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Showing posts from January, 2010

Special Needs

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I see the government has rumbled one ruse, reportedly used by schools to 'get extra funding and inflate their position in new-style rankings' and that's to label as many pupils as possible with 'Special Educational Needs'. Apparently, in some schools, as many as half of pupils are now diagnosed with learning difficulties or behavioral problems, it was revealed, just weeks after a cross-party group of MPs criticised schools for being too quick to label children with poor reading skills as dyslexic.

Given the enormous pressure placed on schools to improve their results by the government, I'm not surprised at this or in fact any other gambit being used to show an annual league table improvement and in many ways, it mirrors the pressures being applied to hospital trusts in showing constant improvement or to conceal what often appears to the man-in-the-street, to be a steady decline in overall standards which are contradicted by statistics.

The reality of the matte…

Photo Call

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With the risk of a terrorist incident now raised to the level of 'Severe', I've come out from under my desk long enough to write this short blog entry, before returning to cover my windows in brown paper.

What this heightened state actually means in real terms is hard to fathom and the Home Secretary doesn't appear to be any wiser either. What he can't say of course is who might be responsible or indeed, whether 'they', whoever 'they' might be, may have returned from any recent adventure holiday break to Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia.



I'm pretty sure though, that if you went down to the bookmakers and placed a bet, call it risk profiling if you like, based on actual incidents over the last ten years, you would get pretty short odds on the suspects, leaving one to wonder why Auntie Mabel really needs to experience the indignity of airport body scanning, now she's passed the age of seventy.

So for now, we all have to treat each other with equal…

A Bite of the Apple

Today, I finally joined the massed ranks of Apple's iPhone users, swapping out my Blackberry 9000 for the first batch of the popular smartphones to ship out of Vodafone.

I've been patiently for a year now, as O2 users have had the device for rather a long time and have delighted in showing me how limited the Blackberry, which is powerful in its email capability, is when it comes to 100,000 iPhone 'apps'.

I mentioned that I gave my wife one of the HTC Google Android devices for Christmas and to be honest, it's much easier to install than the iPhone and given its powerful integration with the expanding Google product platform, possibly a better device. However, the iPhone has all the aviation and business apps that haven't yet appeared on the Android and from my point of view, it's apps library has some 80,000 more compelling applications available than Google's but I'm sure that will soon change.

In my view however, if you are looking for one of the…

Gesture Politics

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Up to the big city today and the large amount of snow on the ground past Herne Bay towards London came as a surprise to me; as did the presence of British Transport Police on the train. Where the former was concerned this illustrated how much Thanet benefits from its micro-climate and the latter, well I've been corresponding with the Chief Constable of British Transport Police in conjunction with Thanet North MP, Roger Gale and I'm delighted to see they have a series of operations running on the trains between here and Faversham. With luck, an occasional police presence will deter the teenage element that I frequently see causing problems between Margate and Herne bay when I'm travelling.

I did notice today an initiative from Gordon Brown to put PCs into the hands of more deprived children and their families, a laudable objective. In fact, when he did this first time around at the beginning of the decade, I was still working with the present Government through the Cabinet…

Fishy Story

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It's a bit quiet out there this morning. The road in from Birchington is almost empty, on account of both the A28 and the Thanet Way being closed by accidents, effectively cutting-off the island from the outside world until cleared. We appear to have escaped the worst of the snow as usual, having warmer sea temperatures on both sides and the further west you go, I hear the worse it is.

I'm trying to get to a meeting at the council offices in Margate today so rather than risk the icy roads; I plan to walk along the seafront, as it's a pleasant if rather brisk day. Neither one of my small dogs is prepared to volunteer for arctic sled work and earlier, the older one arbitrarily decide to turn around and head for home after experiencing the bitter wind chill on the beach at 8am.

Wednesday, was one more exciting day in politics with what appears to have been a failed attempt by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, to unseat Gordon Brown from his 'Scotsman –like' grip on the …

School's Out

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I'm not convinced that Schools Secretary, Ed Balls and I share the same planet. After watching his interview on BBC Breakfast this morning, I'm even more concerned that he's 'lost the plot' in a fog of well-meaning and wide-eyed socialist zeal.



To cut a very long story short, Ed, like everyone else, wants the best possible education for all our children to give them the best possible start in society and to deliver the best possible skills to the economy of tomorrow. It's a laudable aspiration shared by every politician regardless of party.

The Schools Secretary however believes that he can legislate for such success, increasing the education budget and guaranteeing parents that if their child falls behind, then one-to-one teaching will be made available. It's a little more detailed than this of course but I think you will grasp the broad picture.

Strangely enough, even his BBC interviewer appeared a little incredulous. After all, you may throw large amount…

History Reminds Us

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It occurs to me that Britain's' future security won't so much be determined by what happens on the playing fields of Eton rather than the mountains of Yemen.



I was invited to the country five years ago by the UN to speak at a conference in the capital, Sana'a. I really wanted to visit as this is one part of the Arab world that I have yet to set foot in but with it being a hotbed for Islamic terrorist groups, I decided to give the British Ambassador a call for her opinion on whether it was a safe choice of destination. As she only ventured out in the company of an armoured Range Rover and a handful of Special Forces bodyguards, her answer was quite unequivocal. So I asked the UN if they were able to guarantee my personal safety and the reply was an equally unequivocal 'No', so I politely declined the invitation.

In the week that saw the release of IT consultant Peter Moore, from long captivity in Iraq as well, I'm rather glad that I didn't take-up the o…

Postmans' Knock

The postman had to remind me this morning that it wasn't Sunday. "It's OK," he said, "I almost forgot as well" and so thankfully, I avoided waking the family up in time for church.

After a while, the Christmas holiday starts to resemble the film, 'Groundhog Day'. There's still half a Christmas pudding left under cling film and the cream is reaching its sell-by-date and so someone has to make that final gesture of selfless courage and eat it. The two bottles of good Irish whiskey present me with a rather more difficult challenge before work starts on Monday.

The New Year is hardly hours old before all the political parties are starting their pre-election campaigns. I caught the LibDems Chris Hulme this morning taking a thinly disguised class-war swipe at David Cameron over Conservative plans for inheritance tax reform, suggesting it was a cynical ploy to pander to his rich friends and George Osborne's.

Curiously enough though, the BBC ran a p…

A Tale of Two Digits

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Reading today's papers, one story in particular struck me as one with a deep interest in both education and technology.



Reportedly, a group of eight primary school head teachers have spent £32,000 of taxpayer's money on a three-week training course in Australia, which involved visiting 12 Australian schools. This was apparently an 'investment', or as the trip head teacher Lauren Connor said: 'We want to learn more about how they are using ICT as a delivery mechanism for the whole curriculum. "We made a short film to present to the Australian Education Department in Sydney, and we are looking forward to establishing closer links with schools down under."

To be honest, I can't really see what can be achieved from a trip of this kind 'down-under' as head teachers are pretty much locked-in to our own national curriculum and their own tight budgets. In recent months, I've been on a university course and have also been in school, observing how …