Tuesday, 28 December 2010

TIES - the novel. Free Intro chapter

Its funny how someone can learn so much about themselves from telling someone else. You start to talk and you start creating a person who you want to exist. You begin by making things up. Then the way you tell the story means that it really does become true. The person you are talking about becomes the one you want to be. Love has a funny effect on everything

He picked up the tie and ran its softness through his fingers. Silky, smooth and such a contrast to the haze of colours that seemed almost deliberate in their sensual assault. He would never have worn this tie in any other situation but the one he was about to become a willing part of. For so many years now he had worn the easy forgotten but nonetheless declaration ties. Crisp and unaccentuated. Eyes were drawn to them but did not linger. Nothing there to draw conclusions from except the quality, the very essence of a wearer who didn’t need to try. The few times he had stepped away from this notion of the inscrutable he had been acutely, irrevocably embarrassed. Not just for himself but also for all the eyes that had rested on the affirmation round his neck and moved on rapidly in case they were forced to learn much more than they wanted to know. But now the tie was finally resurrected because it was time to meet its maker.

He had never even once considered throwing this tie away. Many other experiments, gifts and novelties had been discarded or disposed of when they became splattered with the residues of a great night out. Some had been used to tie the tops of rubbish sacks closed that had been filled with worn out shirts and trousers. Some had never even shared the wrinkled privileges of his neck. Yet this one tie had survived all the style rebellions, even if its place had slowly been re-ordered like layers on a computer graphics program or the objects in a PowerPoint presentation. The thought made him think that metaphor was good. Some computer presentations looked lean and right, others were cluttered with detail that distracted and diminished. Too much business, too much of everything. A lot of ties seemed to have the same effect. But this only made him worry was he talking metaphors or similes? Never sure but always worried. Worry seemed to hang from him, dripped down his carefully ironed shirt front, left him bathed in the sweat of regret.

Still this tie was so many things to him. Yes, it reminded him of some bitter memories from a time in his life when he felt uncertain about certainties, uncommitted to his commitments. Had there been another time like that? When had he ever felt so powerless and yet so totally involved? She had let him believe the impossible; she had encouraged dreams that wouldn’t last half a minute in the cold light of a New Cross sunset or the warm haze of a Nyanga daybreak. Yet she never lied. She talked to him of Chris, she told the fluid stories that made up the cold river of her life. She told him what Chris was and who he was and what he could do in anger or in sorrow. Or in both.

She had sought out his new; uncluttered and genuine warmth but never made him warm. She had brokered sympathy and affection, shown it but never let it move on. He could accuse her of nothing. She had always told the truth however much it hurt him. She needed somewhere to hide, someone to hide her. She asked for his help and he had given her everything, always knowing it would never be enough. He was compensation and he compensated for what she missed but he never once replaced or completed. She loved him honestly. She treated him to honesty but it was never enough for him. He showed what he felt but always held that final passion in check. Her need was not the same as his. He could satisfy hers, while she would never do the same for him.

She told him how much she loved Chris while living in his bed. She let him touch her, caress her and care for her but never let it slide down the wet and oily slope to more. She never allowed him into the silky forest of her desires. He was grateful for her bounty and her beauty. He knew if they were ever found together in this innocence they would not be understood. He knew that Chris would take him to blame, would turn his fierce cruelty on him first and her continuously and forever. The fragile structure of his care would be ripped beyond repair. Because although she had to now, for the present she could never really get away. Neither did she want to. His softness and kindness was just an interlude, a brief escape from what she really needed. However hard he tried to show that warmth and love was a better way to live, she still yearned for Chris’ hardness, his jagged steel, his rough demanding ego. His strength, his lack of care that seemed to make her feel she was all he needed.

But she had made him this tie. He hadn’t known of its existence until it was completely formed. He hadn’t seen the gradual steps to completion while she lived and ate and slept with him. He found it only after her departure, with a note that said simply thank you. She left his enveloping arms, his too enthusiastic caring and went back to someone who never showed he cared but seemed to have everything she wanted if never what she needed.

The note admitted nothing. The tie had said it all. Somehow she had quickly come to realise that he was not the free unfettered spirit he wanted to be. She knew his life would take a different turn. Would grow the heavy layers that would hide his secret desires and ambitions. She had been right. As always.

