The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

It Shouldn’t Have Happened To A Teacher – But It Did…The Bench

There was a bus stop near our school that had a long wooden seat nearby set into a strip of grass and a small, engraved plaque on the back rest which said it had been provided by a couple in memory of their daughter. But the seat itself was quite a few years old and was in a state of considerable disrepair.

Our then headteacher, Mr B, was an old school community chap, a former scout leader and active Rotarian. We were a tad undersubscribed and our exam results were the lowest in the borough. He therefore felt a bit of positive PR would not go amiss so during a senior management meeting he suggested that our woodwork department could gain some kudos for the school by bringing the seat in, repairing the several broken slats and give it a bit of an overall facelift. We might even invite a photographer from the local paper.

My colleague deputy head did not appear over enthused, muttering something about it was up to the council. Mr B replied that he had made enquiries, and nobody knew much about the seat’s history or the whereabouts of the couple who had provided it.

An awkward silence ensued so I said I would broach the matter with the head of our craft department if someone else would deal with the media. Mr B had local media contacts via Rotary and said he would handle that.

The next day I went along to the craft workshops and put the head of department in the picture. I stoically endured the predictable ten-minute barrage about time and material and the demands of the syllabus and then he passed me on to Mr W, a younger member of his staff which was good news because this guy was much more imaginative and got better work from the kids.

We decided that a couple of Year 11 lads, Jock and Billy, would be the ideal “volunteers” for the task. They were both good with wood and metal though in several other subjects they could be “challenging”. Their absence for a while from one or two subject area while they worked on the seat would not be particularly unwelcomed. Our head saw it as a win win – good PR for our school and a chance for a pair of our more awkward students to have the opportunity to bathe in the glow of a more positive light.

So, the appointed day came. The plan was for Mr W to take Jock and Billy to the seat with some tools, supervise them detaching the seat from the base while the press photographer did a bit of papping then walk back to school with the tools while Jock and Billy carried the seat.

In actual fact the seat was more awkward to carry than anticipated so Mr W found himself well ahead of the lads when he heard a lot of shouting. He turned around to see a little old lady had turned up out of the blue and was waving her stick at Jock and Billy and shouting “vandals” thieves” “scum” while the photographer was standing open mouthed and cars were stopping on the road.

Jock and Billy had dropped the seat and were covering their heads, frightened that she was going to hit them with her stick.

Fortunately, I was already standing at the school gate waiting for the seat to be brought on so I rushed towards the fray – much to the relief of Mr W who simply was not used to this sort of public fracas.

I stood between her and the lads in a defensive posture still anticipating a blow from her stick but the sight of a suit and tie must have not quite fitted into her perception of a couple of louts stealing a seat in order to smash it up in an orgy of vandalism.

Fortunately she paused to take a breath and I was able to explain that far from smashing it up we were taking it into the school to repair it and make it presentable again. She looked shamefaced and started to cry and Jock, the hard knuckled toughie from Glasgow took her in his arms and gave her a cuddle while Billy dragged out a grubby handkerchief to wipe her tears and I whispered to the camera guy “Take a f******* pic now” but it didn’t register so he never got the pic that could have gone viral.

I suggested to the lady that she walked with us to the woodwork centre so she could watch the lads start on the seat. But instead, when they reached the workshop, they dropped the seat and sat her down and made her a brew and we all listened as she told us how she’d seen local youths vandalising the bus stop and the seat in the past and decided she wasn’t going to take it anymore.

After she went I told the lads how proud I’d been of their unusually restrained reaction the her tirade. “That’s nothing, Mr R. You should see my nan last term when you rang her and said I was excluded for a week for swearing at Mr Y – I had to keep out of her way for three days until she calmed down……nothing worse than when you let down your nan”

I remembered then that like a few other “challenging” youngsters in our school Jock had been sent down from Scotland to live with his seventy five year old grandmother. I could just imagine the strain and stress of having to cope with an awkward teenager when your contemporaries were relaxing with a cup of tea and a bingo card. But I also knew that Jock thought the world of his grandmother.

