Posted Thursday 18th July 2013
In my imagination, a frightfully jolly meeting took place last weekend. The setting was possibly the country retreat of Douglas Hogg MP, the ex-cabinet minister who claimed parliamentary expenses of "about £2,000" for cleaning his moat. A select group of the 20 millionaires on the government front bench turned up. Labor’s Shaun Woodward, the country’s richest MP, may have popped in with his butler in tow. Shaun has 7 properties valued at close to £20 million but still manages to claim a second home allowance. In 5 years he claimed £98,079.63 in mortgage relief on his £1.35 million Thames-side flat. His parliamentary expenses also showed regular purchases of family circle biscuits at £7.18 a tin and Tetley’s tea bags at £3.85 a bag.
This is not about class envy or knocking the rich. Just wait and see how generous these public service people are when they see child poverty and food banks in England- or am I deluding myself?
It’s a big estate so some of the practising barristers, alongside some of the directorship holders and paid speech makers, turned up at Hogg’s for tea. Sipping no doubt demurely were Tory barrister Stephen Phillips (£740,000 income for 1700 hours legal work) MP Geoffrey Cox, an extra £417,000 on top of his MP’s pay. Soames earned an extra £305,000, Riffkind £276,000, Redwood £238,000, Labour’s Alastair Darling £263,000 and Jack Straw £183,000 because being an MP is a part time job.
They may have been talking about the imposition of an11% pay rise on MPs (elected public servants) at a time when all public servants - teachers, nurses, council employees, police, have been granted a 1% rise. Our Teaching Assistants have had a pay freeze for 3 years. MPs will be forced to accept the 11%. The vote-for-me, populist Gove says they should, “stick it!” which is quite crude and a bit rich coming from yet another millionaire. He claims for a second home, neither one being in his constituency, and the cost of his child’s cot against his MP’s expenses.
Splitting into groups based on which public school they attended, and a smaller group for the oicks, they decided on a radical plan for children's nutrition. Cameron's Eton and Bullingdon Club mates, owners of the Leon restaurant chain were appointed by Gove during an expensive posh nosh to look into the take up of school lunches. They decided parents are evil and lead chaotic lives. Packed lunches are not about expensive school dinners they are about bad parenting. Schools ought to search children's lunch boxes for crisps and anything that might feature on a desert menu. I think we are then meant to incinerate the bad foods. Mind you, I have been in school canteens where the incinerated food was the tastiest offering.
The MPs could hit upon a radical, vote catching policy. If kids are not eating school dinners, make them entirely free for everyone. The cost of administering the existing free schools meals kids, plus the cost of managing payments for the others would be eradicated and the cost of the cooked food could be partially offset against one of the rich men’s parliamentary perks. They might decide to forego their £4,000 a year receiptless dining allowance to make school dinners free for all kids. Gove drooled at the possibility of free compulsory scotch broth, only slightly misreading Dickens.
Chancellor Osborne, heir to the baronetcy of Ballentaylor in Tipperary and Balleymon in Waterford, doggedly aristocratic in his view on this nation’s economy repeated, "I have never studied economics." Fair play, he threw in another class eroder with let's give every child a free school uniform too. He had heard of the schools selecting their kids by insisting on £50 kilts or £80 pound blazers although that's been illegal for some years.
And then the flying pigs flew by. The rivers froze over, blood oozed from the earth and dinosaurs walked again. None of the above happened.
But this is a blog about the new national curriculum!
I'm not a fan of Simon Schama although I liked his History of Britain trilogy. Strangely, I find him too controversial and as a populist historian the man was a natural to be asked to advise King Gove on his new history curriculum. He was peeved that his advice was ignored. Schama said the final draft was, "insulting and offensive.... pedantic and utopian" He said the new curriculum is, "essentially memories of A Levels circa 1965, embalmed in aspic and sprinkled with tokenism." And made up, “by someone who has never stood in front of a class of 12 year olds.” I guess that means he didn't like it.
Rebecca Sullivan Chief Exec of the 6,000 strong Historical Association added," It's a shame that Gove chose not to listen to the top historians invited to contribute, or the evidence that the Historical Association provided."
The design technology curriculum was designed without consultation. “There was no advisory group and it clearly takes us back to the 1950s by introducing sock darning and flower arranging at the expense of 21st century skills.” (According to the Design and Technology Association on April 13)
The design technology curriculum was then changed to include 3d printers which none of us can afford. Someone had heard an echo of a Radio 4 article about these things.
Earlier in 2013, 100 leading professors and education experts warned that forcing children to learn "endless lists" of facts and rules "will severely damage education standards." Gove says these were bad professors.
Gove was asked why he insists children learn the 12 x tables rather than to 10. He answered that there are a myriad of other computations children need to memorise.
I reckon he believes computations around the number 10 to be European and therefore anti-British. But Michael, it seems it’s not the European community you want us to leave but the basis of arithmetic.
Let us return to the memorable computations of pounds, shillings and pence as follows:
There were 4 farthings in one penny (shortened to 1d) also two halfpennies. There were 4 pennies in a groat (later this became worth 8d and then 12d), 3d was a threepenny bit for which my sister Cathy was hospitalized after she swallowed one. We had tanners (6d) shillings (12d) florins (2 shillings) half crowns and crowns (the latter sometimes known as a dollar) ten bob notes, pounds, fivers, and the gentleman’s guineas.
The sooner we get away from the over simplified decimal system used throughout the world, the better.
Our children need more complex measuring systems to be able to compete internationally. Let’s give them sums involving inches (12 of them in a foot) and yards (3 feet), 22 of which made a chain, whilst 10 chains were a furlong and 8 furlongs made a mile (1760 yards, of course.) 3 miles made a league and this was used in some poems our children should be able to recite. Gove knows we ruled the world when we knew these things therefore it’s time to learn them by rote, just like he did.
A hide was a taxable unit of land according to the Domesday Book from nearly 1,000 British years ago. A plough is the length a horse could plough in a day assuming it had had its oats and a penny had the buying power of 4 blackjacks in 1960.
Returning to the new national curriculum. It does not apply to private schools; it does not apply to academies, or free schools. University Technology Colleges will not follow it, nor will studio schools. In fact about 80 per cent of 11-16 year olds will be in educational institutions which do not need to follow the new national curriculum. So Gove spends time and money on a curriculum he calls national and destroys the national system of education so we don't have to teach it.
Most primary schools will have to teach the new curriculum to 5 year olds so that we compete with the often compared Finland and Singapore. Children there not only don't learn the tables, phonics and science Gove is insisting on, they don't even attend school at that age.
And the answer to, “What the hell are you talking about now?” is that we have to be better than the countries with which he unfavourably compares us. We have to be better than them at everything because British is best, like Bovril.
Memorable computations: 7 out of 10 MPs think they are worthy of an 11% pay rise.
Dennis O'Sullivan (Headteacher)