woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
Stress-inducing without actually being interesting...

This morning was spidermonkey's official assessment for Disabled Student Allowance.  Sounds as though it went well.  He will finally get software that is actually useful to him rather than being kindly told that he can use Word to write his Further Maths papers if that would be helpful. (It isn't.)  At last, DSA gives him access to funding and the expertise of someone who knows which e-pen is best for equations! (Of course, the govt have announced they will stop most of this for next year's uni starters...)  I've already linked to a petition about that.

Meanwhile, squirrelmonkey has come down with a virus just as his exams are starting.  There's only one exam this week, and he'll probably be well enough to dose up on ibuprofen and do his best.  Spoke to school exam officer who says that's the thing to do but she will also send a letter to the exam board to ask for special consideration, but first she needs a letter from the GP.  GP does not want to see patients with viruses who do not need treatment but squirrel can see the Common Ailments Nurse tomorrow and she can write the letter.  But first she needs a letter from the school to request the letter to the school.  School has gone very quiet....  Oh, and it'll cost us 16 quid.

I ought to be marking, but I'm going to watch Le Hobbit (yes, in French - surprisingly good dub) with Squirrel by way of A Little Light Revision...
woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
Here's what spidermonkey is doing every day at college.

It's chemistry project time.  His is something to do with crown ethers.  I have no idea what those are but they seem to go in for weird reactions that neither he nor his teacher had predicted.  Apparently this is not a problem.  Chem A level is one of the good ones: kids actually get marks for asking questions and thinking about stuff.  
woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Another episode in the tragicomedy of Mr. Gove...

Squirrel has brought home a letter from Monkey Federation Academies TM.  That Maths GCSE he was going to take next month so he could get it over with and concentrate on Additional Maths?  Cancelled. Thanks to Gove's campaign to raise standards, 60 kids at MFA will now be learning less Maths rather than more.

Mr. Gove has ruled that only the first sitting of any subject GCSE can be counted towards a school's league table place.  So the school has decided not to risk early exams at all.  Better to wait until June, when they'll have had more Maths lessons, and bugger the Additional Maths since it's not a GCSE and doesn't get counted towards anything (apart from being massively helpful for Maths A Level next year).
Thing is, kids can sit GCSE as many times as they like and still keep the best result - it's just the school that has to stick with the first grade awarded. The conflict of interests is as obvious as it is unhelpful.  The school has made it clear they are pissed off but all they have to suggest is 'Write to your MP'.  Maths geek kids are talking about protests and lesson boycotts.  Maths geek parents have yet to react.  Personally, I'm planning to sigh a lot and have a hot bath.

Dear Mr. Gove,
Did you ever think that maybe the reason schools want multiple shots at the 'same' exam is because the marking and grading have become so erratic?  Might it help to make the system more predictable rather than less?  Maybe?  Or that it might be helpful to consult on new ideas for a minimum of 5 minutes before implementing them?  No, of course not.  Why would you?
woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
A reminder please to take care when dropping off / picking up students by car. Radegund Road is especially busy at both ends of the school day and the cycle lanes and speed reducing measures provide hazards for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Monkey Federation Academies send out a lot of messages like this, especially since they renamed the English department as Communications and Media.  But if you've seen Radegund Road lately, you may thing this one is meant to say exactly what it does.


Apr. 19th, 2013 11:42 am
woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
This is so spot on that I went to listen again and transcribe it.
One of the problems is that we have poured so much time into trying to make sure that children look as though they're achieving more that we've not been prepared to say how do children actually learn?  And one of the answers in that you have to enthuse them for their learning.  You can't make them think, as they so often do in school, "What I'm learning here isn't interesting.  I mustn't read around the subject in case I put the wrong answer in the exam.  The only thing that matters is getting the right test result."
Jenny Russell on Today this morning (2hrs 43 minutes in, if you want to hear the whole thing.)

This is exactly what we've seen with the monkey boys education at secondary school.  Sadly we're still seeing it with Science A Levels at sixth form.  It's not such a problem for squirrel because he has the kind of brain that is good at understanding and at exam technique.  Mugging up the definitions comes easily and doesn't waste much of his time.  For spider, who's dyslexic, it's a huge energy drain that takes time away from real learning, and puts him off further study.

I'm not saying all bright kids are harmed by this.  Squirrel can laugh at the notion that using the word, lexis, in an English answer get you bonus marks , write a thoughtful essay with the word dropped in for fun, and have time over to take a photo of his marked script with a red tick by lexis before the teacher has even seen the rest of the sentence.  The extra challenge of playing the system to score marks only adds to his enjoyment, because it's easy for him.

