Banging on about the humdrum

A far from humdrum robotic hummingbird developed by Purdue University

A recent tweet made use of the word ‘humdrum’, which set All Change Please! wondering what sort of a musical instrument a Humdrum actually might be.

The suggestion from out there in the electronic universe is that humdrum initially comes from the word ‘hum’ (as in to hum a tune). The word hum was later applied to the hummingbird to describe the thrumming sound of its rapidly beating wings. Hum is an imitative onomatopoeic word, and the repetitious ‘um’ in humdrum is probably meant to capture an idea of dreary, monotonous droning, and so has come to mean boring, uninteresting, commonplace, routine, dull, etc. As in the sound of a teacher’s voice droning on endlessly at the front of the class.

Meanwhile the ‘drum’ also possibly derives from the sound of someone ‘drumming’ their fingers on a table-top. As in the sound of a bored student sitting at a desk or table, drumming their fingers, staring at the ceiling, ignoring everything the teacher is saying and just waiting for the bell to ring to signal the end of the lesson.

But let’s get back to the tweet in which the word humdrum was used. This brief, but provocative, exchange involves the BBC’s surrogate Education Correspondent, your very own Miss_BS.

It’s yet another example of far-right propaganda that deserve a little deconstruction. To begin with, let’s accept that Coltrane practiced his scales as a boy, and that Shakespeare learned the works of Plutarch off by heart. Well, actually no, let’s perhaps instead accept that Shakespeare read the works of Plutarch, was influenced by them and referred to them in his plays. And that Coltrane, born into a musical family, as he was practicing scales was at the same time listening to and absorbing a wide range of creative music, and doubtless playing some melodies of the day too.

The problem with using the humdrum as the basis for the school curriculum is that for the vast majority of active young adults, desperate to forge their own identity and approach to life, the boring old humdrum is the last thing they want to engage with, especially if it’s presented in an academic context which seems to have little relevance to the real world. That’s not to say that practicing scales and learning things by rote should never be undertaken, but the need for it, and the recognition that it has value, has to grow out of an initial creative exploration of the world.

The traditionalists believe that you can’t be creative until you’ve been told and memorised all the relevant knowledge, and that’s what young people should be doing exclusively during their time at school. In reality, rather than coldly following forth the humdrum, creativity and knowledge closely interact, each feeding off each other, working together as two closely interwoven strands. It’s a bit like the ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ conundrum. It’s impossible to say whether a creative idea or the relevant knowledge came first – and as ‘progressives’, who tend to be more open-minded and creative teachers, know and understand well.

Or to put it another way:

The traditionalists just don’t get that.

And our entire education system gets it wrong with teaching because of that one simple misunderstanding.

Well of course the sentence above, like the one in the tweet, is nonsense. There are a whole range of reasons why teaching is not always as good as it might be, but it’s quite ridiculous to suggest it’s all down to whether learning is humdrum or not.

All Change Please! remains curious as to which schools all these so-called extreme left-wing progressive teachers actually teach in en-masse, because all the schools it has ever visited have been staffed by teachers who are essentially academic in approach and largely devoid of creativity. At the same time it wonders how many such schools the hard-core trad tweeters have actually visited, and suspects they exist largely in their own fearful imaginations.

It’s a shame there has to be a propaganda war between so-called traditionalists and progressives – it’s not really very helpful and both sides expend far too much energy fighting each other. Fortunately in the majority of schools there’s some sort of balance between the two approaches, so young people get exposed to both approaches and make their own minds up as to what sorts of learning suit them best. But at the same time, teachers willing to take risks and break away from the past need to be encouraged and supported and feel confident they can stand-up to the barrage of criticism that is hurled at them by the traditionalists.

Learning in the past

Meanwhile, in other related news, the Df-ingE recently published its new music curriculum with a loud triumphal fanfare. Except disappointingly it doesn’t include any ‘new’ music at all, with the required listening being firmly placed within historically well-established genres categorised as ‘Western Classical Tradition (and Film Music)’, ‘Popular Music’ and ‘Musical Traditions’ (i.e. music from other cultures). It seems no mixing of genres is allowed, despite the fact that this is an important characteristic of much contemporary music. And of course there’s a regularly repeated chorus of humdrum traditional musical notation theory thrown in for good measure.

To be fair, it’s good that the ‘model’ curriculum promotes a wide range of influences but there is no inclusion of any music that involves improvisation, or is not based on the use of conventional melodies. There is no reference to composers who took creative risks, experimented and pushed the boundaries of music on during the 20th Century, such as Stravinsky, Stockhausen, John Cage, Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Hendrix and Bowie.

