husband were tobacco farmers. Her husband had died not long before I met her as an adult (we had visited in their home when I was a very young child) and she was winding down the farming. Being the family genealogist that I am, you can imagine that I took in every story I could about living through the 20th century as a tobacco farming family. Tobacco farming is very labour-intensive. Melba spoke with affection about the niggers that worked for them, especially one man who worked for them for many years.

My late 20th century ears were a bit shocked at first. After all, this was a word for which I received corporal punishment from the school principal when I was in the second grade back in 1972. (In my defense, even then, I didn’t habour any ill feelings for the black pupil. I was only saying it because my friend Scott was saying it, but it was a offense of strict liability.) Then she referred frequently to a nigger woman that had been her domestic help until recently.

I don’t for a minute think that she thought of any of these people as equals. But neither did she habour any ill will. It was just the society in which she was raised. She probably supported segregation as long as it lasted in the Bluegrass State. I don’t remember her speaking about it in any negative way. That was just the way it was. On the other hand, I never heard her complain about integration. Maybe she did at the time, but by the time we talked, that was just the way it was.

At the same time we can be glad that everyone in the United States has the same civil rights and participation in the political process, and appreciate that common attitudes have changed, we need to be careful how we characterise the nature of those developments and the broad strokes with which we tend to paint history.

Forcing Sex Education on Five-Year-Olds

I ignored this story when I first saw it in the Daily Mail, but it is all over the news now. The Government plans to teach compulsory sex education in England from the age of 5. Ministers may not even allow for parents to withdraw their children. In other words, unless parents can afford a private school or opt to homeschool, their very young children will be subjected to a combination of the National Curriculum requirements and the bias of their particular school teacher.

Schools Minister Jim Knight thinks sex and relationships education from age five is needed to combat the ‘earlier sexualisation’ of youngsters. It is the usual sex education policy of fighting fire with fire. So if small children are going to see sexual imagery in every exposre to the media, the best thing is to explain it all to them. Even at Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7) teachers will be told not to duck discussions about ‘explicit sexual matters’ if they are raised by pupils. They don’t actually have to teach about sexual intercourse until Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11).

State schools that are faith-based will be allowed to include their own guidance and values in the curriculum. For Catholic schools, that is rather clearly defined. I’m not sure what it means for Church of England schools, since the C of E’s own values about sexuality seem in quite a state of flux. But in nondenominational non-faith state schools, there will only be guidance from the government. As Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, was quoted in The Independent, this is a Government that wants to see “a whole generation fornicating”, something I’ve been saying for a long time.

The other guidance will be form the lifestyles of the teachers themselves. I can’t see how fornicating teachers will be teaching about sex as appropriate only with the context of marriage. If they were to do so, their hypocrisy would undermine what they are saying. As much as teachers may try to keep their private lives private, pupils eventually know whether a teacher is married or living with a “partner”.  Children observing and under the influence of hedonistic teachers can hardly be expected to follow a different path.

Pearls Before Swine

I was discussing the number of Christians in the world with one of my classes and one boy questioned the number of worldwide believers. He doubted that the number was accurate. I agreed with him.

I explained that while demographic experts used a variety of data, that data was not always accurate. I explained that the Chinese government says there are 100 million Christians in China, while researchers at Shanghai University estimate the number is closer to 300 million, because most Christians in China worship in underground churches and are not recognised in the government’s figures. That would put the number of Christians in the world closer to 2.3 billion instead of 2.1 billion.

Then I made the mistake of explaining that many Christians in China and elsewhere are persecuted for their faith. Some kids, including the boy that questioned the numbers, thought that was pretty funny.

I don’t know why I then mentioned that they might have seen in the news that a British Christian who was working with handicapped children in Afghanistan was murdered just a couple of days ago. One girl laughed quite openly. I wanted to cry.

Language Barrier

“Sir, can I work with someone else?”

“With whom?”

“Huh?”

“With whom would you like to work?”

“Huh?”

With whom would you like to work?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“What do you mean, ‘Whaddya mean?’ You asked if you could work with someone else.”

“Yeah. Can I?”

“It depends. With whom would you like to work?”

“Huh?”

“What’s the problem? I’m not going to let you work with just anyone.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So with whom would you like to work?”

“Whaddya mean ‘whom’?”