A few days later Jock and Billy had repaired and refurbished the seat, it was returned to site and the local paps were there while the head made a little speech congratulating the two lads. We had hoped to invite the little old lady to take part in the ceremony but in all the upheavals none of us had remembered to take her name and address, the pap had failed to snap her and none of us had recognised her. As Billy said she just looked like someone’s nan.

Some weeks later, after I spotted Jock by the bike sheds when he should have been waxing lyrical about Jane Austen and he was able to dog his fag before I could actually catch him in the act and was walking him back to his English lesson, he suddenly brought up the mystery of the old lady.

“Funny how nobody knew her, sir. I reckon she could have been the ghost of the mum who put up the seat in the first place”.

“Could be, could be, Jock” I said “Almost as much of a ghost as that cigarette you were smoking by the bike shed…”

He just grinned and walked towards another exciting date with Jane Austen….


posted by david in Education,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on It Shouldn’t Have Happened To A Teacher – But It Did…The Bench

My Mum’s Schooldays in 1924 and a Story of Friendship

My mum’s class in her South London elementary school in Brixton in 1924 when she was 10. Not all the kids were the same age because in those days classes were organised in Standards so you didn’t automatically move up each year.

mum's class 1924

One teacher, nearly 50 kids – as she was a woman her pay would be lower and she had to stay single because, if she married, she would be sacked.  No exams and most kids left at 14 but my grandmother thought mum should stay on for another year when she would be bigger! She was then apprenticed to a West End milliner because “women would always wear hats”….

mum's class 1924 - Copy (4)

My mum, Marjorie James as she was is highlighted in red in this pic and her friend, Phoebe in green. Phoebe was a Jewish girl who joined the school late. Mum didn’t know her but saw her crying in the playground on her first day surrounded by some of the kids taunting her and chanting “dirty  jewgirl”  She went up to her, stood beside her and told the others she was her friend and to leave her alone.

That was typical of my mum. She didn’t have much to do with church and I never saw her reading a book on ethics but she had a moral strength equal to fifty bishops. She believed actions spoke louder than words. “You don’t SAY right” she told me once when I had been rather unpleasant to someone else “You DO right!!!”

Mum and Phoebe remained friends until parted by death in the 1980s.

Here they are, strolling along the seafront ten years later in 1934….the girls are back in town….lol..

m ph ad 1934 - Copy

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posted by david in Family,Personal and have Comments Off on My Mum’s Schooldays in 1924 and a Story of Friendship

Beware – Cameron’s Plan To Turn Schools Into Child Minding Facilities Is A Ploy To Bind Families Closer To The State

So it’s official – schools exist not to be places of learning where children acquire the social, intellectual and emotional skills to inherit and improve on their common cultural inheritance but are essentially child minding facilities designed to relieve parents of the responsibility of bringing up their own offspring.

The traditional 9am to 3pm school day does not always fit the demands of working parents, and not enough schools offer before- and after-school activities that meet childcare requirements, according to a new Government report. Childcare is a “major concern” for families, with parents often finding it difficult to arrange the right care at the right price, it says.

It’s convenient with employers because it helps to expand the workforce and maintain a pool of cheap labour. It sends a message to consumers that it’s fine to spend rather than save – goodbye deferred gratification, hello I want it now. Above all it binds families closer to the state and undermines the spirit of independence, the sheer awkward bloody mindedness that made our forefathers suspicious of government.

It’s a poisoned chalice – but do we have the will to dash it from our lips?



posted by david in Education,Family,Liberty,UK Politics and have Comments Off on Beware – Cameron’s Plan To Turn Schools Into Child Minding Facilities Is A Ploy To Bind Families Closer To The State

English Schoolchildren Are Starving, Claims Spurious “Survey”

Final proof from the UK Guardian (and BBC) that the cabal of Old Etonian toffs who now hold Britain in an iron grip is ruthlessly implementing its master plan – nothing less than the extermination of the proletariat by starving their children and ensuring the gradual extinction of Socialism’s natural constituency, the working classes.

