Wednesday, 5 October 2011

My grandmother

This is one of the photographs pinned to the noticeboard in the room where I write.  You wouldn't want to meet this lot in a dark alley, would you?  My grandmother is the one on the left and it is said that she hated this picture, but I love it.  I think she thought it looked as if she was wearing the living-room curtains.  Maybe she was.  These are proper old ladies, although I don't think they can be that old - sixty-ish probably.  From the moment I first remember her she always seemed to look pretty much like this.

People really do age more slowly these days.  I have old photos of children before the war and the fourteen-year-olds look about fifty.  Young men of twenty dressed in tweeds and grey flannels with pipes their mouths look twenty years older than they really are.

My grandmother lived to be ninety-four.  She lived just long enough to meet my daughter, Emily, and to advise us to feed her on bread-and-milk.  I don't think we took her advice.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Fair Isle

Fair Isle is an island of birds, although there are some people there too.  This summer when we were there, the island appeared to be guarded by this lonely sentinel.  It's a solitary Whooper Swan, and I don't know what it was waiting for.

We stayed at the Auld Haa Guesthouse and could not have had a better time.  Thanks to Tommy, Liz and Henry.  This is a link to Tommy's Fair Isle blog.  Can it be possible that there are more bird-watchers than birds?  More of my own Shetland and  Fair Isle photos are here.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Michael Gove

Michael Gove wants children to learn more facts. Why? Because we can benchmark more easily. He just kind of slipped that in to his interview on the Today programme where they were all very matey together (Gove used to work on the programme as a researcher).

Governments always want something to measure in the slippery world of education. It started with Robert Lowe, who brought in 'Payment by Results' back in the nineteenth century. Because schools and teachers were paid according to how well the kids learnt the few things they were tested on (the three 'R's - amazing how persistent these ideas are) the teachers taught to the test and the kids didn't learn very much. Later Lowe said, and I quote approximately from memory, 'if we could have found anything more easy to measure we would have used that.'

Gove says that he isn't going to tell us which facts to teach. He's appointed a bunch of his mates to do that. There isn't a single headteacher from a comprehensive on the panel. I'm not surprised - we expect this kind of thing from the Tories. But I don't hear much from their coalition partners on this subject. Do any of them really care about education? Do any of them ever read education research findings? If they do then they ignore them. I don't suppose you climb to the top in politics by listening to teachers and researchers.