Coronavirus Explained: Alas Smith and Jones…

It’s been a while since All Change Please! has eavesdropped on the late Mel Smith, as the man who thinks he knows everything, and Griff Rhys Jones, as the man who knows he doesn’t know anything. In its continuing attempt to look on the bright side of life, or in this case the not-so-bright side, All Change Please! now reveals what they had to say about the Coronavirus crisis.

Jones: “What are you doing way over there? We usually sit close together, face to face. This isn’t going to work as well now everything on TV is in widescreen, is it? Or do I have a personal problem or something?

Smith: “Well yes, of course you do, but I’m social distancing, aren’t I? You’ll just have to speak up a bit…”

Jones: “So why are you doing that then?

Smith: “Because of this CV thing of course.”

Jones: “Oh, are you applying for a new job?

Smith: “No, no – it’s this Coronavirus epidural thing – though to be honest I’m not terribly worried about it myself. You see I used to drink a lot of Corona fizzy lemonade when it was a child, so I built up my resistance then, and then there was all that Corona beer I’ve drunk since which should act as a booster.”

Jones: “So have you been sucking up in a panic, buying?

Smith: “Something like that. As it happens I did go to the supermarket yesterday but it couldn’t get anywhere near the toilet tissues as it was full of people photographing the empty shelves. It’s just as well that they’ve now put a limit on the number of photos you can take.”

Jones: “What I want to know is whether this Coronavirus thing can infect my computer?

Smith: “No, I shouldn’t think so. Anyway just make sure you wash your hands after using it.”

Jones: “I must say I’m not looking forward to all this Lockdown Wrestling that apparently we’re all going to be placed in. And I’m a bit worried now my kids have been sent home from school. I’m not sure I’ll make a very good home-tutor.”

Smith: “Yes I think you’re probably right there. But what worries me most is that the government probably knows and understands as little about healthcare as it does about education. Apparently children no longer need to go to school and teachers can now be completely trusted to assess their performance..?”

Jones: “What do you make of this Sunak, the new chancellor then?”

Smith: “Well, he seems OK. But I think he should stick to writing children’s books. Being a Tory he’s certainly Where The Wild Things Are. And as for the Prime Minister…”

Jones: “You mean that clown Boris?

Smith: “No, don’t be daft – it’s that Demonic Cummings who’s running the country, along with this scientific expert Whitty chap.

Jones: “He’s a bit of a comedian then is he? Does he write Boris’s jokes or something?

Smith: “No – apparently he’s an epic seismologist.”

Jones: “Oh, is that so? Still I mean it’s not all bad news is it? After all, global air quality is improving, dolphins have been sighted in the Venetian canals, the BBC Question Time audience has been abolished and best of all, the Eurovision Song Contest has been cancelled…

Smith: “True. Very true. It’s an ill-wind that blows no-one any good.”

Jones: “What? You’re saying that the wind has caught the virus now?

Smith: “Isn’t it amazing how something so small could have such a big effect?”

Jones: “Yes, strangely my wife said exactly the same thing the other night. Anyway I must be going – I’m hoping to get in a quick bit of self-isolation before bedtime.”

Smith: “Right-ho! See you here same time tomorrow then? And do look after that nasty dry cough of yours…”

 

Who’s Who in the Monstrous Tory Party?

Is this who’s really running the country?

Back as long ago as the summer of 2010 All Change Please! first broke the story that the Tory Party were in fact being run by members of International Rescue in disguise: ‘Thunderbirds are Gove’. Then in 2012 it published further startling revelations that International Rescue had quit, and been replaced by the ‘Carry On’ cast: ‘Carry On Up the Conservatives’.

Now All Change Please! is proud to announce a further scoop. Following extensive phone-tapping and email hacking, but primarily the use of Google Image search, it has discovered that our current Government actually consists of a gathering of terrifying monsters from Dr Who. They have their own time machine, known as The BORIS – its entrance cleverly disguised as the door to 10 Downing Street – though unfortunately it only travels back as far as the 1950s, and not into the future at all, and it’s much smaller-minded inside than on the outside.

What? You want proof? OK – here it is…

The first clue that alerted All Change Please! as to what was going on was a comparison of the photos below. One is of Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The other is the latest incarnation of The Master. But which one is which?

And then here’s the old Chancellor, Sajid Javid who in reality is quite clearly a Sontaran – a race of ruthless male-gender-only clones that prize discipline and honour. They have a stocky build and a distinctive dome-shaped head and can be regularly seen practicing a Power Stance.

These menacing, macabre versions of peg dolls with broad, blank faces appeared in ‘Night Terrors’, an episode from series Six. They turn their victims into other peg dolls in a state of living death.

When these three peg dolls emerge from behind the door at Number 10 they instantly transform into Elizabeth Truss, Nicky Morgan and Dominic Raab.

Now we get to the really evil ones. First here’s one of the Whisper Men – featureless beings, hollow on the inside and dressed in Victorian clothes. They are easily mistaken for Jacob Rees Mogg.

Meanwhile it takes two evil monstrosities – The Weeping Angels and The Gangers – working closely together to take on the form of Priti Patel.

The Weeping Angels are known to be ‘the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life-form evolution has ever produced.’ With a single touch, a Weeping Angel can send a person into the past to a point before his/her own birth, and can then feed off the potential energy of the years which that victim would have lived in the present. However they can only move when not being observed. So just don’t blink. Particularly if you are an immigrant.

The Gangers (above right) are clones created from living programmable matter. Due to their unstable molecules they have developed their abilities to extend their limbs and neck. Ms Patel (middle, in case you can’t tell) is clearly willing to stick her neck out – clear proof she is of alien descent.

As is well known, the country is mainly being run by two Dr Who villains in particular. The first is Lady Cassandra (above left). Her life was extended through a series of seven hundred and eight plastic surgery operations until she was nothing but a piece of skin stretched onto a frame with eyes and a mouth, connected to a brain in a jar below. She was also shown to be selfish, thick-skinned, devious and willing to sacrifice people just for profit, hence the phrase ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’. On the way out of the Number 10 BORIS she morphs into Carrie Symonds, the PM’s current companion.

