The Horse’s Snigger

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The following italicised section is straight from the horse’s mouth: Ofsted head Amanda Spielman speaking at the Festival of Education on 23rd June, 2017. For those of us who for many years knew Ofsted mainly as an instrument of policing successive government dictates about exam-based target setting and verdicts of school progress/success focused entirely on this – for example, arriving to inspect an establishment having already decided a judgement on the basis of pure data – this has all the sound of a classic snigger.

Speaking about her experience of inspecting schools, Spielman observes,

In some of those, I have seen GCSE assessment objectives tracking back into Year 7, and SAT practice papers starting in Year 4. And I’ve seen lessons where everything is about the exam and where teaching the mark schemes has a bigger place than teaching history.

That is not what will set our children up for great futures. Nor will the growing cannibalisation of key stage 3 into key stage 4. Preparing for GCSEs so early gives young people less time to study a range of subjects in depth and more time just practising the tests themselves.

We have a full and coherent national curriculum and it seems to me a huge waste not to use it properly. The idea that children will not, for example, hear or play the great works of classical musicians or learn about the intricacies of ancient civilisations – all because they are busy preparing for a different set of GCSEs – would be a terrible shame. All children should study a broad and rich curriculum. Curtailing key stage 3 means prematurely cutting this off for children who may never have an opportunity to study some of these subjects again.

It is genuinely repugnant for Spielman to act like an enlightened critic of such practice when she will know the dark history of its existence. Whilst making some comic capital out of this in my previous posting – though I trust the disdain underpinned – I do think this, and the rest of her observations which can be read here, take the art of patronising and platitudinous comment to obscene levels of contradiction.

Irony and Baloney

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In the annals of being late – which is a litotes as well as a double entendre and also a straightforward exasperation – the announcement by Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, that schools should not be exam-factories and will be inspected and reprimanded/punished/flogged/ridiculed or whatever if they are, because if they are, and I quote, This all reflects a tendency to mistake badges and stickers for learning itself.  And it is putting the interests of schools ahead of the interests of the children in them has to be the most absurd about-turn, volte-face, U-turn, back-track, back-passage pontification of effluence from those responsible for decades of misery in education that I have heard for, well, decades.

I know there are knowing people out there in education who have said this might be a ‘groundbreaking’ announcement [teachers forever live in hope and fantasy and good intentions], but for all those students already harmed by years of exam-factory education, and all those teachers who have been harmed by exam-factory education [yes, my hand is waving in the air], this is the grossest example of a monumental dung-heap of irony I have smelt in nearly 40 years of being an educator and sniffer-outer of rank baloney.

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The Mogg’s Folderal

Jacob Rees-Mogg 'My Haven' Living room of his Somerset home

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an articulate, erudite man, and he can be a pleasure to listen to in his calm authority – when he is calm – though his political views are anathema.

I wrote recently here about his uncharacteristic linguistic outburst when interviewed by Jon Snow; however, on today’s Preston on Sunday, The Mogg was much more assured being quizzed by Robert P, and one of his final comments was to refer to the Sunday newspaper speculations on Theresa May’s survival as Prime Minister as folderal, another gem from this man’s sophisticated if antiquated vocabulary.

It made me wonder if The Mogg was aware of the album Folderal by Nigel & the Dropout because four of its songs seem most apt in considering May’s continued leadership of this country:


Pulled Over, Pulled Under


Concussive Maintenance

In Media Res

There’s a sudden roll and roar
of percussion in media res on
Disc 6, which is Symphony No. 9
by Vaughan Williams, having
heard the 8th in D minor, this one
in E, the Moderato maestoso,
so just into the first movement,

yet it isn’t and instead a plane
passing overhead with the window
opened at the desk where I listen,
marking students writing in Latin,
yet they don’t and instead – like this
sound not in media res which would

be near the end of the 2nd, Andante
sostenuto, as if I understand
Italian – are playing with terms
like drum-thunder in a narrative
making noise flying above and so
unable to hear the real words below.

Radiohead at Glastonbury, June 2017

[for Ana]

I lost myself
is a chorus
echoing from the crowd
as the concert ends

and I wonder when
it hit you,
that plaintive note
amidst the reverie

where nostalgia is both
joy and pain,
remembering how years
have gone –

and, of course,
my refrains played out
so many times before,
lost or found.

For you it could have been
at the metaphor of an
Airbag, its sudden
jolt on how those dreams

are lost
even if in what was found.
And did we think it all OK
together in the dining room,

my discovery of a new
psychedelia in the Paranoid,
you having already

Tonight, Karma is
resolution rather than
retribution, an evening out
of lives

late into the dark.
Music always held us tight and
you’ll have missed being there,
and me, you here.