So here he was, finding the tie that she had known he would still possess. Finding a shirt that didn’t scream for separation from the delicate shades of this so soft thing. This was the first time he had heard from her directly in what? Twenty years? He had seen her briefly in strange and awkward situations. He had touched her once as they passed each other in a room full of people he was supposed to know better than her. People who he shared ideas and theories and visions with. But none had touched him in the way she had. They had exchanged startled looks, had stopped but had found the present movement of their lives had been just too strong to hang the moment on. The cold river moved on, shivering gently all the corpses buried too deep to rescue. The current was still so strong, entering that torrent again was what he wanted but he no longer had the strength to brave it. He could never carry them both again. Too many rivers had carried him; too many waters had kept him afloat. He longed to jump in but caution was finally too strong even for someone who felt he had passed again the one who had completed his soul. And torn it apart.

He was changed; he no longer hankered after someone from another life. But he had made some promises and he would keep them. Perhaps that man was here again. 50 years of birthdays had brought him 50 little people to share his life with. Every one of them demanded his attention. Every one of them was there. Every one had fought the long battle to work out who he was but every one was different.

His life had changed. He was now a man who earnt his living by making money for others. All the great ideals of 20 years ago were buried and forgotten. All the aching need for music and art had slipped away, just like she did. In the night. Across the river. Breaking ties.

And now it was nighttime again. And he was back at the river. She wanted him to sort it out for her like he had that time before. This time it wasn’t just one man coming back to get her. This time it would be all of them. All the vicious, the unkind, the cold, the grabbers and the takers. The people who never took their turn in the queue for loving kindness. The people who saw other people as unnecessary accessories, as extras, as cold meat. No man is an island but plenty become a fortress and love to watch the shattered bodies on the rocks below. Why did they seem alluring? Why did these men who never showed the beat of human kindness offer strange attraction? Chris was one of them, but she was his.

This time he would be fighting for real. He had never struck out in violence before. Words had always been the answer but these people weren’t reasoners, weren’t the rational, weren’t family men. But they were the Family. This time he had to do it for real. No game. No songs, no poetry.

Life itself had come back to haunt him. The little man he was all those years ago was still there, still inside him. But he would do it. For her. Ties? For real.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

#govedefinitions - Defining the ridiculous

Gove needs some good advice on Education. He also needs some good advisers. I would readily offer to do the job but as I have worked in education all my life, I am probably someone he won't even talk to. After all to Mr Gove, Education professional is really an oxymoron.

What he wants is non-professionals setting up "free" schools, without qualified teachers, no restraints on the curriculum and essentially a return to the conditions in schools when he was just a lad. Latin, Dryden and blazers. His recipe for a successful school.

Yesterday we started a hashtag #govedefinitions that got lots of the twitterati coming forward with some excellent new versions of what we understood as education seen through the eyes of Mr Gove. Enjoy!

#govedefinitions British Education. A new game for millionaires to play with the future of ordinary people.
#govedefinitions Qualified Teacher. ex-soldier about 20 hours ago via web
#govedefinitions Intelligent Debate. Daily Mail comment
#govedefinitions Success. What I did at school
#govedefinitions Geography. All the red bits on the map
#govedefinitions History. Kings and Queens of England
#govedefinitions Wider opportunities. Pardon?
#govedefinitions Trained School Support Staff. Who?
#govedefinitions School Blazer. The means by which a teacher maintains discipline and enthusiasm in their class
#govedefinitions Teacher. Anybody
#govedefinitions Technology. Chalk and blackboard.
#govedefinitions Latin. A dead language essential for the modern curriculum
#govedefinitions Education Professional. The enemy

r@ssat Holiday education fun from @alanmills405 - follow #govedefinitions and RT

@BorisWatch #govedefinitions 'Freeing schools from dogma' = 'Forcing schools to accept my dogma'
#govedefinitions 'Putting the teacher in charge of schools' = 'Putting Toby Young in charge of teachers'

@MattSL Matt Lent
#govedefinitions life skills: Speaking Latin, royal chronology & knowing how to pass a 2 hr exam to prove 2 yrs worth of learning
#govedefinitions streaming: different schools for the rich and for the poor

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions Government and Governor: both begin with Gove, the end doesn't matter.
#govedefinitions Religious Education = something the Minister for Schools does... oh, maybe not it's that Gibb chappy.
Teachers: Units of spending RT @homayon: #govedefinitions Students: Units of funding
#govedefinitions MFL is speaking English very loudly and very slowly for those who cannot converse adequately in Latin

@homayon Homayon Zeary
#govedefinitions Students: Units of funding
#govedefinitions 21st century skills: repetition, repetition, repetition oh and Latin!

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions STEM: well in my book it means to stop, as in "stem the flow" but I suppose it could be part of a flower, didn't do botany

@tonyparkin Tony Parkin
A big thanks owed to @alanmills405 for the best meme fun this month! #govedefinitions was sheer creative genius :)

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions Combining DT and ICT: making hollerith machines using empty cereal packets and knitting needles, or watching Blue Peter...

