"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back soon

Little under the weather at the mo. Toothache, earache, heartache - just about anything that can ache is aching. Swine flu - or just part of my on-going decrepitude?

Swine flu? I'm in two minds. I'm inclined to think it's all a bit of an over-reaction but on the other hand, Simon Jenkins isn't exactly helping. He argues it's all a bit irrational to worry about it and then puts forward an argument for not worrying that isn't exactly the epitome of rationality itself. For example:
"We appear to have lost all ability to judge risk. The cause may lie in the national curriculum, the decline of "news" or the rise of blogs..."
Blogs and the national curriculum... eh?

Problem is you can't take the people who want us to panic seriously but you can't take those who don't want us to panic seriously either. Nobody knows anything, it seems. To confuse matters further, I'll throw this thought in: while Jenkins is right to point out recent government over-reaction to this sort of thing, there is also an older and rather longer history of governments under-reacting to this sort of thing. (See under: 19th century, cholera etc.) Bearing this in mind, perhaps we shouldn't worry too much about the fact that people worry too much... if you know what I mean?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You know when you're getting old when...

You're going to a 21st birthday party - and it's your mate's son's 21st birthday.

It's very distressing.

Kinda shows up the, "You're as young as you feel", line for the bollocks it is. I mean, I might feel 21 but the fact of the matter is I'm not. Instead I have friends that have children that are 21.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The politics of the budget

I feel entirely unqualified to argue with a man who includes a book about econometrics in a list headed "books that mean a lot to me" but with all due respect to Chris Dillow, he is completely wrong to suggest that 'the most important budget number' is $12.5 trillion.

He's talking about global savings and makes the point that government borrowing does not push up long-term interest rates in the way it did in the past because of the globalised nature of financial markets. I'm not disagreeing with this. Allow me to qualify: he is wrong politically. No-one will remember the figure he cites. Hardly anyone is aware of it now. I'm thinking there's only one figure people will remember and that's the new top rate of income tax now set at 50%.

That the Guardianistas are enthusiastic about this, and the ranting Tories are aghast, should ring alarm bells - the ones that tell us that we're into the politics of pure symbolism here. It is the sort of politics we also see whenever the value of the currency is discussed - as if this were a symbol of national virility, rather than the more mundane business of it being a price.

What I mean is this: numerous media outlets that I assume you've read already are suggesting that this is a return to 'class war'. Ian Dale, for example, was by his own admission 'fizzing'. What made him 'fizz', apparently, was this gratuitous display of class envy as evident in this 50% tax band. How he felt under the first nine years of Thatcherism where hard-pressed entrepreneurs laboured under the oppressive burden of a 60% tax band we are not told.

Then Mandeslon's quote about New Labour being relaxed about people becoming 'filthy rich' is juxta-posed against this new budget - as if a 50% tax band is going to abolish this or something.

You see my point? It's all a bit silly. Guardianistas like Jackie Ashley are going all moist, asking whether the 50p "gamble" will pay off? It's not a gamble and it won't pay off. I appreciate some Labour supporters think this is an opportunity to draw a red line in the sand but my own view is that this would be foolish in the extreme. I would have thought even the stupid party would find challenges based on taxation and spending fairly easy to deflect given the state of the public finances. There's quite a few Tories who are behaving as if nothing has changed - as if their cant about rewards for 'risk-taking' hadn't been thoroughly discredited. I'm not going to take up space on this blog dispensing advice to them.

But the left needs to wake up. Any semi-intelligent scrutiny of fiscal policy is going to show that higher tax does not mean better public services - it's just an inevitable consequence of servicing our enormous public debt. In this context we can only hope that the Tories show themselves to be as ignorant of economic history as they have done already in the past. Not only is this not the 1930s - the evidence that we have already is showing that this contraction is not on a par with the one experienced in the eighties. Yet we have the most serious fiscal deterioration ever seen in peacetime. My concern is that the compact between government and voter will be even more broken down than before, with the electorate - perhaps for a decade or more - seeing absolutely no relationship between levels of taxation and the provision of public services.

