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By David Vance On July 14th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Well, I half agree with the decision by the worse than useless Executive to hold University tuition fee levels at current levels of £3200.

“There will be no large increases in university tuition fees for students starting courses in 2012, the first and deputy first ministers have confirmed. They said the fees would only rise in line with inflation. Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson said they had yet to work out how to take money from other departments to pay for the £40m shortfall. They said they would look for the mechanism which caused least pain to other government departments.”

With inflation running at 4-5%. that looks like a 15% increase over the typical period of a degree course, tolerable but still a substantial increase. The big question is – where does the money come from to fund this.

“Efficiency savings”. LOL – I do love the contrived  gibberish of the public sector. Watch for real cuts of £40m + inflation per annum. That’s £160m over the lifetime of the Executive. Who suffers for this? No answers. Not yet.


By David Vance On July 11th, 2011 at 8:39 am

The so called contagion spreads. It has a name – reckless unfunded socialism.

Fears that Italy could be the next country threatened by the eurozone’s woes sent its benchmark index falling as much as 1.5pc on Monday, as top EU officials prepared to meet in Brussels to discuss the growing crisis.

Italy is the region’s third largest economy and after Greece has the second highest sovereign debt ratio in the eurozone relative to its overall ecomony. Fears of eurozone debt contagion were stoked by dramatic falls in Italian stocks on Friday. Shares were dragged down by Italy’s banks, which along with other European banks will learn the results of “stress tests” later this week. Shares in Unicredit Spa, Italy’s biggest bank, fell almost 8pc on Friday.

Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy….the wheels are coming off the EU juggernaut as the demise of the Euro prototype socialist state hastens. The bottom line is that Governments must live within their means. Most refuse to accept this until the iron laws of economics force their hand. The EU can’t afford an Italian bail-out so they will try to cobble over the massive stress-lines now visible across the continent.


By David Vance On July 1st, 2011 at 8:12 am

Getting a decent education is something all should aspire to. But it carries a price;

“More than a third of recent graduates are unemployed or languishing in stop-gap jobs that do not need a degree, official figures show. Students have been running up debts only to find themselves jobless or doing work for which they are over-qualified. One in ten of last year’s graduates – 20,000 – are unemployed and more than a quarter are in dead-end jobs.”

Of course the nasty truth is that whilst all degrees are equal some are more equal than others. How many of those without a job or languishing in dead end jobs have graduated with Media degrees or the like? How many should not have bothered going to University in the first instance? It seems to me that the iron law of supply and demand still prevails. Too many students, not enough jobs – value of degree reduces. Without a 2:1, I think modern students are probably lost, mired in transgenerational debt. There is something perverse about an education system that forces kids through it and into long term unemployment.

pay up, pay up, and pay again!

By Mike Cunningham On June 22nd, 2011 at 3:22 pm

When the Coalition took over Downing Street, one of the few very sensible steps taken was to dismantle what remained of the hugely expensive Schools building programme. This totally bureaucratic method of planning and building schools was of course all funded through PFI (Private Finance initiative). This method lets contractors build schools, or hospitals, or whatever with their own money, and then lease them back to the government for thirty years, at huge profit to the contractors.

This method was stopped for the schools by Michael Gove.

But now it is rumoured that many new parent-run ‘free schools’ will be built under PFI financing, because there is no cash available, and the Coalition doesn’t want to borrow any more. So there we are once again, paying out huge dollops of cash that we have to borrow for thirty years despite stating that ‘no way would anyone use PFI again’.



By David Vance On June 18th, 2011 at 9:51 am

The Belfast Telegraph really is a rag at times with some of the most superficial analysis of big issues I have ever seen. It makes the local press seem almost readable. Consider this nonsense served up today;

Sinn Fein Schools chief John O’Dowd today signalled a fresh approach to education as he declared “bright kids must be allowed to rise to the top”. In an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the Sinn Fein minister said he does not wish to stifle talent and wants a system of continued assessment and streaming to ensure gifted pupils are allowed to excel. He said he wants to see a fully functional comprehensive schools system across Northern Ireland and rules out any return of the 11-plus.

Ah, a change “in tone”? How welcome. A desire to allow “bright kids to rise to the top”? How enlightened.

Oh, hang on a second…HOW will O’Dowd achieve these aims?

Yes, by abolishing academic selection, by axing the Grammar School system, and by ensuring that a comprehensive failure is substituted. Great news and incredible forensic examination by the Tele! Still, Munster has new tone, that’s the big news.


By David Vance On June 16th, 2011 at 7:44 am

Interesting to read that almost half of English state schools are failing to provide a good enough education to pupils, inspectors warned yesterday.

Overall, 45 per cent of 4,062 schools in England seen by Ofsted during autumn and spring of 2010/11 were letting pupils down. More than a third (39 per cent) were merely satisfactory while six per cent were branded “inadequate”.