But finally – the most scary, evil, cunning monster of all that will decide our future. This one doesn’t even need to change or disguise its hideous form outside the door of Number 10 – it hides in plain sight, exactly as it is…. Demonic Cummings.

You’ve seen the evidence. It’s time to hide behind the settee and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Where are you, Doctor Who? We urgently need your help!

Education through Art, Design and Technology

All Change Please! has recently read several accounts of the distinction between Art & Design and Design & Technology as separate school subjects. Obviously they are not exactly the same, but at the same time they do share a great deal in common, and their similarities and overlap seem to be being ignored and thus marginalised. Too many schools have completely separate departments which could just as well be called ‘Painting and drawing’ and ‘Resistant Materials Technology’. The two subjects are inter-dependent, with each informing the other, and we need to be reflecting that in our primary and secondary schools.

All Change Please! is not suggesting here that the two subjects should be merged into one – but it would be good to occasionally hear a D&T teacher reminding a class to apply a concept they have covered in A&D, and vice-versa, and to think that the departments sometimes get together to discuss and plan their curricula for their students that connect and develop the concepts and skills they have in common. To deliver Art & Design and Design & Technology in a way that encourages the perception that they are entirely un-related is not in the best interests of students.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity is that – to a greater or lesser extent – both subjects involve students in creative problem-solving, being it deciding on the composition of a painting or the arrangement of components of a 3D product. They both involve developing approaches to thinking and doing with an open-mind, and being willing to explore and iterate solutions through critical analysis and decision-making. Like all open-ended project-based work that occupies more than a single teacher-led lesson, they require learning how to plan and organise actions and resources. They both involve the use of a range of modelling skills to develop and communicate ideas along with the acquisition of knowledge of the properties and working characteristics of a range of different materials. Meanwhile the understanding and application of the ‘formal elements’ – line, tone, colour, texture, shape, pattern and form – are entirely common to both. Meanwhile Art & Design and Design & Technology together involve students exploring contemporary and historical issues and learning about them in other cultures.

There are differences of course. Perhaps the greatest difference is that Fine Art is, quite rightly, primarily concerned with self-expression whereas Design & Technology is orientated towards a client and meeting the needs of others. While A&D involves developing considerable expertise with a variety of graphic media, D&T demands a broad knowledge of a wide range of 3D materials – though many sculptors and craftspeople can benefit from this too. Paintings and sculptures are usually ‘one-offs’ – unless the work is specifically intended for a reprographic process – while many of the products of Design & Technology will be developed for either batch or mass-production.

Back in the 1970s and 80s the thinking in schools – derived largely from the mid 20th Century influence of the Bauhaus Basic Course – was to bring Art, Design and Technology together to explore and develop their connections rather than their differences. Art teachers often included work in graphics, fashion, textiles, theatre, interior, architecture and product design, while ‘CDT’ teachers directed children to produce high quality artefacts using woods, metals, plastics and ceramics. A few schools had the vision to go beyond that and take on board the fact that Art, Design and Technology are dimensions of the whole school curriculum and have much to offer, and learn from, every other subject.

But of course the reality is that the present move towards the separation of the two – which actually began with the introduction of the discrete National Curriculum subjects, Attainment Targets and Programmes of Study in the late 1980s – is actually about their survival in the school. Heads of Art and Heads of D&T are often required to justify their individual existence at the expense of each other, lest they be merged or disbanded in the rush for urgent economies in staffing and resources.

While an education through Art & Design and Design & Technology has its own inherent value, some children will go on to become professional artists, designers and technologists where they will discover that the two so-called ‘subjects’ do not exist as separate disciplines, but closely interact with each other, and we need to be reflecting that in our primary and secondary schools. At the same time, Art, Design and Technology have an essential contribution that they need to be making to STEAM – the inter-disciplinary approach to education through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

And finally… All Change Please! recently came across this post:

Welcome to the intelligent twenties, or why Art Teaching isn’t ready for the new era

which poses some interesting, and doubtless controversial, challenges for teachers of Art, Design and Technology in the future.

“What can art teachers teach kids who will spend their lives working alongside robots and who have to change career every few years? What skills will art teachers need to teach for this emerging world?”

“Art teachers need to rapidly re-skill….to understand more philosophy and how to operate in a world where their children operate across silos, where boundaries don’t exist between subjects and where this third presence of intelligence is now working alongside us. They will also need to feed into their approach the changes…[to] our understanding of art and creativity wrought by the explosion in neuro-scientific research. Once we actually know what creativity actually is, how will we change our approach to teaching it?”

“The age of mass production was one of power, control and certainty, the coming era is one of mathematical chaos, systems and emergence. The art teachers of the next decade will have to tackle and work out how to teach art for this new age of unnatural intelligence.”

Or, as someone once said, “All Change Please!

Tilting at Wind Turbines

Arts and Media students to keep our wind turbines turning?

You can’t be serious? For those of you assuming that the idea of Arts and Media students maintaining wind turbines is just another one of All Change Please!‘s weirder satirical fantasies, then you’d be wrong – this time it’s for real….

Last week in her Annual Report, Ofsted’s very own Amanda Spielman spoke of her concern about colleges:

“flooding a local job market with young people with say low-level arts and media qualifications when the big growth in demand is for green energy workers, will result in too many under-employed and dissatisfied young people and wind turbines left idle.”

As such she continued to reveal her considerable lack of understanding of the way things really are in schools and colleges, and at the same time managed to perpetuate and reinforce the mistaken populist opinion that all “superficially attractive” courses in Arts and Media are a waste of time. And All Change Please! can’t help wonder why those who show an aptitude for Arts and Media courses should be singled out as being particularly ideal candidates for maintaining wind turbines? Surely there must be other just as low-level, worthless courses offered in other subjects too?