@tonyparkin Tony Parkin
#govedefinitions Teachers Pet: that Jeremy rhyming slang, ever since him and those sporty types ganged up on me, just like at school
#govedefinitions BETT Show: It's odds-on that I won't show and will send little Gibb Minor...

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions Physical Education = using a big stick and beating them till they get it right.
#govedefinitions BSF = not quite mad cow disease but near enough to ban it anyway

@tonyparkin Tony Parkin
RT @gvibe: @tonyparkin liking your #govedefinitions (why, thank you kindly Ma'am. @alanmills405 came up with a cracker there
#govedefinitions Mobile learning : putting up more portakabins in schools instead of that wasteful BSF #ukedchat
#govedefinitions Parental Engagement: is not good enough... we expect them all to be married and churchgoing. #ukedchat
#govedefinitions Principals: what we in Coalition respect and value. Principles: what we in Coalition don't have and don't need #UKEdchat
#govedefinitions Class teaching: dividing up students naturally into their respective social and economic groups for educational purposes
#govedefinitions Transforming learning : wiring up the students' metal chairs to ensure the correct responses in SATs tests #UKEdchat
#govedefinitions Bullying: the creative force that made me the snide vituperative weasel that I am today #UKEdchat
#govedefinitions Student Voice - how a pupil responds when spoken to by a teacher, and not before! #UKEdchat
#govedefinitions 'Becta: the Future' - the new DfE film where we travel back in time to an education without new-fangled digital technology

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions "Finding new money" = damn, there goes the moat and the duck house...

@tonyparkin Tony Parkin
#govedefinitions I'm in favour of diversity - it's just like university, but you have two of them?

@ColinTGraham Colin Graham
#govedefinitions Grammar: omnes quaestiones et communicationem agi tantum latine
#govedefinitions modernization: allowing the use of slide-rules in maths exams, on a trial basis for A-level only...

@thewritertype paul bassett davies
#govedefinitions "Pupils." Juvenile nuisances. A necessary evil in order to obtain funding in the education business.

@ocm102 Olly May
Very much enjoying #govedefinitions

tafkam1979 Tafkam TES
Very much enjoying #govedefinitions

@camaxwell Colin Maxwell
Continuing Professional Development: Drill in the playground with Sergeant Major #govedefinitions

@jamperfect Jamie Perfect
#govedefinitions an ideology based on turning every state school into an independent school because it worked for him.

@superdooperal Alison Livesey
#govedefinitions School Governor (archaic).
#govedefinitions Holidays- the bit in between tests

@bootleian John Connor
@markpurves Have a look at #govedefinitions - it's not just us!

@BorisWatch Boris Watch
#govedefinitions 'The proper course of British history' = 'Only the bits where foreigners = targets for Our Boys'
#govedefinitions 'Putting the teacher in charge of schools' = 'Putting Toby Young in charge of teachers'
#govedefinitions 'Freeing schools from dogma' = 'Forcing schools to accept my dogma'

@AsherJac Asher Jacobsberg
@MattSL I think you've got that the wrong way round, according to #govedefinitions it's quill pens to replace computers, isn't it?

@MattSL Matt Lent
#govedefinitions modernisation: fountain pens to replace quills
#govedefinitions decentralised education system: schools do what I say, but I don't get the blame when it goes wrong

@camaxwell Colin Maxwell
Citizenship: 'how to vote tory' #govedefinitions

@sharland Brian Sharland
#govedefinitions EMA: this definition has no funding
#govedefinitions pupil premium: one of nick cleggs pipedreams

@drugforum Andrew Brown
#govedefinitions guidance: unnecessary bureaucracy

@richardsw16 Richard Semmens
#govedefinitions EMA - Extra Money (for new)Academies

@CreativeEdu Pooky Hesmondhalgh
Not sure how to channel your creative juices now school's out?Think up some #govedefinitions #UKEdChat

@MattSL Matt Lent
@alanmills405 loving #govedefinitions

@dorristheloris Kelly Rennie
#govedefinitions QTS: Quasso, Territo, Sepelio (break,frighten, destroy)

@MattSL Matt Lent
#govedefinitions citizenship: being 'British'

@MultiMartin Martin Waller
RT @MattSL #govedefinitions student participation: putting your hands up to speak

@MattSL Matt Lent
#govedefinitions student participation: putting your hands up to speak