But it seems pretty clear we are doing education doubly wrong by teaching to tests that test the wrong things.

Science A level rant behind the cut )
woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
From Monkey Federation Academies' bulletin:
14:45-15:45 Science Talk – Dr Jenny Wiseman from the Goddard Centre NASA years 10,11 and sixth form, entitled “is there life on other plants?” at Coleridge in J6-1
woolymonkey: (singe a la licorne)
Thanks to the 2nd antibiotics, I'm now recovered from both the kidney infection and the backlog of work that built up as a result.

So I can update you on my cats, and possibly even on my children...

Leicester is much perkier, indeed perky enough to be pretty fed up with his tiger cage.  He's taken to scritching the blankets into a pile and generally fidgeting around.  He still doesn't want to put weight on the bad leg, partly because it must be still sore, but mostly because the muscles are so wasted that it doesn't actually bear weight.  He has a full range of movement in it when he's just waving it in the air though, and he's allowed to come out of the cage as long as he sits on laps like a good kitty and doesn't try to run or jump, so we sit and do his leg excercises together.  Any day now the vet will give him the all clear to try a little very gentle standing and walking.

He and Humbug went through an odd spell where they would stand close together with all the body language saying 'We is friends' except that Humbug would hiss.  He'd still act friendly and Leicester wouldn't react, but Humbug would hiss quietly.  This has stopped now.  We think it was all about Humbug insisting that he gets to be Chief Cat now that he's doing all the work and Leicester is helpless.   Apparently Leicester agrees because he's started neatly burying his poo, something he wouldn't have been seen dead doing before: he always left it proudly on a mound of litter.  Sometimes Humbug would come and bury it for him.  But he says Humbug is only Acting Chief Cat.  It's a temporary arrangement.  Got that?

Spider is enjoying geeky A levels at Long Road and getting to work with real glass blowers for his Medical Research Council artwork.  (It's weird and complicated.).  He'll also be singing at West Road in the first part of this.  Come and listen if you think you're hard enough.  We'll all be there.

Squirrel has managed to get himself onto an extra GCSE course and also joined the band for the latest Monkey Federation Academies musical, Little Shop of Horrors.  He's the trumpet so you'll hear him. Even if you're not going to the show.
woolymonkey: (Default)
Thought I'd post this because the monkey family has been close to the sharp end and reports in the media don't seem to make things clear.  I have no personal axe to grind because Spider managed to pass even with all the problems this year, so he's alright Jack and off to do Science A-Levels.  (In fact, he did great.  Yay! Spider! \o/\o/\o/)  But what happened to others is still unfair. 

Behind a cut to spare those who don't have to care about British school exams... )

woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Help please!  The Monkey Academies Federation Orchestra are playing Harry Potter tunes at the school arts event.  That much we've known for a while.  But now the music teacher has decided they should do it in 'wizardy clothes'.  Performances are Wed and Thur of next week and they're supposed to have the costumes ready for a rehearsal TOMORROW.  Morning.  At 9am.

Bugger tomorrow morning, but does anyone have anything we could use for Wed and Thur please?  We can probably collect it from you if you're in Cambridge, or you could drop it at either work or school (Regent St or Parkside).

I'm not expecting you to have the full Dumbledore tucked away in the loft, or lend it out if you did, but anything remotely suitable would be very much appreciated as we chucked out all our dressing up stuff in the move.  A cheapo halloween pointy hat or an academic gown would be perfect. 

Anything?  Please?
woolymonkey: (Default)
Please help me say what I am!

I'm a British mother, in Britain and I have to sign up for Edmodo if I want any communication with the monkey school, a British comprehensive. To create an account, I must state my relationship to the monkey boys.  The options are:


I am tempted to tick 'Other'.  What would you do?

For the record, I would be happy to call myself a mom if I was in the US.  But I'm not and nor are my kids, their school or their teachers.

And, yes, I realise this is pretty minor.  Not like the time when the county music service decided that, in order to organise trumpet and violin lessons for the monkey boys, they needed to know phone me and ask if either of them was adopted.  The only answer they got was a stunned silence and 'Why on earth would you need to know that to arrange music lessons?'  I don't know which box she ticked after that, but they've been having the lessons ever since and nobody's asked again.
woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Spidermonkey hasn't got an offer from Hills Road for A Levels. He's really disappointed because he loved what he saw of the place and really wanted to do Electronics as well as Maths, Maths, Chemistry and Physics.