What we should do in the short-run, I can't say - save dropping this pathetic idea that the timid and conservative 50% tax band has something to do with socialism. What we should address ourselves to is the fact that the next election is surely lost? Gordon Brown may go down in history as the most hapless Prime Minister in a hundred years. The present economic debacle, while obviously not entirely his fault, is Brown's domestic equivalent of Blair failing to find WMD in Iraq. For him it is a catastrophe that he can't possibly recover from. My thinking is all realistic leftists should concentrate their attention on what to do in a post-New Labour Britain. I'll eschew my default rejection of political prophecy and state that to imagine any other future is pure fantasy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Education miscellany misanthropy

The problem with working in these lunatic asylums that they're trying to pass off as places of learning is that you go a bit mental yourself. This has certainly been my own experience and evidence that I'm not alone is found in the alternately amusing and infuriating SchoolGate blog.

Like this story, for example, where a school loses its collective goddamn mind and suspends a pupil for taking the pill:
"In the school where the girl has been suspended for taking the pill, the Washington Post points out that "even carrying the pills in a backpack is counted among the most serious offences in the Student Responsibilities and Rights handbook." If the girl involved (an honour student), had been caught high on LSD, heroin or another illegal drug, she would have been suspended for five days. Taking her prescribed birth-control pill while at school meant she was subject to the same punishment as bringing in a gun. Isn't there a danger of losing sight of the real dangers here?"
I'd say - as obviously the real danger, as far as this whole thing is concerned, has to do with the little fuckers breeding. This they have no business doing. The girl in question should have been given a merit, prize, some kind of reward instead. It's for not taking contraceptives that pupils should be disciplined. Then sterilised.

And there was this post, where I learn that the movie Dead Poets' Society came top of a poll. Now, if the polling question had been, "What is the most excruciating film ever set in a school?" then I could understand. But it wasn't. It was, "What is the best film ever set in a school?" Inexplicably they came up with that ghastly Rambo movie for Guardian readers. Lost their goddamn minds if you ask me. "Seize the day" indeed! When watching it I feel more inclined to seize Robin Williams by the throat until he turns blue. Would you want anyone who doesn't feel homicidal urges towards Robin Williams teaching your children? No - neither would I.

Then, in the main education comment some Tory teacher is going about how we need to scrap national pay agreements in order to attract the 'best' to the profession:
"This is the argument the NUT should be putting forward: our children deserve better teachers and the only way they will get them is by improving pay and conditions for teachers."
Ah, now I have a controversial and what may seem to many a counter-intuitive suggestion: attract better teachers by offering shitter pay. Here's how it works. Personally I'd love to leave this lunatic job and do something more fulfilling - like working in a fast-food outlet. Problem is I can't afford to do so. But if teachers were paid the same as people working in fast-food outlets, then only those strange people who actually like teaching would remain in it. I once suggested this at a union meeting and was subsequently pelted with fruit.

Anyway, since a return to the catering sector is out and taking account of the fact that I have no marketable skills whatsoever, I thought instead of becoming a "leadership expert". I think I could easily come up with ideas that are at least as mental as those working for 'Future Leaders'. Take this suggestion, for example:
"Teachers should give children a ‘high five’ hand slap as they walk into the classroom each morning, leadership experts are telling the future heads of inner city schools. They claim this will motivate pupils and result in improved exam results. Quite what the children will make of their teacher trying to be cool is another matter.

The idea is the brainchild of Future Leaders, a training scheme for young teachers who show the potential to be fast-tracked into senior management positions."
Delete 'high-five' from that first sentence and I reckon they're onto a winner there. But as it stands I'm not sure 'brainchild' is the most appropriate term to describe this heart-breaking stupidity. Unless it's being used in the sense of, "After last night's curry, I sat on the toilet and dropped an enormous 'brainchild' into the bowl". But the word is seldom used this way...

'Future leaders' indeed! What kind of fucked-up future are they imagining, exactly?

Monday, April 13, 2009

On blogging and the black arts of the spin doctor

That New Labour 'manages the news' has been a constant refrain, and complaint, since 1997. I think I recall Polly Toynbee once pointing out what I've always thought about this - which was to say, in effect, yes - but they're really really shit at it, aren't they?

I was reminded of this whilst reading all the hoo-hah about the McBride-Draper axis of email.

I was reminded of something else as well and it has to do with relationships. I'm sure my experiences aren't unique. You have arguments with your significant other about various things like staying out too late with your mates, or the perception that you're flirting with someone other than them, or generally participating in your own life in a way they don't approve of. Then, when you point out that they do the same damn thing, you get convoluted reasons why it's different in their case.