At one level Ms Spielman’s suggestion that more students should perhaps be encouraged to consider becoming ‘green energy workers’ is fair enough, but just saying so isn’t going to make it happen, because things don’t work like that. And, beyond the ‘Ofsted blasts ‘low-level arts and media courses‘ sensationalist headlines (which is as far as most readers get), she does admit that “This doesn’t mean that the courses the young people are taking are completely worthless”, and that her target is “the small minority of our colleges that have under-performed or been stuck for years”. But by then, it’s too late, and the damage to public opinion has been done.

While it is true to say that many post 16 students take courses in Arts and Media, Ms Spielman’s makes no attempt to consider why, and what needs to be done to encourage them, and others, to take more ‘technical’ courses instead. It’s also a shame she does not define exactly what she means by ‘worthless’ courses, thus tarring all such courses with the same brush.

So why do so many students opt for Arts and Media courses? Is it the fault of FE colleges engaging in ‘market push’, as Ms Spielman suggests, or more a case of ‘market pull’ in which students are asking for them? When it comes to what is now quite a restricted choice in selecting which GCSE subjects to study, children who are considered to be the disaffected ‘less-academic’ are often steered towards Arts and Media subjects, mistakenly thought of as ‘being easier’ rather than that they are more appropriate to developing their potential skills and abilities. Such children are likely to be struggling with theoretical science and maths subjects (surely important for green energy workers?), and the more traditionally ‘academic’ subject teachers tend not to want them in their classes anyway as they are considered to be more likely to drag down their final departmental examination results and be more ‘challenging’ to have in the classroom.

Thus two or three years later when it comes to post-16 choices, the only non-academic subjects such students have encountered tend to be in the Arts and Media, where they have at least found some confidence and success, and quite probably achieved their highest GCSE grades. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that these are subjects they want to study at college. Unfortunately simply offering FE courses in Green Energy is unlikely to attract many takers, and it might also be anticipated that the content of such courses is likely to be educationally and technically quite narrow.

Ms Spielman admirably says that we need to “radically improve the quality of vocational and skills education in our towns“, but if she is serious about recruiting green energy, and other, workers, then she needs to be doing is to promote the introduction of more practically-orientated technical and vocational equivalent GCSE courses that have parity in the league tables and with EBacc and Progress 8 measurements. Waiting until teenagers are 16 or even older is too late. This is exactly what successive governments and university-feeder schools have completely failed to do over the past fifty years.

Part of Ms Spielman’s argument is that there is an over-supply of Arts and Media students for the employment market. As usual there’s surely a contradiction at work here? A level English students are not all expected to become award-winning novelists. Very few History students will end up working in museums. Physics students will not all end up working as theoretical Physicists. So why should it be assumed that all Arts and Media students will end up working in the Arts and Media professions? Indeed, more than any other subject, Arts and Media courses are under-pinned by the highly transferable so-called ‘soft-skills’ that employers are so keen to recruit at present. Amongst other things they require students to learn how to ask questions, find information out for themselves, work to briefs, produce specifications, develop ideas, plan their time, organise resources, collaborate, present themselves well and to be able to communicate appropriately according to purpose and audience. Not to mention the general intellectual, emotional, cultural and social development such courses provide, as discussed here.

In reality the value and ‘worth’ of these Arts and Media courses depends primarily on how well they are taught and the extent to which they develop and prepare students for professional practice and for life in general. And, like all courses, future success depends on how well students are suited to them and how hard they work at them. For the successful there are plenty of employment opportunities in the Arts and Media, and indeed anyone with good basic skills in computer-aided design (e.g., Desk-top publishing, photo manipulation, video editing, web design, game design) is much in demand.

It’s unhelpful of Ms Spielman to unnecessarily use Arts and Media courses as scapegoats. Perhaps she would be better employed sticking to inspecting what schools do, rather than giving ill-informed careers advice and fighting imaginary enemies, Don Quixote style?

 

 

 

 

Gustave Dore’s illustration of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote attacking windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants.

 

 

‘D’ is for…

Long after the letters A, B and C, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ turns its attention to the letter ‘D’.

For any new readers, ‘All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun’ 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.

Dancing (in the street)
There are some schools in which children are required to move from lesson to lesson in silence and to strictly keep to left or right of the corridor and stairs. But not on Planet Urth where children and teachers are expected to joyously dance down the corridors. What’s more they arrive at the next lesson too tired to misbehave.

Deep Learning
The term ‘Deep Learning’ means that academic theory is studied alongside the development of what, at the rate we are going, look more likely to become more practical 22nd Century skills. Unfortunately however many traditional teachers seem to think that Deep Learning just requires drilling down even further to deliver more and more knowledge in greater and greater depth.

In Victorian times, Deep Learning was what happened when young children were sent down the mines to learn how to dig for coal. In today’s only slightly more modern times children are now subjected to deep knowledge learning in every academic subject they study. This means they never get to see the clear light of day either.

On Planet Urth they initially experimented with opening up old coal mines and transforming them into underground classrooms in an attempt to promote even deeper learning, but the idea quickly fell apart at the seams.

Meanwhile Deep Learning is also a term widely used in the development of Artificial Intelligence. It is based on artificial neural networks, deep belief networks, recurrent neural networks and convolutional neural networks in which computer models learn to accurately perform classification tasks directly from images, text or sound suited for hybrid multicloud environments that demand mission-critical performance, security and governance. But that’s all just a bit too deep for All Change Please!

Deputy Dawg

 

All schools on Planet Urth have at least one Deputy Dawg as part of their Senior Management Team. Training for this role consists of watching endless re-runs of the popular 1960s TV series of the same name in which Deputy Dawg has to protect his produce from Muskie and Vince, battling with some of the peculiar locals and trying to please the Sheriff. However Deputy Dawg is on friendly terms with them most of the time, except when he has to perform his duties as a lawman and keep them from causing trouble. Deputy Dawgs patrol the school corridors muttering ‘Dagnabit’ all the time, which for some reason is thought more acceptable than ‘God Damn It’, even thought that’s what they are actually thinking.

