Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A diamond for the teacher

Proof if proof were needed that we really are "all in it together". The Tatler magazine (quoted in the i newspaper, I don't read it myself) revealed that parents at seriously posh private schools (the kind to which cabinet members and Tatler readers send their offspring) are showering the teachers with lavish gifts.

These include diamond necklaces, a Hermes handbag and the keys to the parents' foreign villa. A head teacher was also singled out by a chauffeur who delivered a case of burgundy in exchange for a tour of the school and an expected place for his child. The Tatler does not make clear whether they are outraged by the blatant bribery or the thought of a mere servant trying to get in to an exclusive school.

The Tatler complains that the gifting culture is becoming increasingly aggressive and manipulative. Personally, I blame Thatcher.

The Classroom Teacher Manual (recently updated) is based on 33 years teaching and 16 years running a helpline for teachers. I can always use some positive reviews on Amazon (hint)

Monday, April 28, 2014


Jane Nellist (Coventry NUT and National Executive) was the first person ever to use the word “menopause” at the conference of the NUT. Teachers who have been classed as “outstanding” one year can suddenly find they are “in need of improvement” the next. Capability procedures are supposed to be used sensitively to help teachers improve their capability. It is worth reminding your head of this from time to time. They can also be used to remove teachers who are experienced and therefore expensive so that they can be replaced by younger and cheaper teachers.
There was also a strong indication in the debate that older teachers who know the ropes are more likely to be “bolshie” (A term I never use myself!) about some of the more insane changes management may wish to introduce or the latest fad in education or brainchild of the fevered secretary of state for education.
And in addition to all these pressures the hidden and hitherto unmentioned problem of changes brought about by the menopause exacerbates everything. Trying to cope with hot flushes and male colleagues who are unsympathetic or worse find them funny is no joke and the business of raising consciousness about this problem has only just begun.

There is a website which offers advice and information for people going through the menopause http://www.menopausematters.co.uk/ but alongside that there needs to be a discussion in the union which the Coventry resolution has begun.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How Children Learn now available in Kindle format

If you are ever tempted with a sneaking suspicion that what the Conservative Right in general (and Michael Gove in particular) are saying about education is frankly ridiculous nonsense, this book is for you. Whenever educational theory of any kind is mentioned the Secretary of State for Education very publicly puts his fingers in his ears and goes "Yadda Yadda Yadda." He is such an example of adult behaviour. This book is the work of John Holt who, unlike the wiseacres, has actually worked with real children and noted the way they learn. This pedagogy is at odds with the top-downwards Gradgrind curriculum favoured by the Conservative backwoodsmen and it is well worth a look. I am delighted that this classic is now available in Kindle format

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's the bishop - call the cops

As soon as Cameron started telling the world about his "Christian values" you could tell some gaffes were just waiting to happen. Every politician who does this ends up being exposed for questionable behaviour and it is unlikely that Eton Dave would be any different.

In fact the first instalment was to come almost immediately. The dangerous radical Bishop of Oxford went to Cameron's office to deliver a letter protesting about food poverty. And Dave Snooty's flunkeys immediately called the police.

It is just as well Dave Snooty never gets to meet common people because a lot of them are more outraged than the Bishop.





Tuesday, April 22, 2014

League of St George

The League of St George was just a harmless patriotic drinking club, so why did three of its members end up poisoned with cyanide?

The story is included in my Kindle book The SS Dagger and other stories

Sunday, April 20, 2014

From NUT conference

(From NUT conference)

Laura Fisher from Wakefield told us the following:

A shepherd was approached by a man in a smart suit in an expensive car.
"If I tell you how many sheep you have, can I have one of them?"
The shepherd was in a good mood and he assented.
The man then used his laptop and satellite observations and eventually came up with the answer "250"
The shepherd gave him a free choice of the sheep and then said, "If I tell you what you do for a living will you give it back to me?"
The man agreed and the shepherd said immediately, "You are an OFSTED inspector."
The man was flummoxed and demanded to know how the shepherd had worked this out.
"Well it took you ages to find out something I knew already and you clearly haven't got the first idea about my job. Now give me my dog back."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Food bank Britain

Nearly one million people are relying on food banks in Britain. The
massive increase can be directly related to cuts in benefits.
Jobseekers' allowance is basically a means of punishing the unemployed
and even the paltry sums provided have been under attack since October.
The minimum sanction has been raised from one to four weeks and benefits
can now be cut for up to three years.

The DWP's Iain Duncan Smith is at a loss to understand this. When he was
unemployed he had the option of staying in daddy's mansion and having
the servants bring him three meals a day. He certainly didn't need a
food bank so nor do these people.

Trussell's Trust have estimated that there has been an increase in the
number of people using food banks of 163 percent. The rules for applying
to use most food banks are quite strict. People have to be referred by a
care professional such as a doctor and food aid is strictly limited.

The DWP consistently pretend that "people are using food banks more
because there are more food banks." This is possibly the stupidest piece
of logic since it was estimated that if there were fewer firemen there
would be fewer fires.

And of course the opposition are going to do something about this.
Actually no. They have meekly agreed to continue with Tory spending
cuts. All Labour is offering is "more of the same". Vocal opposition is
coming from religious groups and charities who normally keep quiet about
the Conservatives to avoid alienating the public..

TUSC are alone in opposing all cuts. The choice is very simple.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Uniting the unions in education

Phil Clarke writes

UNITY IS STRENGTH - but how can we achieve it?

In 1963, there were 183 different unions affiliated to the TUC. By 1995 this had fallen to 70.

Now, the number is below 60.