Sadly it has largely become the same with art education these days. In too many schools it’s become a well-rehearsed formulae of choose an established artist, learn how to copy their technique and use it as the basis for your own painting. Whatever you do, don’t take risks, be too experimental or try anything new in case you fail to get your top exam grade. On no account be intuitive, spontaneous or express yourself, don’t ask questions, and above all don’t make too much of a mess.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with learning about and been influenced by a wide range of historical exemplars, but what’s more important is to understand what’s happening today and to be able to anticipate and create the future, and not to just live in the past.

Tweet Of The Day

And finally, our Gav, Df-ingE Secretary in a State about Education has recently been widely criticised for claiming that children’s behaviour will have deteriorated during the pandemic and teachers will need to be extra strict as a result and deprive them of the opportunity of learning how to learn using their mobile phones. This recent Tweet Of The Day provides an alternative, much more positive message to send to the nation’s young people:

Any change of swapping Gavin for Gary?

E is for…

It’s been quite a while since All Change Please! reached up, dusted down and opened up its ‘Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun‘ in which it takes a mildly humorous look at the way things are in our schools and sometimes compares them to life on the parallel universe of Planet Urth.

Finally it’s got to the letter E, which in terms of learning stands for things like Easter, Einstein, Encyclopedias and, of course, Elephants.

Earning Styles

There are three main types of earning styles. Visual Earning is income mainly achieved by artists, photographers, designers, cinematographers, etc. Auditory Earning involves being paid to tell people what they should be doing or thinking, and finally Kinaesthetic Earning which essentially requires getting your hands dirty and receiving payment in cash.

While the assessment and application of different earning styles is generally considered to be very effective in industry, in schools they are considered to be a myth as only auditory earning has been shown to have any impact on written examination results. Thus many traditional teachers continue to endlessly drone on, addressing a class without any reference to visual or kinaesthetic earning.

On Planet Urth, teachers are keen to encourage children to learn how to earn for themselves using a variety of earning styles most appropriate to the purpose and their abilities.

Easter Holidays

In ancient times Easter was a religious festival when everyone went to church and dutifully listened on radio or TV to the Pope’s message from a balcony somewhere in Rome. It has since become an eagerly awaited celebration of the day that God invented the Chocolate Creme-filled Easter Egg.

However, what everyone really wants to know is why is Easter when it is and who works out exactly which weekend it will be each year? The answer is that it is determined by being the first Sunday that follows the first full Moon which occurs on or just after the spring equinox. To confuse everyone even further it was decided to use an alternative ecclesiastical calendar – which defines the date of the equinox as the 21st March even if it isn’t, instead of the more accurate astronomical one that can be the 20th, 21st or 22nd, depending on when it actually is. The name Easter has developed from the name of the goddess Ēostre which was the original name of the month of April. The first full moon that follows the March equinox is also known as the Paschal Full Moon, but we’ll quickly passover that.

Who says you can’t learn anything online?

And isn’t it a remarkable co-incidence that Easter always conveniently falls somewhere in the middle of the academic three-term spring holiday, just when the weather is getting a bit nicer and teachers and students can therefore all take a much longer break than just the Easter weekend.

Einstein

That genius Einstein bloke knew a thing or two when he wrote that ‘Education consists of forgetting all the things you learned in school.‘ As a result, children in our schools must all be very highly educated, though of course it’s difficult to know whether they knew anything in the first place.

On Planet Urth they sensibly therefore have GCSEs in Forgetfulness. The less facts that you can remember, the higher the grade you are awarded. Unsurprisingly many students do very well in this exam and go on to be successful in life, though they can never quite recall how they managed it. Or exactly who that genius Einstein bloke was.

Elementary schools

There’s a classic old joke which goes as follows:
Watson: “What type of school did you go to Holmes?
Holmes: “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

What makes this interesting is that in the original novels, Holmes never utters exactly those words, although on occasion he does come quite close to them. The exact phrase was subsequently invented by others writers and journalists.

Meanwhile, a simple piece of deduction and an entirely reliable internet search reveals the explanation that Holmes could not possibly have attended an Elementary school because he was British, so he would have been to a Primary School. Except that before Primary Schools were re-named as such in the 1944 Education Act they were called Elementary schools, all of which goes to show that you can’t believe anything that you read on the internet.

As you might expect, on the parallel but slightly different Planet Urth, the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” appears regularly in the original novels, written by Sir Arthur Conan The Barbarian. Fortunately this means that know-it-alls are unable to cleverly explain that Holmes never actually says these words and therefore can’t go on to triumphantly proclaim that anyone who thinks Holmes attended a Primary school has no idea what they are talking about and you shouldn’t trust anything you read on the internet.