Design Education

All Change Please! looks back, having spent its entire working life advocating Design Education. As a result all schools successfully deliver an exciting and stimulating co-coordinated programme that combines developing skills in interdisciplinary open-ended problem-solving, creativity and communication in a way that enables children to effectively understand and apply the knowledge they have gained elsewhere in the curriculum and fully prepares them for the unpredictable changes that lie ahead for them in the future. As such All Change Please! considers its life to have been both fulfilling and entirely worthwhile.

Michael Gove? Who is he? Nick Glibbly? The EBacc? Oh yes, wait, it’s all starting to come back now.

More morphine, nurse…. quickly!

Design & Technology

Someone once made the mistake of asking what ‘Design & Technology’ meant and they were told that Design & Technology meant Design & Technology, and was quite unlike Design Technology which is confusing as both words mean the same thing. And then it got shortened to DT which doesn’t mean anything to anyone in the real world, unless perhaps you have a Dorchester postcode. Of course in most schools D&T still really means woodwork, metalwork and sewing. For a while it meant cookery and nutrition as well, but it doesn’t anymore as they quit a while ago to go off and form their own group.

Dewey, Dewey and Dewey

A clever American man called Dewey was responsible for perhaps the most major change in thinking about education during the 20th century. Yes, it was Melvil Dewey who invented the Dewey Decimal System in 1876 which meant that libraries could store their books on shelves and then actually manage to find them again later. By allocating a numerical code to each subject and sub-division he led the way for the atomisation of knowledge that made it much easier to simply tick off what one knew and what one didn’t.

Melvin Dewey is often confused with another American, John Dewey (1859-1952) who in the early 20th Century came up with some crackpot theory of progressive education and was never heard of again. However, fortunately John Dewey wrote plenty of books on the subject which can be easily found using the Dewey decimal code 370.1

Another little known fact is that the middle name of Miles Davis, the famous jazz trumpeter, was Dewey. He often used to point out that the notes one didn’t play were just as important as the ones you did. Perhaps the facts we don’t teach children and that they discover for themselves are just as important as the ones we do?

Df-ingE

The Df-ingE is a ministerial government department dedicated to making a complete mess of everything to do with providing a world-class education, training and care for everyone, whatever their background. It consistently fails to ensure that everyone has the chance to reach their potential, and live a more fulfilled life. It has absolutely no idea how it will also create a more productive economy, so that our country is fit for the future.

When invited to comment, a Df-ingE spokesperson didn’t say: “When invited to comment, my prestigious academic Russell Group university degree has successfully prepared me to blindly repeat exactly the same statements over and over again in the belief that if a lie is repeated often enough people will start to believe it.”

Dictionary

At school, All Change Please! distinctly remembers being told: ‘If you don’t know how to spell a word, look it up in the dictionary’, which always struck it as being a bit daft really, because the dictionary is in alphabetical order, and if you don’t know how to spell a word in the first place, the chances are you’re not going to be able to find it.

 

Disobedience

Disobedience involves doing or not doing something that someone in authority has told you to do and is keeping a close eye on you at all times to make sure you do, or don’t. And because adults are older than children, for some reason that seems to automatically give them that authority. Now of course there are many occasions when the instructions that adults give children are sensible, appropriate and essential but it is unwise to assume that by definition all adults are sensible and always understand what is appropriate and essential.

Of course this extends into later life, by which time it becomes more acceptable, and sometimes necessary, to challenge someone’s authority and take personal responsibility for one’s behaviour, especially when there is much less risk of being observed or ‘found out’. But this isn’t something we prepare our children for, and they tend to grow up in the belief that those in authority are always correct, and they fail to sufficiently develop the skills of positive disobedience and flexible interpretations of rule-making and breaking.

On Planet Urth there is an organisation that provides an annual award for any person or group that successfully engages in ethical, nonviolent acts of disobedience in the service of society, and in their schools children are encouraged to consider situations in which disobedience is acceptable and desirable for the common good. Actually it so happens there’s an identical award made by MIT on Planet Earth, but sadly here any positive disobedience in schools is just not up for discussion. The only place it might be found is in the Creative and Performing Arts where the weirdos, artists and misfits tend to hang out.

Dunce caps

A dunce is a person considered incapable of learning.The word is derived from the name of the 13th Century Scottish Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus.

In their continuing bid to improve academic standards, traditional teachers have been demanding a return to the good old days when under-performing school children were required to wear special pointed caps to denote their lack of ability. They had to sit or stand in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had successfully remembered what they had been taught. Dunces are often humorously shown wearing dunce caps with a large capitalized “D” on them.

In contrast, on parallel Planet Urth, more progressive teachers believe that Duns Scotus actually recommended the wearing of conical hats to stimulate the brain – so-called ‘thinking caps’ – and this led wizards to adopt the use of pointed hats to denote how clever they were. What a Wizard idea!

 

Dunteachin

All Change Please! used to work with someone who used to remark: “I love my job. I hate my job.” By which he meant he loved working in education but hated senior management whose intent seemed to be to making his job as difficult as possible to do. But that’s all over now, as we’re both Dunteachin, enjoying our retirement and reflecting on how things were so much better in education in the pre-National Curriculum, Ofsted, League Table world of the 1980s.

Fortunately though All Change Please! has not quite Dunbloggin yet and, unless anything more interesting happens first, will be back soon to see if it can make up some unsuitable nonsense about the letter E.

In case you missed them, there’s more merriment to be found in ‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for…,

Boris Bunter’s Christmas Tory Party

“Let’s Get Breakfast Done”

To help bring 2019, and indeed the second decade of the 21st Century, to as swift a conclusion as possible, the subject of this year’s All Change Please!‘s fractured seasonal literary masterpiece* is ‘Billy Bunter‘, written by Frank Richards (just one of Charles Hamilton‘s 25 pen-names). For the purpose of much-needed satirical humour, All Change Please! intends to re-name Billy Bunter as Boris Bunter.

