Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Green Paradox

As I understand it, we should all be making changes in our lives to combat global warming. So why do the government allow the railways to put up their prices, in some cases by 14%. The journey from Ashford in Kent to London now costs just under £90 per week. It would cost a lot less over a month by car. Surely the way ahead is to reduce the prices so that it becomes more economical for commuters to travel by train. The lower the prices the more users. It is simple economies of scale and after all aren't we the taxpayer still subsidising the railway companies.

Air travel for which we now pay a fuel tax, an airport tax, and any other kind of tax they can think of is one of the most exhaustive ways of using our natural resources, so why are we building or allowing a Spanish company to build a new giant terminal to have more passengers from the extra planes that will land at the new runway. How green is that?

Surely the way ahead is to drop the taxes for those airlines who are green and raise them for those who are not. Give tax discounts for the development of airships, which are not as inflammable as everyone suggests, after all with all the space technology that we have devloped over the years, surely we can come up with a solution. The Hindenburg was a very very long time ago. Commercial airship to transport passengers internally , and don't forget that because they don't need a runway they can actually place the travellers in the centre of any city. Doesn't that make for a more green alternative than the present solution.

With the new revelation that secondary schools are too large and should be divided into smaller schools, is a good idea; where? I am all for more local schools, it gives a sense of community, it enables parents to walk their children to and from school, so stopping school rage and the use of unnecessary fuel. It also enables teachers to have more control over the classes and the school environment, to stop bullying, discrimination or even just to be able to stop firefighting and start teaching. But where? The old schools that existed are now built upon. Luxury gated communities now stand where playing fields once were. This was a fantastic idea and an opportunity missed.

The whole idea should have included energy efficient and green sources. Solar panneling, triple glazing, wind turbines, a certain amount of ground as an allotment, to be used as an sustainable recycling plant, a teaching resource, (especially in terms of botany, nutrition, and social skills), new kitchens with experienced staff so that the allotment kids and other members of the school can actually eat what has been grown, plus a policy of building new schools in deprived areas, with a policy of zero tolerance by the police, the staff and the magistrates on vandalism. Each school should have its own cctv system, both inside and outside. Punishments for children should include picking up the litter around the school. If the consistent offenders are not rehabilitated then the parents should be made to do it at the same time. For some parents this may be the longest one to one time thay have ever spent with their child, but also disruptive children should be rewarded for changing. Given the opportunity for extra subjects that they might find really interesting, like videogame graphics or design. This could be held at the local college on a day release system. The good kids get to go to the local college for individual study, the bad kids stay at the school and pick up litter, or turn the compost. School uniform should be compulsory, but not just given to a child and told this is it, but actually explain why they have to wear it and what it means, to them to be part of a society. When a detention is given, it should be that night, and not have to get the parents permission. Punishment should be swift, instant and have an effect. Children of all ages have to learn to take the conequencies of their actions. I wish politicians would do the same.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


The Government is considering a proposal to raise the age at which formal reading teaching takes place with an American educational expert asserting that formal teaching of reading to children under 7 can do more harm than good and that boys in particular suffer from such a passive activity.

This says more about the purpose and delivery of teaching than anything else i can think of. My wife read with and encouraged our children to read from birth onwards, Starting with picture books that were highly repetative my children both took great delight in apparently reading (when they were in fact repeating lines learnt by rote) because the repetition that goes with early readers fits with one of the main ways in which children learn.

Reading is fundamental to gaining knowledge (and avoids a lot of painful and dangerous trial and error), and knowledge, as they say, is power.

The Department for education describes our primary education system as at its healthiest for years, at the same time that figures are released for the increasing number of children leaving primary school without basic literacy skills.

For once DC seems to have identified one interesting point, whcih is teaching children according to ability rather than age.

