The UK and Europe – May 27th 2019

Monday, May 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm

As predicted, the wretched Brexit Party has cleaned up at the 2019 EU elections.  28 seats out of 73.

I am told by my wife that the Labour Party will never get her vote because they do not come out strongly enough against Brexit.

She says she really wants to join the Lib Dems and – had she not been denied her vote, she would have voted either for the Lib Dems or for the Green Party.

I have every sympathy for her position, but my position is far more conflicted.

I know I am an out and out Remainer.

I want the UK to be a member of the EU and to be fully integrated into the Europe and the EU.

I want the European Parliament to be the parliament that speaks on my behalf regarding the decisions taken in the other institutions of the European Union and I believe this is an entirely legitimate democratic function to be carried out in parallel with the sovereign parliaments of the member states.

I do not believe this arrangement constitutes evidence of any democratic deficit across the European Union.  I do, however, believe that the democratic institutions of the UK leave a lot to be desired and holding them up as examples of a model democratic process in a gross misunderstanding of the reality.

Nevertheless, what I will not do is use this position to criticise the leadership of the Labour Party, because the Labour Party is not able to reduce its position to the simple slogans of the Brexit Party or for that matter the Lib Dems or the Greens.

I am heartily disappointed that the Labour Party finds itself unable to move wholeheartedly in the direction of a Remain position.  Other Remainers also seem to be convinced that by holding a so called “People’s Vote”, the question will be resolved to their satisfaction.

Of this I am likewise unconvinced.  I am not in favour of people’s votes, plebiscites or referenda of any sort, which I consider are a corruption and a weapon that damages the democratic process – the complete opposite of the notion that is being promoted by the majority of Leavers and Remainers alike.

So where does that leave me in the Labour Party?

I don’t believe that a political party should simply adopt policies that will gain favour with as many voters as possible.  I do not believe that power is everything.

That was what Kinnock wanted for Labour and I left the Party when he became the leader.  I certainly don’t think that the Labour Party under Blair and even Brown was the Labour Party that I wanted to rejoin.   This was the government that initiated student loans, this was the government that colluded with business in bringing the forces of the market into the health service, education and elsewhere and created the Private Finance Initiatives that have become such a burden on the state sector services now.

This was the government that started us off on the educational road towards Academy hell.  Privatisation of schools in all but name.

I abhor the notion that a successful left wing party has to suck up to big business in order to ingratiate itself with the power in the country.  The Brexit vote has shown that this is not the case.  If it were the case, then Brexit would not be happening, because it is clear that business does not want it.

But the Labour Party is now my party.

I could not bring myself to vote for the Lib Dems.  I’ve done it a couple of times in the past at the behest of my family and every time I’ve kicked myself for being a gullible fool.

Whatever they say, Lib Dems will always collude with Tories, because that is what they are.

So many people seem to think that their MPs are nice people who seem so genuine on Television when talking about Europe – but they forget that Liberal Democrats are at heart free marketeers who want competition and free trade to be at the heart of all decision making.  Their economic policies direct them in precisely the same direction as the Tories and they are Tories, merely Tories of a different hue.

The only other party is the Green Party and many of my views are congruent with their policies, but I don’t hear Greens talking enough about workers, or Trade Union Rights.  I know that there will be few job opportunities in a dead planet, and it is arguable that the Green agenda is the most important global agenda.

I think, though, that the Labour Party is the party to deliver that agenda.  A green agenda that will be planned by people, by workers and for people,  for working people and for people who have worked all their lives and who now need the social security and care services that a caring and sharing society should provide – not services that are provided only by insurance companies making profits for their shareholders.

Now that so many voters have fallen for the nonsense about the four freedoms and the single market, we are left with a bunch of right wing nationalists whose narrow insular prejudices are likely to drive us into the hands of the German AfD and the Dutch PVV.

Not only am I happy with the democratic processes of the EU, but I am very happy with the idea of complete freedom of movement, which seems to be the main concern of the nationalists.   All I want the Labour Party to do is to start persuading the voters and stop pandering to them.

Categories: Europe, Politics, the EU, UK

Retention – the enemy of high standards

Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Colleges are obsessed with retention statistics – it’s another OFSTED benchmark that makes very little sense in the real world other than to promote the spurious claim that we are producing more and more successful students and therefore creating a better qualified workforce.

The truth, of course, is vastly different.

When a student is palpably failing we are still expected to strain every sinew and demonstrate that we have implemented every strategy available – not only to keep the student from leaving, but to manage the student so that s/he still achieves a successful outcome.

This can mean many hours adding notes to the student database, calling parents, working through the disciplinary procedures – although managers and senior managers are notoriously reluctant to move expeditiously on this – and spending time with the student supporting her/him n completing work that s/he is very often unable to complete if left to her/his own devices.


Categories: Politics, UKEducation

Our mania for retention and progression

Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm

The horror of losing students and the joy of keeping our retention figures high.

I wonder how often senior managers stop to ponder on the decreasing standards that are the consequence of our retention fetish.

Categories: Uncategorized

The value of failure

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

We need to be brave.
There is a price of failure in the real world, but failure has a value as well.
Many successful business people can attest to the value that bankruptcy had on their current business success.

What we so often forget nowadays is the value that failure can have for students.

