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BBC News: Higher exams to be cancelled for Scottish pupils

BBC News – Higher exams to be cancelled for Scottish pupils https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-55230774

At last, the decision we were expecting. In my case, my students would have been ready for the exams in summer but another covid case causing students to lose 2 more weeks would change that in an instant.

I think this is a good decision and is better to have been made now rather than in February but would have allowed us to better organise arrangements if it had been made in October.

I’d really like this to signal the start of the end of formal exams as the main method of qualification and allow us to move down a more balanced mix of coursework, extended supervised assignments, on-line tests and traditional exams. A hybrid that allows students to demonstrate their skills across a range of assessments and doesn’t disadvantage those who really struggle with exams despite having solid knowledge, understanding and skills. There’s a whole lot of people out there who have been labelled failures simply because their style of learning doesn’t allow them to pass exams.

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Tory misgovernment

When he was elected with an “oven ready” deal why has it come down to the wire to agree our future trading relationships with the EU. I remain absolutely appalled by the ideological cavalierism of the current Tory government. For the sake of fishing, an industry which brings a few hundred million into the economy at best producing a product which few Britons consume, they’ve abandoned the automotive industry, the commercial aerospace industry, the banking, insurance and business services industry, the performing arts industry and the tertiary education industry.

They are charlatans of the greatest magnitude and I am tired of hearing the blame for the disaster to come placed at the feet of the EU, Remainers or the Opposition.

There’s a meme going round at the moment showing the political aims of the National Front in the 1970s and it is a frightening sign of how far to the right our country has drifted that they are unseperable from the current Tory aims.

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The Great British illusion

So, this week I have hit rock bottom in my despair over this nations fixation with our exceptionalism.

It started with Matt Hancock trumpeting the vaccine approval as a triumph of Brexit and statements about Britain leading the world. The vaccine is a result of international collaboration and we have used existing EU regulations around emergency procedures to fast track the approval.

The vaccine is something to celebrate. In the words of WLSC “it is not the end of the virus, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it might be the end of the beginning”. But, it should not be a reason to parrot nationalistic “we’re better than you” playground taunts.

Following this I have just noticed the number of programmes on TV which are titled “The Great British . . . ” we’ve got Bake Off, of course. But there’s a whole raft of other Great British programmes which may once have been a fun play of the geographical name of these islands but now, to me, seem to be aimed at giving permission to narrow minded people to continue to think they’re somehow better than others. The problems facing the world will not be solved by countries trumpeting their own greatness and living on their fading pasts but of nations putting difference aside, celebrating our shared values and working together for the betterment of everyone.

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BBC News: Newspaper headlines: ‘Tiers of rage and disbelief’ as ‘north sees red’

BBC News – Newspaper headlines: ‘Tiers of rage and disbelief’ as ‘north sees red’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-the-papers-55096416

Well, that announcement went well for him didn’t it! So much for levelling up. So much for his Northern wall seats.

The sad thing is, tough lockdown rules are needed now because he’s been too late to act several times in the past and I see a full, or near full, lockdown coming in the new year due to the Christmas easing. That’ll go down really badly and will be resisted by the lunatic right wing of his party but, again, wi be the right call even though it’ll be a direct result of his government’s failings up to now.

Scotland isn’t much better off but at least we have a leader who is calm, clear, detailed and humble when explaining the rules.

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Spending Review

So, Rishi Sunak presented his spending review and the Tories revert back to their attack on the public sector. A pay freeze takes money out of the pockets of millions, reducing their ability to spend within the economy and thus stilting any possible recovery. The justification? Those in the private sector have had difficulties. Yes, they have. But many have received billions in dodgy contracts for PPE and other services. It’s not about fairness, it’s about a hatred of public service.

He said at one point that this is the biggest government spend in 40 years. That takes us back to the start of the Thatcher years so he accepts government investment has been low since the rot set in under her.

He avoided any mention of the economic hit coming from Brexit, Covid will provide the cover they need for the destruction they are causing.

The national debt rises massively under Tory leadership. This has been the case right through austerity and shines a light on the lie of economically responsible Tories as opposed to wasteful Labour.

There’s no chance, in my opinion, that this government will do anything that genuinely helps Britain recover. I think they’ll all end up running away when the real damage happens next year and someone else will have to pick up the pieces.

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Vaccine priority

Here’s my thoughts for the vaccine priority :

  • NHS staff (including ambulance service staff)
  • Care workers
  • The most vulnerable groups
  • Public transport workers
  • Teachers
  • Food shop workers
  • The general population in descending age order.
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Winter of Discontent?

