Archive for September, 2015

our politicians need a reality check

September 27, 2015

Cambridgeshire MP, Lucy Frazer’s speech reported in the Ely Standard the other week represents all that is wrong with this country. Fine words achieve nothing: it is efficient action that is needed.

We would all probably agree with what Lucy says: We should care for the vulnerable and provide [real] refugees with advice, homes, and interpretation facilities, that [real] refugees have a moral and legal right to be treated properly, and need integrating into our communities, that something should be done to solve the political crisis in Libya and Syria.

Her words sound very similar to the high ideals of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. who wants us to  “open your hearts and open your minds and open your attitude towards supporting people who are desperate, who need somewhere safe to live, want to contribute to our society, and are human beings just like all of us.”

However, they both need a reality check. With the clogged up systems that run our country a large number of our poor and needy don’t even get a look in. I can recall countless times I have approached a council for advice and help in the past when the tired voice that finally answered the phone said nothing can be done, the system can’t cope, there are too many people on the books already.

When I arrived in the country I naively asked for accommodation – I was told I had to wait at least seven months. What was I supposed to do in the meantime? No answer was given – I presumed I was expected to live on the streets. (I then arranged accommodation with a private landlord.) When I needed childcare for my daughters, the carer recommended by the council had a broken pane at the bottom of her front door. Any child could have cut themselves but she had no intention of mending it. After the first month of teaching, I received no pay. When I rang up to ask why, I was told I had not filled in the right form. I was told the council would lend me the money. I was speechless.

The final crunch came when my husband needed care. The system again was unable to cope and it was a kind friend who helped us and a lawyer who forced some kind of reasonable care for my husband to be put into place.

There is no evidence that there has been any change, so the idea of thousands of needy refugees coming into the country and getting the help they need is ludicrous.

Yes, we should be kind and help people in real need, but our government and our councils need to get their act together before this can happen. They need to look at themselves before they start pontificating about us doing the work. Billions of pounds are spent by the government on other countries that do not necessarily need it. If India needs monetary support to help their poor and needy – how has this same government afforded nuclear weapons?

It’s the same here as it is in other countries, including Syria and Libya. It’s the government that needs to be persuaded and forced to change its anti-human policies. Until they focus on caring for instead of bullying or even, in the case of Syria, killing their people the refugee crisis will continue.

How many of the refugees we have seen on TV have been fit, healthy young men demanding rights? I know if I was a genuine refugee, I wouldn’t have to strength to create a fuss. Lebanese education minister, Ellas Bousaab, has already warned Cameron that 2 in every 100 Syrian migrants are Islamic-State trained fanatics. Should we open our arms to them?  I think not. Opening our hearts to them would be a disaster.

As for interpretation facilities, and acknowledging that [real] refugees have a moral and legal right to be treated properly, and integrated into our communities. How many of us speak Arabic? How often have we seen people from different cultures gather themselves together in one community and refuse to even try to integrate? Without change, and an efficient system that weeds out the fanatics, and bigots from the real sufferers, this isn’t going to happen. Yes we should receive genuine refugees in our midst, but our government should also put effective, efficient systems into place so that the refugees learn our language, earn their keep and make an effort to integrate into our society


What should we do about the refugees?

September 18, 2015

I asked a friend the other day what she thought we ought to do about the refugee crisis. She immediately said how we ought to help these people. After all, it isn’t their fault their homes are being bombed. They have nowhere to live and there is nothing they can do to avoid being killed except gather together what they can, and leave.  Then where are they supposed to go?

I thought about what she said and of course, she is right, but when it came down to it, what if a family landed on my doorstep wanting food and shelter, what would I do? Suddenly the answer was not so simple. After all, I’d worked hard for years to make my home and I suddenly felt that I wouldn’t want any strangers disturbing my peace.  Then again, the other day a friend rang up wanting help, I didn’t hesitate. So maybe the problem is that we don’t want strangers in our midst.

When I first came to this country I was warned what Fen fold were like. I was told that if you were walking along the road and asked someone the way, the person would look you up and down and say ‘I don’t know who you are or where you come from, so I ain’t telling you.’. I didn’t believe this at first, but as a new piano teacher in the village, I went and knocked on the door of my ‘opposition’.  I thought it would be wise to get to know her and reassure her that I would not poach any of her pupils. Blow me down, she gave me exactly that reaction – not using the same words of course. She looked me up and down and said she didn’t know what I was doing there and shut the door. Bang went the opportunity to sit down with a cup of tea and chat things over. Her reaction made me think that she was just plain unfriendly, but this wasn’t so. Quite soon afterwards, she telephoned to say she had some spare music for me. She wasn’t being unfriendly at all!

So, friendly or not, what should we do about the refugees? I can think of one property that has room for a family or too. It’s been empty for three years and a genuine refugee family wouldn’t give too hoots about it needing tidying up. This is the vicarage in Witchford owned by the church. There’s been a lot of fuss about the vicarage lately because rumour has it, the church are going to sell it, in spite of the locals wanting it to stay as it is. We hear so much about how wealthy the church is, so we ask why hadn’t they rented the place out if they’re so strapped for cash that they feel they want to sell it? Why don’t they open it up to a couple of refugee families? It’s not a matter of religion – it’s basic humanity: treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.