You go along with this for a while and get into mangled conversations until you realise it boils down to the fact that you've forgotten the Rule. What's the Rule, you may ask? It's the one that says, "Ah but it's ok when I do it."

Don't go accusing me of being sexist because I don't doubt all the comrade sisters out there have similar laments to make. Understand this instead: it's the, "Ah but it's ok when we do it", rule the Tories are trying to invoke here. I have no interest in defending scumbags like Draper and McPoison but the Tories can fuck right off. Oozing their poisonous shit from just about every media outlet in this country and then whining when a couple of Labour people even discuss doing the same. Which brings me to Paulie's reminder of just who we are dealing with here:
"[L]et's be clear about this: The proposed 'Red Rag' site was a plain-and-simple plan to develop a Labour equivalent of Guido's site. Nothing more, nothing less. Though Guido is now universally being labeled as 'anti-politics', it wouldn't do to forget that he's a Tory blogger. He sees his blog as being an instrument of Conservative Party attack politics, and I'm not the only one that he has told that he regards himself as 'part of Project Cameron.'"
May I entreat you to read the rest?

Anyway, I was wondering about this blogging lark and why it is, exactly, that three semi-literate Tories form an unholy Trinity at the top of the dung-heap that is the blogosphere? Matthew Taylor, in the dead-tree version of the Observer today quotes Ian Dale going on about the left being more comfortable with a 'top-down' approach and therefore ill at ease with blogging. Bollocks, I thought - at which point I sought the wisdom of my sis. Why do people read this cut and paste gossipy shit that has no art, analysis, thought or discernment, I asked? I'm paraphrasing but she argued, in effect, that this form of blogging is the political equivalent of magazines like Closer or Heat - the sort of journals that publish pictures of celebrities with their cellulite or acne on show, enlarged and helpfully circled with a yellow pencil in case you missed it.

She's on to something, I reckon. It's what rather a lot of people appear to want - politics like their culture; something nasty, brutish and short. Sad, but there it is.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Chocolate Egg Day

There's been a fair bit of comment on it already but Madeline Bunting takes a line that is now becoming familiar by arguing that the 'New Atheists' such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are the mirror image of the fundamentalists they criticise.

I am, if I've understood him correctly, inclined to agree with Norm: it might be fair enough to say, for example, that someone like Dawkins tends to assume religion is only about giving intellectual assent to a set of doctrines which have no rational foundation and that he misses other stuff about 'practice', 'love' and 'commitment' and so on. But it certainly is not fair enough to claim that it is the latter that religion is and always has been about, which is what Bunting is trying to do:
"Belief came to be understood in western Christianity as a proposition at which you arrive intellectually, but Armstrong argues that this has been a profound misunderstanding that, in recent decades, has also infected other faiths. What "belief" used to mean, and still does in some traditions, is the idea of "love", "commitment", "loyalty": saying you believe in Jesus or God or Allah is a statement of commitment. Faith is not supposed to be about signing up to a set of propositions but practising a set of principles. Faith is something you do, and you learn by practice not by studying a manual, argues Armstrong."
It doesn't help Madeline Bunting that she's citing two sources - Karen Armstrong and John Gray - that I have very little respect for. I'm not sure if she's using them accurately but what kind of 'historian of religion' imagines that codifying faith into a set of doctrines that people were expected to assent to intellectually is a recent event in the history of Christianity? I personally find it impossible to believe that the ex-nun Karen Armstrong is either ignorant of, or has forgotten, the history of the Inquisition, for example - and am therefore inclined to dismiss her argument as completely disingenuous.

Or maybe merely ignorant? The reference to doctrinal dogmatism 'infecting other faiths' is, one assumes, an allusion to the sort of Scripturalism that we see from evangelical Protestants being aped by Islamic fundamentalism. But surely she can't possibly imagine either of these phenomena can be placed in 'recent decades'?