The overwhelming reason for this drop in number is mergers between unions. This process in the last decades has involved the creation of massive organisations, most recently and most obviously with the creation of Unite in 2007.

The benefits of merging are perhaps obvious. After all, unity is strength and less duplication of resources, greater financial clout and reduction of different unions representing different grades in the same workplace is to be welcomed.

However there are downsides in some cases. For example, the union can lose specialist understanding of certain parts of its memberships' work and sections of workers in smaller areas can feel uninfluential in these huge organisations.

The teachers' unions, excepting the creation of ATL, have stubbornly refused to follow this trend. This is despite the prospect of combined teachers' unions not carrying the disadvantages that mergers can bring. We are a single workforce that is doing similar jobs on similar terms and conditions regardless of primary or secondary, academy or comprehensive. A combined teachers' union of 600,000-plus would be tremendously powerful, let alone the prospect of an even- larger all-education union.

The huge advantages of one teachers' union or even simply a merger of NUT and NASUWT hardly need to stated. One voice in negotiations, one voice in the media and most importantly every strike that would bring out 80%+ of the teachers in any school or area you care to name.

This situation is recognised by rank and file teachers in the classroom. I would confidently predict that a ballot tomorrow of NASUWT and NUT members would result in a large majority in favour of a merge.

So why hasn’t this necessary unification happened? One factor has to be the relatively stable membership numbers of the major teaching unions. This may mean that classroom teachers facing the fierce attacks on the profession feel the need for unity far more strongly than their respective bureaucracies.

The NUT does have policy far superior to the NASUWT on supporting ‘one union for all teachers’ but the intransigence of the leadership of the second biggest teachers' union means appeals for unity from the top are not enough.

However, even if the NASUWT cannot be persuaded into taking national action alongside the NUT for the moment, the current industrial action campaign opens up real opportunities.

If the NUT announces an ongoing campaign of action, then some NASUWT members could move across to the NUT. It will certainly create the space and atmosphere for the debate on unity to happen in every staffroom.

Alongside bold action to defend members, the NUT needs to be looking at how it can help our members make use of the desire of NASUWT members for one union to encourage them to pressure their own leaders.

Rather than delaying effective action until we have one union, or risking tail ending the NASUWT in the understandable desire for unity, it is a strong combative NUT that will now apply the most pressure towards one union for all teachers.

Phil Clarke (newly elected to the NUT National Executive for Kent / East Sussex for 2014-16)

--   http://derekmcmillan.com

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Maria Miller disappeared dear

Maria Miller disappeared dear
After drawing all that cash.
She's been spending like a sailor.
Did our girl do something rash?

By siding with Maria Miller before stabbing her in the back, Cameron looks weak, corrupt and disloyal all in one go. So never say he has no talents at all :)





Monday, April 07, 2014

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) founded by Bob Crow has a total 440 candidates in the local elections - over one in ten of all the council seats up for election in May. It is good to see Bob Crow's good work is carrying on. Although he was a leader of TUSC the BBC consistently lied by saying he "was not a member of any political party." Still that's the BBC for you.
A full list of the candidates so far, broken down into regions can be found at www.tusc.org.uk/txt/292.pdf.





Saturday, April 05, 2014

Dear Mr Gove!

I have not been on strike because I have retired but I applaud and support the teachers who have been on strike. Retired teachers can still "buy a pint for the strike fund" or hand out a few "Stand Up for Education" leaflets.



based on 16 years of operating a helpline for stressed teachers.

Click here to try Classroom Teacher Manual before you buy it

--   http://derekmcmillan.com

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Listen Granny.

You remember when last week I was teaching you to suck eggs. Remember? Yes. And I said the government were going to give you money and you said no they aren't? Well here it is in the paper today. From 2015 they are going to give you a pound a week. It's marvellous. And what do you have to do? Well you have to give them 890 pounds but they will be much better at looking after your money than you are. Yes I know they never have been but let bygones be bygones. And you will get your 890 pounds all back in eighteen years. No of course it wont be worth the same then. They know all about inflation don't they. Oh and of course you will have to pay tax on every single penny. Well it's only fair isn't it?

The Alfiedog interview

1. What did you like reading as a child?

I really enjoyed Science Fiction and Arthurian stories.

However in truth I read everything on my old dad's bookshelf. So there was

The Call of the Wild

Rubiyat of Omar Khyamm


Practical Mechanics

The Communist Manifesto

and Newsom Encyclopedia

The old man (47) died when I was seven and I felt closer to him when I was reading.

2. Who is your favourite author and why?

Jack London wrote such a variety of stories and he had such a wonderful vocabulary - the volcabulary of the self-taught. He reacted to people and ideas with undiminished wonder that he made them fresh on the page for me to read.

3. What are your recollections of English lessons at school?

On Friday afternoons Mr Owen got us all to sit quietly while he read The Hobbit to us. It gave me the idea that being a teacher was a wonderful job!

 4. You can take one book onto a desert island with you – which one do you take and why?

I could cheat and say The Bible but Desert Island disks usually excludes that. For the possible length of my stay it would have to be The Lord of the Rings with all the appendices. Perhaps I will get to read them all

5. What are you reading at the moment?

“Strangers and Brothers” by CP Snow. The whole series is like a myth of the English middle classes in the twentieth century. He was a scientist and a politician and the books span both those worlds in addition to the legal profession. The story of George Passant, "a child of his time" as he is called, is an introduction to the attempt of the provincial middle class to break out of their backwater isolation into the mainstream of British society. It is a story told with humour and compassion.

 6. Which book do you wish you had written and why?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It has given so much pleasure to so many people. One day I want to do that!