16 June 2013

So much to get through and so little time. Where oh where to begin?

I guess I should start with Wednesday’s visit up to the big city for lunch with Wendy and John Greene who were in town for a couple of days on a whirlwind visit. For those few of you who are not immediate blood relatives, Wendy is my first cousin, the daughter of my mother’s younger brother, and we had not seen one another for about thirty years, we worked out. Unfortunately, Ms Playchute was unable to attend due to several thousand other commitments so it was just me and it was a lovely day out. (Just reading that back, it looks like it was lovely because Penelope was not with me – absolutely not true!)

We had arranged to meet at the Savoy where Wendy and John were staying. I was a bit concerned that they might not let someone looking quite so disreputable into the Savoy but, by sneaking in the back entrance and navigating a labyrinth of corridors, I was able eventually to find my way to the main lobby about thirty seconds before they emerged from the elevator for our rendezvous. We spent a bit of time doing a bit of quick catching up and then wandered up the road to Wahaca for lunch.

Wendy, John and Greg

I was a bit hesitant about suggesting that visitors from Southern California who come to London should be subjected to our version of Mexican food but since it is one of my favourite places to eat in town and it was but a ten minute stroll from their hotel, I thought we would give it a chance. They didn’t object and, fortunately (as always), the food was excellent. John and Wendy were both very complimentary – John even commented to the waiter at the end of our meal that this was better than the varieties of Mexican food they can get at home. We certainly like it and it’s nice to have our perceptions affirmed.

After a delightful lunch we wandered up and around Covent Garden for a bit before making our way back to the Savoy (in through the front door this time – only a few quizzical glances from the uniformed staff). Wendy and John were due to attend Les Miserables that evening before flying back to the States the following morning. So, we said our good-byes and went our respective ways. It was great fun to see them and to catch up with all our respective goings-on. Let’s not let it be another thirty years before we get together again!

A friend on Facebook who also has the misfortune to be a subscriber to the Weakly News commented that she was looking forward to this weekend’s rant. I said I was trying to give up ranting but sometimes people do or say such stupid things that one simply has to make a comment after all. Of course, you can guess that the object of the anticipated rant was another of the seemingly endless stupid comments emanating from the mouth of the idiot Gove.

This week, though, it’s not one stupid suggestion he’s made but two – my goodness, it’s hard work keeping up with him and all his nonsense.

Firstly, he is proposing to abolish all teaching assistants in schools. For those who don’t know, these are trained, professionals who are teachers in all but name and without whom schools could not function. Sometimes they work with individual students who need additional support; other times they will work with small groups while the teacher works with others. They are paid peanuts and carry out a myriad of essential tasks. I certainly don’t know of any teacher who could imagine doing without their support.

But, of course, this is typical Gove – don’t talk with anyone who works in schools before trotting out nonsense based on your own assumptions. The Guardian had an interesting metaphor which was apt, I thought: Phasing out teaching assistants is like axing all nurses from the NHS.

It would be a bit like proposing that the NHS runs without any nurses; there would just be more doctors on the wards getting frustrated because they are not able to get on with the job they were trained to do. And more nurses on the dole queue. And more patients not having their basic needs cared for. What a picture…

On top of that bit of bonkers, Gove is continuing his mission to return education to where it was when he attended school thirty or forty years ago. He dictates how schools should be structured, organised and governed, what should be taught, how it should be taught and how children’s progress should be assessed.

This time he is having another go (he’s had to make three U-turns so far, I think) at “reforming” the examination system and doing away with all forms of assessment apart from a final, sit-down written examination.

I’ve got nothing against final exams per se but they are not necessarily the best way of assessing how well children learn nor should they ever be the only way of measuring progress. Some children thrive in examination settings; many children get stressed and do not demonstrate their abilities to the full. Some children are very good at remembering facts; others may not remember precise details but might be very good at understanding and communicating their understanding.

Once again the Guardian puts it better than I can:

No means of assessment is perfect. But for a cohort who will arrive at work with more information in their pocket than Encyclopaedia Britannica ever contained, in the form of a smartphone, it is impossible to believe that the only challenge that should count is the challenge of pitting one’s memory against the blank page.

I’ve always thought it was a bit bizarre in today’s society that we expect children to memorise and regurgitate “facts” when they have access to more information than Gove or I will ever remember. Much better, surely, to ask them to demonstrate their ability to research, synthesise, organise and communicate their understanding as part of the assessment process.

Steve Bell’s cartoon also sums it up pretty well:

Gove is an idiot

So, after two rants I guess we need to finish with something somewhat lighter. How about some images from Desk Safari. Some of these are very clever.

Desk Safari

Or some photos from this year’s Shed of the Year competition:

Shed of the Year Competition

Happy Father's DayAnd finally, is today Father’s Day in the States as well as here? I think it is so Happy Father’s to the best father I’ve ever had.

Much love to you all,






7 thoughts on “16 June 2013”

  1. Thanks for not publishing the story of my encounter with the shower and the handyman at the Savoy! I can only take so much humiliation…

    1. You are welcome, Wendy. But, it’s only because I forgot all about it. Perhaps I shall have space in next week’s edition?

  2. Another thought as I was looking at the adorable picture of Wendy – she looks the same as she did when she was a little girl – how is the other two of you have aged? And I was remembering how Wendy used to call you “Grey grey” or was it “Gray gray”? Sweet.

  3. I think we’ve all aged – just that Wendy still looks as adorable and sweet as she always has. (Of course she’s not as old as the rest of us…)
    And, if Wendy is still reading, I wonder if she has Portland on her list of places to visit sometime soon? Portland is nearly perfect in the summer and fall!

  4. Thanks for the compliments, Susie. If you saw me in person, you would realize that I have most definitely aged. I LOVE the editing feature on iPhoto–never post a photo without it! (FYI, it removes wrinkles fairly well, but when I tried to put hair on John’s head, he came out looking kind of like Donald Trump…) Re: the shower incident, suffice to say that I am easily confused in foreign bathrooms. John has said that I’m like one of those Lost Boys from Sudan who has never seen a bathroom before. (I know what you’re thinking…how confusing can a bathroom be? Well, that’s why I’m not telling the story!) No immediate plans to visit the Northwest, although who knows? Lots of love to the entire Stragnell clan–hope all is well~ OXOXO

Comments are closed.