Thursday, November 25, 2010

Layer 386 . . . Europe, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Schools, Ofsted, Teaching, Learning, Education, Gove and Miliband

Traffic News

More evidence of the insanity on Britain's roads. Yesterday, heading up the M1, I had to sit for nearly an hour almost completely stationary, as a result of 5 cars smashing into one another. The police, as usual managing the 'incident' with excessive ploddery, wouldn't let the traffic start to flow past until all 5 cars had been loaded on to transporters. Not even ONE lane open. 'Ealf ansafety.

Today there was a two mile queue of vehicles trying to leave the M6 to get on to the A14, which of course completely jammed up the M6. This is down to the roadworks at this junction taking forever to complete, and NO proper traffic management measures being taken to prevent this sort of congestion. Temporary relief road? You must be joking.

Meantime the radio was full of reports about the M1 northbound traffic again being at a standstill with a massive tailback - this time as a result of a lorry overturning at the Hemel Hempstead junction. How do you overturn a bloody lorry on a motorway?

I was intending to go round the M25, but then heard reports saying there was a jam from junction 24 to junction 28 as a result of a lorry smashing into the central reservation.

To cap it all there was a complete standstill as soon as we got to the 20 mile long 50mph limit average speed check area on the M1 opposite Bedford. What to do? Leave the motorway, use satnav to cross over to the A1(M) and then trudge through the ghastliness of outer North London to get home in about twice the time the journey WOULD take if there were no roadworks, no congestion, no fuckwit lorry drivers and no hundreds of traffic lights all on red.


Das Musik

Talked with a friend today about the crucial importance of music in people's lives, and singing, and dancing. But how many people seem never to need or enjoy music? ANY music.

We also talked about the uselessness (for me) of 5 years learning German, given that I've been to Germany and will never go there again. Probably. And if I do it'll be with someone who speaks German. Possibly to take a look at Berlin.

Also, I've no wish ever to go back to either Austria or Switzerland. Those massive mountains are not for me. Give me the Lake District or the Massif Central any day.

Coincidentally Mark Lawson on R4's Front Row today interviewed James Last. I've no idea why. Dear Hansi - he's as dull, boring, witless and humourless as his entire musical oevre. And yet he's made an unbelievable fortune from arranging and orchestrating the very worst pop music he could find. The very nastiest, pappiest, most awful songs ever written. Take a terrible tune, play it with an orchestra, and somehow make the original even worse. And his albums sell by the zillion. Over 100 million, apparently. Never overestimate the taste of the masses. Apparently he has 'fans' who travel to his concerts all over the world. Bonkers.


Weak teachers the biggest problem in schools – Ofsted

'Dull and uninspiring' lessons hold back pupils, report finds

The headline in the paper version of this article is, "Dull teaching is letting pupils down, says Ofsted chief inspector".

Either way, it's true that so much of what goes on in schools is dull, uninspiring and boring. And whose fault is that? we may well ask.

Of course Ms Gilbert blames the poor bloody teachers. We have a generation of teachers who have been trained to make learning dull - to unthinkingly and uncritically follow 'national strategies' and to teach by numbers.

Even the few older teachers that remain have been bludgeoned into subject-based teaching and teaching to the tests.

And it's Ms Gilbert's Ofsted 'contractors' (not HMIs) who have been sent out as enforcers of government policies.

Children are being subjected to "dull and uninspiring" lessons, the schools inspectorate warned yesterday. On the eve of an education white paper proposing a shift in teacher training from colleges to classrooms, Ofsted's chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, said low expectation of pupils and teachers' poor grasp of their subject have led to confused lessons.

And this is how Ms Gilbert's mind works. She thinks in Gradgrind's terms. You can see her as an Mchoakumchild figure. She needs to understand that children shouldn't be stuffed with 'imperial gallons of facts' in didactic 'lessons'. Lessons indeed.

Teaching unions pointed out that inadequate teaching remained "the exception rather than the rule". Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Our classroom teachers do an amazing job day in day out in often challenging circumstances.

"If there is anything that is 'dull and uninspiring' in our schools it is a curriculum that is narrowed by the series of hoops that schools have to jump through in order to satisfy arbitrary targets which can change with alarming regularity. This often results in a narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test, simply because schools are fearful of slipping down in the school league tables."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "Criticising hardworking teachers and failing to understand the challenges that teachers and pupils in schools in deprived areas face will do nothing to drive up standards."

More on schools, education and Gove's White Paper tomorrow.


Ed Miliband keeps his head while all around him lose theirs. But it's not enough.

No matter how admirable serenity may be, Miliband must get on with the job of opposition – starting with a critique of the cuts

by Jonathan Freedland

As a matter of temperament, I can't but admire Miliband's apparent serenity – able to incant a gentle "om" while those around him panic over the ticker on Sky News – but as a matter of politics, I lean towards those who reckon the new leader needs to define himself sooner rather than later. But how?

A thick sheaf of policy papers is not the answer . . . What is needed are a few signature moves that reveal the direction of travel, symbolic stands that tell the voters what kind of government you would lead.

I reckon Freedland hasn't been paying proper attention. Ed has already said what needed to be said about direction of travel. (See previous blogs)

Still Freedland's  not wrong when he goes on to say,

Above all, he needs to shift the emphasis of Labour's economic argument. Right now, the party begins with the concession that, yes, there have to be cuts – and then offers quibbles about the timing and degree. That doesn't work. The only way Labour can punch through is by saying that the coalition is taking a reckless gamble with the British economy – with Ireland as a warning from hell – and that any cuts in spending should wait until the return of growth. Otherwise it simply won't get heard.

So it's a necessary strength of Miliband's that he can keep his head. But it is not sufficient. He needs to lead a regular, devastating critique of the government.

And he's not wrong about Ireland being a warning from hell.


Regarding the previous blog's comments about Europe and Europeans - take a look at this piece by Jonathan Jones:

Europe has been building a secret community of culture

Political union is entering its darkest days, to the Eurosceptics' delight. But our shared history will keep us together

Some time soon Europeans who believe in a common identity need to stand up and proclaim the unique richness and openness of our culture.

It is not idealism to believe in Europe; still less is it a bureaucratic abstraction. If you see history in its living colours, you see how deeply European we are and how profound are the roots of that common identity.

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