The problem with the refugees is that there’s too much dithering.  While my friend had no hesitation in what the solution is, those who have the power to do something about it, do nothing. They argue back and forth about whose job it is, who should pay for it, where the refugees should end up and so on. Why don’t they just get on with it? If they’d set up a system to register the first lot of refugees immediately, given them temporary shelter and arranged for basic needs, then in a calm less traumatic way they could ask them where they want to go and why, how they are going to earn their keep, negotiate with countries about the number they should take and the problem will be eased. Once people know that they are being treated as human beings and treated fairly, we can all settle down to a peaceful and integrated society. It’s no surprise to read in the paper the other day that 56% of the population in London were born in a different country, so what are we doing being scared by an influx of immigrants?  They are people like you and me and maybe if we let a few of them in, some of them could actually be helpful. Maybe I could get a decent gardener? None of the people I’ve contacted in this country want to do it. They say they want to, but when it comes down to it, they can’t commit themselves, they have no end of excuses – they want the money but they don’t want the hard work. I bet one of the refugees would jump at the chance.

Are we taking exams too seriously? – Are we putting too much stress on exam results?

September 11, 2015

With a new school year starting we need to ask ourselves are we putting too much importance on the results that our young people come out with?

In these days of league tables where the school’s position is often seen as more important than what is actually taught.

Now, at last, our students’ lives are settled and a new term in a different class, school or even university looms ahead.  Most of these new places have been selected solely on the basis of exam results, but are we taking these too seriously?

It is amazing that only a small proportion of our lives dictates our success or failure as a person in later life. One or two sittings at a desk in an examination hall, possibly suffering from hay fever, a summer cold or lack of sleep is all that it takes to determine a single mark that brands us and our abilities for life permanently.

Are we branding them for life with results of a few hours in an exam hall when they could be ill, have hay fever or just not good at exams?

These results are labelling the schools and the child often unfairly.

Not only have students been branded but so have our educational institutions. Schools have had their results analysed and dissected minutely and conclusions made solely on the basis of these analyses. Some schools have been hailed as great beacons of success in the educational world, others, dismal failures that need to be closed down. Playing the numbers game is a dangerous occupation.

Say for example you have three schools, and one of them is judged as failing.  Is it really failing, or are we letting a snap shot: a few days of its year, determine the way the community sees it for the rest of the year.

One of the difficus of judging schools by exams in many respects theyr’e random the totally random it doesn’t just depend on how they st how they’re feeling there are so many more factors that affect their results. a sc that achieve an c a d grade for one child a lower grade for some children may be the equivalent to them it may be a greater teaching achievement than an A level.

When it is stated, for example, that one in three schools in a certain area has failed, the full facts have not been taken into account. To illustrate this, I once saw a photo taken by a student who was also concerned about such superficial judgements having too much credibility. The photo was of three sheep, three completely different sheep—one a white merino with soft white wool, the second an entirely black sheep and the third a rare breed of sheep that looked more like a goat. It would be ludicrous to base any conclusion on a comparison of these sheep. Similarly, it is nonsense that schools are being judged solely on exam results. Of course exam results are going to be higher if a school has managed to persuade the more exam –orientated students to join their ranks. If a school has been through a period of upheaval, has a sudden in-take of non-English-speaking migrants or takes more interest in nurturing those who need more assistance, of course it will not compare well with other more settled, smug places.

On the subject of the examinations themselves, does a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), an ‘A’ level, an International Baccalaureate or even a degree in a subject prepare you fully for the rest of your working life?  While certain people may be able to get a job like selling bikinis in Harrods because they have a music degree, (my experience), most rely on their exam grades to prove their worth when applying for a job, but it is common knowledge that having a qualification in a subject does not necessarily make you the ideal person for a job requiring such knowledge. I know for certain, passing an examination in ‘Music and Movement’ (a type of improvised dance) with first class honours never made me an ideal candidate for a career as a dancer!

Looking behind the scenes, when I was teaching, rather than concentrating on educating the students for life, I taught only what they needed to know for the examinations. I did this, not because I wasn’t interested in educating well, it was because the time given to teach the subject was far too little. In English Literature, for example, to read and study the books fully in class was impossible because of time constraints. Students were given summaries of the characters and plot and encouraged to learn about how to answer expected questions by using the internet. None of these activities actually involve sitting down and reading through the whole book for pleasure—the original intention of the author.

While human beings set the papers, mark the papers and sit for them, perfection is impossible. Many students are subject to the whims of the examiners. When I used to mark exam papers in the subject, I would invariably be at odds with the given guide lines for marking. I was frustrated when I could not award marks when I believed the student had a good understanding of the text, but could not express it well enough to gain the marks they deserved. In addition, many questions expected the students to provide extra information not requested. Students were expected to guess what was wanted. Get it right and you got top marks, guess wrongly and you failed.

While it is important to have some measure of ability, sometimes we can put too much trust on exam results. The outside world demands more that the ability to remember and repeat facts!