Hinds’ Legs on an Educational Donkey

In an interview with The Guardian today and reported and commented on by that paper here, they single out three areas with which the Education Secretary has strong views and/or concerns.

Before commenting on those – because my ESCD* has kicked in – I will just explain why I have an inherent distrust about Damian Hinds as he has, in addition to those three specific points, expressed his concerns regarding teacher workloads and the stress this causes:

I don’t believe it. Why don’t I believe it? Well, he is a Conservative Education Secretary, but more broadly, in my 38 years of being directly involved in secondary education I have never come across an Education Secretary who does seem to have any genuine educational nous about this national area for which s/he is responsible, apart from, that is, Estelle Morris [which is 1 out of 18 from 1980 to the present] and this is a relative judgement.

I think it is political posturing where it is ‘sensible’ to express a concern about teacher stress because in so many ways it doesn’t require very much for him to express this and appear that he has a knowing care and concern. Sceptical? Well, 38 years and 17 Secretaries of State for Education….

Now to these three areas of special interest, highlighted in italics as quoted in today’s Guardian with my brief following observations. Damian Hinds is reported to have:

  • Defended the new, tougher A level, and GCSE exams as helping to prepare pupils for the real world.

I have written about this before, but it is this buzzsaw word of ‘tougher’ exams that sums up the complete nonsense of the sweeping statement because it naturally represents no personal comprehension of how teaching and learning can be made to challenge whilst at the same time enable students to demonstrate their understanding and skills in a variety of subjects. It also represents no awareness of how subjects have been designed and implemented to apparently deliver their new ‘toughness’. ‘Tougher’ in English as a subject  – my area of expertise – just means harder for students to access and engage with. I don’t believe – I really don’t – that Damian Hinds has an iota of appreciation of just how in English [A Level, GCSE, and SATs] students are best taught and learn. And this complete ignorance is enough for him to declare that it will ‘prepare pupils for the real world’. What, rather than the ‘fake’ world? Does he really mean the ‘world of work’? ‘Prepare’? Is this about knowledge? Is this about rote learning? Is this about understanding and appreciation? Is this about transferable skills? Is there any further thought and feeling than a soundbite?

  • Rebuked primary schools that put pressure on young pupils to do well in their national assessments or Sats.

Well, this takes the biscuit. Or donkey’s carrot. Still, if the Head of Ofsted can make such similar deeply ironic comments about teachers teaching to the tests because of government targets and league tables by which they are judged [by Ofsted] then I guess the Secretary of State for Education can be as dumb.

  • Warned grammar schools that their expansion would only succeed if they took more children from disadvantaged families.

Actually, I have no real trenchant comment on this other than I have noticed over recent weeks the profound hypocrisy when this government, especially the Prime Minister Theresa May, constantly invoke the principles of democracy [e.g. because the referendum vote was democratically ‘in favour’ of Brexit – that is despite the subsequent unravelling of the misinformation and subterfuge exercised by those primarily in support of Brexit – we absolutely must follow it] how May is by and large autocratically responsible for the grammar school expansion policy despite almost all of the professional advice against it and the fact that in most polls on this issue – in lieu of an actual referendum vote on it – the vast majority of the public have no will for the expansion/extension of grammar schools. So really Hinds’ view on this is the least of any concerns we as a democracy should have.

*ESCD: Education Secretary Cynicism Default


In the decades of this,
and driving by,
it is the first time I’ve heard
hee-haws from the sanctuary’s
fields, an ass telling us
of its suffering and pain
now lessened.

Earlier, when asked
how she was, her reply
I’m alight, now,
was lost in the calm expanse
of sea and sun all seeming
fine, the qualifier
lessening then.

National Poetry Day Hasn’t Changed!

NPD Main Logo with copy

It is still on the 4th October, 2018, and the theme is still Change.

As teachers are winding down [if not still spun by directed time…] and looking forward to their well-earned breaks, I am going to have one more prod about National Poetry Day which will be hot on the heels that have already hit the ground running when the new term begins.

With apologies for mentioning that continuance [!], now might be the time to get some initial preparation completed for the 4th October, and I am suggesting no more than downloading the resources I have prepared for National Poetry Day 2018 which can be found here.

[NB For free resources, click ‘here’ above and download pdf copies]

Since the first posting of my writing resources, I have added one Student Sheet and, when I’ve finished my GCSE examining – I am still on the job, so to speak – I will complete more including a Teacher Notes for all of the student writing ideas.

NPD logo (2)

There is so much excellent material out there, mainly from the National Poetry Day site here, and while I fully endorse this, I do have a particular opinion about providing writing ideas for the day which are straightforward for all students as well as open to considerable individual creative potential.

What I mean is the day should be all about writing poetry rather than reading and/or studying it. I stress this is an opinion, but it is a practitioner’s viewpoint. By all means read loads of poetry – but perhaps make this the reading of the poetry written by students on the day!

I will post reminders of this nearer the day, with those additional resources.