The really strange thing is that only 4 kids in his whole school got offers. The school is so stunned they held a special assembly about it! In a normal year, about 25-30 do, which would have put Spider comfortably in. No-one knows what's going on--no-one who talks to me anyway--but the grapevine suggests that other schools are being treated more or less as usual while Monkey Academies is being set a much higher threshold for some reason. Weird.

On the plus side, he has a nice, we-really-want-you offer from Long Road to do all the same A Levels except Electronics, and Long Road is clearly going to be full of bright Scientists next year, many of them from Monkey Academies, and he'll have more dyslexia support, less pressure, and more time to carry on with all his music activities. So it may be all for the best. But it will be a heck of a bike ride from Girton.

Anyone have any tips for studying Electronics at home, clubs, evening classes, etc? He's not all that bothered about whether it gets him a qualification. He just loved the taster at Hills Rd and would like to do more so he can make an informed decision whether to consider studying it at uni later.
woolymonkey: (Default)
The monkey house is on the market and has had its first viewer - more due at the weekend. It has never been so clean (and I have never been so behind with my marking).

The monkey school phoned AGAIN to ask why they have no monkey boys in lessons. Told them AGAIN that they are on a SCHOOL TRIP. Is it me, or is it somewhat alarming that the organisation supposedly looking after the monkey boys clearly has NO IDEA where they are?

Scuse capslock--put it down to moving stress.


Feb. 7th, 2012 02:59 pm
woolymonkey: (wtf?)
Monkey Federation Academies phoned me to ask why Spider isn't in lessons.

Er, because he's in France, with the Monkey Federation Academies Orchestra, on an official Monkey Federation Academies trip?
woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Depending on how you feel about Christmas music arranged for mixed ability orchestra, you'll want to either seek out or avoid Lion Yard between 12.40 and 1.20 on Sunday, specifically the bridge outside New Look where the Monkey Academies Federation Orchestra will be playing to open the festive shopping season.

I'll definitely be there, or at a coffee stand in earshot, if only to watch Spider sightread. What with Dido and sixth form college open evenings, he's been to exactly 0 school orchestra rehearsals.

Connaisseurs of monkey orchestral manoeuvres will be wondering how much notice we had of this performance. Were we give the date
A) this morning?
B) over a month ago?
C) yesterday?
D) when we happened to see a poster advertising the event?

The correct answer is... )

For a more organised, more musical, and generally superior listening experience, you could catch the monkeyboys singing with Cantiamo! at St Giles' church, Castle Hill, Sunday evening at 7.00.

Oh, and I think you need an invite for this one (which I don't have), but if you're at the Mayor's Reception at the new Botanic Garden building, you can hear monkeys singing with Cantiamo! tonight.


Nov. 4th, 2011 12:31 pm
woolymonkey: (keyboard)
Anyone want to see Purcell's Dido and Aeneas performed by Cambridge Youth Opera (monkey boys in the chorus!) on Mon or Tue evening at St Mary's School?
I shall be going with [livejournal.com profile] tamaranth on Monday. [livejournal.com profile] musique_monkey and assembled grandmonkeys will be there on Tuesday. Tickets of the door or prebooked by me if you can let me know by tomorrow.

Other than that, I shall be out of circulation. It's marking time again so, of course, I have an urgent translation. Brown hare poplutation fluctuations in the Federal Republic of Germany, since you don't ask.

And Spider has a crazily busy week next week--Dido is just the start. He has 3 separate subjects of GCSE exams on Thursday, in different locations! Plus a 6th form open evening and two (simultaneous) revision workshops, not that he'll have a chance to get to those, but it's the thought that counts...
woolymonkey: (spidermonkey)
It's been a good week for Spider. The highlight was when a lady from the Medical Research Council rang yesterday, asking to speak to him. I did wonder briefly if it was for experimental purposes, but it turned out to be about their Imagining the Brain art competition. He's won joint first prize!
And they want to talk to him about doing a 3 week stint as artist in residence! If he does, it sounds as though it wouldn't be until summer 2012--much better all round because he'll have more time after GCSEs, and he'll be 16.
The website I linked to doesn't have this year's results yet, but you can see entries from previous years there, and the brief for 2011.

The combination of art and science really suited him, and he put a lot of time and effort into his entry.  Here's a pic that doesn't do it justice.

It's a sculpture of a microtubule in a neuron disintegrating due to Alzheimer's. I'm not sure if you can see, but there are little photos of memories on the bits of microtubule, and the base of the box has a blobby (impasto, I'm told) image of an Alzheimer's plaque.  (The pan scourers are tau proteins, I think, or are they something else?)