And anyway, as everyone on Planet Urth knows full well, in real life Holmes was Holmeschooled.

Elephant in the room

Every classroom has an elephant in it. Across the country there are enough elephants in classrooms to stretch from John o’Groats to Lands End, that is providing they stick to the trunk roads. And that elephant in the classroom is the current examination system. You can’t see it, but it’s always there, often sitting still, in complete silence, trying to hide behind a potted plant, under the table, or in the custard at lunch time.

Now as everyone knows, elephants never forget, which is why they are so good assessing knowledge. But unfortunately elephants are not so good at measuring other things, such as the number of buns they’ve eaten or the amount of water they’ve managed to spray over the teacher that morning. Meanwhile another problem with elephants is that they are quite unsuited to setting and grading computer based assessments as they are known to be afraid of mice.

So when it comes to assessing other skills and abilities, what we need are a much wider range of animals in classrooms who between them can measure a much wider range of important real-life things. For example..

• Beavers for assessing engineering
• Birds for judging singing
• Cats for relaxation techniques, sitting on mats and playing cool jazz
• Crocodiles for making snap decisions
• Dolphins and whales for long-distance communication
• Dogs for empathy, caring and returning things people appear to keep throwing away
• Foxes for developing cunning plans
• Hyenas for telling good jokes
• Leopards for spotting good solutions to problems
• Moles for assessing the whole curriculum
• Owls for wisdom and head-turning skills
• Seals for the performing arts
• Spiders for searching the web
• Tigers for coming for tea
• Wolves for collaboration
• Zebras for road crossing safety.

Encyclopedias

On Planet Earth, many teachers support the idea of a ban on the use of encyclopedias in school and at home as children just copy straight from them and also may end up learning things that might not be appropriate. The advice is that teachers should no longer tell children to refer to encyclopedias when completing their homework as apparently it is like guiding them to a library without a librarian. Teachers also have a duty to point out that sometimes factual mistakes can occur in encyclopedias, and make sure children understand that they can’t learn everything from them. And as for that Wickedpedia…

End of Term

It’s strange isn’t it? In most cases, we feel sad when we come to the end of something – a tub of ice cream, a glass of our favourite beverage, a great film or concert, a relationship, life itself, indeed. But there’s nothing that compares with that wonderful, happy, delicious, care-free moment that is the end of term. In fact so much so that some schools have moved away from having three terms to having six terms, so that they can feel happy six times a year instead of just three.

Epistemology

How can you spot an academic in a crowd? It’s easy – they are the ones in the students’ union bar getting completely epistemological. In the unlikely case you’ve ever actually wondered, Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. But that’s according to that Wickidpedia, so it’s probably not epistemologically correct. The best way to get rid of an unwanted academic it to tell them to epistemological off.

Enough already

Make sure you keep an eagle eye out for All Change Please!’s next edition of its encyclopaedia of education when it turns its attention to the letter F and considers things such as Facts and Failures, Fixed mindsets and Flipped learning, Feedback and Fysics.

If you’ve wisely missed All Change Please!’s previous entries, you can continue to do so again by not clicking on the following links

‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for…, ‘D’ is for….

On Your Marks. Get Set. Appeal!

When All Change Please! last caught up with Smith & Jones back in March 2020 they were deep in discussion about social distancing, whether it was safe to drink Corona beer and if the virus might infect their computers. Since then they have been managing to meet up for their usual deep philosophical discussions using Zoom. Here we eavesdrop on them considering the latest Df-ingE proposals for the summer GCSE and A level examination procedures.

Smith: “So what do you make of this latest announcement about teachers being given sweeping powers?”

Jones: “Well I guess some new, more powerful sweeping brushes will come in jolly useful for cleaning up the classroom floors at the end of the school day.”

Smith: “No, not sweeping brushes. They are going to be allowed to mark all their own students’ work for their GCSE and A level examinations.”

Jones: “Well that all sounds good – I mean their teachers must be best placed to judge how much their students have learnt. And much better than allowing that nasty rogue alligator to mark them.

Smith: “I think you mean a rogue algorithm.”

Jones: “What’s one of them then?

Smith: “I’ve absolutely no idea. We never had any computers when I was at school. Anyway, the problem is that teachers are likely to give their favourite pupils more marks and that’s going to produce grade inflation, so more children will get higher grades.”

Jones: “So what’s wrong with that then? I mean surely as a result less children will fail and end up being unemployed and on the streets?”

Smith: “Yes, I suppose you might have a point there. Of course at the same time some teachers might be tempted to give lower marks to the children they don’t like and who have been misbehaving.”

