philmophlegm: (Cantona)
Not that long ago, Manchester United had a wonderful South Korean midfielder called either Park Ji-Sung or Ji-Sung Park. (There seemed to be some confusion over which way round his name was.) He wasn't a superstar (although he's probably Asia's most successful footballer), but Sir Alex Ferguson would often play him in big games to do specific tactical duties. Ferguson said that leaving Park out of the squad for the 2008 Champions League Final was one of the hardest managerial decisions he ever had to make.

Park was the subject of perhaps my favourite football song, sung to the tune of the hymn "Lord of the Dance":

Park, Park, wherever he may be
He eats dogs in his home country
It could be worse
He could be scouse
Eating rats in a council house.

Anyway, I was amused to read this week that Park is now studying for a Masters Degree at De Montfort University. That's not the amusing thing. The amusing thing is that when not studying, he plays for the university's football team. It must be something of a shock for opponents who suddenly realise who the foreign mature student playing for the other team is.
philmophlegm: (Lego Rock Band)

You don't need this laptop.

Trying to understand the EU's actions against Apple and the Republic of Ireland.

It's not shocking that professional employers judge applicants for client-facing roles partly on their appearance and their dress. What is shocking is that not only do state schools not teach this stuff, they sometimes don’t like it when employers try to do it instead.

Useful smartphone test. When I last bought a smartphone, I read lots of reviews, but one question that was never asked was “How good is it at making and receiving calls?”, that is “How good is it at actually being a phone”"?”

According to the latest Rowntree Foundation definition, someone in the top 0.32% of global incomes is now "in poverty". Muppets.

British WW2 propaganda posters.

Think you're good at Lego building? This guy is better.

If you were an American games company raising funds on Kickstarter for a new family card game "that combines speed, hilarious gestures, and your silly side for 2-6 players, ages 6+", and you weren't that familiar with politically incorrect British playground slang, what's the worst name you could come up with...?

"Nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM" …but maybe in this case, someone should have been.

When I was an auditor, this sort of clever statistical analysis was called a logic check. This is a good logic check on why American police might treat certain groups differently. (Hat tip to ford_prefect42.)

Archaeological evidence of a major bronze age battle in northern Germany c.1250 BC.

philmophlegm: (ICAEW)

"NHS 111 to blame for rise in A&E attendances is a really dreadful explanation for something that did, in fact, not happen". (Thankyou Steer for a good piece of analysis.)

Ed Miliband thinks that an Italian who runs an American company and lives in Monaco should pay "his (British) taxes". This is a Labour policy I can get behind – get foreigners with no connection to the UK to pay all our taxes. Brilliant. I would totally vote for this policy. (When you think about it, it’s pretty much the policy that successive Greek governments have adopted for years…)

The German government uses Battlestar Galactica LARP (on an actual warship) to train diplomats.

Apparently women aren't rational. (This is the latest in a long line of what I like to call ‘pseudo-economics’ books that litter the shelves of high street bookshops. Just as you find history shelves full of books about secret societies and how the freemasons are looking after the Holy Grail until the aliens land, you will find books in the ‘Economics’ section written by the sort of people who think Adam Smith is a member of One Direction. Pfft.)

Hmm. We've been thinking we could do with a projector for the business...

Schoolboy suspended for saying he could make classmate 'disappear' with the One Ring. Actually, the funniest thing about this story is that there is a town in Texas called ‘Kermit’. *

The To Kill a Mockingbird sort-of-sequel. Should we be suspicious? Yes. No. Yes.

Rotherham Council, the council that allowed 1,400 children to be gang-raped and sexually abused by muslims, is to be taken over by central government until elections can be held.

Is Rotherham the tip of the iceberg? "How much does the Labour Party know about the stench of corruption, sexual malfeasance, public maladministration and greed, incompetence and pro-Asian bigotry emanating from Labour's heartlands?"

Or is the whole Rotherham problem simply a case of a "rotten borough"?

Top 10 'Things that Ed Balls Has Forgotten'.

"How Sci-Fi's Most Prestigious Awards Became A Political Battleground"

Bryan Henderson doesn't like the phrase "comprised of".

"Big accountancy firm accused of saving people money" I particularly love the phrase “in blatant accordance with the law”.

Adding up the wealth of the poor - the meme that refuses to die.

The World's Poorest Man.

The Information Commissioner's Office is the public body that enforces privacy and electronic communication regulations. Guess what they forgot to renew.

Random Guardian comment generator.

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Margaret Thatcher becoming leader of the Conservative Party. The Labour Party has never had a female leader, but it clearly knows how to attract female voters.

* Has anyone else read ‘A World of Ice and Fire’? Lovecraft references I can take, but Sesame Street…?

philmophlegm: (You're Hired! Final 2010)

Young people lack workplace skills, say British Chambers of Commerce. Schools don’t do enough to engage with the business community, in my opinion. Many are only interested in academic success, sport, music and drama, and think about employability skills once a year if that. So this survey comes as no surprise to me.

