Wednesday 3 July 2013

Excuse Me While I Have A Rant...

I'm feeling a little peeved. Actually, I'm rather more than peeved. I'm seriously irritated. And annoyed.

Yet again, a politician has decided that the "long" school Summer holiday is considered fair game, and has called for us to shorten the Summer so that we remain competitive. Quite apart from the fact that a politician decrying a long Summer holiday is actually rather ironic, ("calling black kettle pot" - rearrange to form a well-known phrase) it is also inaccurate.

Some years, state schools get a full six weeks in the Summer. More often than not, it's five and a half, very occasionally just five. I am prepared to admit that the staggered start at the beginning of the Autumn term does make it longer for some students (and, as a teacher, I guess I'm biased.)

Chris Skidmore MP claims that children need shorter holidays because they "forget" everything over the break, and this lowers academic progress. He also thinks children find long holidays tedious.

Well, I've been a teacher for longer than he's been an MP and I can vouch for the fact that, should you ask a student what work they did before the weekend, most of them would have forgotten it. This is the reason that lessons start with a recap of what we did before. It's well-known that repeating things over and over again helps to improve retention. "Forgetting" stuff over the Summer isn't actually a problem. Children (and teachers) need to have a break from academic work.

Mr. Skidmore points out that the long Summer holidays are really a relic from our farming roots. Again, speaking from my years of teaching experience, I can vouch for the fact that students really don't benefit from being herded into hot, stuffy classrooms and forced to try and concentrate when the Sun comes out. All those high-achieving countries tend to have air conditioning as par for the course, I believe. The infrastructure for home learning is also there - Singapore regularly closes its schools to prepare against outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, to check that everything is in place for home learning.

It is also interesting to note that independent schools in the UK have longer holidays than state schools. I haven't noticed a dearth of attainment in children who are privately educated. As a former student at Bristol Grammar School, Mr. Skidmore would have experienced holidays lasting 8 weeks in the Summer, which I dare say he found tedious, especially as the Autumn and Spring half term holidays were each a week and a half in length (state schools get a week for each), and Christmas and Easter are both three weeks long (state schools get two weeks for each of these.)

Does Mr. Skidmore feel he could have achieved more if he hadn't been handicapped by such onerously long holidays, or does he think it only applies to the children of the general masses who are too stupid to cope?

I suspect that what Mr. Skidmore really means is that the long Summer holidays are inconvenient for parents who have to work. His description of children sitting playing with their Super Nintendos (how very out of touch - it's all Wii now, I believe!) strongly suggests children who are home alone, without a parent who can encourage them to go out to museums, parks, swimming pools and so on. The emphasis in this country is not giving children a good all-round education (encouraging independent exploration of topics and subjects which interest the individual child over the Summer would do this) but providing childcare while the parents are out at work. Hence the proposals to shorten the holidays and calls to lengthen the school day.

Stalin would have given his right arm to get this sort of separation of children from their parents and putting them into the care of the State...

The Kitties Are Upping The Ante...

I'm not entirely sure if this is a warning or a reward, but I found this in the sitting room today...

I have no idea what bird it was - there were no obvious tail feathers in evidence - and it is very much the "parson's nose" end of the bird. I also don't know which kitty was responsible: though I'd hazard a guess at Miaowrini because she was very affectionate earlier. I assumed she was leading me to the kitchen to refill her food or water bowls, but they were both still full. She must think me very slow on the uptake...

It'll be a horse's head next. I'd probably better get in some smoked salmon...

Tuesday 2 July 2013

A New Prayer Initiative...

Well, ok, not so new - it seems to have been going since last December, but I've only recently heard of the iHope London vigils, which are designed to pray for the workers of the abortion industry (particularly IPPF), that they may experience a conversion of heart.

As the website explains:
"There are many organisations that, misguidedly, promote and perform abortions, arguing not only that it is a right but also that it benefits babies, women, families and our society. The leading business in this field is IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation), with its headquarters near to London Bridge. IPPF’s employees are convinced that they are doing good and necessary work. Have we prayed for them today as Jesus did for His executioners, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do!"?"
The processions, Masses and vigils take place on the 12th of each month, unless this occurs at the weekend, when it is transferred to the Monday. As the emphasis is on prayer and (silent) witness, people on the vigils are asked to prepare themselves spiritually:

To fast for the day of the vigil, from midnight until 3:15pm (the end of the procession) and, in addition, to:

1) be in a state of grace, having being to confession
2) be prepared to receive Holy Communion (to be a temple of the Blessed Sacrament)
3) give alms secretly to a Religious Order, faithful Catholic charity, a family in need
4) during the vigil be prepared to pray only
5) do a kind deed for someone, even a stranger
6) bring your Rosary and a heart full of love for the unborn, their parents and IPPF employees.

I'm sure that many of us who are unable to attend the vigils and processions themselves would perhaps consider supporting the initiative spiritually through prayer and fasting.
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