Thursday, August 30, 2012

At last, common sense prevails. (My annual educational rant.)

August is the month of GSCE and A Level results in the UK.  This year, for the first time since GSCEs were introduced in 1988, there has been a fall in the amount of A*- C grades awarded. It is only an overall decline of 0.4%, however, in English the corresponding pass marks have dropped from 78.4% to 76.3%.

As a consequence, there has been an outcry from many teachers, parents and governors. Some parents have been incensed that their children's papers might have been marked too harshly. Presumably, some have been appalled that their children might even have been deducted points for bad spelling and punctuation. This almost seems fair as we've all been subliminally indoctrinated that grammar is no longer important and what really matters is the effort, the thought behind the writing. You see, it's now all about the content. Yes, on occasions it might be easier to read kid's school work in Braille but what does it matter! So long as everyone hugs, kisses and celebrates the achievement of having written something without dying on the school premises and accidentally instigating an OFSTED inspection we can all be happy. Hurrah! 

Anyway, in response to all the outrage and gasps of horror, AQA, a leading exam board,  has made the following statement:

 "This summer, all the exam boards raised their grade boundaries for GCSE English in order to maintain standards. In AQA's case, this was by between 0 and 3 marks."

So that's 2 marks then? 

Yeah, yeah okay don't be pedantic - it could be 1 mark. (I'm guessing the 0 mark wouldn't have made a lot of difference and to lower a result by 3 marks would be just far too revolutionary....)

According to Brian Lightman, secretary to the Association of School and College Leaders, the boundaries for the C/D pass mark were particularly affected and children who were told they would get C grades were more likely to get D grades. In this article at the BBC he goes on to say;

"It is morally wrong to manipulate exam grades in this way - you are playing with young people's futures."

Yes indeed it is morally wrong, Mr Lightman, to "manipulate" grades. But...

 (Waves red flag, raises megaphone to mouth, screams in high pitched agony like a wolf listening to Barry Manilow in concert)

Is that not what the exam bodies have been doing for the last twenty four years? 

Yep, I know I have visited this subject before (so yes you can all moan, groan and make general tut-tutting noises) but it is one, which as a parent, writer and (non-practising) adult literary teacher, concerns me greatly. I cannot let it rest. I'm just not good at keeping my mouth shut. (Just be grateful I'm not going on about politics. Or sex.)

So, I have had three children in state education continuously for the last fifteen years and during that time I have witnessed a shocking and outrageous decline in educational standards. I have been dismayed at the attitude of schools and a number of teachers in their compliance in perpetuating this scandal which so deeply affects the literacy of our children. ( I love all these gimmicks by the way but don't let them distract you from the content.) I have ranted, raved and yes when my patience has finally snapped I have even been thoroughly unpleasant to some teachers. On one occasion, after a telephone conversation with a teacher, I was so angry I threw the phone across the room and dented the wall. (Fortunately, it missed my statue of Mrs Thatcher.) At times, I have not been proud of my behaviour or my words as I'm generally a good natured, sweet, fluffy, bunny-rabbit type of person and acting against my normal nature has made me very unhappy with myself. 

However, at last, with these new directives I feel vindicated that the authorities have finally seen the truth. Somewhere, in the long, dusty corridors of power, overcrowded with administrative zealots, a little light bulb has finally switched on. 

Of course, I am truly sorry that some children might miss out on their place at sixth form or college this year. However, if they have to resit their GSCEs or perhaps work for a year whilst doing a resit to obtain a better standard of English then so be it. If they have patience, in the long run what they will learn will serve them well and they may come to understand that what has happened to them is part of a much bigger picture.

I have absolutely no doubt my own children have been severely affected by the lowering of standards in our schools. I have looked at their books and it is not difficult to work out what has been going wrong. I also know the harsher marking system will now work against Jacob, who has just started his GSCE courses, as I doubt whether his English teacher can repair the damage that has been done in the last nine years in time for his national exams.