This is exactly the sort of thing they should be teaching in schools.

'France is finished', says John Lewis MD.

Come on, it's long overdue. Surely there should be a knighthood for Jeremy Clarkson.

The speech that Mrs Thatcher cancelled after the Brighton bombing. The language seems quite Tolkienian- ‘dark shadow’ etc, only she’s talking about union thuggery and Labour corruption, not orcish thuggery and Sauronic corruption.

Odd images from Google Earth.

Psychological research? Reach for the Monster Manual! (Incidentally, you can buy the new 5th edition Monster Manual for £29.99 from The Shop on the Borderlands...)

This BBC Cornwall news story is nowhere near as exciting as its headline suggests.

philmophlegm: (911)
I don't do posts like this very often, so possibly people don't know what I'm up to.

Read more... )
philmophlegm: (Ico)

This...this is a Lego Star Destroyer.

Got decent broadband? Looking for a way to show it off? How about live streaming HD video from the International Fricking Space Station?

Was dinosaur blood "not too hot, not too cold"?

This is sad. I wonder if Satao was descended from the elephant in Mike Resnick’s SF novel ‘Ivory’. (Incidentally, I strongly recommend that book.)

Welsh kids are really bad at getting into Oxford and Cambridge. (Is the appropriate response to this to feel smug at having done so?)

Remember my LJ post discussing whether you had to agree with an author's views to like their work? Any Marion Zimmer Bradley fans here...?

"The only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive." Oh, that's ok then.

I love this article about France midfielder Paul Pogba playing Football Manager on the plane.

O Fortuna Misheard Lyrics

Football's rudest names. One day in Football Manager, I'm going to include the Peruvian leagues, just so that I can manage Deportivo Wanka.

Noddy Holder given the Freedom of Walsall. I've been to Walsall. I think I'd just want to be free to leave.

World of Warcraft player gets to level 90 without picking a side. That's a lot of herb-picking.

PC only game being developed by some ex-Team Ico staff. That's interesting...

Gamechanger - The Virtual Tabletop Gaming Surface.

Black-Footed Cat kittens. I want hybrid pets!

Ten Myths About Britain's Relationship With The EU

More than half of UK households take more in benefits and services than they contribute in tax.

Which UK political party's "Friends of Palestine" group linked to an article saying "no Brit should consider voting Labour as it is run by a Zionist Jew...the time is ripe to cleanse British public life of Zionists and Jerusalemites"? The BNP? No. Respect? No…

philmophlegm: (Sid James)

Royal Albert Hall to finally get retractable roof.

Piers Morgan recruited as Liberal Democrat media advisor

Darth Vader to run in Ukrainian presidential election

The Kindle Paperscent removes one of the remaining disadvantages of eBook readers.

bathstore launches world's first selfie mirror

Dating site doesn't want lonely hearts using Firefox

NASA detects 'intelligent' alien signal

Toby Carvery brings you the Breakfast Sundae

Manchester United's new home shirt to feature Sir Alex Ferguson's face

Ant and Dec to split. Dec will reinvent himself as 'Dec'.

Government to crack down on selfies

Domino's introduces the edible pizza box.

UN draws up peacekeeping plans in event of Scottish 'yes' vote.

Mumsnet to run maternity wards

Square eggs

New Scottish pound coin to use Alex Salmond's head instead of the Queen's

An independent Scotland would drive on the right

Aspiring 'glamour' model gets £5,000 breast enlargement plus £2,500 of dentistry on the NHS.

Eight year old bodybuilder

Polly Toynbee calls for Richard Murphy to sit on the board of HMRC

The Holy Grail has been in a Spanish church for ages.

You need to eat ten portions of fruit and veg a day, not five.

"Manchester United are not underdogs" against Bayern Munich.

Goat Simulator

Hull's rival to Bitcoin: HullCoin

Unite boss calls on members to kill the rich

Vegetable are good for you

George Osborne to get everyone a fancy job.

Netflix to relaunch Firefly

CERN website to switch to Comic Sans

Finding Pokemon with Google Maps

Michael Gove to make gowns and mortarboards compulsory

Leonard Nimoy to sing end credits song for third Hobbit movie

philmophlegm: (Conway Stewart)
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted and Chief Inspector of Schools in England, has claimed in an interview with a left-wing newspaper that despite popular opinion, grammar schools restrict social mobility rather than help it.

[Some background here for non-British readers. Up until the late sixties / early seventies, the cleverest 25% of pupils in the state education system went to grammar schools and the rest went to 'secondary modern' schools. Successive governments, especially Labour governments, have restricted grammar schools and any kind of selection, such that few areas of the country still have any grammar schools. In most areas, they were replaced with 'comprehensive' schools, like the one I went to. Some of the grammars became independent private schools and left the state system altogether.

