If Carlsberg made primary schools…

It is Carlsberg that do that “if…” adverts, isn’t it? I’m advertising’s worst target. I can never remember what company goes with what slogan.

Anyway. If some company who thinks they’re great made primary schools then I give you their end result (based on a 3-hour visit): Woodhill Primary in Bishopbriggs. As part of my PGDE, I requested a visit to a local school and this was the one selected for me. I’m teaching Computing and the school had been informed of this so focussed my visit on the IT side of things.

Ordinarily this would have been a suite and a few whiteboards. Instead, I was treated to a school with a small bundle of PCs and a “laptop safe” on wheels which allows a class of 30 pupils to share one between two. Each room has a network point to which a wireless hub is attached so all of the machines have wifi access.

The kids were unbelievable. One teacher – a confessed technophobe – told me of the start of term. “Over the next few weeks,” she said, “we’ll be studying the Romans.”

A hand goes up. “Miss – can we do a PowerPoint about them?”

“A Power-what?”

She asked the other staff and was told to just hand the laptops over once they’d done a bit of research and let the kids loose. These children are in P5 (arounf 11 years old) and I can tell you right now that their ability to produce a half-decent presentation exceeds that of some lecturers who’ve made me suffer for an hour or more at university.

Another thing that hugely impressed me was the school’s use of their web page. Very well put together, up to date and regularly added to. I gather the teaching assistants have a large part to play in this and their work is a great advert for the school. Bright, simple to navigate, and chock full of stuff the kids have done – much of it written and produced by them.

It’s a superb way of being able to say “look what I did today, mum” while allowing parents to feed back and comment on work that would otherwise be difficult for them to appreciate.

I am still mulling over doing a PGDE(P) when I finish this Secondary course, and my experience at Woodhill certainly hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm. If anything, it’s buoyed me further.

A quick “thank you” to the staff and kids for making my brief visit interesting, educational, worthwhile and fun!

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A quick life catchup

Me at Dunnet Head
Me at Dunnet Head

I don’t post much beyond film reviews and the occasional complaint letter so I thought I’d pop a quick catchup on the page.

Right now, I’m approximately halfway through my PGDE (Secondary) and very close to my second School Experience. I have a one-day visit tomorrow followed by 6 weeks beginning on the 8th of Feb. This one’s going to be a lot of work as, in addition to lesson planning, I’ll have assignments to do for my additional module (“Teaching in the Outdoors”), Contexts and ICT – plus the handful of short tasks and portfolio updates.

Just to be clear, though – I am still very much enjoying the course and the teaching.

In other news, I was recently up in Thurso to see Laurie. She’s a friend who ticked the “I will go anywhere” box for her qualifying year as a primary teacher. And ended up on the north coast of Scotland! This may well happen to me as I’ve ticked the same box for next year. On the Friday I walked up to Dunnet Head – the northernmost point in mainland Britain. Details of my visit are over on the travel blog. Thanks you to my kind hostess – I had a lovely, chilled (and chilly!) weekend.

On the downside I’m currently carless. On Friday I was due to head over to Mugdock Park for some orienteering, part of my Outdoors course. It snowed briefly in the morning and the roads around my aunt’s aren’t gritted. Despite driving really slowly, when I turned the wheel right about 50m from the house, the car decided to keep going the same direction.

The left front wheel hit the kerb while turned and there was quite a bit of a bang as I bounced onto the kerb. Partly the outside contact and partly the airbag erupting from my seat. It did no good at all, actually causing me some injury (nothing bad – just skinned my head and ear) and adding a few hundred, I expect, to the repair bill.

I changed the wheel as the rim had been damaged and I didn’t trust it, then tried driving on but something wasn’t making a nice noise so I returned to the house. An exceedingly kind uncle drove me to Mugdock and picked up the three classmates I’d agreed to give a lift to… and picked us all up again in the afternoon. Thank you, James!

As it stands, the damage to the car is:

  • one sheered bolt behind the wheel (fixed for pennies)
  • steering assembly jiggered (£161 cost price for the parts, plus markup, plus tax, plus fitting)
  • driver’s seat needing replaced, or at least the airbag canister “recharged” and the seat restitched

Methinks it will be going via the insurance. And I was only doing about 5mph when it happened. Still, it’s nowhere near write-off and I’m fine apart from some scabbing behind my ear courtesy of that flipping bag.

And now back to ploughing through a Higher grade computing paper to see how bad the marking scheme is…

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SAAS really suck big pendulous donkey doo-dads

After finally getting my award notice through (three flipping months), I found a nice sum in my bank account. Lovely. Then I checked my award letter and realised it was less than half what I was expecting. Not so lovely.

I’m due over £5k in student loans to tide me over as I qualify for the maximum. I have received less than half that. Now, it may be that the money is dished out in amounts per term which is fine if it’s in the rules. However, I can’t find anything telling me that.

Also, given that it’s three months since I applied to SAAS I have pretty much pre-spent the money that’s just come in. Had I been paying rent I’d have been utterly screwed and most likely have dropped off the course over a month ago.

I’m curious to know when I’d get the next payment. So I went to email them (they go home early on a Friday, lucky ducks) and received the following message when I hit “send”:

Application Error

An error has been detected in the operation of this application. It is not possible to continue with your email to SAAS.

A report has been sent to the SAAS Web Support Team and the matter will be resolved as soon as possible.

Please accept our apologies for the incovenience. You should now close your browser session and try again later


Well, that’s useful.

SAAS. About as good as Barclays.

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SAAS – response

Well, after waiting almost three months and giving up on phoning them, I emailed again yesterday and – amazingly – received a response this morning. I guess they’ve actually hired some staff or something.

The bulk of the mail is as follows:

I can confirm that as you had stated that you had lived in England before coming so Scotland we had to ascertain how long you  had been in Scotland and that it was not just for educational purposes.  I can also confirm that we received your residency form on 2 November 2009.    I have now calculated your award and you will receive an award notice in the next 7 days.

But it still doesn’t explain why I’ve waited since September 9th to receive any feedback. The “residency form” at no point explicitly asked me when I was living in Scotland. Had they wanted evidence of that, I could have provided it. It was wholly geared at when I entered the UK – not Scotland. A such, it was a pointless letter to send me.

Really, though. Seven weeks to send out a useless form and four more to respond to it by the time the award notice arrives – after a complaint.

I’m really glad this is a one-year course and I won’t have to deal with them again. If I do opt to do a Primary PGDE then it will be self-funded so this hassle won’t be an issue.

SAAS – again

SAAS are still defying belief as one of the most inept government departments I have ever dealt with. And that’s facing some stiff competition.

Following on from the last letter I received and responded to, I have waited a month and heard nothing. I called them (or tried to – see earlier posts) with no luck. I just tried again using the “real” phone number I got from Say No To 0870 (0131 476 8212) and was stuck with an automated system.

It politely took my reference number and said they had received my application and to check again in two weeks. What’s the betting this is the same message I would have been given 3 months ago?

So I thought I’d check on my student loan. Only the nice electronic voice informed me that I’d have to enquire directly with the student loans company which I can’t do as I’ve not got an account with them yet because SAAS are sat around with their thumbs up their backsides flossing their teeth with my application.

I then navigated around to speak to a representative. And the nice machine told me the office was closed. A surprise as it’s not a public holiday in Edinburgh and time I called was right in the middle of the working day as advertised on their website.

I’ve sent them another email via the website, this time a complaint rather than a query. They say they get back to these within 10 days. Mind you, they say they get back to queries within 15 and I’ve never had a response yet.

SAAS – you’re workshy, lazy and liars.

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