Thoughts on …


Just a few thoughts on a variety of subjects. If they stimulate anyone who reads them to do some thinking or rethinking about an issue that would be good.


All the links are to a number of articles collected together so it will be necessary to scroll down for a particular title. 


A radical manifesto for the election and beyond  21/11/19


Walk Mendip, Walk Somewhere  31/10/19


A quick guide to democracy  10/9/19 


Replacing GCSEs  22/8/19


The Rock of Ages and the bedrock of love  21/6/19


Theresa May - and why she succeeded where others failed  2/6/19


Pupil assessment – keep SATs, abolish GCSEs  13/5/19


Recess reflections  16/4/19


Brexit in perspective but three big deals  24/1/19                              


Planting Peace – at Christmas and beyond  23//12/18 


Climbing trees, and the C in BVC  12/12/18 


Affordable homes – the case for buying  17/10/18                                


Abolishing GCSEs  23/8/18


Why parents should do more to educate their children  15/8/18


The Thai cave rescue and a universal instinct  15/7/18


Protectionism and why there is nothing much wrong with it  5/7/18 


Strawberry fields, fruit picking and the work ethic  12/6/18 


Syria and Brexit  4/5/18


GCSEs failing the test (3)  27/4/18



You might also be interested in ...


Grammar schools and the case against them   13/9/16


The suffering in Syria   5/12/16  


Why taking children on holiday during term time can be good for their education            12/4/17


Alternative manifestos   27/4/17 




Titles, Links and Extracts



1    The EU Referendum and a Global Vision       20/6/2016  


It is puzzling, and regrettable, that we do not have a global vision of the world despite our ever-increasing global connections ...As caring individuals and as a caring, outward-looking nation we should be striving to create a better world – not just a better world for ourselves or the residents of Europe, but a better world in every corner of the globe.


Plus see my prediction of the result posted at 21.00 on 22/6/16 without having seen the latest opinion polls.  



2     Bus drivers       20/6/2016  


Buses are part of the fabric of our society not only in our own country but throughout the world. They are a very visible presence in the lives of billions of people… But buses need drivers. And it is bus drivers to whom we should be hugely grateful for the enormous contribution they make to the functioning of society, the success of the economy and the well-being of individuals and families… Which brings me to the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the fact that his father was a bus driver.



3    The result of the EU referendum       24/6/16  



4    Leadership, direction and the rudderless ship   14/7/16 


It has been a good couple of weeks for the nautical metaphor...

I hope some of the unsavoury leaders of the past are also mentioned. In terms of leading people Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan were highly effective but in terms of direction they could not have been more wrong...

Having the right sense of direction, in my view, is more important than possessing qualities of leadership. We have become too preoccupied with leadership and not enough with direction. Political leaders need to think more carefully about the sort of society we should inhabit and the direction we should take to obtain it...

We should not be seeking strong leadership from our new prime minister and government. Instead we should be demanding leadership that uses persuasion and is compassionate, gentle but determined in the pursuit of a better society.



5     GCSEs failing the test   19/8/16 


But are GCSEs necessary? It is my belief they are not. They are simply not an effective means of fulfilling two of their main functions: preparing and selecting people for employment. The first of these, preparing future members of the workforce, is ludicrous...   

It is time to replace GCSEs with a basic skills test taken at 15 that would assess English, maths, critical thinking and IT. Up until that age pupils would still follow a national curriculum but it would be taught in ways that enthused them with learning.



6     Well-being and the Olympics  22/8/16 


Let’s leave these superhumans to work out for themselves why they strive to be the best in the world and return to the well-being of mere mortals like us. One question we could ask is this: how much of our well-being should we obtain by sitting in front of a screen watching sport and how much should we obtain by getting ourselves out of the house and participating in it ...

I have long believed that children and young people need to be doing a lot more sport than they do. They need to be doing more in school and more in the evenings and at weekends. One obvious way of encouraging more participation is to insist that school playing fields and sports facilities are available for use after school, at weekends and during the holidays. It is a collective embarrassment that they are virtually deserted at these times.



7     Grammar schools and the case against them  13/9/16


I am strongly opposed to grammar schools. If their raison d’être is to enable children to receive a high quality education I am certainly in favour of that. But I want all children in every school to receive education of the highest quality ...

Which takes me to reason number four. I profoundly believe that if pupils work hard and are well-motivated they are capable of learning almost anything. This means that although some may not have developed their mental capabilities as much as others when they take exams at eleven they still have unlimited potential to expand their minds and learn new skills at any age thereafter.

But perhaps the most powerful reason why I am opposed to grammar schools is that their emphasis on academic excellence is hugely misguided. Like all schools they are locked into a collective mindset which sees the main purpose of this phase of education as being to select pupils for their future occupations.