Jones: “Well, again – what’s the problem? Teachers are always complaining that standards of behaviour are dropping, so maybe now the kids will realise that all they have to do is to sit quietly and behave themselves and they’ll get better marks?

Smith: “Ah yes, but then everyone who still gets a very low mark is then going to be appealing, aren’t they?”

Jones: “Well, that doesn’t follow. I mean I got very low marks in all my exams but that didn’t make me any more appealing did it?

Smith: “No, I guess it didn’t. Anyway I imagine this Sonny Boy Williamson chap will be long gone by the time it all happens in August.”

Jones: “Who’s he then?

Smith: “You know, the Secretary in a State about Education.”

Jones: “Oh him! I thought that was Frank Spencer? Some Prime Minister’s do ‘ave ‘em, don’t they?

Smith: “They certainly do. Anyway, so have you been jabbed yet?”

Jones: “No, I gave up boxing years ago after I was told too many jabs damaged the brain.

Smith: “Yes, that probably explains a lot. No, I mean your vaccination.”

Jones: “Oh. No, we’ve decided not to plan any holidays yet until after this Coronation virus thing is over.

Smith: “Are you still practicing safe social distancing then?”

Jones: “Oh yes, I’ll say. The missus is insisting I don’t go anywhere near her. Anyway I must be zooming off as I’ve got some chores to do around the house. I don’t suppose you know where I could get hold of one of those new power-assisted sweeping brushes do you?

PhD Envy: Carry on… up the Doctorate!

The PhD Is Mightier Than The Sword

Advisory adult content warning! In its latest post All Change Please! appears to have reached a new low in its use of populist double-entendres and innuendos. It also needs to apologise in advance to all its hard working, dedicated readers who are studying for, or that already hold entirely deserved PhDs undertaken for all the right reasons, and alert them to the fact that certain parts of this post contain areas of content that might be felt to be highly sensitive .

Are you one of the many people suffering from PhD Envy? Do you lie awake for hours at night thinking that if only you had a higher qualification such as a PhD you would be a happier, more fulfilled person? Each year thousands of people begin PhDs in an attempt to address their feelings of inferiority, despite the fact that many are already proven successes in their work and domestic lives.

All Change Please!‘s fresh-faced junior reporter spoke to PhD student Lucy Lockett. She explained how one day when quite young she had been deeply and profoundly shocked to discover that, unlike many of her friends, she didn’t have a PhD and as a result was forced to confront the fact that they were all obviously far superior to her. Clearly there was an important gap in her qualifications that needed filling.

Meanwhile ‘Little’ Jack Horner admitted:

“Despite being always being a good boy at school, and I now run a successful multi-million pound Plum Pie business employing a hundred people, I often fantasise about what it would be like to have a really substantial qualification. When I go to staff meetings or parties I usually end up sitting in a corner as I am terrified someone will ask what my qualifications are and I will have to admit I left school at 16 and therefore don’t have a PhD and everyone will laugh at me for being so inadequate.”

Despite the fact that many people with PhDs have no idea how business works, some employers remain keen to appoint workers with Phd’s. Polly from the ‘Polly and Sookie Post Graduate Employment Agency’ told All Change Please!:

“People with PhD’s look extremely impressive on paper and are very good for company website profiles. However, employees with PhD’s are often over-confident and tend to spend too much time proudly waving their qualification about and taking photos of their certificate to share online. At the same time they spend forever collecting evidence and analysing the purely theoretical aspects involved, and not enough time actually doing the job they were hired to do, which in most cases involves putting the kettle on to make everyone a nice cup of tea.

Many people with PhDs discover that once they’ve got one, they don’t really know what to do with it. Meanwhile it is generally accepted that employees with lesser qualifications tend to try much harder and make much more effort to be successful performers in the office.”

Outside the workplace Ms Muffet admitted:

“Initially I had only considered partners that had massive higher degrees so I could boast about them to my friends and make them jealous, but in the end I quickly got bored with their endless sense of superiority and one-upmanship, their lack of interest in sustaining a successful career and their frustration about the pointlessness of their existence. They always seemed more interested in lengthy word-play before social discourse, which can be arousing at first but can eventually become rather tiresome.”

Little Boy Blue admitted that, eager to boost his credibility with his Young Conservative chums:

“ I simply falsely announced that I had recently been awarded a PhD. I immediately gained everyone’s congratulations and respect, and thereafter seemed to readily accept my ill-informed ideas. And of course no-one bothered to actually check if I actually had one.”

He is now proud to be known as Big Boy Blue.