We forget that the experience of failure should not be avoided at all costs, but should be embraced as a necessary part of life.  It is not, after all, the way we deal with success that demonstrates our ability to survive and grow as individuals.  Rather it is the way we cope with failure.

The person who picks herself up, dusts herself down and starts all over again is the person with whom we want to work.

Our students need to learn the lesson that is it good to fail and learn from failure – “fail better” as the saying goes.

In addition, we need to consider the effect on other students in the group when one student fails.
In the first place there is the notion of “pour encourager les autres”. OK – originally this referred to hanging, which might be a bit drastic, but there is a distinct deterrent effect that kicks in when a classmate gets kicked out.

Seeing one of your colleagues failing a unit and having to retake is often a salutary lesson for the others in the group.
Even more so when a student is asked to leave a course because s/he is clearly not making the grade. But in many educational establishments it is almost anathema to allow any students to leave, i.e. “to fail” a course.

“Retention” is everything. There are many of us, however, who would say it is one of the reasons why so many courses have so little credibility or currency any more. (more…)

Categories: Politics, UKEducation

Standards again – students finding information

Monday, December 21, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Why can they not just grab a book off the shelves and read a few pages?

We now have the ludicrous situation whereby L3 students are citing the blogs of previous year’s L3 students at other colleges as the authorities for their statements about various IT topics in their assignments.

Not only are they too lazy to read a few pages from a book, but they now don’t even recognise when they are quoting from someone who is probably only a year or two older than themselves and who, moreover, is herself/himself quoting almost verbatim from the course text book – or just spouting nonsense in a few cases.

Categories: Uncategorized

How can we persuade the electorate that we need socialist policies again?

Sunday, May 31, 2015 at 5:50 pm

It’s a constant complaint from colleagues – we don’t, for example, take the trades unions seriously, because they don’t really have any clout nowadays – but why don’t they have any clout? – Because colleagues won’t take part in trades union activities.  The same old circular argument is heard time and time again.

Categories: Politics

Raising standards – why it promotes student failure.

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Isn’t it obvious?

Everyone is so worried about OFSTED – the Office for Standards in Education – that we forget that our aim should be to get students to learn – not just achieve qualifications.

Having worked for many years in the Secondary, Further and Higher Education Sectors, I am disappointed that we seem still not to recognise how we are failing our students.

I’m currently teaching on a Level 3 BTEC course and am told that the Minimum Expected Grades for my students are all MMM and above. Many of them have targets that include Distinction and D* grades.

Assignments have just been submitted – some students have not bothered to submit – missed the deadline and therefore failed to meet any criteria.

When told about it, one says “I’ll email it to you” and he then submits a blank Brief – no actual assignment from him. “Oh, sorry,” he says and then asks, “Can I send it to you tonight? It’s on my system at home.”

He doesn’t submit.

Categories: UKEducation

too many platforms

Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

Is there anyone else who worries – as I do – about the large number of different platforms and web 2.0 applications to which our students are being introduced?

Categories: Technology and the Death of Learning, UKEducation

the real learning group

Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Perhaps we can create a special group – a school within a school – for invited students only. This group can look at ways in which we learn best and how we can develop these children who are learning well in spite of the current system in which they work.

We have to do something to demonstrate that real learning is not only something to be found in the relentless pursuit of new technology – the iPad syndrome.

Equally useful would be the formation of trios or quads, i.e. continuous peer observation and development (POD) groups.  The members of these POD gps should be encouraged to visit one another’s rooms and lessons on a frequent basis in order to be able to feedback positively and constructively to one another.  We should encourage the use of video and other AV recording technologies as ways of allowing self and peer analysis and promoting experiment and innovation in the classroom.

Categories: UKEducation

None but the brave …

Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Which school – or perhaps which headteacher – is going to be the brave one that decides to take a stand against the data and league-table madness that still prevails in mainstream schools in the UK?

Every year we are expected to “raise the bar” and meet a new load of FFT predictions. The way we do this is to massage, manipulate and effectively fabricate our students’ results so that the figures look good, but ask any students about the subject after they have finished the course and all you get is blank looks from most of them.

Of course, we also tell large numbers of students that they are producing work that is worthy of high grades and off they go from school, thinking that they know lots, when – if the truth were known – many of them know almost nothing. We are producing a generation without skills, without knowledge, without craft and without the insight to see what might lie before them.

Is it time to return to a “deschooling society” model?

What appears to happen is that FFT (Fischer Family Trust) bases their predictions on previous results including last year’s.

In practice, this means we are creating a rod for our own backs by pushing students and coaching students who then submit work that is wildly beyond their real ability and the school gets a wildly inflated set of results for the cohort. Almost all other schools are doing the same thing and the FFT then uses this data to inform its “predictions” of what grades “similar” students would have been expected to get.

So it is not difficult to see how the figures are likely to keep drifting upwards each year in a never-ending and quite nonsensical set of targets that we are meant to take seriously as targets for next year’s students.

No wonder our students can’t compete in the real world with students whose judgements about their own abilities are based on real results and real success.

We need to stop selling our kids down the river like this. It’s immoral, illusory and – because it allows Headteachers and others to bask in the so-called success of their students and then promote their schools as successful – I would say it is corrupt.

Categories: UKEducation