Saturday, May 26, 2007

OFSTED sounds like a disease.

OFSTED sounds like a disease. It is a stress-related disorder teachers suffer from. We have just got over it. The overall result was OK but the cost in stress and lost sleep was not worth it. I had a lucky escape. One of their days was Wednesday and I don't teach at all on Wednesday. On the Tuesday one of my colleagues was very stressed out because her year 9s had been playing up and OFSTED came in. My year 9s played up but OFSTED didn't come in. I don't like feeling relieved when someone else is so unhappy. Schadenfreude.

However it is over now. There was a very subdued atmosphere on Friday for the morning of the INSET day because we were discussing the new performance management requirements and the input from County was entirely negative - you must do this, you will be penalised if you don't do that, etc etc. And they didn't mention professional development or fostering initiative or new ideas. It was all results driven and linked to pay. Payment by results in fact.

So there it is. One crisis over and another begins. I am quite philosophical about it sometimes and in despair at other times. And people look to me to "do something" about performance management. I am not the NUT rep at the school and the rep did ask some pertinent questions at the meeting.

Part of me wants to withdraw from union activity and go and dig the garden. And another part of me knows that would be giving up on life altogether. And fatal.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Victoria victorious

Victoria Wood's triumph at the BAFTAs put me in mind of her song, the Ballad of Barry and Freda.

The full text is here

But here is a taste:

Let's do it!
Let's do it!
I feel I absolutely must.
I won't exempt you,
Want to tempt you,
Want to drive you mad with lust.

No cautions,
Just contortions!
Smear an avocado on me lower portions.
Let's do it!
Let's do it tonight!

And he said:I can't do it.
I can't do it.
It's really not my cup of tea.
I'm harassed,
I wish you hadn't picked on me.

No dramas!
Give me me pyjamas.
The only girl I'm mad about is Judith Chalmers.
I can't do it.
I can't do it tonight.

And she said:Let's do it!
Let's do it!
I really want to run amok.
Let's wiggle.
Let's jiggle.
Let's really make the rafters rock.

Be mighty.
Be flighty.
Come and melt the buttons on me flameproof nightie.
Let's do it!
Let's do it tonight!

Let's do it!
Let's do it!
I really want to rant and rave.
Let's go,
'Cause I know
Just how I want you to behave:

Not bleakly,
Not meekly.
Beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly.
Let's do it!
Let's do it tonight!.

("Woman's Weekly" is a magazine before anyone gets any arcane visions at this point!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nominate Martin for NUT VP

I received this today. I am delighted that Socialist Party Teachers have taken this step.

16 May, 2007
Dear Colleague:
The pressures facing teachers have never been greater. The demands on schools to ‘raise standards’ have created intolerable workload for staff and a joyless curriculum for our students. The divisions between schools are widening as this Government seeks to make comprehensive schooling run by a democratic Local Authority a thing of the past. Unless defeated, the twin attacks of an imposed pay freeze and new performance management regulations will further strengthen the grip of divisive ‘payment by results’ on education.

The National Union of Teachers has to show its members that we can turn the tide. With determined effort, school reps and local officers have won important victories through individual casework and local disputes. But the pressures only grow greater. The continuing stress of working in our underfunded and divided schools is taking its toll on teachers and on Local Association officers struggling to do the best they can to defend NUT members.

The 2007 National Officer Elections are an opportunity to strengthen our leadership. Local Associations need the support of a President who understands the pressures facing classroom teachers, can express their discontent, and help offer a strategy to take us forward.

We urge your Association to give one of your two nominations for Vice-President to Martin Powell-Davies. Martin will already be well known to many as Lewisham NUT’s Secretary since 1992. He has regularly been a pivotal contributor to Annual Conference debate and an articulate campaigner for teachers’ interests in school and public meetings, inside the Union and to the media. By electing him as Vice-President, NUT members can ensure that his skills and determination can also be used to strengthen the National Union.

Martin argued forcefully at Annual Conference 2007 that a strategy of defending members through individual school disputes alone is totally inadequate. As National Officer, he will campaign for the Union to lead from the front and build support for the national action that is required if we are to seriously tackle the national attacks we face.
The unanimous vote to prepare for national strike action to protect our pay was an important step forward. Martin will be campaigning within the Union to make sure that this policy is put firmly into practice, answering those who will try to find reasons not to stand firm, while forging links with other public sector unions to build strong united action.
Please do put Martin’s name forward at your Association meeting and/or in any ballot held for nominations by the closing date of September 30th 2007. If you would like to add your personal support alongside ours, invite a speaker to your Association, order copies of Martin’s campaign materials, or to donate to the campaign, please contact the address below.
Alison Long, Assistant Secretary, & Gabby Mullins, President, Lewisham NUT
Tim Woodcock, Divisional Secretary, & Joanne Sanderson, Membership Secretary, Greenwich NUT
Robin Pye, Secretary, St. Helens NUT Jane Nellist, Joint Secretary, Coventry NUT
Linda Taaffe and Julie Lyon-Taylor, members of the NUT National Executive
Phil Clarke, NUT Young Teachers Advisory Committee

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bloggers of the World Unite!

The American military is deeply concerned that soldiers are "telling it like it is" to friends and family and this could harm recruitment.

On the pretext of reducing bandwidth and keeping the military networks free for their intended purpose they have imposed blanket bans on bloggers. Soldiers can only access the internet through defence department computers and often it is the way they keep in touch with friends and family. The trouble is they are not peddling the party line all the time in their blogs.