@sharland Brian Sharland
#govedefinitions ICT: an excellent subject on the study of how the telegraph helped forge the British empire
#govedefinitions computing: an excellent subject on the study of the Babbage machine
#govedefinitions going to correct my first definition
#govedefinitions PE: physical education and sport is a ... (this definition is only half funded)

@superdooperal Alison Livesey
#govedefinitions School days what teachers find themselves in after reading the Education White Paper

@sueellendixon sue dixon
#govedefinitions ICT: an excellent and relevant subject on the study of the wonderful Babbage
#govedefinitions parents - source of top up funding for schools whose budgets have been cut

@dorristheloris Kelly Rennie
#govedefinitions Teacher. Anybody who can afford to put up a few bobfor their own (FREE) school before Gove repays em OUR cash

@jowinchester Jo
#govedefinitions MFL - Latin/Hebrew in 60 hours for 4 yrs then wonder why rest of world seems to be better than us at language

@ronggordon Ron Gordon
#govedefinitions MP: nice little earner alongside £200 k columnist job allowing 3yrs max expenses & flipped home

@ssat SSAT
Holiday education fun from @alanmills405 - follow #govedefinitions and RT #ukedchat

@sueellendixon sue dixon
#govedefinitions An anathema - Thinking, critically adept children who question their educators and politicians
#govedefinitions History curriculum - the truth as we will now be told it
#govedefinitions phonics phonics phonics - the cure to all ills? Deny any good practice phonics them to death
#govedefinitions Local Authorities - a place to lay all the blame and deny any interference
#govedefinitions loving the creative suggestions. ' Free schools' - where the poor children will press their noses on the glass looking in

@philallman1 Phil Allman
#govedefinitions real terms increase in sch budget. about a 5% cut
#govedefinitions school sport. Rugger, football, cricket...in fact all those teams I was too weedy to get into...sob, sob
#govedefinitions Prefects. Those bullies that tormented me when I was at school...until I became one

@CreativeEdu Pooky Hesmondhalgh
Not sure how to channel your creative juices now school's out?Think up some #govedefinitions as started by @alanmills405

@ronggordon Ron Gordon
#govedefinitions Headteacher: anybody who was once in army

@dorristheloris Kelly Rennie
#govedefinitions Teacher. Anybody [who can speak Latin and quote from Heart of Darkness]

@Didy64 Diane
@alanmills405 Loving your #govedefinitions - would be funnier if they weren't so close to truth

@bobharrisonset Bob Harrison
RT @alanmills405: #govedefinitions Technology. Chalk and blackboard. and Gibb in charge of ICT?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

a very small blog

The coalition continues to destroy so much of the good work of the Labour years and lie as they do it.

Keep passing on this Captain SKA - Liar Liar video

SingUp and local Music services

The list continues to grow.

All over the country colleagues are being prepared for redundancies in Local Authorities and education linked services.

All of this is being directed by a cabinet composed of millionaire tax avoiders. Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander really should be ashamed. They are loving the limos and the feeling of power but they are being ruthlessly manipulated by Cameron, Osborne and Gove.

In the meantime all the good things that Brown's party espoused are being whittled away. Music for all is disappearing as LA Music Services lose government funding and Council support. New Tech projects disappear and BSF puts school development back 20 years.

Yet I still wish we could argue from principle and not with spite. We know we are right so lets make the point with humour but without personal invective.

Insult Clegg and his lack of principle but avoid the simple insult. Point out Alexander's lack of integrity and inability to explain himself but lets do it by attacking his arguments, not just his intelligence. I want to be part of the discussion not the playground fights. Let's hope the "bloody noses" we inflict are metaphorical.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rodents, Rudeness and Nadine

One of the things that I love about Twitter is the way we all get so excited about rumours and insults.

One of the things I hate about Twitter is the way we all get so excited about rumours and insults.

I sat and watched Danny Alexander, speaking on behalf of the coalition in the CSR debate, with my mouth wide open in amazement.

Is that a good definition of "gobsmacked" ?
He seemed unable to put forward an argument of his own, or respond to questions with any semblance of authority. In the background, Osborne sat and smirked. Alexander seemed to me like a very sad understudy in a pretty poor school production of Hamlet. He knows he is not the firat choice, he knows he is not really up to it and he knows everyone is looking at him. So he blusters.

I tweeted frantically during the debate and I was rude about poor little Danny. When he first came on the scene before the election, I compared him frequently to Harry Potter, without the magic. In fact I think the term "charisma bypass" could have been invented just for him. As a fellow Tweeter wrote. "he has been promoted far beyond his ability." And he clearly knows it. What makes it worse is that alongside Clegg he has sold out on any pretence of protecting his principles.

