Changing Qualifications

It’s been announced today that OfQual has announced the finalised changes to GCSEs from 2015, with first exams in 2017. The changes will initially be for English language, English literature, and Maths – others will be announced later.

The key changes are :

  • Grading by numbers 9-1 rather than by the current letters A*-G
  • No more modular courses, instead full exams taken at the end of two years
  • Controlled assessments (coursework done under exam conditions) will be scrapped for most subjects

I think most of these are good, but the one that makes my brain bleed is about the changes to grading. I don’t care about it being numbers or letters, but why change the order of them? Until now, for decades, A has been the highest mark. Why would it now change to 9? That’s just counter-intuitive. When you think of ‘the best’, it’s usually “Number One” to be the best, not “Number Nine”.

Employers are used to that grading system, with A being the best. Changing that round is – I suspect – likely to cause more confusion than any other part of this revamped assessment.


One of the better explanations I’ve seen for using apostrophes and abbreviations. (And I didn’t write this originally, honest)

How to use apostrophes

Maybe if it were taught like this in schools, people would remember it better.

Seeking Proofreaders

One of my favourite stories today is that of the Suffolk school that’s now hiring proofreaders to check for mistakes in teachers reports. Yes, really.

From the story…

Northgate High School said the role would include correcting “spelling mistakes, poor or missing punctuation, incorrect capitalisation” and improving “poor grammar”.

The role at the local authority school pays £14 an hour.

Headteacher David Hutton said the work indicates the “high level of professionalism” at the school.

Surely a better mark of the ‘high level of professionalism’ at the school would be to hire teachers who – you know – are capable of spelling correctly and using grammar properly in the first place? After all, if they’re making mistakes on the reports, I’d be pretty damn sure they were making the same mistakes in lessons…

Critical Reading

As has been observed many times over the years, I can be a really picky/pedantic bastard – particularly when it comes to spelling, punctuation, and literacy in general. And it’s true, I am all of those things.

Today I’ve been proof-reading a menu for the work Christmas Do  (of which more at some other point) – and with some of the errors, had to check the original menu.

So – would you still go to a place whose menu has spelling errors?  I realise that the typing and publication of the menu won’t have come direct from the chef, and will have been farmed out to someone on reception (or similar) – but really, if chefs / owners are so obsessed about control, wouldn’t that also extend to the menu, and how it represents the establishment ?

In this case, some of the spelling errors are pretty basic – Mascarpone , for example, is mis-spelled. In others, it’s the actual cooking techniques themselves, such as “Ballantine” instead of “Ballotine”. And I just find that a bit worrying – for if there’s that lack of attention to details in the menu, I can’t help but think there might be the same lack of attention when it comes to the food.

Food Origins

I’ve known for a while about how some people don’t know where their food comes from – but even so, this particular story is pretty shocking.

Basically, in a poll of 2000 people by LEAF “Linking Environment and Farming” – although I can’t currently find mention of this poll on their site –  33% of young adults aged between 16 and 23 were unaware of where eggs come from – and 11% answered that eggs are produced from wheat or maize.

Additionally, 36% of the same age group failed to answer that bacon comes from pigs, while 40% did not know that cows produce milk.

Now it might be that one third of the sample were thick as mince, but all the same, it’s pretty scary.

Mind you, I’ve also known of people who

  • when asked where chicken/beef/pork come from, answer “Tesco”
  • didn’t know that chicken (the meat) comes from chicken (the bird) – I’ve seen that one myself

So I’m not too surprised, but all the same, it’s pretty depressing. My parents always taught my brother and I where food came from – to the extent that my brother used to refer to animals by the condiments that went with them :  Cows = Horseradish. Lamb = Mint Sauce. Pigs = Apple Sauce.

Mind you, still no-one really knows what meat goes into kebabs, or just where on a chicken creates McNuggets…

Discovery / Stupidity

Every so often, you discover something, and realise you’ve either made a stupid mistake, (even if based on a logical premise) or just never clicked on the reasons why.

An example of the latter for this was that I only realised last year that the Jubilee line is silver on the London Underground map because it was – yes – the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.  Yeah, yeah, I know.

Another – this time from my father – was that in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” stories, James was red, because he was “ready for anything”. The look of “Oh!” on my dad’s face was priceless when he eventually clicked on to it – but it was a long time after he’d been reading the books to my brother and I.

Anyway, today’s discovery was more on the ‘stupid but logical’ side. Until looking at a map today, and seeing it by chance, I had never actually realised that Watford Gap is nowhere near Watford. Indeed, there’s about 60 miles between the two…

View Larger Map

So I feel a bit of an idiot, although I can justify/explain the logic beneath that thought…

The True Size of Africa

via Twitter today, I came across this awesome infographic about the true size of Africa by Kal Krause.

I’ve also uploaded it here, because it really is an excellent illustration of the size of Africa, compared to other major areas/countries.

The true size of Africa, copyright Kal Krause