I have spent a lot of time, money and personal effort supplementing the state curriculum in an attempt to keep Jacob and Ben on track with their literacy. Yet I know I have not done well enough. Simply, I ran out of energy to fight and always, always, always, I was met with apathy and excuses at school. With the exception of this last year, when Benedict's school have tried to repair the damage they did the previous year when he fell two grades, I can put my hand on my heart and say that despite all the cooing, all the political correct mumbo jumbo nobody has given a shit whether Sam, Jacob or Ben have achieved their true potential.  For Jacob, his future exam results will now probably come down to how dedicated his English teacher is and whether she supports the current changes or is yet another teacher that has been sucked into the softly softly approach. I will do my best to help but the truth is I am worn out with the fight. 

But whatever the outcome for Jacob in two years time, I strongly support the current changes. I sincerely hope that these changes remain and indeed increase in vigour over the coming years.

It is time to redress the balance and give our children the education they deserve.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Waffle, Kim Kardigan and Random Musings

Waffles probably are more interesting, especially with butter and syrup, but since I don't have any it'll have to be just waffle. Yep, it's one of those posts where I just have random musings.

I did something truly horrendous, painful even, early this morning. I actually clicked on an article on the Daily Mail about Kim Kardigan. I have successfully managed to avoid doing this for about two years but I've still managed to discover who Kim Cardigans is because she is mentioned just about everywhere. I think Kim does stuff in the US on telly, I don't think any of it is noteworthy but feel to correct me if I am wrong. I think it's the type of  reality TV where, if British reality shows are anything to go by, the women wear skimpy clothes and have fake breasts and generally want a career as a porn star and the men are usually failed body builders, air stewards or ex boy band singers with identity crises. On British reality shows there's usually also the token gay or transsexual although I suspect that after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey the next series of Big Brother will also have someone heavily into BDSM. Let's just hope they cut straight to the juicy bits on the highlights because frankly I haven't got time to watch all that BDSM foreplay - you know greasing the whips, waxing the botty, shining the stirrups and buffing up all the silverware.

Kim Kardigans not wearing a cardigan. Pity,
there would have been a joke in  there somewhere. Picture courtesy of the good gentlemen of Wikipedia.

There's a series of Celebrity Big Brother on in the UK at the moment. I popped in on some highlights the other day. It transpired I had no idea who some of the "celebrities" were except a mere handful: Coleen Nolan (oh come on - everyone remembers The Nolans!), Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Julian Clary (comedian) Julie Goodyear (actress) and the one and only Daily Mail journalist, Miss Samantha Brick. If truth be known, I kinda popped in to see how beautiful Miss Brick was and see if she was going to be the contestant who set off fireworks with her opinionated comments. Alas, it was all very tame, Samantha was a quiet as a mouse (probably due to fact that there were younger, prettier women around) Martin Kemp didn't get out his guitar and Coleen Nolan didn't burst into song. So I switched off and did the ironing instead. It was more exciting watching the steam burst out of my iron, especially when a little genie popped out. Apparently, he'd been stuck in there for six whole weeks. I have no idea why.

I think there maybe more Nolans than Kardigans. This CD cover only shows four of them. If you see a picture of the Nolans and The Cardigans side by side The Nolans will be the ones with their clothes on.

Anyway, so back to Kim Kardignashire. I'm not quite sure but I believe there are lots of Kaardigan sisters/relatives. I'm actually a little confused about exactly how many there are as they seem to breed a lot. I think there's some called Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontails. The one thing in common is that they all seem to have big breasts and very little clothes. In fact, I was thinking of sending them my old clothes to stop them from getting chilled but then I realised my tops would be too small - so I rang up Katie Price who said she didn't have any big enough either. That kinda surprised me but, then again, I think Katie's been getting conservative lately. Anyway, because I like to recycle I thought I'd send my tops to Keira Knightly instead.

Katie Price aka Jordan. I hear she's entering a nunnery soon.
Picture courtesy of  Wikipedia.

Yep so anyway, the eye catching title of this article at the Daily Mail about Kim Cardiieshan was "Time to work on that butt! Kim Lardigans heads to boot camp as she worries her curvy rear is too big."