No. Certainly it is true that religion is and has been historically much more to people than the acceptance of intellectual propositions about the cosmos for which there is no evidence. But it is ahistorical nonsense to pretend that the latter has not always been part of the story of religion. Organised religion has always attempted to codify the doctrines of the faith. These in turn have been mediated through a priestly class that have in the monotheistic faiths used them to separate the saved and the damned, the orthodox from the heretic - often to literally lethal effect: whenever the guardians of orthodoxy have been married to the state, these categories have been enforced using the full range of sanctions and punishments that governments have available to them - including imprisonment, exile, torture, execution and the declaration of war. This, along with 'commitment', 'faith', 'charity', 'piety' and everything else that has to do with finding one's place in the world, is part of what faith in its organised and politicised forms has always been about and anyone who fails to give a proper account of these dark and brutal stories in the history of religion immediately forfeits any serious claim to our attention.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Economics and the case for Scottish independence

There is, as far as I can see, absolutely nothing whatsoever that can be rescued from the wreckage that is the economic argument for independence. Today the Scotsman repeats the point that given the sheer size of the Royal Bank of Scotland's balance sheet, an independent Scotland simply wouldn't have had the resources to rescue it from collapse in the way the UK government did. What was newsworthy about the reiteration of this nose-bleedingly obvious observation was that it was John Kay, a member of the First Minister's Council of Economic Advisers who did it.

If we dismiss as idiotic the argument that, "but we wouldn't be starting from here", I would have thought there are only three rational responses a Nat could make to this:

1) The RBS should have been nationalised without compensation - a necessity since we know an independent Scotland wouldn't be able to compensate even if it wanted to.

2) The RBS should have been allowed to go to the wall - along with an explanation of why this wouldn't have a) spelled disaster for the Scottish economy, b) sparked a run on the banks everywhere.

3) An independent Scotland would have to go cap in hand to the IMF or something.

Rational but not particularly attractive - although I find myself leaning towards option 1), along with guillotines and stuff. But - and correct me if I'm wrong because I'm not really that familiar with the 'cyber-nat' community - neither the SNP nor their supporters in the blogosphere have addressed themselves to this question.

There are, in my view, two reasons for this. One is that the Nationalists are not interested in economics or economic history, nor have they ever been. Economic arguments are used pick and mix to reinforce a position they hold for other reasons. Because taken collectively they don't cohere and now don't hold any water anyway. I've heard Salmond, for example, complain that the Union is holding Scotland back from membership of the Euro, which was bad, according to him, because it meant mortgage holders were paying a higher rate of interest than they would in the Eurozone. I haven't heard him updating this view in light of recent events - but does it really need pointing out how completely crass and stupid it is to base a constitutional argument on something as ephemeral as short-term interest rates and currency fluctuations?

"We could be like Ireland", isn't anymore an argument that any Nationalist with even the most cursory acquaintance with reality now makes. But my point is, it was never made by anyone with any sense of economic history.

Don't even mention Iceland...

Except to point out that Salmond & Co conveniently forgot about their line on the virtues of being part of the Eurozone - on account of them not being members.

Surely this is enough to make the point? No-one sits and pores through economic data dispassionately and concludes that nationalism is the cause that is to propel them through political life. Economic arguments are mobilsed to support a cause they have made for emotional reasons. I'm wondering why so many unionists allow them to behave as if this was not the case?

The other reason that the SNP have not addressed themselves to this question is that they themselves do not really believe in independence. Or at least the more intelligent ones don't. I appreciate this may seem controversial but I'm increasingly convinced that this is the case. Does Salmond really think Scotland is going to go its own way - take complete responsibility for its own borders, defence, fiscal and monetary policy? It's not going to happen: they know it, we know it. They just don't know that we know it.

Actually, I'm not sure enough of us do know it. This allows them to continue to pretend that they believe it and extract the political advantage this gives them. It might seem perverse to say something in defence of the hapless Wendy Alexander at this juncture but despite the fact that she did it in an incredibly ham-fisted and incoherent way with her "Bring it on" embarrassment, the spirit of what motivated her was correct: I'm unsure of the form it should take but it's about time we started calling the Nationalists' bluff.

Open footnote to Nationalists: No Nat has ever been able to answer the following questions to my satisfaction but here's an open invitation for anyone to have a go:

a) Why should the boundaries of the nation also be those of the state?

b) If a policy is good for working people in Scotland, why not also for people in Newcastle, or Liverpool, or Manchester, or London? Or anywhere else, for that matter?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dots on the knuckles

An old school friend of mine had dots tattooed on his knuckles. It used to be quite common amongst vaguely criminal elements in Glasgow. This was a cipher for 'APAB' - which stood for 'All Pigs Are Bastards'. Replaced because the polis worked out what this stood for, although it wasn't long before they worked out what the dots meant too. It's heresay but the same friend told me of someone who got his fingers broken for having these. I dare say it wasn't true - or if it was, no doubt he was resisting arrest or something.