Dr Foster from the University of Gloucester told All Change Please!:

“Many people think that all this stuff about PhD envy is just a load of bollox. As it happens I am particularly well funded in the genitalia department but the problem is no one can tell unless I take all my clothes off. However because I’ve got a PhD I can now insist everyone has to call me ‘Dr’, so they are constantly reminded exactly how academically well-endowed I am. In fact I’m now working on a second PhD.”

Multi-PhD qualified Professor Maximus Biggus recently published a little-read academic paper in which he stated:

“The constant desire for higher and higher qualifications is a relatively recent phenomena, reinforced by social pressure, media-stereotypes and academic employment selection panels with extremely stiff entry requirements. Not so long ago, PhDs were considered rather vulgar and something to be rather embarrassed about, and a simple 2nd class CNAA Degree from a Polytechnic was considered quite sufficient.”

At present there are no known cures for PhD Envy, although several Russell Group Universities have been awarded government research grants to see if they can develop a world-beating vaccine, despite it not being in their slightest interest to do so.

All Change Please!’s intrepid junior reporter nervously asked its CEO if he had a PhD, but was swiftly told to mind his own business.

There is growing disagreement amongst academics as to whether Michelangelo’s David was suitably qualified for his post.

The Wisdom of Boris

With Boris Johnson poised to lead us out of Europe into the great unknown, All Change Please! has made a failed New Year’s attempt to try and reassure itself that Brexit will prove to be the great success we have all been promised. In doing so it has managed to uncover some priceless prophetic remarks made by Boris over the years…

Oh dear…!

Somewhat ironically there is indeed great wisdom in Boris’s words. He just needs to listen to himself a bit more often.

By tristramshepard Posted in Brexit Tagged

From Boris With Love

The name’s Blond. Boris Blond

This time last year, Boris was imagining himself as Boris Bunter, winning the election. This year, in tribute to Sean Connery – the original and surely the best Bond who sadly passed away in October 2020 – All Change Please! is proud to announce its traditional seasonal literary decomposition of well known books, this year based as loosely as possible on the works of Ian Fleming and the 007 movie franchise scriptwriters.

“The name’s Blond. Boris Blond. Licensed to waffle. Commander Blond to my friends – I think that sounds more like I’m really in control, doesn’t it? The People of Britain think I’m their Prime Minister, but in real life I’m a secret special agent. And this my story…”

Boris was gently dozing in the House of Commons as Matt Hancock droned on and on about how Covid had been defeated at last, how wonderful everything was with the NHS, and we are simply the best at everything we do. Boris soon found himself in his secret place…

“Ah, Blond, there you are at last!” welcomed Moneypenny. “You’re to go straight In.”

Blond entered. As usual he was unable to see C’s face as it was in shadow, though he could clearly make out Larry the Downing Street cat sitting on C’s knee. The voice itself was of course digitally disguised, and Blond continued to wonder whether C actually stood for Cummings or Carrie, or possibly even for the Cat. He was still far from certain which of the three it actually was.

“Sit down Blond”, said C. “We have a problem. As you know, the reason you were placed under-covid as PM was that vast numbers of the people would vote for you and that the Tory party would remain in power forever. However we’ve received an intelligence report that someone in the party is planning to try and get rid of you and gain control of it themselves – and unfortunately there’s no one available who could ever be as popular as you are. So you’ve got to find out who it is and make sure that they are eliminated.

Whatever happens, we can’t afford to let the country fall into the hands of the Sustained Totalitarian And Revolutionary Marxist English Radicalisation organisation, or S.T.A.R.M.E.R. as it’s better known. Otherwise the next person to leave Number 10 carrying an empty cardboard box will be you.”

Blond felt confused and thought that all this sounded like an awful lot of effort and he might actually have to do something. Back in the outer office he flirted with Moneypenny as usual. Already his suspicions, amongst other things, were aroused. It occurred to him that Moneypenny looked suspiciously like Dishy Rishi wearing a wig. Was Moneypenny a clever financial code name for Chancellor of the Exchequer? Or was it time for a mission to Durham to get his eyes tested, which would give him a chance to try out his specially converted red Aston Martin DB5 bus with its ejector seat and customised revolving slogans?

Back at Number 10, Blond’s course of action was obvious – he needed to speak with everyone in the cabinet to see if he could identify who was out to get him. He flipped the special switch under his desk which transformed it into a 3D model of the Houses of Parliament. At the same time the bookcases swiveled round to become CCTV monitors surrounded with whirring computers and flashing lights. With this he could track anyone, anywhere.