For those unfamiliar with the stories of Billy Bunter, he is a fictional schoolboy who features in stories set at Greyfriars Boys’ School. They were originally published – as early as 1908 – in various weekly story papers, novels, television shows, stage plays and comic strips. Bunter is famously overweight as he is obsessed with food and is utterly unscrupulous in helping himself to his schoolfellows’ sweets, cakes and hampers. He has every intention of repaying the cash he borrows, but his celebrated postal order, always due to arrive the next day, almost never materialises.

Bunter is in the Remove stream whose 13-14 year-old pupils have been selected to ‘jump’ an academic year in order that later they will have an extra year to prepare for Oxbridge entrance examinations.

As Wikipedia reveals:

‘Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited. These defects, however, are not recognised by Bunter. In his own mind, he is an exemplary character: handsome, talented and aristocratic; and he dismisses most of those around him as “beasts”. All these, combined with Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and inept attempts to conceal his antics from his schoolmasters and schoolfellows, combine to make a character that succeeds in being highly entertaining but which rarely attracts the reader’s lasting sympathy.

On many levels, Bunter’s character is deeply unattractive. He is the living embodiment of several of the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, avarice, sloth and, most especially, greed and gluttony. Added to these, Bunter is also inquisitive, deceitful and obtuse. However these traits are softened by Bunter’s cheery optimism, his comically transparent untruthfulness and his reliable ineptitude when attempting to conceal his antics.’

Now who could this description possibly remind you of?

The Billy Bunter stories reveal something about life in a public school during the first half of the last century. Perhaps of greatest interest is their use of ‘posh-boy slang’ of the time, with the use of phrases such as….

“Will you let a fellow speak?” yelled Bunter
“Cut off and get it, old chap.”
“You fat, foozling, frowsy fathead —!”
“Can’t find the fat frump anywhere.”
“You fat spoofer!”
“Sorry, old porpoise.”

Meanwhile the references to various items of tuck shop food treats and any examples of inappropriate innuendo made in All Change Please!’s version of Billy Bunter are entirely derived from its rapidly ageing imagination.

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Then we’ll begin…


One crisp late October morning, once upon a long time ago, the Bullying Club (as everyone called them) were assembled in the Bluefriars Boys’ School Remove Study. Grease Smug, Dominic Rabid, Andrew Loathsome, James Stupidly and Savage Livid were busy discussing plans for their traditional end-of-term Christmas Party. This mainly consisted of acquiring and then stuffing themselves with as much festive tuck as they possibly could, including, of course, plenty of well-cooked gammon. Only Boris Bunter was missing from the meeting.

“Has anyone seen the fat round frump?” asked Grease Smug. “He’s looking more and more like a Christmas Pudding every day! Let’s all throw something at him when he finally arrives!” They really were very unpleasant childish bullies, and insulting each other came naturally to them.

Suddenly the door flung open and Boris entered in a state of considerable excitement, wobbling not unlike an enormous pink blancmange being carried in on a plate.

“I say, you fellows! I’ve got some spiffing news! It will really make this year’s Christmas Party the best ever!”

“So spill the baked beans then, you fat spaffer,” said Andrew Loathsome, as loathsomely as he possibly could.

“Well, you know there’s been a lot of talk recently about disbanding the Remove stream and making us all join in with the other classes?”

“How can we possibly be expected to study for Oxbridge if we are going to be dragged down by all the plebs?” said Savage Livid, in a state of utter lividness.

“So I suggested that to settle the matter we should organise a vote on it to elect the School Captain – and they were all daft enough to agree, even though they haven’t got a chance! So when we win and I become School Captain, we really will have something to celebrate over Christmas! Just wait until everyone sees the size of my majority!”

“Who will be daft enough to try to oppose us then?” asked Dominic Rabid, rather rabidly.

“Well, let’s see. The main chaps in favour of the idea of removing the Remove stream are Joe Swansong’s Library Democrats – they want all of us to Remain together in the same classes as we were in the First Form – but don’t worry, there’s not enough of them to make a real difference. Although for librarians they have been making quite a lot of noise recently – apparently their slogan is “We shall not, we shall not be Removed” – but that’s never going to catch on, is it?

Then there’s Jeremy CorBlimey’s Common Room followers who don’t seem to be able to make their minds up whether they want a Remove or a Remain stream, and anyway he spends all his time digging the school vegetable garden, so no real problem there. I guess there will a couple of marginal swing seats in the playground, but let’s face it, we hold all the cakes… We’ll make mincemeat of all of them! Indeed, if I don’t win: “Ego vellem magis mortuos in fossa.”

“Except I doubt if there’s a ditch anywhere big enough to fit you in!” joked Grease Smug, exceedingly smugly.

“What we need to do first is to write our manifesto, making up lots of unbelievably fantastic things we say we’ll do if we win,” continued Bunter. “We can just promise anything we like – afterwards no-one will actually remember what we said we would do. And if they do we can explain it was all aspirational and just a statement as to what we might do if and when the opportunity arose over the next five or ten years and it helped us stay in power for even longer. We could even announce we would Take Back Control of the Tuck shop, even though we never lost it. So any suggestions you fellows?”

“Well, we could offer to provide 100 new low-cost ‘starter’ desks for first formers,” suggested Andrew Loathsome.

“Excellent, we got away without doing that one last time, so we can use it again,” said James Stupidly.

“Wait!” said Bunter. “I can Trump that! Let’s promise to privatise Matron, and then we can get an attractive blonde American nurse instead. Someone who can teach us all about the latest medical technology.“ Suddenly, and in those more innocent days for no apparent reason, Bunter remembered that he needed to urgently visit the Tuck shop to acquire a couple of nice cream pies with enormous red cherries on top, along with two rather scrumptious-looking iced buns.

“And just wait till you hear Dominic Cunning’s plan,” Bunter continued. “I bumped into him coming down the corridor and he came up with the brilliant wheeze of promising the school an extra 350 jam tarts a week from the tuck shop. Of course when we say extra jam tarts, that includes all the ones they already stock. He also suggested we paint it on the side of our battle bikes as a slogan and cycle all round the school pavements – though of course that would be the naughtiest thing I have ever done.