Now my first thought that Kim ought to be worried more about the size of her brain which obviously needs a good workout and she should probably start out with a good dose of protein powder, a broccoli smoothie, fish oil and an evening spent doing The Times crossword. However, then I thought maybe I am being a tad cruel because, after all, Kim Kardicanshire is a multi millionaire and I'm not -  so maybe she is doing something right. Maybe I should be following her example and heading off to the gym to shape up my equally big derrière in the hope that I get a photo shoot with a handbag designer or reality show entitled At Home with the Turleys. HoweverI'm going to think about it before I rush off to the gym as I don't like overcrowded spaces and I'm kinda worried there will be lots of young girls and women there also trying to do the same thing.We could all end up fighting over a contract for Pot Noodles.

It would be a challenge to sell Pot Noddles seductively but with my arse I think I could overpower any other female rivals. Although I'm a bit worried Kim Kardigan might beat me to it if s he drapes noodles all over her chest. Unfortunately, the noodles would just drop straight off me and pool all over my feet.
Hmm. Talking about Pot Noodles has made me feel hungry so I'm going to get my breakfast.I think I might do a crossword whilst I'm doing my sit ups and drinking my broccoli smoothie. I leave you with The Nolans.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are you feeling glum?

So now the Olympics have finished you might be feeling a little glum. A bit depressed even - especially if you can't fit into a leotard without the use of a crowbar or lift a beer can to your mouth without taking a pep pill.

I have a remedy for this.

Read this story and look at the accompanying pictures. If this story does not make you laugh you need a humour transplant. It's about an elderly woman who chose to "restore" a fresco entitled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church, near Zaragoza in Spain. Unfortunately, her restoration has made Jesus Christ look like he's suffering an agony worse than the crucifixion as well as suffering from acute constipation. I haven't worked out why he wearing the Eskimo headress. 

My comment on this story is; I cannot wait till I'm eighty and I can get away with that kind of stuff. I'd try it now but I'd probably get arrested. 

Alternatively, I could get a degree in Modern Art and everyone would think it's a work of genius.

Hmm. On consideration, I will till I'm eighty. Three years glueing mothballs together or pulling my laundry out of my washing machine and photographing it from numerous angles does nothing for me. 

Roll on senility!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Silly Olympian Thoughts

Do you remember Mrs N? She's my friend who is also a tennis mum and who ages ago set me this challenge. Now she has set me another challenge - which is to write a paragraph about a picture which was  doing the rounds on Facebook during the Olympics. Take a look:

Break out the champers, Ladies. If your over 50yrs it maybe a long time before you see one this size again.


I can be succinct at times. Not often, I admit. But this is one of them. However, I think Mrs N was imagining more than a one word paragraph so I'll have another bash.

Actually, I should point out that I'm pretty sure this picture wasn't photographed during the 2012 Olympics and was probably taken in Sweden (the clue is in Goteberg on his kit) which is the country where they wear funny hats and clogs and talk in strange voices - except for Abba who sing in high pitched harmony but who also, by strange coincidence, wear Lycra. Anyway, this confusion made identifying the athlete more difficult and despite my inserting some descriptions of the athlete into Google I've come up with nothing - which is not unusual for a woman I suppose but, as you can imagine, incredibly frustrating. Humph.

You see, what happened was after a few hours  minutes Googling I had a horrible thought: I recalled that the internet police are pretty big on that kind of research and as I have a reputation as a Housewife Extraordinaire to maintain I had to quit. In other words, I stopped researching as I didn't want to get banged up. Well not by the the internet police anyway.

Hmm. I have a feeling this article may well be the end of my writing career. Although how it can end before its begun I don't know - it's a bit like premature ejaculation, I suppose.

Right then, in order to complete this task I shall have to study the photo in depth in order to come up with some ideas.

Hmm, nothing is coming easy to me. I need to focus which is difficult for me as many of you will know I have a tendency to go off on obscure tangents. I need to do something to help me focus. Hmm..let me see. Let's try this:

I'm definitely focusing now.

Okay, that helped.  Now I've got a first thought:

Tom Daley, even in those itsy bitsy swim shorts, is still a boy really isn't he?

Okay, so I suspect some of you don't recall Our Tom. He's the Team GB mascot really - small and cute and he won a bronze medal in the diving. Apparently Cheryl Cole fancies him - she obviously didn't eye up some of the other talent because let's face it if there was a choice between a date  between Our Tom or the fella in the picture I know who I'd chose.