So there are plenty of opportunities for humour at his expense. Even his party leader joined in the fun, likening him to Beaker in the Muppets.

Then there is the Nadine Dorries story or stories. I have previously written about attending a Tweetminster event and being impressed by @Nadine_MP, @KerryMP and Jo as they explained their view of politics and social media. What didn't impress me was the pathetic comments by people tweeting at the same time. Some of these comments (which were displayed on screens in the same room) were both rude and childish. Views on what the speakers were wearing did nothing to raise the level of debate. I had the chance to speak to both Kerry and Nadine after the event and both showed a willingness to communicate in a friendly manner. I am a Labour Party member and made that clear, but Nadine argued without rancour unlike some of the Tory bloggers also in on the conversation who seemed obsessed with the silly.

So, I have followed Nadine's blog and her intermittent tweeting. Clearly she has some answers to give. The blog's inaccuracies can't simply put down to "protecting her brood". The references to stalkers and psycopathic bloggers are unacceptable without real evidence which doesn't seem to have been provided. So she has let herself down badly. There is much of Nadine's philosophy and politics which I totally disagree with. But occasionally she writes sense and when she does, it should be read and engaged with, not dismissed with the same old attacks. She recently tweeted about her improving opinion of the BBC, she tweeted a defence of Harriet Harman over the rodent comments and she wrote in the Daily Mail a reasoned case for the emergency contraceptive.

The problem with Twitter and blogs is that attack positions are assumed without reading the original stimulus info. I am sad that so much is vicious, so much is like like kids in the playground encircling two kids and shouting "Fight!". Harry Hill seemed to get that right.

So I admit to enjoying making rude remarks about the rodent and I enjoyed Harman's theatrical comments about the same. But I just wish we were able to concentrate more on the issues involved. Those of us with a point to make about the awful coalition, the LibDem turncoats, the devastation of the cuts, the hypocrisy of the cabinet millionaires and the way our society is being torn apart in a repeat of the Thatcher years, need to weigh our contributions carefully. If we alienate people through petty rudeness will the rotten rodent win?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A flower in time: a fairy story for Africa

A flower in time: a fairy story

He had never travelled so far. One night’s journey took him further than his imagination ever stretched. Took him beyond the familiar into the unknown. Even the stars were different, even the sky seemed a different colour. Blue and black and white, filtered through an atmosphere of such immense dense feeling that he felt able to take it piece by piece and leave it shaking at his feet. He needed a guide to how this new world worked, what it meant, what it could be. He found one.

Africa saw him as different but taught him what he needed to know to survive in a world stripped of personal experience. She showed him ways to be and ways to do. She guided him through labyrinths of misconception and histories of misunderstandings. He helped her see that not all men were quite the same. Not all wanted to take. He showed her how by giving he fulfilled both their destinies. Sharing problems brought them closer and brought them joy.

Africa was not just the story of the township children or the poolside gins and braais. It was the smiles of the educator with the laptop for the first time, the cocktail party where the white principal met his black counterpart from across the fence. He learnt to love the people and the peoples, the land; the landed and the landless.

Yet she could never quite believe that he would stay to see the whole world. She saw him learn to love the country he found himself in. She knew he loved being there and learning all about the place she called a home. But she was frightened that he would not follow all the careful routes she laid out cautiously for him. He wanted to take the road she indicated but could not burn the bridges behind while she put a shocking match to the ones ahead.

She set him a task that he needed to fulfil to convince her that this land she loved he would truly, actually and sincerely call his own. Before she would commit herself to him and always be his guide he must learn and love and lose himself in the world that surrounded him. He must bring her a gift. Not his love, not his care, not his attention, not his faithfulness, not his passion, not his time. All of these he had brought, had shown and laid on the altar he had made at her feet.

She asked him to bring the country’s fabled flower to her. This would be the gift that proved it all. His faith in her and her spirit. It bloomed just once a year and showed all the blacks and blues of the wide-open skies that crowned the spaces of this world. No spirit had seen this flower for centuries but it figured in the fevered imagination of all that world’s delirious souls. At first he argued and protested. He did not want to leave, he did not want to run from where his heart felt safe to search for something he did not yet believe in. But he knew she needed him to prove he believed in everything she said and did. He would search for this as a proof of all he had come to believe.

She bid him farewell. She did not believe he would ever be able to find the flower. She did not believe he had gone to come back. She whispered merely that he had gone.