“Those are all very clever ideas,” said James Stupidly, “but how are we going to pay for them? Some interfering teacher is bound to ask.”

“No problem,” said Boris – “I’m expecting a postal order soon from my rich uncle Vladimir Bunter in Russia.”

“And then of course there’s the all important Green vote to consider,” said Dominic Rabid. How about we pledge to get the woodwork of the school pavilion repainted back to its original green colour? And don’t forget that the most important thing is to ensure our secret school garden hedge fund is kept in good shape for the future.”

“Fracking Hell, what Wizard Wheezes!” exclaimed Savage Livid.

“I expect Jeremy CorBlimey will offer everyone free full-fibre broad beans,” suggested James Stupidly, and not at all cleverly.

“Don’t be such an old parsnip! It’s going to be years before people become interested in eating high-fibre diets” exclaimed Grease Smug.

“Hadn’t we better suppress our last end-of-term reports?” asked Loathsome somewhat nervously. “There are some awkward comments about us there we wouldn’t want leaking out into public.”

At that point, Boris shouted ‘Fag’, and a rather vacant, somewhat intoxicated-looking youth immediately appeared.

“Ah, there you are Gover. Go over to the school office, find our last reports and burn them, will you? Cut along, now. And no jokes about not sitting on them, please.”

“Yes, at once Bunter,” said Gover, somewhat glibbly, and he scurried off.

“What a Jammie Dodger** you are Bunter,” said Rabid. “How many more clever lies can you think of to tell everyone?”

“I’ve never tried to lie,” lied Boris. “I just get things wrong sometimes.” He felt his nose grow slightly, but just in time remembered that fortunately his father had taught him how to spell Pinocchio, so he knew he was clever enough never be found out.

Undeterred, Boris went on, “I will give a speech on the main school steps to launch our campaign, and I’ll be sure to include lots of Latin phrases that no-one will understand but will make me sound jolly clever. I’ll have to ask Mr Google, the new Latin master, to help with the translations, although I’m not quite sure how accurate he is. I know! How about: ‘Veni, vidi, cepi’ – ‘I came, I saw, I feasted.’?”

“Or perhaps ‘Piffle, wiffle, waffle?’”  Savage Livid sniggered savagely. “Whatever that means? Perhaps it’s ‘I piffled, I wiffled, I waffled’?”

Boris gave Livid a stare as cold as an empty chaired ice-sculpture hiding in a freezer to avoid journalists. “And we’re going to need a jolly good slogan,” he continued, as usual completely ignoring anything he didn’t want to hear.

“What about: ‘Unleash Bluefriars’ Potential’?”

“Unleash Bunter’s trouser belt, more likely!” joked Stupidly, fortunately without clarifying exactly what he meant.

Let’s Get Breakfast Done?” Smog suggested.

“No thanks,” replied Bunter. “I already got a substantial breakfast done about three hours ago, and anyway it will be lunchtime soon. Going back to the slogan, we want everyone to think we’re going to take back control and clear up the current mess – even if was one we made it ourselves. Everything needs to be clearly labelled, neatly organised and put back exactly in its proper place according to the rules – the way things used to be: ‘Make Bluefriars Straight Again’.“

“OK chaps, remember our aim is ‘panem nostrum comedemus et erit etiam’ – to have as much cake as we can possibly get hold of, and then to eat it all. Mind you then we won’t have our cake any more, so we can’t actually have our cake and eat it too, but who cares about logic?”

And so the electioneering began and Boris and the Bullying Club got up to all sorts of dirty tricks, spreading all sorts of false facts, porkie pies, and tall tales just like they were butter on a toasted crumpet.

Sadly though Boris Bunter was such an amiable buffoon that everyone voted for him without realising what a fat, foozling, frowsy, fraudulent fruitcake of a bounder he was. In the end Bunter achieved a majority that was even larger than he was. What a fantastic Christmas Tory Party the Bullying Club had, and between them they somehow managed to scoff all the festive tuck intended for the whole school, and without a care for all the poor losers who were just left wondering whether Bunter would turn out to be a benevolent or a malevolent school captain.

Bunter had successfully managed to mislead everyone into thinking that the most important thing was to get breakfast done, even though it would take much longer than he was prepared to admit for the kitchen staff to prepare his half-baked, oven-ready offering. And they had also been persuaded to believe that Jeremy CorBlimey would ruin the school by admitting a lot more disadvantaged pupils and raising the school fees to pay for them by amounts that Bunter had grossly exaggerated. Thus the turkeys voted to get Christmas done, and got duly stuffed.

“We now have an overwhelming mandate to democratically deliver the will of the pupils,” pronounced Bunter the day after the election. “In a word, this is the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the Bluefriars’ pupils. I will not let the 47 pupils who voted for us down, but we will of course completely ignore the needs and wants of the 53 that didn’t vote for us,” he wisely didn’t add as he knew Maths was not his best subject.

“We are now united in our aim of making this school the best in the world, and indeed, one day I predict a Prime Minister shall come forth from our midst. But for now I urge everyone to find closure and let the healing begin, or to put it a much better way, to find the kitchen and let the eating begin. Let’s get Breakfast done!”

Immediately after the election Joe Swansong, Dennis Skinny-Latte, David Awkward and Chuka Umma Gumma were off-rolled for their poor results before they did any further damage to the school’s reputation. Jeremy CorBlimey was last seen pausing for reflection while digging a deep hole for himself in the school allotments.

“I say,” said Boris afterwards. “That was a truly jolly jape! Sometime when we are older we must do it all again, except not just in a school, but across the whole country…”


Unfortunately Frank Richards died in 1961, so we shall never know what happened to Billy Bunter when he grew up – if he ever did…

* Other previous fractured seasonal literary-based posts are also available, such as last year’s ‘Br’er Exit and The Tory Party‘ or ’Tonight at Morning Break’, ‘Theresa in Wonderland‘ and of course the classic ‘The Gove of Christmas Present‘.

