Friday 25 August 2017

An administration unfit for purpose.

No, not the US, but here, the UK.

All these illustrations are taken from reports in yesterday's papers.

Since the phrase "unfit for purpose" first came to our attention in relation to the Home Office, we'll start with them.

1.  Amber Rudd, our Home Secretary, failed to comply with an order of the High Court  that a detainee be released on the 11th August.  The victim is an asylum seeker, originally from Chad, who was initially ordered to be released on the 26th July.  When the authorities failed to comply the case went to the High Court and the 11th August date was given.  The Home Office applied for two extension to the order, for the 18th and 25th August.  When the case again came to court M/s Rudd failed to send a barrister to present the Home Office  case.

Readers of the previous post will know that the rule of law is an essential element of a democracy, and that the government of a democracy  is subject to the law as much as anyone else.  Our government seems to be prepared to ignore  the law, I hope not with impunity.  But if the victim receives the damages he clearly deserves, the money won't come out of M/s  Rudd;'s pocket, but ours.

2.  Still with the Home Office,  they have apparently sent letters to 100 EU nationals telling them to leave the country within a month or risk deportation.  Now this is recognised as an "unfortunate error."  The error came to light when one of the recipients of the letter, a Finnish academic who has lived  here with her British husband for 10 years,  challenged the letter in court.  She is to be compensated for her costs of
£3 800, again out of our pockets, not M/s Rudd's.  There can be no compensation for the distress caused to her or the other 99 letter recipients, or the spin-off of uncertainty felt by other non-British EU citizens living here.

3.  The people at Manchester Airport who search us for penknives, nail-files and other potentially dangerous "weapons" before we can get on an aircraft (are they public employees or have they been outsourced to the private sector?) failed to notice that the Heath-Robinson triggering device in the zip lining of a man's suitcase actually contained explosives, so they let him continue  his journey, though they kept the device.  Later they realised it contained nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose, so they arrested the man on his return, but admit that they really should have arrested him in the first place.

4.  The examination Boards have published the GCSE results for this years 16-year-olds.  On government instructions they have "improved" the grading system by replacing the old alphabetical  A to G  nomenclature with a numerical 9 to 1, with 9 at the top and 1 at the bottom.  For much of much teaching career the grading was  numerical, but 1 was at the top and 9 (if it went that low, I can't rememberer) at the bottom. By comparison, changing the deckchairs on the Titanic may not have helped, but it didn't add to the confusion.

While these and similar idiocies continue (while MPs are on holiday so less likely to notice the government continues to issue Brexit papers assuming we can still have our cake and eat it) prominent politicians occupy themselves by claiming that the world as we know it has come to an end because Big Ben will be silenced for four years in order to protect the hearing of workers repairing its tower.

Banana Republics seem sophisticated  by comparison.


  1. Re GCSE grading changes - see regarding O'level - there was a bottom grade of 9 and top of 1, with 1-6 being pass grades. Can't understand why they didn't make top grade 1 in the new system - but not having changed the system for all subjects must be very confusing.

  2. Thanks for that. I remember 1 to 6 being the pass grades but couldn't remember how much lower it went. I can see the point of reporting the quality of a "pass" (eg with merit, with distinction) but to grade a "fail" seems unnecessarily humiliating. And yes, I should have made it clearer, that the new numerical grades apply only to some subjects, English and Maths I think: the the rest remain with the alphabet for the time being. Inept, unnecessary and confusing.

    1. Apparently one of the reasons for the numbers going the way they do is that in most other countries which use a numerical system, higher numbers are better; given your usual position that if anything is done differently in Britain than in a foreign country, the foreign way must be better, I would have thought you'd approve.

      (Another reason was that it means that if it becomes necessary to add another grade on the top, as when the 'A*' was introduced, that can be done — by adding a '10' — without having to either renumber the whole lot or come up with something silly like '1+'. I'm not saying I agree, but I can see the point.)

    2. Yes, I can see the logic here, and we all understand "ten out of ten" as being top notch. Why don't we have the confidence to get it right first time and start start with that rather than prepare to add another grade?

      You are wrong in thinking that foreign ways are always better: I simply believe we should be prepared to look rather than automatically assume that the way we do things is "the best in the world and the envy of the world." I prefer German levels of devolution and French levels of taxation, but British public broadcasting and health services, both for the time being. Our BBC can be severely damaged by further encroachment by the Murdoch empire, and the NHS can't stand much further privatisation and financial deprivation.

    3. Yes, I can see the logic here, and we all understand "ten out of ten" as being top notch. Why don't we have the confidence to get it right first time and start start with that rather than prepare to add another grade?

      Because then when the time came we'd have to add '11', which would be even sillier?

      Or do you think that it's impossible to imagine that the brightest pupils of tomorrow might ever be more capable than the pupils of today? That how we are now is the best we could ever possibly be? That seems quite defeatist.

    4. I'm not so sure it makes sense to keep raising the bar. I suspect all examinations have an element of norm referencing along with criterion referencing. If standards improve it can be the result of the facilities rather than the people getting "better." For example, it is easier to run a mile in four minutes today than it was in Derek Ibbotson's day beccsue running shoes are lighter and more flexible. I suspect it's now much easier to get a PhD because, with the internet and Dr Google, it is easier to find things out than it was in the old days when it could take a whole day ploughing through the card indices of a library and then actually reading the books to get three usable pieces of evidence.