Q entered. “Oh goody”, thought Blond, “some new toys to play with.” “We’ve just developed these new prototype supersonic blue-fi quantum zircon-encrusted, completely invisible laser earpieces.” announced Q proudly. “You place them discretely in your ears, and you won’t be able to hear what S.T.A.R.M.E.R is asking during difficult parliamentary sessions.” Blond tried to sound grateful, but he never paid attention to what anyone was saying anyway and always replied to them by saying the first thing that came into his head, and now no-one had come to expect anything better.

Boris’s first action was to call on one of his many Blond girls: Miss Trust, codename ‘Onatopp’. All she seemed to care about was pigs and cheese so it seemed unlikely to be her wanting the top job, although perhaps there was more to her than met the eye? And she was becoming increasingly popular with her imaginary trade deals. Perhaps her code name was a signal of her intention to get on to the top?

Next on his list of suspects was the infamous Dr Gnove. Now here was someone he certainly couldn’t trust and knew he would stab him in the back at the earliest opportunity. It was Dr Gnove who was the criminal mastermind who ordered the Operation Brex hit. “The man you need to speak to”, he cunningly misdirected, “works for the EU under the code name of Euric Fishfinger, codename Barnyard”.

His meeting with Barnyard didn’t go well and he got an extremely frosty reception. Barnyard fixed him with a penetrating laser-like stare. “Do you expect me to negotiate?” asked Blond. “No, Mr Blond, I expect you to capitulate.” replied Barnyard. Blond was clearly shaken. But not stirred.

After he had released Blond, Barnyard turned to his faithful female sidekick Ursula Von der Undress and instructed her to “Look after Mr Blond. See that some harm comes to him.“

Next on his list was Rosa-Mogg, aka Rosa Klebb. What evil weapon might emerge out of his top hat? Or was Rosa-Mogg’s appearance just a cunning disguise for the notorious henchman OddMogg with the brim of his hat made from steel? He found the idea of Rosa-Mogg as a future PM shocking. Positively shocking.

Then there was Pussy Patel – as she preferred to be known – though in reality her name was Priti Evil: code name ‘May Day’. She was quite a woman, and the sort that didn’t easily fall for Blond’s natural charm and wit, but then he wasn’t known as Thunderpants for nothing. Sitting in front of her, he nervously stroked the barrel of the Whitty PPE 380 automatic pistol he kept handily in his trouser pocket: Laura Iceberg had warned him about her, so he had taken precautions, especially as he was in no hurry to be left dangling high up on a zip-wire again.

“What did I say not to do?”

“Let her get away with being a bully.”

And what did you do?”

“I let her get away with being a bully.”

Some time later, Blond reported back to C. “So Blond. What have you manage to discover?” quizzed C. “Has the problem been dealt with?” Fortunately for Blond he was still wearing his special white noise conversation cancelling airbuds so he had no idea what C was asking him.

“Piffle wiffle”, he responded in his usual manner, “waffle, spiffle, hands, face, space, shorter, safer, smaller, wishy, washy, wooly, bully, hanky panky, do this, don’t do this, Foucault, Scaramanga, Jaws, Blofeld, Oddjob, Blojob, Zorin. Octopussy, Bambi, Thumper, Carrie, Wilfred, Dylin, Larry… Yes,” he concluded, “it was a tough challenge, but by a process of painstaking elimination it can only be Larry the Downing Street cat who truly has ambitions to take over as PM and rule the world.”

C was somewhat taken aback, having assumed that Blond was quite incapable of getting anything anywhere near right. Just for once had he actually worked out what was going on?

Boris woke with a start. Hancock’s half-hour was nearly up. His thoughts turned to more domestic matters and he wondered how well his oven-ready Christmas turkey was going to go down. Somehow he knew that it was him who was going to get stuffed in the New Year and that his goose was well and truly cooked.

And then what about Carrie’s suggestion that they should have yet another child in addition to the six he already had. If they did, would she would agree to naming it 007?

All Change Please! would like to wish all its readers a Happy New Tier.

And finally a reminder to stay safe with this modified poster from 1919 that sends a far more powerful message than anything else around today.

A Headteacher Reacts

With Thursday’s last-minute, end-of-term announcement of Covid-testing for all pupils in the early New Year, All Change Please! tried desperately hard not to imagine the conversations that occurred in schools the following morning. Unfortunately though the discovery that it could create its own captions to the popular ‘Hitler Reacts’ film clip, made it just too difficult to resist!