** For the sake of historical accuracy, and to help prevent the possible spread of false news, it should be noted that back then it would be unlikely that Savage Rabid would have called Bunter a ‘Jammie Dodger’, as the popular biscuit was not named as such until it was first manufactured by Burtons in the early 1960s. The name was derived from Jammie, meaning ‘lucky’, and the surname of Roger the Dodger, the character from ‘The Beano’ who first appeared in 1953. But that doesn’t make Boris any less of a Jammie Dodger….

With best wishes for Christmas and the coming Blue Years from All Change Please!

Ten Years After

 

For the benefit of the younger reader, Ten Years After were a popular U.K. blues beat band combo of the late 1960s and 70s, who performed regularly in music festivals, including Woodstock. As an ‘album’ band, they were best known for the track ‘I’m Going Home’. Uncertainty remains as to exactly what it was that had happened to them Ten Years Before, but it’s of no great importance because, apart from their name, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with the band.

The only connection is that today is All Change Please!s 10th birthday, which makes it exactly Ten Years After it published its very first post. A lot has happened since then, except of course in education where things have generally gone backwards to the way things were Fifty Years Before.

Anyway, as usual, All Change Please! likes to take this annual opportunity to report and reflect on its posts from the past twelve months in the pathetic hope you might be encouraged to re-read some of them, or, more likely, catch up on ones you didn’t read in the first place.

The three most read posts, presented in reverse order to increase the suspense, have been:

3. Just Williamson

With nothing better to do, All Change Please! likes to amuse itself by trying to be the first satirical educational blog to comment on the announcement of a new education secretary, which isn’t difficult as there aren’t many other satirical blogs out there for it to compete with.

Having likened Gavin Williamson to Richmal Crompton’s ‘William”, All Change Please! was careful not to mention the tarantula he keeps on his desk, and his being sacked for taking a Huawei leak while Defence Secretary, but hey – no-one’s perfect…

2. Michaela the Unconquerable

Now, to be quite clear, this post was not intended to be written as an angry attack on Michaela students, their hard work, politeness and consideration for others, their backgrounds or their success at gaining GCSE results – but it was meant as a considered critique of the school’s narrow conservative academic curriculum and strict behaviour policy.

1. Beyond Our Ken

This special edition of All Change Please! was a tribute to writer, designer and educationalist  who sadly recently passed away. Ken Baynes was one of the very few people who understood the potential of design education, not primarily as a means to produce a future generation of professional designers, but as a powerful and important learning experience for everyone, and one that potentially extended across the curriculum as a whole.

 

But as usual, All Change Please!’s favourite posts do not necessarily reflect the Will Of The People, and it would therefore also like to nominate:

Br’er Exit

“Well now, that rascal Br’er Exit hated Br’er EU on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So Br’er Exit decided to get rid of Br’er EU if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. First he persuaded Br’er Dave to call a referendum. Then he fix up a contrapshun like a red bus, painted it with slogans he had made up and sat it in the middle de road.”

Also during the past twelve months All Change Please! has launched its audacious ‘Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Education…’ in which it reports on the different but also similar approaches to education on the nearby distant parallel Planet Urth…

‘A’ is for…

‘B is for…

‘C’ is for…

‘C’ is for… Continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Our Ken

 

In memory of Ken Baynes, 1934 – 2019

This special edition of All Change Please! is a tribute to writer, designer and educationalist Ken Baynes who sadly recently passed away. Ken Baynes was one of the very few people who understood the potential of design education, not primarily as a means to produce a future generation of professional designers, but as a powerful and important learning experience for everyone, and one that potentially extended across the curriculum as a whole.

The support and encouragement Ken gave me during the 1980s was critical as I sought to establish one of the few secondary schools that actually attempted to deliver a developmental programme of design education from 11 to 18. In those days there was no National Curriculum, Ofsted inspection or league table regime that dictated what must be taught and as a result it was possible to easily explore new approaches to teaching and learning and curriculum content. The only problem was establishing the validity of what was being done, and to do that one needed convincing external approval, which Ken provided in abundance.

Informed and Inspired during the mid 1970s by his books ‘Industrial Design & the Community’, ‘Attitudes in Design education’ and ‘About Design’ I first met Ken at the Design Education Unit of the Royal College of Art in December of 1979. I recall two things about him. One was his enthusiasm trying to recruit me to undertake an MA there, which sadly I was never able to do. The other was that he was wearing cowboy boots.

Later in the 1980s he invited my school to contribute to an exhibition he was curating called ‘The ART of LEGO’, and we all spent many happy hours diving into two large tubs of assorted LEGO bricks to explore their potential as a modelling material. He visited the school on several occasions to participate in a range of one-day project workshops we ran. It also gave me the opportunity to visit him to discuss the exhibition on the splendid barge he lived in on the now unrecognisable Paddington Basin.

The last time I worked with Ken was in 2017 when he asked me to contribute to a Loughborough Design Press publication ‘Design Epistemology and Curriculum Planning’. As an essentially academic publication with a very academic title I said I wasn’t sure I could manage to write anything with the usual long list of book and journal references, to which he delightfully replied ‘We don’t want to know what you’ve read, we want to know what you think.’ He had the last laugh though: his contribution was a series of wonderful sketch drawings.

For the very first edition of the NSEAD JADE magazine, back in 1982, Ken contributed an article entitled ‘Beyond Design Education’. One paragraph in particular struck me as being of particular importance, and indeed is more relevant than ever today:

“I do not believe that the creation of visual literacy or design awareness is something that will yield to any grand curriculum strategy. It is a matter of footwork. It is a matter of detailed, local development. It is a matter of the ‘small print’ of teaching. It is to do with building up confidence. It is about people meeting to change one another and to create something new. At national level, it means encouraging diversity and unique local initiatives. It means putting people in touch with one another and leaving them to get on with it.“

In our current academic knowledge-obsessed, subject-based national curriculum there appears to be little space or opportunity for Ken’s vision to be realised. But at some point in the future we will perhaps come to accept that there is a need for an education that is more appropriate for today – let alone tomorrow. When we do, we must ensure that its architects and planners have access to Ken’s pioneering work that established the foundations of design education that are there ready, just waiting to be built on.

