I'm not sure whether it was teenage bravado, or a feeling of social responsibility, but The Boy and his mates went off to have give a pint of blood this week. Actually, the NHS has gone metric, so they gave half a litre each. Good for them I say, whatever their motivation...I'm very pleased and proud they did it, and hope they will again. It was one of those things in The Boy's 'Now you're 18 you can' box...I never have, and a morbid fear of needles means that I probably never will - I carry a donor card, but that's not the same as giving and giving...I was standing next to a couple of women on the bus this week, and couldn't help overhearing their conversation. The one was telling the other that she was being stalked. There's a man that gets on the same train as her and they get off at the same station where their paths take them in the same direction. He has smiled at her on more than one occasion, and has been known to sit in 'her' seat on the train. Sometimes she's taken to catching a different train, but he is sometimes there too. She's worried because he knows where she works as they both walk in the same direction. She has reported him to the police, and they will visit her to get the full facts. I can only report what I heard, but on the basis of that it seems that she may be over-reacting a tad....or am I being insensitive?
This morning I think I saw a drug exchange in the local park...two men with their bikes were in a corner where there's a hedge and one of them reached under the bush to grab a small plastic bag of something. The one gave it to the other who then cycled off. Am I imagining something malevolent when it was all perfectly innocent? I don't know. Perhaps I should have reported it to the police.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: "We do need to start competing against those top performing countries in the world, because for too long we've pretended that students results are getting better, when all that's been happening is the exams have been getting easier.
"It's been a race to the bottom between the exam boards and we need to stop that happening now."
There's two things that successive generations have treated as a political football....the NHS, and the education system. So far as the NHS is concerned, it's the envy of the world. It may not be perfect, but there's always room for improvement...and it's an easy target for easy criticism. I remember my jaw nearly hitting the car steering wheel when driving through Bristol once. A local (NHS) hospital was advertising its services and claiming 'the lowest infection rates' in the area. I just want a hospital to fix me when I'm broken or ailing, I don't want them advertising, and I just want them all trying to be as good as they possibly can. The politicians should keep their noses out, as I don't want my health to be dependent on Conservative or Labour dogma.
Anyway, I'm keeping The Boy away from all news at the moment...how is he going to feel if he, and millions of other kids read that they've been educated badly, down to a level just above ignorant. The GCSE exams may need reform, but to belittle the achievements of a generation of kids is crass and ignorant.
I have been looking at some of the work that The Boy and The Cat have done for their 'A' Levels, and it is quite mind blowing...I doubt I could ever have put something like their essays together. I assume that they couldn't have done this if their GCSE's were a waste of space.
The reforms will take away the element of continuous assessment. We never had that when I was doing 'O' levels, but I can see it has real value...there are some kids who are great crammers, and get good exam results, even if they haven't done the work which will seat the knowledge for the future. there are some kids who are just rubbish at exams...even if they do retain the knowledge they just can't put it down in an exam room. Once hey're out at work, most knowledge will e gained on a continuous assessment basis, so why not start early?
What does appear to be the problem is the way school's success is measured. Living in the inner-city, as we did, we were given quite an insight into the mind set it creates amongst school management. The challenge for them was to make sure the weakest performers got up to a basic standard...the best performers were ignored, so significantly under-achieved. I assume (but correct me if I'm wrong) this happens at all ages of education. That may be where a government should focus its efforts.
I'm fortunate enough to mix with plenty of people from overseas, and their consistent comment has been that the British system of education is better than their own. I can't say one way or the other because I don't know..but it is interesting that is the message I hear time after time after time. And as this shows...it's people's attitudes to education - a cultural matter that's key to educational success.
Anyway Elizabeth Truss...if you really think that come and say it face to face with The Boy and The Cat