Posts Tagged British

Updated advice on Japan from Government Chief Scientific Adviser to UK Ambassador

Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, spoke to Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Japan David Warren on 25 March with an update on the situation in Japan. Transcript of phone call (16.00 hours local time) 25 March.

[JB] Let me take water first and I will ask Hilary Walker [Health Protection Agency] and JM to comment. First of all, we think that the advice being given by the Japanese authorities is extremely sensible: We would recommend that advice is followed. The other thing I would comment on is that radiation levels that the Japanese use in developing their recommendations are more cautious that the ones we have in the UK or Europe more generally. In terms of the mains water supply as was reported on 23rd March, it is pretty much safe to drink for all age groups for a short period. In terms of consumption of water, babies should avoid it. I think I’ll pass to Hilary for her comments on that.

[Hilary Walker: HW] As John was saying, the Japanese recommendations are much more cautious than ours. You must remember that these levels are based on assumptions of consumption over quite a long period of time.

[JB] Yes, this is just a one-off occasion. An explanation for it will be sought, but at the moment the recommendations from the Japanese seem completely sensible. Just to add to that it is completely safe for washing. You don’t have to go and buy bottled water to bathe your children in.

The other thing I’d like to say in terms of water is around the stable iodine tablets. Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Teens’ speech – UK teens get uplugged, raw and real

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Zemanta is a blog plugin that supplies a list of online articles related to the content of one’s blog entry. About one minute after starting to write this blog entry, Zemanta should have enough input to work on and start making suggestions (it also suggests photos).

One of Zemanta’s suggested articles was Global Youth: UK Teens Get Unplugged, Raw & Real, a 17-minute YouTube video which interviews a number of British teenagers about being a teenager.

(Privacy-enhanced mode enabled: YouTube won’t collect cookies from you just for visiting, only if you actually play the above video. Click here for more details.)

The present state of overall disorder and low achievement in some British schools is the direct result of certain beliefs and ideologies, as the British blog Scenes from the Battleground points out. While I am lucky in that I don’t teach in an environment beset by discipline problems, many of those beliefs and ideologies are either already popular or are gaining ground; therefore, what is happening in some British schools (and that seems to be a microcosm of what is happening in British society at large), may well start happening here in the near future – the ideological ground for it is being prepared.

What are some of those beliefs and ideologies?

Unfortunately, I had a difficult time following what the narrator (and some of those interviewed) was saying; I think they might have chosen someone with clearer diction.

I did catch the narrator reciting the following: “Now we don’t hear them when they speak”, and one girl in the video says, “Teenagers have difficulties sharing what they really feel”. The following was posted on the Teens’ Speech website: (my emphasis)

The Teens’ Speech was predicated on the belief that if we gave young people an avenue to express themselves, they would reward us with a genuine insight into a section of society that is, as one contributor in the film states, a ‘taboo’.

And so they did.

Actually, they were already doing it – on YouTube, mainly. We just cut a rip in the curtain and had a peek inside.

Somewhat undermines the video commentary. Nonetheless, the video is a fascinating peek into the minds of some young Britons today and what they think about being a teenager.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tags: , , , , ,

Scenes from the Battleground – a secondary school teacher reveals the horrors of British classrooms

Personification of knowledge (Greek Επιστημη, ...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just spent the last few hours reading the Scenes from the Battleground blog. Andrew Old is old-school: a believer in teaching facts and knowledge, in the importance of effective discipline, and he does not believe in progressive education.

He writes well, with zest and humour. Here’s a good example: someone sent him an email asking him to review the trailer of a documentary about education called We are the People We’ve been Waiting For.

After copying the original emailed request into his blog entry, Andrew provides his review:
Why Lord Puttnam Can Stick His Stupid Documentary Up His Arse

Andrew is not going for shock value here, he is genuinely furious:

But it takes the insanity of the zealot to blame educational failure on the academic focus of the education system, when anybody familiar with our schools can see that there is no academic focus for these children. This is a rant against authority in education, by the kind of people who do have authority in education. This is an argument for failed orthodoxy by presenting it as a radical departure. This is a polemic against academic standards by the kind of people who have already lowered the standards to nothing. This is an attack on the curriculum by the people who gave us the curriculum we have. This is an attempt to blame the failure of the educational system on the very values the system has already abandoned. This is a prolonged assault on a strawman education system that not only doesn’t exist, but would be far better than what we have now if it did exist. This is shameful lies combined with self-righteous sermons.