Punning on his article’s title, I had the idea that one day in the future I should write a follow-up piece entitled ‘Beyond Our Ken’. Sadly, many years later, this has proved to have been it.

If you had the pleasure of meeting or working with Ken, please do add your own memories and tributes below.

 

Photographs of Ken Baynes courtesy of Eileen Adams

‘C’ is for…. Continued

It’s been a long time coming, but here from All Change Please!’s Absolutely Absurd Alternative A to Z of Educashun is the rest of ‘C’ is for…

Just in case you’ve been living in an alternative reality and have missed ‘A’ is for…, ‘B’ is for… and ‘C’ is for… (Part Duh), then this is All Change Please!‘s report on its recent visit to Planet Urth. Being a parallel universe, their world of teaching and learning bears a striking resemblance to our own: many things are exactly the same, but due to their particular fractured timeline, some things are rather different in an interesting way.

Comparative Pears

Comparative Judgement involves comparing series of ‘pairs’ of school work with each other and deciding which is of higher quality. When applied across a range of pieces of work and compared by a team of judges a measurement scale, from best to worst, emerges. It has been found that this process is quicker and more reliable than the traditional method in which each piece of work is assessed separately by one judge.

On Planet Urth, this process was developed centuries ago and is known as ‘Comparative Pears Assessment’ and was derived from the fruit industry where the technique was developed to produce a reliable grading scale for pears.

 

 

 

Creativity and collaboration

On our planet, most people seem to have a very limited understanding of creativity that just involves being able to reproduce pretty pictures in the style of a famous artist, play a classical musical instrument, perform in the school play or be able to think of more than one possible use for a brick. At the same time, teachers who have simply told pupils to ‘work in groups’ quickly, and not surprisingly, decide that it’s an approach that isn’t going to work.

The fact that our current cohort of predominantly privately-educated, academic Russell Group University alumni politicians seem quite incapable of any creative collaborative problem-solving is a powerful indictment of what’s missing in our current education system: these days, knowledge on its own isn’t power.

On Planet Urth everybody understands that creativity and collaboration involve a great deal more. There learning about creativity is seen as acquiring a state of mind that is curious, persistently looking for and open to new ideas, searching for different ways of doing things, taking risks and transforming and combining things in original ways. Teachers have also realised that team work doesn’t just happen, and that learners need to be systematically taught how to analyse and improve the performance of their team. As such both creativity and collaboration are highly valued, planned across the curriculum and each year group, properly monitored and rigorously assessed – and not by writing an essay in the school hall.

Cognitive Load Theory

On Planet Urth ‘Cognitive Truck Overload Theory’ sensibly states that there’s only so much stuff you can pile on to a lorry before it won’t be able to move very far. Thus it becomes necessary to reduce the load – but how do you decide what to take off and what to leave on? The obvious answer for the supplier to simply take all the lightest items off and just deliver all the heaviest components, without realising that whoever is due to receive them needs them all to be able to assemble the product they are manufacturing. Thus a much better approach might be to take some of the lightest items off and some of the heaviest ones as well to achieve a balanced delivery.

Unfortunately in education on our Planet Earth the knowledge merchants don’t see it quite like that, because they are convinced that removing absolutely any of their facts and figures is out of the question. “We can’t do everything” they cry, so off come all what they consider to be the heavier creative problem-solving skills, critical analysis and collaborative work that they believe only adults should be allowed to manage, and on instead goes even more knowledge, all neatly and conveniently packaged into self-contained regular-sized and easily measurable subject boxes. Apparently in extreme cases it can even include removing things like classroom displays, experimental modelling activities, discussion – anything that gets in the way of those pure, unadulterated quickly-testable nuggets of knowledge, delivered from the front of the class.

In real life we face a constant process of deciding how to allocate our time between absorbing, responding to and exploring new material and deciding how and when to best apply it. Loading and off-loading what we are trying to remember according to its importance at a given moment is in itself a high-level skill children need to be learning and developing as they grow up, rather than just having it decided for them by so-called grown-ups.

Commuter Studies

Commuting was first introduced into schools during the 1980s. Commuters in schools are often to be found crowded together in special rooms that contain workstations, and discussing the timetable and which platforms to use. They are staffed by special teachers known as servers, presumably because they spend their time serving tea and coffee to everyone.

The lights in these commuter rooms are always flickering as they are constantly being turned off and on again.

Cross-curricular

Cross-curricular work happens in schools where teachers use an interdisciplinary approach to learning that involves exploring the connections that exist naturally between subjects, just as it does in the real world children will encounter when they leave school. However, as it involves taking considerable risks and teachers need to step outside their specialisms, many of them get very agitated and upset when trying cross-curricular approaches.

Hence their belief that the opposite to a cross curricular approach is a happy curricular approach.

Constantinople

“Constantinople is a very long word. Can you spell it?”
This sums up the level of popular grammar schoolboy humour in the 1960s – the unfortunate victim proceeds to spell ‘C – o – n.., before being informed with mock astonishment that he doesn’t know how to spell the word ‘it’. What a laugh! Even more extraordinary is that at the time Constantinople was still thought of as being the capital of Turkey, even though it had officially become Istanbul in 1923, so the joke probably dates back to to an even earlier time. So much for the non-existent coverage of current affairs at the time. Generally speaking, if it happened after 1900, it wasn’t on the curriculum.

Cursive writing

A lot of people are concerned that children are no longer being taught cursive writing. However, on Planet Urth more progressive teachers are now discouraging children from learning how to write curses as it is generally considered to be anti-social, there’s quite enough of it on TV already, and anyway these days it’s difficult to find regular employment as a witch.

Along with learning how to write spells (known as ‘Spelling’), it’s seen as yet another example of children being taught things that are out-of-date ‘just in case’ they ever need them at some point in the future.

 

 

So that’s it for the letter C, but watch out there’s a letter D on its way soon…

 

Photo credits:  Carol Mitchell/Flickr , Pixabay.