“I mean, with whom would you like to work?”

“What’s ‘whom’? I don’t know that word.”

“Ah, I see. ‘Whom’ is the objective case of ‘who’.” The declension of pronouns is clearly beyond his grasp. The despair of the inevitability of having to end a sentence with a preposition begins to weigh upon me. “Who do you want to work with?”

“Sam.”

“Fine.”

A fourteen-year-old boy, very intelligent for his year group according to standards of the day, looks back at me like I’m some kind of idiot. He mutters sarcastically to whomever will notice as he walks away, “What’s he on about? Whom. Why doesn’t he just speak English?”

Little Ladettes

Two articles in the Daily Mail today reminded me of a conversation in a lesson yesterday, where some pupils were just incredulous that I only drink alcohol occasionally and never with the intention of getting drunk.

The first article, by Sarah Lyall, a correspondent for the New York Times and recent author of an ex-pat view of the British, asks in the headline ‘Why are you Brits such DRUNKS?‘. The answer could be related the title of the second article, “Mum branded a ‘disgrace’ after she buys 13-year-old daughter stash of alcohol to take on school charity walk“.

But the problem is that I talk to 13-year-olds every day, including yesterday, for whom getting drunk is regular behaviour. These are not down-and-out rough-and-tumble council estate kids with no hope. These are middle class kids from tidy homes. They can’t imagine being able to socialise or have fun without alcohol. The kids yesterday attributed my lack of regular drunkness to my wild religious fanaticism, you know, the fact that I believe in God.

But neither yesterday’s children nor my present school stand out particularly. At my last school, 14-year-olds regularly talked about going out and getting drunk. And it was not like they were sneaking out of the house to do it. Their parents preferred to know where they were, even if it was stumbling down the streets throwing up or urinating in alleyways, behaviour that was also well-known by their fellow pupils.

And I have seen it myself. My favourite kebab shop is for obvious reason right in the middle of the drinking establishments in our fair city. Any time from 8:00pm on, teenagers, usually wearing the slightest amount of fabric that could called clothes, and shouting the foulest language, wander up and down the lanes in drunken packs.

The one thing they all of these pupils have in common is that they were girls. It’s not that boys aren’t doing the same thing. Rather it seems to be the new expression of feminism – working very hard to equal, and now it seems outdo, the men. And if they are drinking like this in their early teens, think of what they will be like in a few years.

Dealing With Aggressive Disbelief

One of the most draining things about my job is dealing with constant militant atheism. It’s not the entertaining sort of atheism I encounter when blogging – the kind that usually comes from adults able to string two thoughts together with some sort of a logical connection. No, this is an atheistic fundamentalism that is supported with the sort of logic that is based in single unanswerable questions.

“God can’t be real because who were his parents?” “Science has proved there is no God because it was a Big Bang.” “God isn’t real because if he was we could see him.” “God can’t be true because it is just made up.”

They don’t even ask the difficult or probing questions. They are so convinced that the most facile questions prove the non-existence of God that they refuse to even listen to the simplest answers. They cannot conceive that their rhetorical questions could possibly have answers. They haven’t thought of an answer (not that they have tried, because they find the very thought of thinking about God revolting) so there cannot be an answer (or more than one).  I never cease to be amazed at the misplaced intellectual self-confidence of 13-year-olds.

Recently I tried to explain the problems with trying to prove a negative. Somehow, despite their mental superiority, they can’t grasp this.

Yet the worst is not the constant questions to which no answers are desired or heard. It is the anger, the aggression,  the vitriol behind this stream of anti-God sentiment.  I just can’t understand how so many children could be so angry about Someone who they don’t even believe exists. They want to blame Him for the ills of the world they insist He did not create nor does He sustain.

When they have to learn about anyone who does believe in God or why they do, the militancy and anger gets reaches new heights. Many of them cannot even read from a textbook without inserting commentary phrase by phrase about how what or who they have read is rubbish.

I suppose it is fortunate I only have to put up with this five days a week.

Customer Service

I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. Between participating in the active conversations going on in the comboxes of recent posts and completely revising my Key Stage 3 schemes of work, there hasn’t been time for anything new. That being said, I have to relate and email exchange I had today at work. One of the lovely children I teach stole my DVD remote. I need a new one. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

From:Sol
To: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayer
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2008 9:26 AM
Subject: replacement remote

I purchased a DVD player, Model DDVDH1, Serial No. R452007005054A, from Asda in Hooterville, England a few months ago.