How many teachers have been sacked? Such systemic failure cannot be tolerated and yet it is. Now I know that there are some great teachers out there – but there are also some hopeless ones but they are never weeded out because of the malevolent power of the Trade Unions. So the end result is that huge numbers of children endure inadequate education in inadequate schools. Result?


By David Vance On June 14th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Oh no!

Thousands of teachers have backed a programme of widespread strikes in England and Wales over changes to their pensions. Members of the National Union of Teachers and the Associations of Teachers and Lecturers are expected to walk out on 30 June. The unions say the pensions changes will leave them working longer, paying more and getting less when they retire.

I hate to break it to the Unions but…..WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD!!

Those who work in the private sector – the sector that FUNDS these bravehearts – already work longer, pay more and get less. it’s time for equality, comrades!


By David Vance On June 10th, 2011 at 7:49 am

This is a good thing but it costs too much. Teachers are being made redundant from schools in Northern Ireland this summer. Oh my goodness, the horror of the public sector adjusting to financial reality, whatever next?

Provisional figures compiled by the BBC show that 314 teachers are taking redundancy deals, the vast majority of them are going voluntarily and there is a generous severance package. In 2010, less than two thirds of that number were made redundant.

This is being presented as evidence of the much hyped “cuts” but it is simply a way of further enriching the bank accounts of those who have been hanging around to get a deal to get out of their tenured job so that they can come back as supply teachers, if they fancy a bit extra cash. I’d love to know what exactly “a generous severance package” is and the ages of those concerned. The fact of the matter is that there needs be a much greater reduction in numbers in the Education sector – I would start with the bureaucrats at the top. Better still, how about the Education Minister, Mr Munster, (aka John O’Dowd) dismissing himself – for the sake of the children, of course?

Write on one side of the paper!

By Mike Cunningham On June 9th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

When living and working in South Africa some thirty-odd years ago, I ran the Engineering side of a construction company. I supervised the tendering for work, as well as the overall supervision of the various sites we had under control. I was the ‘appointed person’ for all engineering installations, both electrical and mechanical, which meant that, in Law, if anything went wrong, my name was at the top of a very short list. This meant that I had to ensure that all work was carried out safely, to relevant standards, with no ‘shortcuts’ allowed. My ‘Health & Safety’ policy document consisted of one sheet of paper, which stated that there are no accidents on site, there are only omissions and deviations from set, stable, established routines. If anyone departed from those set routines, he would be dismissed on the spot.

One of our sites was engaged in the cabling and installation of high- and low voltage electrical equipment which would supply power to homes in a Black township named Tembisa. The consultant, the guy who looked after all our contract phoned me up and casually stated that he was worried about certain high-voltage cabling and switching procedures which he had observed from a distance on site; and was giving me the opportunity to set things right before he was obliged to take note and action!

When I write about high-voltage cables and switchgear, I am writing about a force which can kill instantly, as well as burn and disfigure horribly if practices are not rigorously observed at all times. I arrived on site, found out what was happening, and what had been done; and proceeded to give final written warnings to the two senior men on site, as well as firing on the spot the highly-skilled high-voltage cable jointer who had placed his labourer, an ordinary Zulu in our employ, in the gravest danger. The jointer thought he was indispensable because his skills were in short supply, but he walked away because he broke the rules, which were developed and written long before he was born. The contract was delayed, a bit, but I had no choice, because I had found I could not trust a man who had stated that he always worked by the rules.

So what do ATW readers think of the people who wrote, and then allegedly checked several times before printing the massively-faulted Business Studies examination paper, or the equally-bad Geography and Computing exam papers? When kids these days sit down to an exam, they know that their future is standing before them, and if they falter, their whole way of life can be massively altered or downgraded. What would you do if the first question you come up against on the exam paper just doen’t make any sense, because of either bad preparation, bad writing or simply ignorance? Your confidence is shattered, because you haven’t understood the question, and you reckon all your preparations have been for nothing! Multiply that feeling by a hundred thousand, and ATw readers will get some idea of the damage done to these kids who were hoping to get a smooth start in their exams.

But how many of the AQA staff will face dimissal? With British employment law the way it is these days, I reckon a grand total of Zero!


How to teach Art

By Mike Cunningham On June 1st, 2011 at 1:51 pm

When I was at school, a Grammar School in Newcastle, for our yearly test in Art, we were supposed to produce a watercolour with a view ‘out of my window’.

As my home was at the time in Jarrow, I had a selection of views from which to select; the bomb-damaged and flattened rows of house foundations stretching towards the town centre (courtesy of Herr Hitler), a road up towards the dry docks and cranes of the dockside, or a close-up view of the coking gas-works straight across the road.

I did my best, and handed in the result along with everyone else. I will admit for one second that my frame grew a bit straighter when the Art teacher pulled out and held up my little masterpiece, and then my dreams of glory were forever dashed with the words. “And now, Form 3A, despite all my advice and words,  this is a definite example of how not to do it!”

So you can imagine why I never tried again, even though you just cannot know if genius has just passed you by.