Big Brother Blogs

Discovered today that the diaries of George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, are being reproduced as a blog, 70 years after they were written. The creator of Big Brother – I wonder how many fans of the reality TV show appreciate where the concept originated – reveals details of his personal life as well as his political thinking in the days leading up to the Second World War. A great idea and an opportunity to see inside the mind of one of the men whose thoughts shaped the way we saw the world in the 20th Century.

Read the diaries at http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com

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Big Guns Line Up Behind CfE

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence received a massive boost this week when one of the 2oth Century’s greatest icons came out and declared his wholehearted support for the innovative reforms. The man whose working vocabulary is second only to that of Shakespeare, couldn’t hide his admiration for an education system which has always been seen to lead the way. Check out the video for yourself or create your own message.

To Pass or not To Pass

The release of this year’s exam results brings predictable reponses from the usual quarters. Examination bodies are now obliged to release “grade boundaries”, or pass marks in simple language, since noone knows how difficult an exam is until it has been done. The pass mark is adjusted up or down until the required number of candidates is within the boundaries, allowing for a slight increase year on year. The purpose is to rank candidates in order of performance, although the examination bodies themselves will deny this. Reacting to the news that the “pass mark” in several subjects was less than 50 per cent, Murdo Fraser MSP raged, “There’s a general understanding amongst the public and employers that somebody who gets an exam pass scores at least 50 per cent….we have a specific problem with the Standard Grades where there’s almost an assumption that they are there to be passed.” Oh dear, less than pass marks for the Conservative education spokesman for his understanding of the Scottish system. Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education (a bit like real ale ie flat, dull and wholesomely good for you) weighed in with, “common sense suggests that it is completely wrong to have such low pass marks……..if things go on like this qualifications will become meaningless and neither employers nor universities will be able to rely on the results. They will have to do their own testing…..” I know he didn’t mean it but I think his idea has real potential. The notion of a single, all-purpose qualification has surely had its day. Incidentally, who was it who decided that remembering 50 per cent of what you were told was a sign of success while remembering 45 per cent of it represented failure?

Literacy in the 21st Century

Had a great meeting with Mike Coulter yesterday about some of the technical aspects of blogging as I move gently along the learning curve. We ended up talking about running marathons, triathlon and the connection between sport and mental health, but that’s another big story for another day. Mike also pointed me in the direction of the Slideshare website, a terrific resource for anyone who has a presentation to prepare, and it’s searchable by keyword. I have added a good example of a presentation on Literacy in the 21st Century by David Warlick.

Health and Wellbeing for Teachers

Saw a timely reminder in the Metro yesterday of how important it is, as we develop health-promoting schools, that we think of the health and wellbeing of our staff. According to a survey by the Teacher Support Network teachers take six times more sick leave for mental health reasons than the average UK worker, only 11 per cent claim to be happy at work and more than 70 per cent said their role was having an adverse impact on their health.  If the figures are anything like accurate the cost in both financial and human terms is unsustainable. However, I believe there are ways of reversing this trend if we are bold enough to make radical changes to teachers’ working lives…..Read more.