I no longer have the remote and would like to know if it is possible to purchase a replacement, either from you or from a supplier of your products in the United Kingdom.

Kind regards

Sol

From: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayerbutusingadifferentemailaddress
Date: 22/09/2008 15:28
To: “Sol” Subj:
Re: replacement remote 

Hello,
We would need to know the model radio you have.
Thank you

From: Sol
Date: 22/09/2008 17:39
To: parts@companymanufacturingmyDVDplayer
Subj: Re: replacement remote

As stated in my previous email, I do not have a radio, I have a DVD player. As I stated, it is Model DDVDH1. Thank you

They’re Back

The summer holidays are now well and truly over. After three days getting ready, the kids arrive tomorrow.

It is 37 school days until half term.

Benefits of Swearing

For students who feel they might be short a few marks on English GCSE exams, they can always add a few obscenties. In fact, the only thing a student needs to do is write some obscenties.

The largest exam board, AQA, gives marks for f**k off, as according to the chief examiner, Peter Buckroyd, “It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.”

An AQA spokesperson tried to distance the board from the chief examiner’s remarks. The only thing is that it is the chief examiner who writes the exam and trains the other exam markers. So the AQA office can meaninglessly distance itself all it wants.

The Government has a regulatory body responsible for all the exam qualification, Ofqual. They don’t want to get involved. Their spokesperson said, “We think it’s important that candidates are able to use appropriate language in a variety of situations but it’s for awarding bodies to develop their mark scheme and for their markers to award marks in line with that scheme.” Who creates the mark scheme? The chief examiner, of course.

The student who wrote the exam answer used by Mr Buckroyd to train markers did not get full credit for “f**k off” because he did not include punctuation. “If it had had an exclamation mark it would have got a little bit more because it would have been showing a little bit of skill. We are trying to give higher marks to the students who show more skills.” According to The Times, with an exclamation mark it would be worth 11% of the marks on the GCSE paper.

School’s Out For Summer

Well, as far as the pupils are concerned.

I have to go back tomorrow for a few hours. I need to make an appearance at least. I can’t actually do anything in my room, because it is being used for a first aid course all day.

Because the Unnamed Woman had to go out of town today, I had to get a ride to school today with a colleague who also lives in Hooterville. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take me all the way home – something I didn’t know until she was about to drop me off on the opposite side of the city. All of a sudden I was stranded some miles from home. It is a good thing I didn’t bring my usual bags with me today and only had my lunch box.

I had to walk for a mile to get to a cashpoint so I could get money for a taxi. I’ve checked the route on Google maps to confirm this. Not bad for a disabled person with significant mobility limitations. It was another 1.7 miles to my house. The taxi cost me £7, about as much as it costs me to commute all the way to work and back each day. It took me nearly an hour from the time I was dropped off until I got home.

Fix

We are coming into the home stretch. There is one more week of school. At my previous school, apart from Sports Day, this meant working them to the bone up until the last lesson. At my current school, in addition to Sports Day, there are other school activities plus the use of a time-honoured tradition, the I-can’t-be-arsed-to-teach -you-and-you-can’t-be-arsed-to-learn video. Surprising as it may be, this has not severely affected academic results.

For primary schools, it is the last chance to have their school fete and raise a bit of money. At the school where the Unnamed Woman is secretary of the PTA, that was last night. In the pouring rain. Since she is the real mover and shaker on the PTA, she organised almost the whole thing for days upon end. She even bought a load of raffle tickets and put my name on them. Now that was a waste of money. A real waste of money.

Instead of leaving her to do the many other things she was doing, the chairperson of the PTA needed the Unnamed Woman to assist with the draw, by keeping track of who won what, because everything has to be reported to the local government.

I have never ever won anything in a raffle. I still haven’t. When the local celebrity stuck his hand down in the middle of a bunch of folded up tickets – we are talking a huge plastic file storage box – he pulled out mine. The top prize. £100! Only I never saw the ticket. The Unnamed Woman unfolded it, looked horrified and to shouts of “fix” quickly shoved it back into box with the hundreds of other tickets. I don’t know why they were shouting – I was the one who should have been shouting and didn’t even know it until after everything was said and done.