He was gone for what seemed eternity and never said where he had been, where he had gone, what he had done. He allowed her only to know that he had gone further than he had ever travelled before in that country that he wanted to call his own. He had no history of time to set all this in. Or when he might return. He knew he had just one task. Time was irrelevant. He talked to the growers, the makers and the dreamers across the nation. Where would he find this flower? What should he look for? Which landscape would bring him closer to the gift he had to find? The last gardener he met was himself a legend. Known, respected and loved. He took him to a small garden, tended with love and protected only by the beauty of its plants. The last gardener told him that although he had never found the mythical flower this was where it would grow if it was intended to be found. The searcher wanted guarantees but knew they would never find them or him.

The gardener told him that often what you grew turned out to be what you had wanted all along. A being had to wait and see what simply appeared. The ancestors would bring the dream to him when the ancestors thought it was right.

He returned to the spirit of his dreams with the gift she wished him to bring. The plant had no flower, no colour, it was simply the seed. She could not see if it was blue or black or white. She could not see the flower it might become. She had to trust him. She had to believe that what he offered might blossom and grow into the fabled flower of love. The season now was wrong but time would see it flower.

It would take a year before they could see if the gift he brought was the gift that she had once demanded. But she was hopeful that by then she wouldn’t care.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Coalition : the new Marx Brothers?

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
Before I speak, I have something important to say.
If you've heard this story before, don't stop me, because I'd like to hear it again.
Groucho Marx

If only there was a real satire programme left on TV. That twerp Hislop is just a bitter and twisted posh twit. I can never forgive him for the constant rudeness and insults to Gordon Brown that went far beyond humour. And Bremner seems to be laying low. Can't he do a Gove impression?

But Gove is crying out to be properly satirised. He is almost his own caricature. His plans for the new curriculum, while saying he intends to Free up teachers through the Free schools, are beyond belief. I was teaching PSE in an inner London comp when Thatcher's government was trying to make "promoting homosexuality" a crime, I just wanted one of them to come to one of my lessons. I only had to mention gay rights in the classroom to provoke the choral response from the boys of "Sir's a poofter". The idea that teachers were promoting homosexuality was ludicrous and born out of the Tory government's complete disclocation from real life.

Gove's plans for poetry seem to be based on his interests and rarefied school experience. Teaching Dryden to 13 years olds? Teaching any poetry is hard enough but stuff with no relevance to a teenager is a recipe for anarchy.

Then there is little Michael's offer to open up unused (and presumably unwanted) DFE offices for new "Free" schools. An old water cooler and dusty desks is not the sort of resource many teachers will see as ideal. What about play areas, sports facilities. dining halls, assembly areas?

And as for Osborne..... a man who has lived on a £4m Trust fund telling real people that their prospects, benefits and aspirations are going to be cut.

Osborne and Gove are the brothers we expected from the Tory club but Clegg and Cable? Didn't we expect a bit more?

OK, we have the evidence that Clegg lied before the election video http://tinyurl.com/y6ld7fg but did they think before they betrayed their party and joined hands with this upper class bunch of clowns?

Groucho said he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. There's something there for the LibDems to consider. My message to Clegg and Cable is also from the wise words of Groucho...
Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Coalition of Clowns - Big Top Big Society

The BIG TOP - Big Society

Dave decides to rewrite history, Nick can't answer questions until he has asked himself the question first and Osbornegump? Well he just smirks.

A coalition of clowns?

And then there is Michael Gove.
in blazer.
with adviser
and demonstrating his plans for the state education sector .

Clowns have those big feet and Gove has certainly been stomping all over the educational community in the last few weeks.

Talking to Headteachers in the last few months, it is clear there is no great enthusiasm for the new Academies. They want new buildings, more money and greater control of their school's curriculum. Gove has disappointed many with the BSF fiasco and when you get down to the detail you discover that even with new academy governance, new money won't be flooding in. In the meantime, all the expertise, local knowledge and local history built up in the Local Authority teams will be lost.

Once you destroy such a team, it is next to impossible to get it together again. Corporate history and the basics of getting things done for the benefit of the local community will disappear with the LA staff forced to hawk their services elsewhere.

In the Academies Bill debate yesterday, Glenda Jackson made an impassioned appeal for schools as part of their communities. The education world Gove is creating, is a return to the competition, to the lack of local collaboration that initiatives such as trust schools started to create.

Clowns are supposed to make you laugh. But an awful lot of people are terrified of clowns.(Coulrophobia)

I am terrified of what this lot of clowns will do. Big Society? Big Top.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

#Osbornegump - a millionaire among us

Judging from Twitter, I am not alone in feeling a sense of nausea whenever George Osborne or Michael Gove smile. There is something so sickeningly slimey and crappily confident in the policies they are imposing upon us.