Are we perhaps heading towards a winter of discontent? A perfect storm of disappointment and dissatisfaction in this dogs breakfast of a government? Why do I think this?

  • Priti Patel has been shown to be a bully and was protected during anti-bullying week.
  • Brexit is going to hit the country hard in January.
  • The virus could very well hit back hard in January if restrictions are lifted for Christmas.
  • Any vaccine will be rationed, initially, and there’ll be discussion, debate and anger over the allocation
  • Unemployment will continue to rise due to the double hit of the pandemic and Brexit
  • Food prices will rise due to Brexit
  • Public sector pay freeze will hit key workers hard.

Boris is not going to get his feel good bounce for some time yet. It will only take a few angry protests to spark of poll tax type riots in the Spring I suspect.

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Vaccines

I’ve not posted for a week as I’ve been self isolating and this is something I do on the train to work.

Excellent news about vaccines over the past week. A real chance of the world being able to get on top of this awful disease.

But . . .

I think we now enter the most dangerous time. The vaccines aren’t yet approved for distribution and likely won’t be for several weeks but I suspect some people will take this as a signal to stop being careful. We also have the clamouring for a normal Christmas. This scares me too. I’d far rather have a disrupted Christmas and a locked down month or two more if it means the virus is kept suppressed until the various vaccines are ready to roll out. I worry that restrictions will ease for Christmas and early in January there’ll be a spike in cases and another few people will die unnecessarily.

It is undoubtedly good news about the vaccine but I have no faith we’ll be able to manage the last few months before they’re ready in a safe and protective manner.

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Trumpety Trump

I’ve kept quiet on the US election so far. Partly because I’m British so it’s not my decision and partly because my views on Trump and the right wing libertarian nationalistic machine (which includes most of the current crop of Tory MPs and the Brexit voters) are quite well known. But . . .

How can the Republican party genuinely continue with this farce. Biden is the President-elect and Trump is now even more a figure of ridicule than he was before. To borrow a phrase that I have been subjected to frequently over the past 4 years, “You lost! Get over it.” The popular vote is clearly for the Democrats. The college vote has gone his way too. Surely the time is right for the Republicans to recognise that their world view is not the view of the majority of US citizens and that now is the time to take stock and realign their politics. The economic philosophy of the last 40 years, built of Reaganomics and Thatcherism, has given us frequent economic crises, caused immense harm and difficulties to many people, created a job market with no security, and created a megalithic group of companies who pay little or no taxes while destroying local competitors.

Trump is the zenith of this bullying, corporate greed approach to running a country. This idea that multimillionaire investors will support an economy so their largesse “trickles down” to make us all wealthier is clearly wrong. Average earnings have stagnated or regressed over the last 15 years at the same time as the gig-economy has allowed companies to change their relationship with their employees so they hold less responsibility. Surely this is unsustainable.

I hope Trump (and Johnson) is the peak of their successes and the election of Biden signals a tidal change to a more centrist, socially democratic movement.

I hope, rather than the zenith, Trump becomes the nadir of neoconservatives.

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The Ethics of Vaccine distribution

I’m reading Those most disenfranchised should get the vaccine first via The Independent Daily Edition https://edition.independent.co.uk/editions/uk.co.independent.issue.111120/data/9724795/index.html

This is an interesting article which would form the basis of an excellent TOK lesson in a year or two.

Who should get the vaccine first? The current suggestion seems to be the most elderly (over 80s) and those with serious health risks and those who care for them. This sounds fair. Then we go to the whole health service (this makes sense to me too), then over 70s, over 60s then who? Who deserves the next round first?

I think it gets difficult here. Which group of people put themselves at greatest risk of exposure while working for the national good? I would argue grocery shop workers, teachers and public transport workers.

These are sectors which are essential to the smooth running of society or to protect the future of our children. They are people who are exposed to large groups of people who can carry and transmit the virus and they work in sectors where large absentee rates due to self-isolation or actual illness causes significant problems.

Maybe the Police and Fire Service next (Ambulance staff included in the NHS). Then roll out through the general population. It should be bases on a combination of risk/need/benefit and this requires a genuine assessment of risk – which in schools, certainly, we haven’t had. The public voice says that schools are safe yet we have staff and students dropping like flies and schools really struggling to cope. It may be true that children tend not to suffer serious illness but they are communicators of the disease and it is impossible to teach effectively while being fully distanced and masked so teachers are putting themselves at risk in order to conserve the quality of education our children deserve.

I expect, though, that the distribution will end up going to groups which are perceived to generate more income in the false belief that protecting the economy now should be the priority. Nigeria Faragw, after all, hasn’t been photographed in a pub for months!