So to the G20 and the death of Ian Tomlinson. As the footage shows, he viciously attacked tooled up riot police with his back. Despite this egregious violence on his part, medics could have saved his life were it not for the hail of bottles that obstructed their rescue.

Or maybe it shows something else.

I can't tell you how depressing I find most of the commentary on this issue. Have these people spent most of their lives indoors having tea with mother? This thread is particularly dispiriting. In the eighties, reactionaries used to say, "Go and live in Russia", if you had the temerity to criticise Thatcher's Britain. Fast-forward to today and cut and paste Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea - foreign places, y'know?

Now looky here: all pigs polis are not bastards - they're just like the rest of us, which is to say for the most part complete assholes. Like the cop in the video. How anyone can imagine that what they've seen here is something exceptionally aberrant is beyond me. Nah, the only unusual things here is a) someone died, b) it was caught on camera. Other than that, all you're seeing here is same old, same old - it's what happens when you give people a uniform, some tools and some power. I wouldn't disagree that society requires people to be given a uniform, tools and some power but given the human condition and all its failings, I don't think it's out of place to suggest that this should be kept to a bare minimum. It may be presumptive and over-arching to suggest that human history has taught us as much as this but please remember Ian Tomlinson the next time you mobilise some bullshit prolier-than-thou argument to justify the expansion of police power in what is indeed still a relatively free society.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On the politics of protest

The Flying Rodent has some pertinent comments about those who dismiss the G20 protests on the basis of the sociological profile of the protesters themselves:
"I've seen this wheeze deployed in defence of war, ID databases and antisocial behaviour orders. Crack a gag about the dishonesty of the tabloid press or about immigration and deportation, and within minutes some joker will be along to condemn your revolting elitism in blisteringly self-righteous tones. So it goes for taxation, petrol duty and professional sport - football's fine, but rugby's the preserve of howling Hoorays."
Indeed. While not as offensive as the "no, you're the Nazi" non-technique of winning political arguments, the prolier-than-thou card is used almost as frequently - and is as a consequence almost as boring. It doesn't help that the people who use it almost never qualify as horny-handed sons of toil themselves.

Having said that, along with a number of others, the protests struck me as being rather unfocused and, frankly, to be something of a waste of time. Johann Hari argues here that when the history of this time is written, those who protested will be remembered with more sympathy than those who stayed at home. I don't mean to trivialise either the issues here or the fact that one man appears to have lost his life as a result of his participation in the demonstrations but I'm wondering if history will remember the protesters at all - except as the symptom of a wider phenomenon.

I'm repeating myself here but I don't agree that participation in demonstrations of this nature are examples of a fresh political or civic engagement on the part of our youth; I think it has to do with the opposite. The membership of any collective organisation you care to mention - be it trades unions, political parties, friendly societies, charities, clubs, youth movements, religious organisations - is in decline. Yet demonstrations grow larger every year. Some see it as the growth of a new form of politics where people engage directly with trans-national corporations that have grown beyond the control of nation-states but personally I find it difficult to see it as a form of politics at all since it doesn't for the most part seem to represent either the exercise of any actual political power, nor does it embody the expression of any coherent alternative to the present power structure. Zizek was perhaps a little harsh when he described the present politics of protest as "nothing but the moralising supplement to a Third Way Left" but the protests do have a ritualistic feel about them.

All of this got me to thinking: what constitutes an effective political protest? The left is naturally sympathetic to this form of political action because it is understood that it stands within a tradition where people fought for causes that were just - effecting political change by creating a space outwith the conventional political mechanisms from which pressure was exerted on those who stood within. But there's a danger, I think already long succumbed to, of creating a mythology of protest and then imagining oneself standing within it without asking what, exactly, makes a political protest work?

1) It helps if there is one specific and achievable goal - like extending the franchise to working men, as was the cause of the Chartists - or votes for women, which was the cause that motivated the Suffragettes' campaign of direct action.

Now, leaving aside the question of how effective these movements were - there are clear differences between this strand of popular movement and the kind of 'anti-globalisation' protests we've become accustomed to. One is that the reason to stand outside the normal political process with the former is obvious, with the latter less so. I'm not, for example, clear what anarchism has to say about either the credit crunch or environmental degradation. Surely here any critique has to incorporate the lack of government in these areas? And for those who were not anarchists, it was difficult to discern a clear objective or programme of any sort.