A sixth of teachers are spending up to £25 a month buying bread, fruit and snacks to feed pupils who turn up to school without having eaten breakfast, according to the findings of a survey.
Almost four out of five teachers reported an increase in the prevalence of pupils arriving at school hungry over the last 12 months.

OMG – there are 438,000 teachers in English state schools – so 17,800 are spending their own money to feed their students. ….and 350,400 of them are reporting that children are coming into school starving.

Is it time, therefore, to grab the red flags, axes and molotov cocktails and surge into the streets, marching behind Polly Toynbee and bob Crowe as they lead crowds of millions into Whitehall, ready to storm the fortress of the Cameron regime?
Not quite because, if you delve a little deeper into the article you will find the numbers are based on a survey……

of 500 UK teachers carried out by food company Kellogg’s

500 – which is 0.11% of all state school teachers in England.

Kellogg’s – a manufacturer of breakfast cereals.

Kellogg’s – whose charitable arm has been organising and funding breakfast clubs in schools since 1998.

Kellogg’s – which almost certainly has a database of names of teachers associated with breakfast clubs..

Hardly a random sample from a disinterested party – but enough to generate several items on various news outlets featuring sad eyed parents and, naturally, Jamie Oliver . Inevitably there was fingerpointing

half of teachers also attributed increased pupil hunger to “financial hardship” caused by government spending cuts, unemployment and rising living costs,

The answer? What else but more government support for breakfast clubs.

However, to be fair to the Guardian and BBC, two thirds of the teachers surveyed blamed “parent apathy”. Many parents are too disorganised to provide a brerakfast for their children, having neither the “time” or the “inclination”.

Note that crucial point. Many kids missed breakfast, not because their parents couldn’t afford to buy food – but because they are too bloody ignorant to make sure their kids eat a breakfast. Ergo the government should reward their ignorance by getting those parents who do provide a breakfast to finance the others via taxation.

The fact is that breakfast clubs, like after school clubs, are essentially child minding tools so that working parents can dump their children so they can go out and earn money. Government subsidies would mean that they get the extra bonus of free child care on top of their earnings.

You can smell the teacher unions involvement in this “campaign” with the mere mention of “cuts”. It’s yet another bogus bit of propaganda using spurious “research” to justify a self fulfilling prophecy – and gain more space at the trough for those associated with such campaigns….

Also, wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that another set of gurus were saying that UK kids eat too much?

posted by david in Education,Food & Drink and have Comments Off on English Schoolchildren Are Starving, Claims Spurious “Survey”

Shame On The Daily Mail For Praising Mother Who Took Her Son Out Of School For 11 Days To Attend Her Wedding

To understand one of the main reasons why, despite massive spending, British secondary school students are under achieving in comparison with their peers in Eastern Europe and East Asia, look no further than this report in the UK Daily Mail.

Mother hauled before a court for taking her son, 13, out of school to attend her Caribbean wedding
• Frances White refused to pay town hall fine for her son’s 11-day absence
• She had asked Marple Hall School for permission a year in advance
• When headteacher refused, she took her son to St Lucia wedding anyway
• The 31-year-old is due to appear before magistrates next week

An eleven day Caribbean wedding – just one example of how bloated the wedding industry has become. Once, of course, second weddings were fairly discreet affairs, quietly despatched in modest registry offices with no bridal gown or over populated reception. Even first weddings were generally organised within a limited budget so that the balance could help furnish the first home.

But no more of that – modern brides want the gowns and the beanfeast and the furniture and the exotic honeymoon for every one of their weddings and a gargantuan industry has grown to feed those wishes – strange, really, at a time when more than half the couples living together are not married….marriage is dying but weddings are big business…

So Frances wanted her big exotic wedding and she wanted her thirteen year old son to give her away and to create a memorable moment for all involved then she wanted him as part of the honeymoon….want, want, want, want….. then the school had to spoil her dream by pointing out that she could have chosen to get married some time during the thirteen weeks the school was closed.

