Thursday, 5 December 2013

Weathering the storm.

In the last week the UK has been shamed once again in the international league tables for educational success, testing children in reading, maths and science. Despite all the tinkering with the education system, there has been little change since the last time this comparison took place and the UK stays firmly in the middle ranks. Some people have insisted that such comparisons and indeed the tests themselves are worthless as they don’t take into account sociological and cultural differences but, of course, education ministers in all the countries which came anywhere beneath the top 25% will be beating themselves up about it.

Finland did very well. Pasi Sahlberg was Finland's chief inspector of schools … until it was decided teachers did not need Ofsted-style surveillance. (I find this particularly ironic as our daughter has been doing a long teaching practice as part of her degree in education, leading eventually to her becoming a primary school teacher. Throughout this time she has been regularly observed, leading to great stress all round.) Now Mr Sahlberg’s job is global spokesman for the Finnish message. There are few exams in the schools. They don’t start school until age 7 and all pupils go to comprehensive schools until age 16. And it seems to work. Of course, it might be easier to organise all this in a country with a total population of 5 million to 5.5 million but I do wonder if our system might have worked better if the comprehensive experiment had been universal. Anyway, here’s a link to an article about this former inspector and the Finnish system.

Boris Johnson, Lord Mayor of London, has been adding his two penn’orth to the education debate, reminding us all that there are natural differences in achievement level but, being Boris, making it sound as though less intelligent meant less important in every way – or at least leaving himself open to that interpretation. He then compounded the mess by failing to answer correctly some IQ questions on an LBC Radio phone-in programme.  So an expensive private education doesn’t guarantee success at everything. 

All of this has been overshadowed today by the weather, in typical UK fashion. High winds have brought chaos to the British Isles. Scotland has suffered badly (Will this affect decions about leaving the UK? I wonder.) People in the South East of England have been evacuated this evening as there is risk of flooding from tidal surges. There are some advantages then to living more or fairly to the foothills of the Pennines. We might get some snow on occasion but at least we don’t, so far and touching wood, risk flooding. 

Here is a picture of Blackpool suffering from high tides. I wonder if my home town of Southport, famous for people not being able to see the sea, suffered from similar high tides. 

 Mind you , Blackpool’s waves were as nothing compared to Whitehaven in Cumbria, not too far to the North and they didn’t suffer from the flooding that took place in Rhyl. 

Further weather reports to come in future blogs.

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