My intention is quite simple: providing free ideas to engage and encourage students to write poems about Change.

Pathetic Fallacy

Deep into examining,
I’ve just had a break outside
hacking back two hedges and
overgrowing bamboo –
a quick correction in the heat
of this July afternoon.

Now returned, I’m marking
these last three of the day,
razor-sharp and re-tuned and
admiring the decisions
and precisions I see as the
clearest fine lines.

Top Fifty 35: The Greatest Show on Earth – Horizons, 1970

[Originally posted March 2013]


Clever Stuff

Released in 1970 on Harvest, this is one of my favourite albums being special in having been purchased – I wish I could remember where – entirely on the strength of the cover, and perhaps where it was spotted: in London maybe, but I really have no recollection.

It is notable for the lead singer’s gravelly vocal and a horn section tailored to emulate the success of American bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago. There is also a strong organ presence, as on the swirling opening to first track Sunflower Morning. The singer Colin Horton Jennings replaced original American vocalist Ozzie Lane and the band’s apparent soul leanings [I haven’t heard anything before this album].

I think in many ways that though this is seen as progressive rock, and very much the Harvest label’s attempts to pursue and promote this genre at such an apt time, it is very much pop rock – the tunes having the former sensibilities with the horn arrangements wrapped around, and Jennings’ vocal giving it the clear rock credibility. Take second track Angelina which is a fine pop tune, but at 2 minutes into the song, it breaks to the melody’s instrumental riff that itself breaks into a superb freeform trumpet solo, the thumping riff continued in the background with horns and organ in unison. Third track Skylight Man is a weird amalgam of lounge horns, then fuzz, a little organ, then angelic vocals before that B,S &T pumping horn riff kicks in. I think it is quite distinctive in both its time and since.

Fifth Day of the Lady begins with a strange musical requisite of the time, a fairground ditty [with the noise of a door closing….?] which then converts to quite a pretty folk song with guitar and mandolin runs and close vocal harmonies. Sixth Real Cool World is a wonderfully pompous horn-driven number with semi-manic laughing and great downward organ rolls around the strident horns, and then a blazing fuzz guitar solo. This song has absolutely everything melodramatic and memorable. Seventh I Fought For Love is one of the most psychedelic, beginning with sustained fuzz guitar and a powerful organ combination, and then a soft vocal is treated to some exaggerated echo effects before Jennings’ signature rasp picks up the melody. There is a thumping – literally – interlude accompanied by organ and then staccato horns [again, echoes of B,S & T], and then it ends on some beautiful vocal harmonies, again pinched off by echoing effects.

The title song is a fourteen minute rousing concoction of more horns and fuzz to start, and then organ and horns dancing together, quite funky at times. There is a different kind of musical requisite here, the drum solo which is excellent [they always were, come on], then a bass with flute segment [with the fine flute solo played by Jennings], and it arrives back to another fuzzed-out guitar solo by Garth Watt-Roy which is then joined by Mick Deacon on organ: a genuine instrumental progressive gem of that period and genre, especially as the fuzz and organ end on an Iron Butterfly  heaviness and the song returns to its funky opening theme.

The album ends on an acoustic sweetness with Again and Again, Jennings singing sweetly to start and the flute providing a tinge of folk prettiness – that is, until the song moves into another pop-rock piece of heightened action. It is very clever, and very much a shame that this is an album that doesn’t seem to have attained the same status as others of this time.




Philip Pullman and the Drafters

I think this order works best –

Read this first:

In a statement, the Department for Education spokeswoman responded: “We want to unlock the world of reading for pupils so that every child can not only read and write to a high standard, but can also develop a love for reading that will last until adulthood.

“That is why improving literacy is at the heart of this government’s drive to improve standards in our schools, and assessments do play an important role in making sure children are taught well.”

Now read Friday’s The Guardian article by Philip Pullman here.

Now read here about the DfE drafters [any post will do, the DfE Drafters Dodge 3rd May Logic to suffice, but I have been copious and consistent in exposing these nobodies].

Read this again [which will actually be the third time]:

In a statement, the Department for Education spokeswoman responded: “We want to unlock the world of reading for pupils so that every child can not only read and write to a high standard, but can also develop a love for reading that will last until adulthood.

“That is why improving literacy is at the heart of this government’s drive to improve standards in our schools, and assessments do play an important role in making sure children are taught well.”

There. As angry as I am?

Sung Worship

It is so welcomingly hot
this July morning, sitting outside
beneath the shade of a parasol
with the fanning cool of breeze,
reading these newspapers.

Over the road, doors
are open to New Life Church
who every Sunday worship there,
weekend learners in the
school’s assembly hall,

allowing air in and their
pretty singing out,
hymns which partly sooth the barbs
of my absolute disdain for
this benediction.

They cheer too,
whoops of winning and joy at
a challenge being played, bonding
within the psychology of
such struggle and belief

in their belonging. I thank
the summer’s sun and our brief walk
together before this shared serenade,
the two of us doing our best
with uncertainty.