EU bored yet?



For us north of the border it’s like de ja vu all over again. Stay or go is the decision – to be part of the bigger picture or to have home rule. And it appears that the vote will be just as close on this referendum as the last one was. The strange thing is that no major party is campaigning to leave (because UKIP isn’t a major party).

But nobody is singing the praises of the EU either – we know it has an over inflated sense of self, it’s ridiculously heavy on the purse strings and ultimately it is a mess. But I think we’re better off in it with a view to changing all that that standing on the outside shouting in at it.

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn showed that exact feeling by effectively shrugging at the issue and saying “You’ll do” like a drunk at closing time to the nearest trap. No one particularly likes it in its modern form across the continent, but we can’t do much about it unless we are involved in the day-to-day processes. There are the usual scaremongering tactics from both sides with little evidence to back up what anyone says and if we did leave there is no singular plan to follow.

Not even the Germans and French agree on much these days within the EU and it’s hard to see how such a flabby and red-tape-laden structure would ever be allowed to go ahead again, but now we are part of it we could easily sort things out if those suckling on the moneyed teat would stop to take breath for once. Firstly I’d scrap the European Parliament. It’s not fit for purpose – instead we already have elected officials in each country who cold speak on our behalf so we should focus on achieving more through MPs than MEPs. Costs would drop dramatically and every nation would have more money to put into their own priorities.

Secondly I’d rewind and sort out trade agreements. We all know that if you work together and bulk buy you get a better price – block cheap imports (or at least put a levy on them to encourage European manufacturing) and focus on improving our home-grown resources. We also know that by combining skills and resources you get a stronger representation than each individual part trying on their own. So I’d pull intelligence services, police, areas of the armed forces and customs to stop the constant rule breaking and issues around terrorism.

Finally I want a united voice to speak against those who are pushing others around. The UN and NATO work to a point, but with the collective voices of Europe standing up to Putin, China and other despot dictators we’d maybe stop some of the pointless gesturing we get caught up in all the time.

So – yes it’s terrible, but I’d rather be in than out as many laws have been passed that give us rights as humans, workers and families. We are supporting those most in need in industry by a collective approach. There is a friendship amongst countries that have done nothing but fight each other for the last millennia – a peace that is lasting and countries who support each other when in need.

My one issue with the whole thing? Can we just get on with the vote – I don’t think I can stand ten weeks of this bickering.


A change is gonna come



In 2013 I left Secondary teaching. Next week I’m stepping back into the burning building as everyone else appears to be running from it. Why? Because I’m ready to stop moaning about the system and start making it work instead.

Teachers moan a lot – to each other, to their friends and family and to anyone who will listen. Part of it is the complete lack of understanding from those who think it’s an easy job with lots of holidays. To those people I’d always say try it for a year if you think it’s so easy and we’ll talk after that. The reason they moan is simple though – it’s not the marking, meetings, CPD or paperwork, it’s because they really do care about the kids they teach.

Any decent teacher’s priority are the pupils who sit in front of them each week – and despite what my face says that includes me. I might wind them up and poke fun at them but I did the job for them and I know that going back this will continue to be the case. So why did I leave? Well there were a few reasons including me not coping with my mental health particularly well and blaming everything else; there were some people I needed to get away from as they were not helping that issue either; and the CfE that was marching towards the senior phase frankly scared me.

Curriculum for Excellence in itself is not an issue – the outcomes and philosophy behind it is something that any teacher strives to do anyway. The changes were not always going to have a positive impact on the pupils. They could effectively leave at the end of S4 without any substantial qualifications to their name and I felt strongly that this was wrong. Also the repetitiveness of the syllabus from S3 and up was something I felt undermined the great work that was being done by teachers across departments. When you are trying to find new ways to present ideas but the structure is monotonous, it felt like a losing battle.

The thing is that nothing has changed in the three years since I left. CfE continues (although the tweaks are starting to happen) and the other issues of work/life balance and my health are the same. But an important thing has changed – me.

It’s taken the time away from the job to see it for what it is. Over the last year and a half I have worked with pupils from backgrounds that don’t traditionally progress to Further and Higher Education and I have been reminded that these kids are the whole reason I loved the job. Working with these individuals and helping them get the best out of their time at school is an essential job and I need to stop bitching and moaning and get back to what I do best – being a teacher.

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have had former pupils get in touch with me to compliment my role in their school lives. To know I’ve had a positive influence makes the whole thing worthwhile. I know I’ll still moan, I’ll struggle with aspects of the job and I’ll still feel that CfE is not a great structure – but I have some perspective now and hopefully that time away will allow me to return in a more positive and constructive way.

The other thing is that if I don’t try again I’ll never know if I could have been successful or not. I feel that I owe it to myself to give it another try. I hope my manic depression doesn’t get in the way as it did at times previously, but since i was last in a classroom I am in a stronger position of understanding the condition and being on the right medication for the condition. I do worry that there is a chance that I might not cope and I’ll have to draw a line under my teaching career once and for all, but I have to at least try.

Rather than moaning about the job from the outside it’s time to go in and get my head down and make the best of the situation and help the next generation of learners be the best they can be. Along the way i hope that I can do the same for myself.


He’s not the Messiah!



I am a fan of Stephen Fry and his work, but I am under no illusion that he is perfect, unflawed or above reproach. He has “put his foot in it again” by speaking out of turn about those who have suffered with sexual abuse. Add this to the bag lady comments at the BAFTAs and many other occasions he has opened his mouth without engaging his brain and he is strangely similar to you and I.

He makes mistakes.

If our every word was scrutinised, pondered over and reproduced in the press then there is no doubt that we would also find ourselves in trouble more often than not. I know that my idiot brain can spout the biggest load of codswallop possible at any given opportunity – and like Stephen I am also bipolar. I’m not comparing us in any way – I just want to show how the illness can impact on our mouths.

At times, both in manic phases and depressions my mouth can engage without my brain being fully aware of what is said – an off the cuff remark can be ill thought out and not something, if written down, would get past our internal censors. This is not to excuse the rude or downright wrong things that are said, but hopefully puts them in context.

Beyond the issues of mental illness though Fry is no different to the Kardashians or any other person in the spotlight. The cult of celebrity is a dangerous one and to expect these individuals to sit on pedestals unscathed is moronic. We need to be more realistic with our expectations.

Who set him up as this perfect polymath in the first place? Well I’d argue we did. Successful in numerous areas he has the ability to communicate well in several media making him a “go to” for newspapers, TV, film and online writers. He has been pushed into a limelight that we know he can struggle with and we sit with bated breath for words of wisdom to pour forth from. When he gets it right I would argue that he deserves his lofted position because he can articulate ideas in a loquacious and rich way.

But he often gets it wrong too. And rather than castigating him we should be asking ourselves why we need people like Stephen Fry and why we look to them in our society. Are we replacing the politicians that we don’t trust? The religious leaders we no longer follow? Or, as I suspect, are we scared to speak up ourselves for the fear that we too would be lambasted by society for saying something?

With Social Media we are all now part of a more democratic world that permits us to post opinion and counter-opinion, but we hide behind that keyboard if things go wrong. Fry has taken a position that we are scared to – a public spokesperson. I would argue that we can’t really shoot the messenger if we appointed him.