The corporate media lie about the war. The soldier bloggers have been doing something to redress the balance. The realities behind the gung-ho Fox News presentation of the war is unacceptable to the military.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins
ISBN 0199291152
Publisher Oxford University Press

I have just finished reading this and it is a thoroughly
interesting book by a master in the field. One also gets the
impression that Dawkins is just a little mischievous in
upsetting existing prejudices, particularly religious ones.

The book is very easy to read and reduces some of the more
complex theories to an easily digested form. Contrary to
popular belief - the belief of those who haven't read the
book itself, just some reviews, Dawkins is far from
endorsing "Social Darwinism." Just because our genes are
selfish is no good reason for us to be.

Human history is full of examples of co-operation winning
out against competition. An example Dawkins does not use is
trade unionism. In the opening chapter he refers to trade
unionists as "selfish" - without making any reference to the
global corporations the trade unions are ranged against. You
can imagine how they would respond to individual employees
who wanted higher pay or better conditions. "You're fired"
is the standard response here. Trade unions emerged from a
realisation that the selfishness of the employers could be
met with collective bargaining.

And having said all that - read the book.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sarkozy wins

Sarkozy has won the French election. He will cause a civil war. He says he now represents the French people although he calls the poor scum ("racaille") and urges the police to beat them up.

He intends to force through a neo-liberal agenda (worsening of working conditions and wages and the removal of workers' rights which have been successfully defended in France). He will do it with a vengeance and all the power of the gendarmerie. His claims to seek reconciliation echo Margaret Thatcher's "where there is discord let us bring harmony." Not many people confused her with Francis of Assisi for long!

Whereas in England we would grumble or write a letter to the newspapers when the government does something outrageous. They have this "out on the streets and build barricades" response in France.

And the first thing that happened when the teacosy won? Tony Blair congratulated him

Enough said really.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Notes on a Scandal

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and in many ways the film was even better with the superb performance by Judy Dench.

One of the most chilling comments on the story was from a teachers' discussion group, "I could recognise all of the staff!" and reading the book, I found myself saying "I know him, I know her, I know *two* of her."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Omar must not be deported to Libya

This is charming. Omar Deghayes has been imprisoned without charge or trial by the Americans. New Labour's response? Hand him over to the Libyan government which killed his father!

On Tuesday (1 May), The Brighton Argus carried a story about Save Omar’s request that Des Turner, the Deghayes family’s MP, goes to Washington to help secure Omar’s release.

The story has a link that you can click to show your support for Omar Deghayes and his family. PLEASE SEND IN A MESSAGE OF SUPPORT TODAY.

Here is the link (if you can't click it, try copying it and pasting it in):

You can read Tuesday's Save Omar story on-line ( and it is also copied below. The dossier of letters Des Turner is collecting for presentation to the Home Office was also brought to Argus reader’s attention. If you could get your letter to him within A WEEK that would be great (info about this letter in an 2.5.07 email called Letters to the Home Office: Bring Omar Home)

Supporters of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Deghayes want an MP to fly to Washington to plead his case.
Campaigners from the Save Omar pressure group met Brighton Kemptown MP Des Turner on Saturday.
Mr Deghayes, a Saltdean law student and Libyan national, has been imprisoned without charge in the notorious detention centre since he was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.
His supporters want him to be returned to Britain rather than Libya, where they claim his life would be in danger.
His brother Abubaker said: "I hope we can act quickly enough to make sure Omar is not sent to Libya.
"Libyan officials have already visited him and Guantanamo and said they would kill him like they killed my father.
"I want to thank everyone for speaking out for justice for my brother. We just need the Government to listen."
Representatives of the Church of England, Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum, the Green Party, the Labour Party and Respect met Mr Turner at the Friends Meeting House to discuss how to secure Mr Deghayes' release to Britain.
In March, British prisoner Bisher al-Rawi was released after MP Ed Davey petitioned for his release in Washington.
Mr Turner said he would consider making a similar trip to the US - but said his Parliamentary duties come first.
He told The Argus: "It's something I'll be looking at. It is not easy for me to do - you can't just walk away from Parliament."
He has pledged to hand a dossier of letters from Mr Deghayes's supporters to the Home Office, asking ministers to approve Mr Deghayes's return to Britain.
He said: "We'll be stepping up the pressure on the Home Office in particular to get a decision on Omar's future location.
"It is quite clear it will be very helpful if the Home Office would agree to allow Omar back into the country. It could very well be what triggers his release."
Campaign spokeswoman Louise Purbrick said: "This is the broadest range of people we have brought together in a single room, people spoke on behalf of the Church of England, Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum as well as from Respect, the Green Party and the Labour Party.
"We felt that if we can act together to call for Omar's return we could win through the government bureaucracy."
Cori Crider from Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 37 Guantanamo detainees, stated: "The political tide is turning in the US against Guantanamo. The UK can help them close the place down by bringing back its residents. It has done so for Bisher al-Rawi already. The position that Guantanamo should close but that they have no responsibility to help its residents is untenable."
Hangleton and Knoll council election candidate Maggie Clifford, of the Respect party, said: "Omar should be home in the UK and it is a travesty that he continues to be held in Guantanamo Bay after five years in inhumane circumstances.
"I call on the MP for Omar, Des Turner, to visit Washington and add increased pressure for Omar to be brought home now. I also ask for his family to have access to information on Omar's well-being and contact with him immediately."