Now I know that you ladies, and possibly some gentlemen, across the world (I'm so PC these days it's untrue - *spits into bucket*) will be saying that's unfair to Our Tom and how lovely our English gents are opening doors for you, throwing their coats on the pavement so you don't have to step in puddles and talking in that wonderful aristocratic accent. However, please remember not all Englishmen are like that. Some of them look like this;

The lovely Boris, as always, having a good hair day. It's hard to believe he became Mayor of London.
But, then again, maybe not when you consider Bush Junior became President and Tom Cruise is a big movie star. Life is full of strange quirks. Picture courtesy of someone mad enough to take it - probably on self timer then.

So that was Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. You may have seen him waving the GB flag at the Olympic closing ceremony. Usually, he's adjusting his underpants.

To be fair to Our Tom he does seem a lovely young gentlemen and is dashingly handsome as well - but he's only 18 years old and at that age  a boy has only just learnt to undo and zip up his flies. And some of them can't even do that properly - well not according to Mr T. And I should know as I've seen the evidence.

Tom in 2008 aged 14. He looks even cuter now.
They'll probably make an Action Man of him - or possibly a Steiff bear.
I'll probably get one then and keep it under my duvet at night.
 Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

Okay, so back to the main photo. Well I love the green and red Lycra suit but I'm kinda of wondering if the athlete gets uncomfortable how does he adjust himself discreetly? It's not like he's a cricketer with those baggy white trousers where basically you can hold a tea party in them and no one would notice. There just isn't any room for manoeuvre in that Lycra. Perhaps when he runs he gets friction burns?

I've been a bit presumptuous. The athlete may not even be a runner. He might be a triple jumper or more likely - a pole vaulter. I guess it would be handy to carry your own pole around like that. It might even save on excess baggage charges at the airports. Yes, I think he's more likely to be a pole vaulter; I certainly don't think he's a hurdler which could be a little dangerous. Still, I suppose if he clipped the hurdles and crashed to floor and knocked himself out there would be more than enough volunteers to give him the kiss of life.

Okay, so the thoughts are coming faster now but the one that really sticks in my mind is this...

If this is what an anonymous Portuguese athlete looks like fired up before a race - what the hell does Usain Bolt look like when he gets excited?

I think I'm going to pass out just thinking about it.

God, I wish I lived in Jamaica. I wonder if Mr T would fall for the old line about visiting relatives next summer? Probably not. I think he's noticed I'm white. Still, maybe I haven't told him about my old uncle, Winston. We were really close back in the days before Mr T. Me and Old Uncle Winnie did fishing, smoking, reminiscing in rocking chairs, playing the banjo - that kind of stuff.  I hear he's not well and needs to see me before he goes to meet his maker....

So somehow I've managed to get onto Usain Bolt who, as well as being a magnificent specimen of manhood, is also a pretty good runner. A bit like me. I can run really fast when I have to - sometimes that's after I've spent too much time "researching" on the internet, at other times it's when I've had extra hot curry but mostly it's on school sports days - I like to be first in the queue for the barbecue.

I wonder if Usain will run in the next Olympics? I hope so. I've just filled out my application form to become one of those officials who stand behind the runners and look after their baskets of clothes. Finally, I think I have found the perfect job for me as those baskets are just like shopping baskets and I know everything there is to know about shopping baskets. If I became an Olympic official I could get to look after Usain's undies and eye up his arse.

What could be more perfect?

Apart from a trip to Jamaica of course.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm all right, Jack.

One of the things I have noticed as I get older is that I become less tolerant, particularly of incompetency which I witness in increasing frequency. There is, I believe, a clear difference between incompetency and an error caused by a mistake. We all make "mistakes", have accidents and make errors of judgement. I believe most of us have the capacity to forgive such "mistakes" - without compassion we would be a lowly race. Incompetency is a different issue altogether though and as the years tick by I've noticed that I experience more and more "incompetency" which has often been the cause of much aggravation and heartache - this varies from the smallest tasks such as not receiving the letters from school to my father dying an early death from undiagnosed and untreated cancer.