2) Even if there is one specific goal, historically it is unclear what role protest has played in achieving success. Where it has been credited with this, it is usually because protest was symptomatic of a wider refusal to co-operate. So, for example, the anti-Poll Tax demonstrations were an expression of a situation where people simply refused to pay a deeply unpopular tax - and, decisively, I would argue - back-benchers and Cabinet ministers were increasingly reluctant to support a Prime Minister who refused to acknowledge her mistake on this matter. It is difficult to see how the form of protest we have seen recently fits into this trend. You could, I suppose, put your money under the mattress but the reality is people will continue to borrow from banks, have their wages paid into banks, pay their bills via direct debit through banks. You could say banks are pretty much essential in the modern age and it might be considered a significant failing of most governments in the OECD that they haven't been able to get this simple fact across.

3) As well as having a specific goal, it helps if the protesters have the ability to cause significant disruption or inconvenience. Fuel protesters can blockade the roads network and workers can deprive the economy of essential products or services. The history of the miners' strike should remind everyone of the limitation of this - how much more when even this isn't available? What does non-participation in Britain's nuclear deterrent look like? In the eighties I marched and then hung around in Kelvingrove park listening to bands for a while. This was to no avail because the government does not require my participation in order to have nuclear weapons.

4) The fact of the matter is that protests of this nature are simply not violent enough. I'm not arguing this from a moral point of view - just making a utilitarian observation. Windows are smashed in RBS to no end whatsoever. It does nothing to make this institution not function as it did before the protests and more generally they did nothing to make the city and its populace less governable. I'm not saying that it would be justified if it had, just that since it obviously didn't, it was completely and utterly pointless.

It should be understood that this has nothing to do with delegitimizing the feelings of anger that people have about the state we're in; it's just that if anger is all it is, without any analysis, programme, ideology, or alternative - it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the demonstrations at the G20 served a therapeutic rather than a political function.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


One of my pet-hates in this ridiculous job is when other teachers - almost always management - say, "Do you think that's appropriate?" when they actually mean, "I don't approve". Because despite the fact that the latter formulation isn't a question, it is more open to disputation than the former, which pretends to be an appeal to some universally agreed standard, rather than one person's opinion.

Which is why this story made me laugh:
"A PE teacher faces disciplinary action after pictures of her in a range of "completely inappropriate" poses appeared on a modelling website.

In one photograph, Natasha Gray was shown wearing a thong and lying on her front on a bed."
A bit like this...

Ben Slade, the headteacher of the school in question, was not amused. Miffed, even:
""They were completely inappropriate for somebody who is a teacher," he said.

"They were absolutely not pornographic but do you want to see your teacher in that way?""
Um, if you were an adolescent, obviously the answer to the question is, "Ooh, yes please" - which is presumably why they are thought to be "inappropriate". But Mr Slade, inexplicably, seems to think the answer is "probably not". Honestly - if you can't count on teachers to speak plainly, what hope is there for the future of our civilisation - yea, even mankind itself?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Teaching to the test (again - sorry)

Perhaps by the time I've retired and am happily dribbling away in a home for the bewildered in Duntocher or somewhere, eventually the tide will have turned/pendulum will have swung, [delete/insert cliche of choice] on the whole death by asessment culture in modern education. Presently there are signs of glacial movement, like the criticism of SATS from the head of a school in Engerland that actually did rather well in them:
"Lorraine Cullen, head of Hall Meadow Primary School, Kettering, said drilling pupils to pass only achieved short-term success.

It follows high-profile attacks on the existing examinations system which critics claim forces schools to "teach to the test" to maximise their scores."
No doubt people will say no-one's forcing them - and this particular headteacher claims they don't do much of it - but I wish people would understand the bureaucratic inevitability of it; if there are tests, people will teach to them - period. The institutional pressure to do so is almost irresistible. If you don't want a narrowing of the real curriculum, then the amount of formal assessment in schools has to be reduced. It's as simple as that. Perhaps this sort of thing is a sign that the penny's beginning to drop. On the other hand, the Torygraph wouldn't have repeated the opinions of a headteacher whose school performed badly in the SATS, now would it?
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