8      Driving in the middle lane  30/9/16


Sometimes the slow lane is clear for a while which means it can be occupied by those of us who wish to drive at a faster speed, say just above 65 but below 70. However, it is not long before we catch up with a lorry doing its regulation 60, so, at this point, if we wish to maintain our speed, we need to move into the middle lane. The problem is there can often be a steady stream of traffic in the middle lane which means we have to squeeze into it, sometimes with little space between ourselves and the vehicle coming up behind.



9      Free trade and protectionism - via Donald Trump  27/10/16


10   Thanking a tree this autumn  3/11/16


We are presently surrounded by great glories of nature. They are glories which this year are especially magnificent. They can be seen everywhere, by everyone. There are millions of them, all unique, all wonders to behold.


11     The humanity of history  11/11/16 


Thinking about the wars of the twentieth century reminds us of some of the best and worst features of humanity: courage, heroism and self-sacrifice on the one hand and suffering, brutality and disregard for life on the other. This disquieting contrast is an enduring theme of the story of our past which is not only evident in times of war but can be seen at any point in the flow of history.


12    The suffering in Syria  5/12/16 


These are thoughts on something of which I have no direct experience: the terrible suffering caused by war. From the images I see of the war in Syria, and the news reports I listen to, I get a sense of the suffering and know objectively what it involves but this is totally different from the full horror I would feel if I lived in the middle of the fighting. If I saw my loved ones being killed or seriously injured I would feel, as we all would, the unbearable emotional and mental anguish of such an event; if I were injured myself I would experience both the mental and physical distress this would bring.


Watching footage of the war on television, or videos on YouTube, at least tells us what is happening to our fellow humans in another part of the world and we should use what we see to summon up as much empathy as we are able. We should do the same when we are confronted by the statistics relating to the conflict. They tell us that over a quarter of a million people have been killed, 13.5 million  are in need of humanitarian assistance, over 6 million are internally displaced and 4.8 million refugees are in neighbouring countries.1



13     Messages that are not just for Christmas  20/12/16 


14     Why I’m writing thoughts on  15/1/17


15     Globalisation and what it should really mean  23/2/17


Language evolves, and always has. The meaning of words and the way they are used can change over time…


Globalisation is the word I am going to focus on here. I think we all have a rough idea of what it means. It has become one of the buzzwords of the day. It is latched onto and bandied around to explain a lot of what is happening to our own and other economies. We more or less know what is implied when it is used even though it covers a wide range of activities…


But it is beyond the confines of economics that the real meaning of globalisation can be seen and its positive impact becomes apparent. The concept embraces much, much more than trade, business and finance, essential as these are. It is much greater than the way economies are interconnected although one might be forgiven for not being aware of this given that the media concentrates almost exclusively on its economic effects. It is time we became fully aware of the way we are global citizens in so many other aspects of our lives…


Globalisation must become a force for even more good in the world. Our ambition must be a global community in which no government is allowed to let its people live in poverty, suffer human rights abuses, engage in conflict, be exploited in the work they do, be short of food or water, or be without proper health care.


16     Teaching practical life skills   27/3/17


So, what are these practical life skills I am referring to? The one that is uppermost in my mind at the moment is how to use a paintbrush correctly – not the sort you use to do a delicate watercolour but the sort you buy in the decorating aisles of B and Q or somewhere similar. I’ve had a paintbrush in my hand for months as I’ve slowly edged my way round door frames, skirting boards, window sills, radiators and the sides of stairs. I don’t know whether I’ve been using the correct technique or not and, although I’m reasonably happy with the end result, this may well have been better if at some stage I had been properly taught.


17     Why taking children on holiday during term time can be good for their education              12/4/17


Holidays provide great opportunities to encourage children to be curious about the world around them – not just when they are younger but in their teenage years too. Human beings are naturally curious and this capacity should be developed and nurtured all the time. So, if you are a parent, ask your children if they know how planes fly and how they can possibly take off given how heavy they are. Talk about how they move forward and fly at such great speeds, and how the science involved in a jet engine differs from that involved in the use of propellers. Investigate together the whole business of air traffic control and its amazing contribution to modern travel. 


18     Alternative manifestos   27/4/17 


19     Having a May/Corbyn coalition   14/6/17


20     Prime Minister's Questions   6/7/17


21    The hundredth anniversary of Passchendaele  31/7/17


22    Using school facilities in the holidays   2/8/17


23    GCSEs failing the test (2)  9/9/17   


24    Good thinking – and why young people and adults should learn this skill  7/10/17 


25   The definition of a good job   30/11/17  


26   Brexit - a global, good news story  24/12/17   


27   A mantra for the New Year: be loving, be kind, think well  1/1/18 


28   In praise of plastic  21/1/18    


29   Why we must cherish the NHS  8/3/18    


30   Questions for Easter  23/3/18