So yesterday, after another such experience I have thought about the reasons why levels of incompetency are rising. Here are some of the reasons I consider to be the primary causes in the UK;

1. Education. The level of education in schools and universities has fallen dramatically. This is compounded by lowering the exam standards and the pass marks so that many people believe they are more skilled/better educated than they actually are. There is less humility amongst the young and little respect for the qualities of age and experience.

2. Education in the workplace. Many people in the workplace do not receive the proper training to do their jobs competently. People are designated tasks which are, quite simply, beyond their education and experience. There are many reasons for this lack of training but I would suggest that the primary cause is that many companies seek maximum profit for minimum outlay.

3. Reliance on computers and computer programs. People expect computers to provide the answer to everything. Yet computer programs are not infallible and are only as accurate as the person designing them and/or using them.  Often, people do not apply common sense or logic when faced with answers thrown up by the touch of a button.

4. The prominence of the cultures of political correctness and interference of government. These cultures have become so widespread to the extent that people will now no longer speak or act freely for fear of persecution, prosecution and reduced employment prospects. Even when the voices of  logic, reasoning and common sense speak loudest, the voice of government and legality always wins.

5. The overall decline of literacy skills. People read and talk less. Language has become abbreviated and therefore overall communications skills have deteriorated. When people do not communicate well there are more misunderstandings and arguments.

6. People have become lazy. The rise of the "Benefits Culture" is destroying the traditional British work ethic and the focus on celebrity and materialism means many people have high aspirations without first learning that in order to receive one should also learn how to give. People who do not value their jobs are more likely to be incompetent.

7. The decline of religion and morality.  In my opinion, (which is, of course, subjective)  religion does not wage war, humans wage war. Religion is continuously given a bad press and throughout history has often been used to mask economic and political agendas. The decline in religion may possibly be linked to a decline in morality, giving rise to a society where the welfare of others and social responsibility has less importance. The phrase "I'm all right, Jack"  has never been more appropriate. Never mind that people may be suffering, starving and living in abject poverty or quite simply hanging around waiting for someone to do their job properly - so long as I'm all right, Jack what does it matter?

And so on...but now I've let off a little steam I can calm down a little. Hurrah!

Oh, wait a minute. Maybe not.

Unfortunately, an email has just arrived on my desktop regarding yesterday's delay. I really don't know why I bother writing to people/schools/organisations/companies to highlight problems as it makes very little, if any, difference and probably only serves to earn me a reputation as a difficult person.

You know, just for once I would like someone to say "We take on board what you say, Mrs Turley. We are really sorry you had a bad experience and we will look into our procedures to make sure this situation can be prevented in the future" - instead of all the usual excuses and waffle.

Ain't never gonna happen. There's more chance of pigs flying. From now on I'm going to stick to being silly. It's a lot more fun.

Right, where's my tickling brush?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pencils Away!

It was Master Jacob's fourteenth birthday yesterday. A few days prior to the great event, he told me that he did not expect any pencils or pencil cases for his birthday. Apparently, they are boring.

How can this be? Every child needs pencils. I simply cannot see the attraction of an Xbox 360 game over a set of HB pencils with gorgeous yellow and black stripes or even some of those glittery ones with the rubbers stuck on the top or, even better, those pencils with the replaceable leads!

I always encourage my boys to buy pencils when we visit tourist attractions so they come away with something really useful. I mean - if there's a choice of a sparkly pencil for 99p or a fluffy duck wearing a military helmet emblazoned with Desmond's Wildlife Farm/ Military War Museum/House of Horrors for £12.50 what sane mother wouldn't encourage their child to buy a really useful gift? Pencils are the choice of every responsible mother.

Am I right, Ladies?

So anyway, as I am also a loving mother I decided to respect Master Jacob's birthday request. I did not buy him pencils. I got him next best thing.

A pencil sharpener.

It was a big one. I am nothing but generous. In size anyway - there's some good deals at the 99p Shop.

My Nominees for the US and UK Elections and Other Waffle

It's the early hours of the morning, and I have had a large gin... Late-night alcohol is always a good recipe for writing gibberish. And...