Since then the Df-ingE have thought again and, although the instructions are still far from clear, appear to have announced that the testing is optional and will be carried out by the Army, ‘agency workers’ and ‘volunteers’. But headteachers didn’t know that then…

Meanwhile, watch out for All Change Please!‘s Special Seasonal Literary post later in the week, appearing soon in a browser near you…

Get in line for the EVacc

Now this won’t hurt a bit…

All Change Please! has recently heard from its imaginary friends in high places and can now exclusively reveal that in the Government’s latest sure-to-fail attempt to do something really, really world-beating, the DF-ingE’s very own Gavin Wllliamson will shortly be announcing a major breakthrough made by Oxford University to produce a vaccination against the deadly outbreak of creativity and collaboration that has been recently spreading throughout our schools.

Clinical trials suggest that the vaccine has a success rate of 95% in reducing the number of children who are at a high-risk of wanting to study Creative Arts-based subjects and to work together in teams.

Across the country, all children will be inoculated with a dose of what will be called the EVacc, starting, it is hoped, before Christmas. As a result, during the Spring term children can expect to be working in isolation again, and will again be able to sit in silence, locked-down at their desks, attentively listening to their teachers and memorising useless facts, as all good little boys and girls should.

If any pupils start to show any symptoms of wanting to move around, do practical work or speak to each other in the corridors, they will be immediately sent to special centres for testing and have an extra dose of the EVacc administered to increase their immunity to desires for self-expression, personal interest and the need for relevance. If necessary they will be hooked up to a visualiser until they have stopped thinking for themselves again.

The initiative will be backed up with the obligatory three-phrase slogan:

Educational experts and advisors Chris Twitty and Patrick Unbalanced, who have extensive shareholdings in AstronomicalZennapod, the company who have produced the EVacc, have predicted more than 50,000 extra academic A* GCSE grades are likely to be needed as a result. Unfortunately these are currently being held in a back-log, stockpiled at Felixtowe Container Port – along with urgently needed supplies of PEE (P.E.Equipment) – taking up some 30% of the space and causing delays in the delivery of other qualifications in time for Christmas. The Government were keen to emphasise that all this is in no way connected to the fact that that the Port is currently operating under the advisory strategic management of Failing Grayling.

Meanwhile in other news, during anti-bullying week, schools reported a substantial rise in children being bullied as it emerged that those responsible didn’t really mean it and were completely unaware that it caused any bad feeling, and were absolutely sorry for anyone they had upset. Honest.

At the same time teachers stopped criticising pupils for being lazy little sods and instead began praising them for their hard work and how much every single day they enjoyed working together with thousands of brilliant children to deliver the Government’s EVacc agenda.

With thanks to AJ for the original suggestion and Pixabay for the top image.

All the way up to 11

Yes, today is All Change Please!’s 11th Birthday, and for its Special Birthday Post, as usual it tried to find some interesting reference to the number 11. Apparently:

‘The number 11 is at one with the universe. It is open to vast spiritual concepts and the presence of a greater power. It is a channel for truth and answers to reach us and help us on our way. This Master Number’s vision is crystal clear and it sees with a breadth that others cannot. It is creative and magnetic, a beacon of wisdom and hope for others to follow’.

Hmmm. OK, but instead All Change Please! decided it would go for the classic reference popularised by the 1984 movie ‘This is Spinal Tap’, in which the guitarist proudly demonstrates an amplifier whose volume knobs are marked from zero to eleven, instead of the usual zero to ten, erroneously suggesting it is therefore louder than other makes. Or, as Wikipedia helps clarify:

‘The primary implication of the reference is one in which things that are essentially the same are seen as different, due to mislabeling or the user’s misunderstanding of the underlying operating principles. A secondary reference may be anything being exploited to its utmost limits, or apparently exceeding them.’

Subsequently Marshall Amplifiers began including the Number 11 mark on its dials, and, again according to Wikipedia:

‘The influence of the phrase “up to eleven” is such that it has been used outside of music; in 2016, for example, astronomer Krzysztof Stanek described the brightest-known object in the universe as being “as if nature took everything we know about magnetars and turned it up to 11.’

So All Change Please! feels suitably justified in proclaiming itself as a blog turned all the way up to number 11!

Meanwhile here, in the customary reverse order, are All Change Please!‘s most popular posts from the last twelve months…

At Number 3, and All Change Please! suspects largely due to the efforts of its renowned super-spreader Art, Design and Technology re-tweeters, comes:

Education through Art, Design and Technology

Claiming the Number 2 slot, back in March ‘Alas Smith & Jones’ made a welcome return helping to explain what coronovirus was and how best to catch it.

Coronovirus Explained

But this year’s inexplicable runaway winner was:

We’re Sorry We Haven’t A Clue

in which our Gav supposedly wrote a lengthy and entirely unpunctuated letter to help teachers misunderstand the current lack of a coherent education policy. All Change Please! can only assume that an English teacher somewhere shared it online with their students as an exercise in adding the missing punctuation.