So not only did the Unnamed Woman donated hundreds of hours of time, she also donated the top raffle prize. My £100. I’m not bitter.

Punished for Refusing to Pray to Allah

In my first teaching position, I was at loggerheads with my head of department because she insisted that pupils be taught to put “(PBUH)” – abbreviation for the traditional Muslim blessing “Peace be Upon Him” – after writing the name of the false prophet Muhammad. She was not a Muslim and the handful of Muslim pupils in the school couldn’t have cared less whether anyone did it. Not surprisingly, I would not speak a blessing upon a false, Incarnation-denying, Trinity-denying prophet, nor could I, in good conscience, and in light James 3:1, encourage my pupils to do so.

Sadly, it is all too common practice in teaching Religious Education to teach the rituals of other religions in a kinaesthetic way. For most students there is no conscience issue. They would be just as happy offering incense to Caesar and saying it is nothing and it is meaningless. They wouldn’t know and honestly probably wouldn’t care that many Christians have died for just as much. That former head of department never understood how this violated my conscience and frankly didn’t care.

So why do I mention these things from the shrinking past? Because for some people they are the things of the present. An RE teacher at Alsager School in Cheshire (whose identity is unavailable as Alsager School does not publish staff names on its website or in its prospectus, but who news reports indicate is Welsh) gave detentions to two boys who refused to pray in Allah in Arabic following the Salah ritual motions. They were punished for being “disrespectful to the prophet.”

This was after the teacher had a child produce a bottle of drinking water and began washing her feet with it. The pupils had to wear the relevant headgear. One girl who did participate (though her mother was not happy to learn of it) was told off for not doing it right. Apparently enough of them didn’t do it right, because in addition to the detention given to the two boys, the whole class missed breaktime.

The grandfather of one pupil noted, “But if Muslims were asked to go to church on Sunday and take Holy Communion, there would be war.” This is a bit of an overreaction. We know from a number of recent incidents that there would only be protests in the streets threatening to kill anyone involved, and a significant number of Christians in third world countries would be attacked and killed by local Muslim mobs. Okay, and maybe a few churches would be burned down. Oh yeah, and there would be the official threats against the United Kingdom and any of its allies from various Islamist governments around the world. And admittedly this would be serious enough to warrant a terrorist attack or two.  But honestly, there probably wouldn’t be an actual war.

Summer

We’re coming into the home stretch of the school year. Three more weeks. All the reports have been written and most of the marking has been done. Now there’s lots of administrative stuff to fill the time, including all of the planning for the new year.

It’s during these long summer days that I’m most jealous of American teachers and their three months off. You can get a lot done in three months. We get six weeks. June would be such a nice month to spend at leisure, reading in the garden, writing a book, or working on an advanced degree.

June is almost over. The longest day of the year has passed, and now we begin to ever-shorter journey to the depths of winter. Yes, it’s all downhill from here.

Year End

Reports are finally in. There will no doubt be a load of correction that will eventually appear in my tray, due to a combination of typographical errors and disagreements over grammar.

Reports always present that dilemma between being postive and telling the truth. I tend to err in favour of the latter.

There are still a lot of admin things to do before the end of the year. There are Departmenal Development Plans, documents to justify capitation, and the list goes on.

Overall, the year is winding down. Folks just want to finish out the year with as little trouble as possible.

Not Happy

I’m just taking a break from report writing and marking long enough to say I hate today.

Saturdays in June are some of my favourite days of the year. They are the longest days of the year outside of the weekdays when most people are occupied with their employment. June is also the best weather month in Britain. My family is out enjoying the day. I can’t even sit out in the garden. I’m writing reports.

This sucks.

Now back to reports. . .

Done

As they left the exam, most of the Year 11s seemed fairly positive. Looking at the exam, I really can’t complain about the questions. Sometimes you look at a GCSE exam and try to figure out which is the planetary residence of the chief examiner.

Since they had no solid preparation for the exam before this year, and many of them didn’t take lessons particularly seriously this year, I am still concerned about the quality of the results in August. Most of them said my revision pack made a big difference in their preparation, so that is a positive.

So the exam is in the bag and now it is just a matter of waiting.