“The Western World” <> “The USA”

Sorry, but I had to. I was reading a simple review of a computer temperature-monitoring program on VikiTech when  I read the following words:

“While the western world uses Fahrenheit as its temperature of choice…”

*face palm*

*seeing red*

*attempts not to paint all Americans with the same brush*

My response to them:

“While the western world uses Fahrenheit as its temperature of choice…” – sorry, but bullshit. The USA is not the total sum of the western world, only a small part of it. Europe uses Celsius, and it’s very much a part of this western world.

Population of Europe: 731 million
Population of USA: 307 million

On that basis, the USA is a minority shareholder in determining what temperature scale is “of choice” in the western world. Add to that the population of South America – on the same landmass as the USA, but also using Celsius these days – and your comment looks even more ludicrous.

In fact, let’s refer to Wikipedia (I know, I know – it’s not 100% accurate) which states that ” The temperature scale [Fahrenheit] was replaced by the Celsius scale in most countries during the mid to late 20th century, but it remains the official scale of the United States, Cayman Islands and Belize.”

So your “western world” consists of three nations with a combined population of approximately 735 million out of a world population of 7 billion, the rest of whom use Celsius.

Stop being so self-important and realise there is a whole world beyond your borders who aren’t quite so caught up in themselves.

Did I over-react?

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How to Destroy an Education System (by The Scottish Parliament, aged 11¾)

For those who are unaware, I am an NQT – “Newly Qualified Teacher“. Courtesy of the excellent system in Scotland, this means I get a fast track to full certification by being placed on a full year teaching experience on a wage slightly below that of a more experienced member of staff. I don’t get 100% “contact time” (that is, time in class with pupils) as this gives me time to generate lesson plans, practice with resources and equipment available to me, and explore other areas of the profession to help me become as good a teacher as possible.

I work in a system whereby the head of the department I am in is a certified and experienced teacher in that subject. Although I am contracted to a 35-hour week, I work significantly more hours than that. This is normal.

Believe it or not, if teachers wish to work to those exact contracted hours it is classed as industrial action and a ballot must be taken by a union before it can be done. Yes, seriously. It is industrial action to work within the limits of our agreed contract of employment. I believe we are the only profession for whom this is the case – please correct me if I’m wrong.

A few years ago, teachers agreed to a pay freeze due to financial issues. Shortly after that, inflation spiralled so that teachers are effectively worse off than they were when they agreed the freeze. Such is life. This kind of thing happens to people who sign onto tracker mortgages and the like. It’s a gamble, to some extent.

Teachers must also, as part of their employment agreement as public servants, pay into the pension pot. This isn’t the goldmine many people think it is, especially if a teacher doesn’t rise above being a regular member of staff. Senior staff, head teachers and so on may well see a nice return at the end of their career (and in most cases have flipping well earned it), but the rest of us will be lucky to get something half-decent. Again, do note – we can’t opt out of this to the best of my knowledge.

There’s a great scheme currently running called the Chartered Teacher Scheme. This enables teachers who are particularly invested in their profession to focus on certain topics and develop them. Think of it as a PhD for teachers (not accurate, but you get the idea). It brings them to the peak of their profession and encourages them to help improve other teachers in the process.

You may not be aware, but teachers teach teachers. A lot of the time when your kids aren’t in school, we are. Brushing up on techniques, covering new material, adjusting to new legislation and being taught by people such as these Chartered Teachers.

In the meantime, we’re also undergoing the single largest curricular change in Scottish education for decades with the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) which you may have heard of. This is a massive change to the way children are both taught and assessed. We have to adjust our ways of teaching, change how we record and present their educational records, develop new resources (absolutely none are provided by the people who’ve created this curriculum) and so forth.

What the Scottish Parliament is planning to do

1) To address a one-year budgetary framework, teachers are being asked to accept a two year pay freeze. Also permanent changes to their conditions of service. One of these is an increase in their pension contributions to at least 3.2% of their income. Remember, this is not a pension that can be opted out of. In addition, the return on this investment is lower than was promised years ago. Yes, that’s right – we’re being forced to pay more to receive less.