I love it! Our kitchen was full of heavy body gel, boxes, polystyrene balls, wire, and Early Learning Centre poster paint for weeks, but it was well worth it.
I'm sorry the photo isn't better, but it was the best we could manage. There should be a much better one on the competition website, along with an embarrassed-looking spider, after the photo shoot in September. I'll link when it's there.

As if that wasn't enough, earlier in the week, he got his new violin--long promised if he passed his Grade 5 and still wanted to to carry on, but it wasn't easy to choose it, so took a while.  For the interested, he decided on a new Sandner and a carbon-fibre bow, both from Cambridge Strings, who are fantastic.

AND he got an A for his latest English assessment, on Shakespeare sonnets! Thank you again, everyone who sent thoughts about whether 'loved' rhymes with 'proved'. It doesn't directly boost his English Language grade, which is the one we're worried about, but it's great to see what he can do now he has help for his dyslexia and an English teacher who actually teaches English!

Speaking of English teachers, the cherry on top was a last week of term where normal lessons were replaced by a choice of sports--if you're spider, that's climbing and paintballing. Spider got to be captain of one of the paintball teams, while the opposing team was captained by...

...his old English teacher! (The one who confused him, made him feel useless, and then lost everyone's coursework. Seriously, I know teachers; I used to be one. I don't expect the impossible, but this woman is outstandingly, dramatically hopeless, and maddening with it.*)

Guess who won :)
By a mile :) :) :)

In fact, Ms Crappyteacher is as bad at paint ball as she is at English, and too stupid to recognise this and delegate to kids. So spider got to shoot her dead several times over. He wasn't the only one (see 'lost coursework') above: Ms C was the clear winner of the paint magnet award. Spider obviously found it all very cathartic. He was grinning all over his face, and that was before the A, the violin or the art prize!

* E.g. "It isn't lost because I know it's in the folder.  I just don't know where the folder is."
woolymonkey: (Default)
If, like me, you have no confidence in the government's policy on further, higher and adult education, there's a petition you can sign.

(I have no confidence in their policy on primary or secondary education either, but if there's a petition for that I haven't seen it.)

You have to say what institution you belong to, but I see nothing to say you have to be a teacher or academic. If you have kids at school, or went to school yourself, then you have a link with an educational institution. It's surely not just education pros who are affected by education policy.
woolymonkey: (wtf?)
1. From wikipedia, while looking for info about Spider's GCSE exam board, OCR, created by merging several qualification providers, including Midland Examining Group (MEG):

Subsequent physics syllabi released by the OCR included the now infamous (fictional) units the "Ocrawatt" and "Ocrajoule" due to overzealous find-and-replace on MEG's part (in previous and later syllabi, the units were correctly written as "Megawatt" and "Megajoule".)

2. from a student essay:

The reason people get a sense of spiritual wellbeing in Milton Keynes* is that the town 'contains so much Greenland'.

* If you still doubt the beneficial spiritual properties of MIlton Keynes you may need to read my previous post.

Video stars

Feb. 4th, 2011 12:04 pm
woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Spidermonkey is off school with the flu. So to embarrass him cheer him up, here's a video of his old band, Late Start.

They reformed by special invitation for two days in September so the Creative Arts and Media Diploma class could make videos of them. Spider wishes to make it clear that he is in no way responsible for the visuals, and that includes the wig. For those who don't know him well, he's the tall guitarist and this was before the great haircut.

There's another one too: Down in the Ground.
woolymonkey: (guitar chimp)
Spidermonkey needs to sort out his work experience placement for May and he's asked my to ask you...

Please does anyone work at or know of sciencey/medical or musical workplaces in Cambridgeshire that might be willing to have a 15-year old monkey hanging around for a week in May?

He has to choose between applying directly to workplaces or going through the school's system for big employers like Addenbrookes or John Lewis. So he's trying to do some research into what might be out there that he could apply to directly.  What he'dreally like is a behind-the-scenes view of working in science or medicine, since that's the kind of thing he hopes to do one day (or music just cos he likes it!).  And preferably not where he'll bump into his dad all the time...  It needs to be in Cambridgeshire, or possibly East Anglia.  I don't think the employer gets anything out of it other than whatever they can manage to use Spider for (no experimenting on him, please).

If anyone has any thoughts, all the monkey family would be very grateful.    We'll know more about how it all works--terms, conditions, insurance--after the info evening on Thursday, but it would be good to have an idea before then of whether there's anything out there that he could explore further.  Thanks in advance!

BTW, apologies for being very intermittent and inconsistent about lj at the moment.  It's the time of year when all my courses overlap, so I'm either staying off lj to get on with marking and teaching, or wittering excessively in bursts of procrastination.


woolymonkey: (Default)

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