I went to Wikipedia George to learn more about Gideon. Some key details that explain how this man is where he is today.

Osborne is part of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, known in Ireland as the Ascendancy. He is the heir to the Osborne baronetcy
Originally named Gideon, he changed his name to George when he was 13. In an interview in July 2005, Osborne said: "It was my small act of rebellion."
Attended Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, where he received a 2:1 in Modern History.
He has an estimated personal fortune of around £4 million, as the beneficiary of a trust fund

So the man who is now in charge of our economic destiny has never had any formal education in economics and never done any work connected to it.
In fact the only connection is that he is a VERY rich man!

So there he sits in a cabinet along with 20 other millionaires and dispenses wisdom. He decides the fate of millions of ordinary people from the comfort zone of his own millions.

So, I started thinking. Who does he remind me of? Nonsense statements wrapped up in sentimental platitudes about the "good old days" ? A hazy view of history?

F O R R E S T G U M P !
#osborne gump

So forgive the following slight alterations to some Gump quotations.

"My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates.You never know
what you'll get but the rich always get the goodies."

Recruit Officer: Have you given any thought to your future, son? Osborne Gump: "Thought"?

Stupid is as stupid does. (didn't have to change this one!)

"You have to do the best with what God gave you and millionaires like us will always get the best"

Hello. My name's Osborne, Osborne Gump. You want a pay cut?

Mama always said, dying was a part of life and now I am in charge of the NHS the poor will see it quicker

The coalition's slogan, led by osbornegump, appears to "we're all in this together". Great from a cabinet of 21 millionaires. Don't expect to sit next to them on the bus, queuing with them at the A & E, waiting with them for the teacher at the parents evening or collecting the reduced job seekers allowance.

So I am now pushing for #osbornegump to be Gideon's official hashtag.

Join me? or follow me on Twitter

Let's all at least try to be heard. "If the baby does not cry or cry out it can die on your back" xhosa proverb

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Tories, and the education they think parents want

So we have seen the manifesto from the Tories.

But haven't those of us in education, heard it all before? Michael Gove still seems to think that the education he got, will solve all the problems for schools in the 21st Century.

He still talks about parents wanting children schooled in straight lines about Kings and battles. What good do dates and lists do any of us? In the last few months I have read Hilary Mantel's excellent, prize winning "Wolf Hall" and watched the Carry On Henry film with a raucous Sid James as the King and a baffling Barbara Windsor as the a substitute Anne Boleyn. Both have the same historical background.

I studied that period for my A level History course. Did it do me any good at all to make sense of the events in each story?

More important history to consider in the last few weeks of the election, would be the terrible damage done by the last conservative education ministers under Margaret Thatcher.

Remember the leaky classrooms, the demoralised teachers, the old schools with no hope of renewal?

Well Michael Gove's vision of a new education system sounds remarkably like that historical period. A return to Grammar schools, to pre-comprehensive divisions, to strange starchy curricula even at the primary stage, to school blazers, to latin etc.

So can we all be grateful for what Labour achieved an firmly reject Gove's Etonian vision?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Being a "hat" in South Africa 2010

Every step of the route to the ATM had been carefully plotted. Getting cash from a machine in a busy thoroughfare should be easy, but not always in Cape Town. Too many beggars and potential thieves, too many worries about what comes next. But the ABSA in St George’s Mall was in view of lots of street tables and bars. Should be safe, should be easy.

So, the language had been selected, the transaction, complete and all that was left was for the paper rands to emerge from their safe little hole. A few flashing lights and it was all done, card in breast pocket, cash following, then an urgent voice over the shoulder.

“Hey Man, you haven’t signed out”. I turned to see who was being so helpful. Well dressed young man, suit and open necked shirt. Clean, tidy and non- aggressive.

“I don’t need to do any of that, I got my card back and the right amount of cash”.

He smiled, friendly but supercilious.

“You’re not a local are you? If you don’t check out, sign out, the next person can insert a card and read your stuff.”

The liberal white man in me checked out my reactions. This was a well mannered (well meaning?) black man, on a busy street with lots of people around. He stepped back, he didn’t crowd me, he had offered me advice. I took it, even though I knew he was wrong. I didn’t want to show him a lack of respect.

I put my card back in the slot, I did the business and made sure I checked out carefully. I turned, said thanks to him and he took my place at the ATM. I moved on. I patted my breast, felt the reassuring edge of my credit card, the warmth of the small wad of notes and headed on my way to a bar, to a drink and some more talk. The sun was warm, not hot. I passed a few “hats”, English or German, who were looking over the South African tourist goodies on a stall, all of which had been imported from Nigeria or DRC. I felt that little edge of knowing, I was almost a native. I knew my way round these streets. Knew the best place for a good coffee, knew which eating houses slapped on the rand for the visitor and thought I knew what to be frightened of on the streets in the bright afternoon light.