OldAndrew is intelligent and eloquent and knowledgeable (I’ve bookmarked his brief history of British education since WWII), but his blog entries pall after a while: it’s all rather negative – there are no success stories. It may be that success stories are impossible, given the kind of environment he describes (few serious consequences for children who misbehave, for instance, little or no backup from administration, and a steady stream it seems of arrogant, snivelling, rude young people who are never held responsible for their actions), yet I can’t help responding, “If you’re so clever, why can’t you make your approach work?” Maybe it does, but Andrew doesn’t seem interested in telling us the things that work. It’s more fun slagging off the students, or the staff, or the administrators, or the parents (everyone gets some stick at some time or other on his blog, including commenters).

He does a service, I think, to blow the lid off the “phony” approaches, such as Brain Gym and others that might be lumped together under the heading Snake Oil. (Here are similarly critical examinations of Learning Styles. The dominant philosophy of the times is in favour of such approaches, so it comes as a bit of a (healthy) shock to read a contrary opinion.)

A fairly frequent commenter on Andrew’s blog is Newsisgood. Here’s a question posed by Newsisgood to Andrew, with Andrew’s response:

Is it at all possible that a students’ misbehaviour could be down to unfair punishments from the teacher, or unfair discipline from the system?
If it is possible, would you still blame the student anyway? (You have said before that you must presume that the teacher is always correct when a teacher and student disagree). by Newsisgood June 4, 2007 at 10:11 am

“Is it at all possible that a students’ misbehaviour could be down to unfair punishments from the teacher, or unfair discipline from the system?”


Strangely enough a student’s misbehaviour is down to the student. (The clue was in the word “student’s”.)

by oldandrew June 4, 2007 at 10:29 am

Andrew seems a mite intransigent. I don’t think the situation is as black-and-white as he sees it. For a start, he’s dealing with children, who by definition are not fully formed adults. In other words, it seems non-productive to insist that young people take full responsibility for their behaviours and choices as one might expect of adults. A lot of children’s behaviour, particularly in school, is a playing out of child/parent roles, in other words it is often a response to adult behaviour (tho the adult in question may not be in the classroom).

Andrew has repeatedly stated on his blog that he considers the bad students as people who bring their bad behaviours with them to school: he recounts experiences of students being rude and abusive to him or to other teachers whom they did not know. He feels stung by the (apparently) often repeated suggestion that teachers whose students behave badly are responsible, and that the solution lies in a better relationship with the students. Andrew dismisses this out of hand: “there IS no relationship” and yet students behave badly.

I feel Andrew is stuck in his situation. His attitude seems to preclude any satisfactory solution. I haveto admire his fortitude in staying instead of giving up. He sounds more intelligent than most of his fellow-teachers, which must make it increasingly galling when he is called to account by some dippy higher-up.

Update: here is another example of Andrew’s negativity andclosed-mindedness. What would be more helpful, then? “Focus on the negatives! Let the buggers get you down!” perhaps?

I think we all struggle with the attitudes of students and SMT alike. The trick is NOT to let it affect you. Life becomes a lot easier in schools if you can go around with a smile on your face and attempt to focus on the positives…after all, most kids are great.

It seems rather self defeating to allow the misery of a few morons to determine your own mood.

Who are the adults here?

     by treeman December 7, 2007 at 10:43 am


“The trick is NOT to let it affect you. Life becomes a lot easier in schools if you can go around with a smile on your face and attempt to focus on the positives…after all, most kids are great.”

Thanks, I forgot to mention that one.

That’s definitely one of the most unhelpful things you could ever say to somebody working in a stressful environment and only somebody who really didn’t get it could ever say it.

     by oldandrew December 7, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Tags: , , , ,


I made the mistake of checking my email first thing this morning, breaking rule #2 of Tim Ferriss’ list of 9 things Not To Do. However, thanks to this temporary transgression, I learned about a remarkable fellow Brit I had never heard of.  In my iGoogle was a new entry by James Atherton at Recent Reflections “On Yorick”, referring to an article about a Shakespearean theatre company which had been using a real skull for its productions of Hamlet, until it recently decided to stop doing so. Atherton’s blog entry is prompted by the fact that the skull in question belonged to a pianist, Andre Tchaikovsky (no, not THE Tchaikovsky) with whom he crossed paths many years ago, and leads to a reminiscence of his brief visit to Finchden Manor and meeting the charismatic founder,  George Lyward. I have printed out some of the articles at that site, and plan to read them at my leisure, when I have any. Here’s Atherton’s impression of Lyward. It made me want to know more:

Mr Lyward was indeed charismatic (in the Weberian sense). But his charismatic quality was one I had never before (or since) encountered. He made me feel that he was privileged to meet me. I was a callow 28! An upstart tutor on a social work course who had never done any social work in his life. A fraud, basically (although not deliberately so; I was so naive then that I did even know that there were some things a degree in European Studies did not equip you for). And Mr Lyward was honoured to meet me. It was not an act.

Tags: , ,