However, as always, All Change Please!’s personal favourites were slightly different.

First there was ‘Boris Not Good Enough’, the account of Boris’s Time of Troubles.

Boris Not Good Enough

And next up we have another bout of creepy look-alike replicas of our beloved politicians – or rather of our favourite Dr Who monsters…

Who’s Who In The Monstrous Tory Party?

And last, by no means least, is the 2019 Christmas Special in which Boris Bunter wins the election and successfully gets Breakfast done..

Boris Bunter’s Christmas Tory Party

If you have been, thanks for reading!

Stay Safe. Stay Very Safe…

Top image credit: Wikipedia

Challenging the Michaela Myth

All Change Please! has been seeking them here, there and everywhere but has so far been unable to discover how well Michaela students performed in their GCSEs in 2020.

The far-right Twitterati went into meltdown last week in its gushing congratulations to Headteacher Ms Birbalsingh on her not-as-widely-reported-as-you-might-expect award of a CBE (which All Change Please! reckons must stand for ‘Conservatively Biased Education’).

Initially known as the woman who brought the house down at the 2010 Tory Party Conference by announcing that our schools were in a state of crisis (a conclusion not borne out by Ofsted reports of the time) and then, against all the odds, she managed to set up a Free School.

The triumphantly reported ‘meteoric’ success of the Michaela School’s GCSE entries in 2019 appeared to endorse the claim that all you needed was super-strict behaviour in corridors and classrooms and a plethora of knowledge organiser handouts, and all children, whatever their academic ability or personal circumstances, would – almost as if by magic – somehow achieve above-average attainment in academic GCSEs. As a result they would naturally go on to become leading figures in public life, or perhaps – given that the school does not teach any technologically-based subjects – just end up serving coffee in Starbucks, or if they don’t quite even manage that, become incompetent Tory politicians who have all the power but absolutely no knowledge of how to even begin to solve even the most simplest of problems.

Meanwhile, in the true spirit of magic, there seems to be some misleading sleight-of-hand at work. Check out the Michaela School website and there is plenty of reference to those wonderful 2019 GCSE results, in which their most academically-able excelled themselves, but there’s not a word about what happened in 2020. Where were all the photographs of excited Michaela children opening their outstanding results that one would expect to see extensively covered in all the national newspapers, as they were the year before?

This website page from The Local Schools Network from January 2020 might help explain why: their 2020 results are probably not nearly as impressive, with the year group being described as ‘challenging’. And with the Df-ingE not planning to release school performance data and league tables for examinations in 2020, it currently looks like they are going to get away with keeping what happened a very confidential secret.

It may well have been that the prior attainment of children on entry was not so good – but that’s not the point. It would appear that the academically less-able and more ‘challenging’ pupils clearly did not respond nearly so well to the prescribed treatment, thus bringing into question the validity of the school’s supposed ‘silver bullet’ success as the solution to improving secondary education throughout the country.

What The Michaela School for Consistently Training Obedient Carefree Young Puppies, along with its faithful followers and imitators, doesn’t seem to understand is that while knowledge-based learning and strict behaviour works well for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. There are more ways to be successful in life, Michaela, than are dreamt of in your ‘the only way is academic’ philosophy.

Michaela’s GCSE school results for 2019 may have been some of the best in the country in terms of the top grades for non-selective children (i.e. 7/8/9), but of course the real problem is in the increasing number of children, estimated at between around 15 and 20% nationally, who still fail to get 5 ‘good’ GCSEs. Strangely the Df-ingE seem to have stopped publishing these figures as an indicator of school league table success – the ones we should surely be more concerned about – in favour of the number achieving the highly academic EBacc.

The whole affair is of course just well-orchestrated Tory Party Spin. There’s little to suggest that the majority of schools were not performing quite adequately before 2010. So the approach was to create a fearful belief amongst the general public that all our schools were failing dreadfully and that something needed to be done urgently, and then to come up with an easy-to-understand, low-cost solution (AKA the EBacc and ‘harder’ academic GCSEs) to a problem that didn’t really exist in the first place.

By teachers. For teachers. And definitely not for children.

Meanwhile two founders of the online Oak National Academy have been awarded OBEs (which All Change Please! can only assume stands for ‘Obsolete Boring E-learning‘). While the number of lessons being made available and subsequent user-views are widely publicised, and arguably in the short term something was better than nothing, there is a distinct lack of pedagogical quality in the content and its presentation, and in the out-dated and uninspiring website interface. Meanwhile there does not appear to have been any formal assessment and evaluation of the educational effectiveness of the service in order to justify its considerable further funding and lack of competitive tendering.

Image credit: Flickr