All of this suggests that children can learn to read from a very early age and there are massive advantages to this being the case. However, it is our idea of what consitutes formal education that needs to change. In particula the understandin that at primary level classes need to be much, much smaller so that teaching can genuinely meet the need to findividual pupils rather than being a one-size-fits-all conglomerate that leaves some struggling and some bored.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The Queen's Speech

So the new education idea is to keep kids in education until 18. Some how this doesn't seem to be addressing the major problems in educcation nor does it seem to have taken any advice from those who work at the chalk-face. Where are the smaller class sizes, greater pay and training for staff, more discipline, money for resources and security, offers of vocational training for those less academically gifted? Forcing kids to stay on is not the same as taking 16 year olds with few qualifications and giving them a trade or skills by which they can earn money and consequently contribute tax.

Of course we need new housing, but it needs to be specifically for first time buyers and essential services. We need council houses to replace the stock sold off in the 80s. We need to restrict buy to let and penalise second home ownership. We also need to address the rising population. We need to learn how to educate and motivate our current citizens to fill the jobs available not discard those current citizens who then become disillusioned and potentially criminal by allowing cheap foreign labour to flood the market or reliance on skilled workers to fill positions when we have so many graduates who cannot find work.

Health, yet more regulation. We need to get rid of managers and replace them with practitioners. We need to fund capacity not units, afterall, nobody has suggested we need to pull the army out of Iraq because we've run out of money.

Climate change require an holistic approach not a piecemeal one. Let's put more funding into renewable and clean energies. Subsidise solar panels, increase recycling by offering incentives as well as by taxing. This requires a concerted and cross party effort drawing on expertise that lies in industry and academe, not just a few nice words.

So we are going to hold people without charge from 28 to 56 days. Why? If you can't find any evidence after 28 days what makes you think you'll find it after 56. Why can't the suspect simple be put under house arrest? Or re-arrested? If someone really is identified to the point where they need to be arrested then surely any security force worth its salt has the evidence already.

And the rest?

Little change, so more of the same. The Blair/Brown machine rumbles on with the Conservatives complaining that Labour are stealing all their ideas, reinforcing the notion that Labour and Conservative are now simple shades of the same colour.

What the country needs is change, but one where each step is spelt out in terms of the specific benefit it will bring. It also needs some coherency. It also needs to be more inclusive. What's wrong with asking teachers how they think education could be improved, or nurses the healthservice, or police officers law?

Friday, 2 November 2007

reading & writing

The government announced that their policy of trying to get children to read by throwing money at it has not worked. How is it that a child can go through nearly a decade of education without learning to read? It must have come up at some point during the lesson, their non completion of homework might have been a clue. What strategies have been put in place to combat this at an early stage?
The way to get children to read is to teach them. They should be taught according to their ability, not their age, and parents should take resposibility for this as well, in the age of cheap books, where a childs book can be bought at a charity shop for 10 pence, there is no excuse for not reading to children, or taking the time to listen to them read. If one in five children cannot read when they leave primary school, then that is one in five of the population that has the potential to end up in prison. Thats scary isn't it?
It also comes down to something that I have mentioned before, the inability of continuous governments to understand that the best way to teach children is in smaller classes. This means recognising the worth of teachers, paying them a decent salary, and more important turn them back into a profession, not a service.
The whole system of education in this country is crumbling and needs to be readdressed. By closing schools only to reopen them as acadamies is not the way. Look at Royal Mail as an example of that procedure. Education needs a rethink, it needs to put the children first and by that I mean that all schools no matter where they are should have the same standards, if they havent then its not the children or the teachers who are failing its the government policy.
We have become a nation obseesed by what things cost not what their worth.
Some children can't read because they have been let down by the system, but what excuse is there for politicians who wont hear.
As a tangent to the schools criteria, how about reopening some of the local schools. Small cottage schools where children know each other and so do the parents. Where the teachers live in the area and strangely enough maybe within walking distance. Is it just me or are the roads a lot clearer when the schools are on holiday.
How about building some smaller community schools and just to keep the bills down how about making themgreen and energy sustainable or is that too radical?