2) Supply teachers are being smacked in the face with a maximum 27.5 hour week for the first 8 days of any engagement – at Scale Point 1 on the pay scale (the lowest). Therefore any supply teacher who can’t get a nice long- or medium-term placement will never be paid at their deserved rate, and will never work a 35-hour week. Well, they will – they just won’t be paid beyond 27.5. A supply teacher at the top of the scale will suffer a 35% loss in earnings. And this isn’t taking into account the additional pension contributions mentioned previously. Expect this to cause a lot of people to drop out of the profession, particularly in rural areas where supply work is sparse as it is.

3) The Chartered Teacher Scheme is either being frozen or withdrawn completely, removing the best avenue for creating absolutely top-end teachers.

4) NQTs will be expected to work nearer 100% contact time, resulting in far less time to learn about being a teacher and generate good lesson plans. Essentially, it’s a way of getting cheap labour. NQTs are paid less than fully fledged staff and part of justifying that is that they work fewer hours (usually around 70%) while still devoting all of their non-contact time to self-improvement. The new legislation will mean they have to work virtually full time while still trying to find time for Continued Professional Development. Alternatively, those CPD sessions currently provided may be removed thus meaning that NQTs will be less effective in the medium term.

5) Sick pay will be reduced by 10% for each and every day of absence. This affects supply teachers, probationers (NQTs), those on maternity leave… you name it.

6) £81 million will be cut from the Teachers Pay Bill – a cut of 3.4%. In comparison, local authority grant settlements are being cut by 2.6%.

7) Within my area at least, a decision has been made to change from the existing Principle Teacher / Head of Department scheme to a “Faculty” one. This, basically, removes a fair number of senior staff and thus lowers the overall pay packet for teachers. It also means that the head of a Faculty could have no experience whatsoever in teaching the subjects they are overseeing. Do you honestly think it would make sense to have a Home Economics teacher overseeing Computing, Geography or P.E.? Of course it doesn’t.

This last point is a real bone of contention. The council have stated that there is no evidence that the current model is better. Or at least no financial evidence. In other words, they’re only bothered about the money, not about the effect on education. To turn their statement on its head, however, is to say that there’s also no evidence that their new Faculty model is of any educational benefit.

For some wonderful quotes from the … I shall be polite and say “individual” heading this motion, please read this article courtesy of the Edinburgh Evening News.

At a time when we’re undergoing such massive curricular changes, we need experienced staff in charge of departments in which they have a background. It’s simply plain common sense. Something obviously lacking from the council members trying to save a few bucks so they can continue to claim underwear from Marks & Spencer and five star hotel rooms should they get snowed in next December.

To sum up

Absolutely every single decision being made at both council and government level is to the detriment of the Scottish education system. I agree we’re in a time of dire financial straits. However, the only way we’re going to get out of it is to produce good, hard workers. Skilled individuals who can grab our businesses and industries and pull them back up on their feet.

How the hell these idiot politicians expect us to do that with paltry resources, disillusioned staff, chaotic organisation and change seemingly for the sake of it is beyond me.

Parents – who would you trust most to tell you what is best for your children’s ongoing education? Politicians who think with only their egos and their bank balances, or teachers who decided to do this job despite knowing they would be working in one of the most stressful careers currently going? That they would be paid for a 35-hour week despite regularly working in excess of 50 (sometimes far, far more), in a career where the words of one spiteful child can have them flung from a job until a court battle gets them reinstated? That they are fully aware that discipline in schools is nigh-on impossible to maintain due to nanny state regulations?

Would you trust someone who is part of the system, who was trained in it, works in it and believe in it? Or would you believe someone who’s job revolves around appearing to do something so they don’t get voted out for appearing ineffective? Someone who has decided to tackle a working environment in which they themselves have absolutely no prior professional experience?