Six weeks later, I opened up the envelope with the bill from MasterCard and saw somewhere on the streets of the Mother City, someone had been free and easy with the card I still had close to my heart. Free with buying petrol, easy in Pricerite, free and easy as they bought some fancy threads in Woolworths. My doubtful moment when I thought I could not show any distrust when the nice young Xhosa man offered advice had cost me ten thousand quid and a whole lot more. Bhuti!

The name on the card no longer belonged to me.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Communicate with an even better "Talking Tutor"

EMAS UK is a UK based company that wants to be able to support teachers to teach and children to learn, whatever their home language happens to be. It was created because teachers and local authority advisors asked them to help with resources for non English speaking children that were arriving in their schools. The approach needed to be simple and logical, have a large number of resources, be in as many languages as possible and be able to be accessed in seconds. They created the Digital Resource Library. The Digital resources base has around 200 languages of resources, some filled with more than others, a simple to use web site log in that downloads PDF resources in seconds and is constantly growing. This gives the school 12 months unlimited access for a whole primary school access and the cost is £195.

EMAS UK wanted to be able to support teachers and pupils even further and so they created Talking Tutor. Talking Tutor was developed because teachers asked if there was some tech solution to allow them to speak to the newly arrived non English speaking pupil in their own language. EMAS has created an educational tutor that speaks in 14 languages. This has proved successful for communication with both parents and pupils. It means that a new arrivals parents could be asked direct questions such as age, address etc. It also means that the teacher can talk directly to a new pupil in their home language. This could be a revolution in welcoming new children into the classroom. But the team at EMAS UK has done more. Teachers and school staff wanted more languages so more have been developed giving 24 languages in total.

Schools also wanted to be able to communicate properly with parents and pupils, holding two way conversations, and they wanted the ability for parents and pupils to be able to talk back. This was the start of Two Can Talk, a two way communication system that speaks in any of the two chosen languages, allowing communication to be developed into relationship building and being able to offer real help to some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

EMAS UK has launched the first talking communicator that works between languages. No software to load, no network issues, instant availability any time anywhere there is Internet connectivity, simply access the website and start using the communication tools. It is important that schools are aware it is not a translation tool but a communication aid, some words and sentences do not translate exactly, but it works at sentence level and contextual level to give the most appropriate sentence in the language of the user.

Talking Tutors’ Two Can Talk is as simple as typing, simply type in the text you want to say, choose a language to communicate in and press the say it button. The avatar then speaks the sentence in the chosen language, there’s also written text alongside. This supports learning by encouraging the link between written language and pronunciation. It is an ideal way to improve language skills by using the computer to model vocabulary by practising saying what is on screen. Two Can Talk can be used to speak between any of the 24 languages; the input language can be changed to allow language use between other language speakers. This helps develop the personalised learning agenda and helps the school to promote inclusive teaching regardless of language.

Using Two Can Talk is as simple as using Instant Messenger but with the confidence of having a language specialist at your side. Schools are reporting that they are using Talking Tutor to communicate with parents on the telephone, and by letter, as well as in person. One school in Wales recently reported that they had a pupil with health problems and they needed the parents to collect the child quickly. They typed the text into Talking Tutor, held the phone to the speaker and pressed the ‘Say It’ button. The result was that although they didn’t understand the parent’s response, they did arrive within minutes and took the child to hospital. Previously they would have had to find a person, usually a translator that could speak the language, wait for them to arrive and then start the process. Talking Tutor made communication simple, effective and instantly accessible whilst saving the school money.

Talking Tutor and Two Can Talk is currently being used by schools in Thailand and Sweden with other countries such as Norway and Poland negotiating to use the online tools in their schools. In Europe there is a global migrant population in excess of 41.9 million people, whilst the UK has an estimated 6 million limited English speakers with over 30 million foreign nationals visiting the UK on an annual basis.

EMAS UK has priced Talking Tutor and Two Can Talk to make it affordable to all schools, costing £395. When you think a translator may cost a minimum of £20 an hour, plus expenses and travel time, this once a year payment seems to be excellent value. Helping every child to communicate is important. Every child should have the opportunity to achieve their own personal potential. This impressive piece of online software certainly goes a long way in the right direction. And I have to say its potential is quite staggering.

It’s also tremendous fun and has lots of possibilities that schools will love to explore


me (sort of...)

me (sort of...)