But, she sobbed, that would be too expensive and it would spoil her dream….so she took her two sons out of school for the eleven days and immediately sent a signal to us all that education is a low priority in her world.

Of course, one can say, the world (especially the UK it seems) is full of people who prefer their gratification instant rather than deferred, so why make a fuss?

The fuss, my friends, is not to do with Frances White who, in every other way, is probably a loving and caring parent – it’s to do with a) the attitude of the Daily Mail and b) the views of those readers who commented.

The Mail reported Frances White as a woman wronged by a jobsworth bureaucracy, a view, unfortunately echoed by the majority of the commentators. If DM readers are representative of Middle England (as it frequently claims) then Middle England puts education fairly low on the agenda when faced with weddings and holidays….in other words, schooling must not interfere with our social life, no way, matey….

The Daily Mail has always been drooling with delight at any report of indiscipline in schools or falling standards of attainment – yet whenever a head excludes a pupil for wearing jewellery or not ignoring proper uniform they publish a picture of some little scrote pretending to be downcast plus “parents” who often look like escapees from the cast of “Shameless”. Anybody with half a brain would realise that the exclusion is the final act of a farce that has been going on for months, a deliberate pushing against the boundaries by families who see education not as the key to aspiration but as a drag on their tribal mores.

Interestingly the DM highlighted this in their piece on the OECD Report

British children’s poor reading skills are said to be partly because they spend too much time on computers rather than reading books, but are also a tragic reflection of the education they have received.
Nor has it helped that the UK has a relatively low proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. And having some of the world’s ‘best-educated’ parents has not improved the standards of Britain’s children – raising serious questions about the effective role of parents in UK schools.

Serious questions indeed – and the lack of parental concern in 21st century Britain is buttressed by the Daily Mail which seeks to undermine any attempt by schools to inculcate into parental minds that, unless we publicly value the process of education we shall slip further and further behind countries like China where parents will make every sacrifice to install a love and respect for learning in their children.

Shame on you, Frances White, for sending a message to your sons that schooling should never be allowed to interfere with social pleasures – and a curse on the morons at the Daily Mai – and it’s readers – for proclaiming Frances White as a martyr.

posted by david in Education and have Comments Off on Shame On The Daily Mail For Praising Mother Who Took Her Son Out Of School For 11 Days To Attend Her Wedding

The Dangers Of Bloggers Trawling Foreign Media On Slow News Days….

Young American conservative blogger Tina Korbe at Hot Air is shocked

U.K. schools to kids: No best friends for you!

One speculative quote, no evidence but still a neat hook for a slow news day. I actually like Tina’s more personal style but when she edges towards this going to hell in a handcart schtick all it does is bring out the endoftheworld brigade who always lurk around the edges at Hot Air and fantasise about “socialist” policies and/or Britain becoming a province of the new caliphate.

FYI I have five delightful granchildren who are all in different UK schools and a permanent strand of their conversation is about friendships including the making and the breaking of the same.

Almost all parents and teachers get involved in the fall out when best friendships go sour. I would bet that most of us then advise the child to maintain a wider circle of friends to alleviate the extent of the heartache when these relationships drift apart – which is, I suspect, the reasoning behind the original quotation.

There is no official policy in this matter, no UK government diktat and it was a tad misleading to imply such in the headline and in the opening paragraph….”apparently, they’re a thing”

As in the USA we in the UK have enough official fruitloopery to befuddle our brains without having to invent them so, Tina, do use a little shoeleather to tease out the background before waving flags like these.

Unless, of course, one UK school has decided to import an idea from…….the good old US of A……

BTW…this is an expansion of a comment I made on Tina’s article at Hot Air

posted by david in Education,media,UK,USA and have Comments Off on The Dangers Of Bloggers Trawling Foreign Media On Slow News Days….

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