Blog

On Authoritarianism

This England is a prison -- a walking shadow; it is a unit for the correction of the errancies of the juvenile, a young offenders’ prison. Our young people are viewed by policy makers as briefly animated pieces of meat herded into the present and future abattoir of lives of indentured slavery. They enter an education system that seeks chiefly to diminish cost and, secondarily, to identify elites who might prosper and graduate to being the next generation of protectors of the right to ru...

Lewisham Parents Fight Budget Cuts

I’ve just returned from the second meeting of the Forest Hill Parents’ Action Group. Again, a packed meeting: there were more parents than chairs and several had to be imported for the session. It turns out that the “Reorganisation of the school administration and non classroom support staff” that parents have been told about though a letter from the head teacher, and of which they have been further informed, “our extensive and meticulous planning has focused on min...

Parents Applaud Teachers' Strike Action

I’ve just returned from an open meeting at which a packed audience of parents applauded their children’s teachers for voting in favour of strike action. Forest Hill School for Boys, a community school in south London which serves a mixed demographic, has uncovered an eight hundred thousand pound deficit. Lewisham Council will not reveal how that deficit was allowed to accrue, and when it is suggested that the council themselves must accept liability as they had a duty to audit the sc...

Old Age Traveller - The Problem of the Third Act

Impending old age presents a number of problems: not the least of which is reconciling one’s self to oncoming oblivion. Pondering elimination is a bore. More interesting is the puzzle of a way forward. Given the inevitability of the hopefully ‘eventual’ outcome, how does one motivate one’s self? What versions of life are there to be enjoyed given that you will never again bare toned shoulders in shirtless dungarees in a bar delighting the womenfolk of Stoke Newington? Wha...

A Journey to Calais

“Multi culturalism is genocide.” So reads the sign stuck on a lamp-post as you exit Dover Priory Station in the direction of the docks stomping in a pair of battered Doctor Martens like a Liverpool docker on his way to work. “Well, that’s not strictly semantically accurate” I think to myself: “maybe in the regions, but certainly not in London. And isn’t an aspiration towards mono-culturalism reputed to lead somewhere bad? I’m sure I had a lesson ab...

Whelks and the Working Class

It costs £100 for a family of four to be allowed through the turnstiles of Chessington World of Adventures: this sum, which is no small beer if you’re within coughing distance of the minimum wage, entitles you to a day spent in interminable queues as you listen for the four thousandth time to the tannoy announcing in a cod Chinese accent that, “Wise dragon, he/she say (sic) keep your arms inside the gondola at all times.” You get to go on a sum total of about four rides w...

On English Departments, Magic and Loss

It has been a difficult few months: my Norwegian friend, Werner, who, to me, was sunshine itself, and who was described by his uncle in the following accurate terms, “He was an easy boy to love” will not be playing music with us any more. A band that has played together for twenty years becomes a family (though fewer cross words are said), (of course) and his death hit the remaining four-of-us like an avalanche. He was profoundly loved, was the most talented person I have ever been i...

Trivium II

I’ve been meaning to read Martin Robinson’s Trivium book for two years now, but there’s always been work to be done, dishes to be washed, parenting to be useless at. I’ve been meaning to read it, but the email that gets it washed and brought to me was only sent last week, and the book only arrived a few days ago (it is exquisite: I’ve been told this by people I respect, but it is better even than their positive reviews).   I’ve regretted my failure ...

The Impossibility of Lesson Planning

I taught a lesson this week to a nice group of thirty kids in year 10. It would not be too rude, I hope, to describe them as slightly lower attaining, but for a first meeting with a one-off teacher they were as kind as one might hope, and in the plenary they said that if there were a next time with the same teacher then the thing that would improve the lesson is that they would be more respectful. I liked them.   It was technically a very strong lesson without being in danger of being...

Pedagogy is political

It seems a glib truism to state that everything is political, but clearly (to even the vaguest of thinkers) it is. Your choice of partner is a political decision; your choice of friend too; (equally, and perhaps more obviously, your choice of enemy is political); probably, your decision as to whether you opt for butter or margarine is in some way a political one: I tend towards thinking that butter is probably a ruling class scam, but also towards thinking that margarine is much the same. But I ...

On Marking, @Krisboulton and why I do not contribute to the 'debate'

Sometimes the distinction between being a player in your own life and a knight or bishop in a script written by someone else can be difficult to discern. I’ll illustrate my own experiences of this a little later. This caveat aside, I have nothing whatsoever against the oft publicized work of the teachers at Michaela Community School, King Solomon Academy, et all. From what I can discern, this is a group of very bright young teachers who are questioning orthodoxies, trying to imagine better ways ...

Let's Play Master and Servant - Character Education

I was recently sounded out about speaking at an event devoted to ‘character education’. The organizers were charm personified, but when it was pointed out that I was decidedly not in favour of such a concept being treated seriously in our education system and I would argue against it, they thanked me for my honesty and discontinued their interest. The following is in no way a slur to those organisers, but it has caused me to articulate the reasons behind such vehemence. I feel much the same a...

Model Answers for AQA Language Paper Higher Tier

These might be of use for students studying the higher paper. They're model answers to the November 2014 paper that I've written. (Perhaps worthy of holding up to students as a model of average writing). Question 3 - Extract from Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island Explain the writer’s thoughts and feelings: Model Answer In this extract we learn more about Bryson’s feelings than his thoughts. He sets the emotional landscape with reference to the weather, which he describes as ‘...

Analysis of Inserts and Questions on AQA (Legacy) Language Paper

I've found myself having to do an analysis of what has come up in the AQA language paper in terms of inserts and questions for an Academy in East London. Here are the results from the Catford judge. Analysis of Past Papers – June 2012 – November 2014 What has been covered in both the Higher and Foundation Tier over the last few years? Higher Tier Inserts Source 1 - Magazine article, on-line article (Big Issue), on-line article (The Times), On-line article (Guardian), on-line articl...

Mavericks - Professor David Nutt

Professor David Nutt is as expert as it is possible to be on the various toxicities of recreational drugs; his job (or profession) is rather oddly titled: he is a neuropsychopharmacologist (he uses drugs to help people who have problems with their brain), a Cambridge graduate in medicine and, for a relatively brief period, was Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) before being sacked by the Home Secretary for a representation of scientific truth. His story, though sad...

Mavericks - Yanis Varoufakis

‘Accidental economist’, Yannis Varoufakis, studied at Essex University; his father had previously been arrested, his uncle imprisoned and the family felt it was probably not safe for him to continue his studies in Greece. Essex University was, most recently, ranked the 35th best university in the UK in both the Complete University Guide and the Times/Sunday Times guide, 47th best in the Guardian rankings. These are relatively humble beginnings in academic terms and, even then, Varouf...

Mavericks - Irvine Welsh

Being ‘Controversial’ Did you hear the one about the novelist, the economist and the toxicologist? I’ll begin … Irvine Welsh is the writer of ten novels: at his most deliberately hallucinogenic he can be reminiscent of a narcotised Kafka; at his most accomplished he can draw together a finely plotted page turner that causes the reader to question their own impulses, morality and sanity. He is capable of inducing visceral repulsion in a reader followed, soon afte...

Stan Bowles

The first line of Viv Albertine’s autobiography, ‘Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys’ is “Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I’m a bit of both.” Read into the above what you will. I’ll start sharing resources, edu thoughts etc. when I am competent. But as a trial (which reading it may well be) I share with you a yet to be published article I have written for the QPR fanzine, ‘A Kick up ...
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