Frankly, expecting these councillors and MPs to make these decisions makes as much sense as asking a schoolteacher to perform an appendectomy on your youngest.

We’re good, but we’re not that good. We wouldn’t have a clue what we were doing. But at least we’d have the balls to admit it.

 

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Greasing palms

St James' Park, Newcastle
We don't need no - advertisements!

Well, despite over 500 objections being listed on the council’s website Fat Mike Ashley has been given the go-ahead to drape adverts for his dodgy merchandise all over a landmark in Newcastle city centre – to whit, St James’ Park. I mentioned the story a few weeks ago.

One wonders who’s getting a few free tickets for the executive l0unge in exchange for this travesty. And, yes, I am insinuating that someone on the council is corrupt. Much as I assume someone was getting backhanders to shut the Mayfair to allow construction of The Gate all those years ago.

Permission has been granted “subject to conditions” but the website’s down right now so the link to this information isn’t working.

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Drugs and holy rollers

Cocaine powder
Go on - sniff your brain out

Two news stories caught my ear today, both of which made me once again question the sanity of some of the idiots I’m forced to share this planet with.

First up was a revelation that Britain’s cocaine, heroin and so on is at an all time low purity level, often times as low as 20% actual drugs and 80% “filler”. This can be anything from talcum to rat poison to ground glass. You know something? I don’t care.

Much as I believe in a person’s right to do what they want as long as it’s behind closed doors and doesn’t affect anyone else, I’m still rather anti-drugs. Whatever your legal stance on it, class A drugs are addictive and potentially deadly at the best of times. I’ve heard of enough cases of children being left to fend for themselves while parents tend to their smack addiction to know that drugs are pretty much a filthy thing that should be expunged from society.

The fact that people are complaining that their additive brain-destroying chemical is being mixed with something that might make their tummy bleed really is madness.

Got a problem with it? Don’t bloody use drugs, then you fucking idiot. It’s pretty simple. But then, anyone daft enough to snort Columbian marching powder for a hobby probably isn’t intelligent enough to see that.

OK, rant number two: some numpty somewhere (I think the US, but I only caught the end of the story on the radio) has announced that on September 11th they’re going to broadcast themselves burning the Koran. Well, that’s just great. Why not just insult a billion Muslims just to protest the actions of a couple of dozen. Who are already dead.

The high command in Afghanistan have begged them not to do it as the repercussions against troops posted there could be horrendous.

Seriously, does nobody think about the consequences of their actions any more?

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Hands off our stadium!

St James' Park, Newcastle (2)
As it is and should remain

Thanks to the guys at nufc.com for bringing this to my attention. And lots of other people judging by the comments on the planning department’s website.

What am I on about? Well, late last year the money-grabbing lunatics in charge of Newcastle United decided it would be a great idea to rename the stadium. This was universally met with derision and scathing comments… and seemed the be dropped. After one week stating that from that point henceforth, the ground would be (and must be by all press agencies doing so) referred to as “Sports Direct @ St James’ Park”, this reference was dropped in all the official press releases and it seemed as if the muppets had seen sense.

Apparently not.

Currently under review with Newcastle Council’s planning department are plans to hang several enormous signs from the stadium with the new branding on them. This would turn one of the best-known stadia in the country – which can be seen from miles around due to its elevated position – into an advertising hoarding for one of the tackiest “sports” shops in the country.

Please, take the time to visit the link below. At the time of writing, there were 56 objections to the plans, most of which had been entered today after the news was released on nucf.com. It takes a couple of minutes to register and you don’t need to be a Newcastle resident to do so (though given that locals will vote for councillors, I feel their opinions will be given more attention).

Once you’ve done so, comment on the plans and object. All comments are forwarded to the relevant planning officer. Let’s swamp his inbox!

The links in question:

Application summary and links to plans etc

Application comments posted to date

Pass this information on so as many people as possible know what’s going on. Thank you.

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