However, while it is strictly forbidden to create a new state grammar, some of the old ones hang on. They tend to be extremely popular with parents and they generally get very good exam results. Pretty much all of the top-performing state schools come from the small number of grammar schools, although of course you would expect schools that only take the cleverest 11 year olds to have got good exam results at 16 and 18. Even Labour, whose 1997 manifesto promised to abolish all selection in schools, left the decision to "local parents" after the election, presumably because they could see that closing down good schools was unlikely to be a vote-winner among the parents of kids who attended them.

Ofsted is the "non-ministerial government department" (i.e. a quango) that regulates and inspects schools in England.

Social mobility has been a hot topic in this country for a while because of the increasing perception that few people from comprehensive schools get the top jobs in the country. After the last election, left-wing bloggers and journalists were quick to point out that only six out of 23 members of the new coalition cabinet had attended comprehensive schools. Right-wing bloggers and journalists pointed out that even in the supposedly pro-comprehensive, anti-grammar, anti-private Labour Party, only eight of the 22 shadow cabinet members went to comprehensives. A 2007 study found that from a sample of 500 people in what were deemed to be the country's "top jobs", only 17% went to comprehensive schools.

90% of children in England and Wales attend comprehensive schools.]

Here's what Sir Michael said:
"Grammar schools are stuffed full of middle-class kids. A tiny percentage are on free school meals: 3%. That is a nonsense. Anyone who thinks grammar schools are going to increase social mobility needs to look at those figures."

That statement raises a number of questions:

  1. Only the poorest 13% (approximately - eligibility is based on whether parents receive certain welfare state benefits) of children in state education are eligible for free school meals. Does this mean that social mobility for the remaining 87% doesn't matter? Clearly, some of those 87% are already at the top of the tree, but in the middle are very large numbers of pupils from what politicians would call "ordinary" working class or middle class backgrounds. Those pupils should also have the opportunity of social mobility in a true meritocracy.

  2. In order to survive this long, a grammar school has probably avoided being subject to rule by a left-wing council (because left-wing councils tend to close them down on ideological grounds). Those left-wing councils tend not to be elected in affluent, middle-class areas - so of course they're "stuffed full of middle-class kids". I can give a local counter-argument to this. Devonport is the part of Plymouth around the naval base - it's poor, but not especially left-wing and still has a boys' grammar school and a girls' grammar school. I've spent a lot of time in both because of the "You're Hired!" competition, and each has lots of kids from obviously less well off backgrounds.

  3. Sir Michael's whole argument that grammar schools do not promote social mobility is somewhat weakened by his own background. Today he's one of the elite quangocrats who run the country and a knight of the realm. He grew up the son of a London postman. And he went to a state grammar school.

philmophlegm: (Tamar Bridges)
Yesterday I had a meeting with a teacher from a local school* about the possibility of us doing some skills courses for pupils there - presentation skills, leadership, teambuilding, interview skills, making an impact - that sort of thing.

One of the ideas he threw at me at the end of the meeting (I think he thought of it there and then) was courses for parents, specifically parents of 'G&Ts'. In education-speak, G&Ts are Gifted & Talented children - gifted academically or talented musically, artistically or athletically. This teacher is Head of G&T at his school and he wondered if parents of G&T children would benefit from some advice on how to be the best parents they could to a G&T child.

There's plenty of this sort of advice on the internet. But since many of the people reading this were probably G&T children, I would be interested in hearing what did or didn't work for you. What did your parents do to help you? Did it work? Or was it counter-productive? I would be especially interested if, like me, you were G&T (I was G, I'm definitely not remotely T) but your parents weren't (mine have two O-levels between them). I'd also be interested in hearing from teachers and academics dealing with G&T students. And finally, I'd be interested in hearing the experiences of any parents who have G&T children.

* Non-selective state secondary. This one in fact.
philmophlegm: (You're Hired! Final 2010)
I've been puzzled about this before, but I don't remember if I ever asked anyone else about it, and if I did, I don't remember what the answer was.

When we do You're Hired!, the year group involved is the year that sits A/S levels, that is the year before they do their final A-level exams (A/2?) or as we called it in my day, "the Lower Sixth". Nowadays that year is referred to as "Year 12". The subsequent year is "Year 13".

When I went to school, I had three years of infant school, four years of junior school, five years of comprehensive school and two years of sixth form. That adds up to fourteen years.

Do children today have a year less of school than they did in my day? (I started in 1976 and did my A-levels in 1990.) Or was I somehow unusual? Or do they not count the first year of infants as "Year 1"?

Can anyone explain the discrepancy? How many years did you spend at school?


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