Private Tuition Blog: Archive for June 2011
Posted on 30th June 2011
Earlier on in the week we found out that Michael Gove wants to bring an end to modular GCSEs, and now the Education Secretary has announced that he wants to bring in more compulsory subjects at As and A Level.
Gove has announced that he wants the “vast majority” of pupils to study maths until they are 18. At the moment, pupils can give the subject up after they have completed their GCSEs aged 16.
One of the reasons behind Gove’s proposal is the fact that he considers British pupils to be lagging behind international students in certain subjects, particularly in maths. East Asian countries in particular place a great deal of emphasis on maths. Over here, the post-16 “maths gap” is common; even pupils who have done quite well at maths GCSE cannot remember much of the syllabus for very long.
Furthermore, pupils who give up maths younger will limit their degree options and will be unable to study subjects such as Physics, Chemistry and Engineering at university.
The government has commissioned a review of the national curriculum, which is due to be published shortly. Mr Gove has said that the review will “set out the essential knowledge that children need to advance in core subjects”, but not be “an attempt to prescribe every moment of the school day”.
Personally I think it is great shame that foreign languages are no longer compulsory at GCSE level, and I very much hope that the government will re-instate languages as core GCSE subjects. What do you think should be compulsory and how long should students be made to study certain subjects for?
Posted on 30th June 2011
You may have seen that yesterday we began a special series on useful phrases for foreign holidays. Today we’ve got a selection of French words and sentences that might be handy to have up your sleeve if you’re crossing the channel in the next few weeks…
Please: s’il vous plait
Thank you: Merci beaucoup
You’re welcome: De rien
I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas
I speak very little French: Je parle tres peu le francais
I would like: Je voudrais…
How much is it?: C’est combien?
Where is/are? Ou est/sont…?
How do I get…?: Por aller…?
To the station: a la gare
I am English: Je suis anglais(e)
I live in London: j’habite à Londres
What will the weather be like tomorrow?: Quel temps fera-t-il demain?
We’re lost: nous nous sommes perdu(e)s
Is there a bus to…? Est-ce qu’il y a un bus pour…?
Could you tell me when to get off? Pourriez-vous me dire quand descendre
A single room: une chambre pour une personne
A double room: une chambre pour deux personnes
Do you have a room for tonight?: Est-ce que vous avez une chambre pour ce soir?
Where is the nearest supermarket? Où est le supermarché le plus proche?
Are there any good concerts on?: Il ya de bons concerts en ce moment?
What’s on at the cinema?: Qu’est-ce qui passe au cinéma?
How much are the tickets?: c’est combien les billets?
I would like two tickets: Je voudrais deux billets
Play tennis: jouer au tennis
The bill please: L’addition s’il vous plait
What is the dish of the day?; Quel est le plat du jour?
Can you recommend a local dish?: Pouvez-vous nous recomander un plat régional?
Do you have any vegetarian dishes?: Vous avez des plats végétariens?
More water: encore de l’eau
Posted on 29th June 2011
Last week’s Apprentice didn’t give British people who can’t speak foreign languages very good publicity at all. In fact it was really rather embarassing to watch all but one of the contestants struggle to say even basic French phrases during their Parisian task last Wednesday. If you are going away on holiday, you really should try and learn at least few handy phrases that you can use while you are away. To help you out, we’ll be doing a series of blogs on different languages, and will give you some great sentences to get you off on the right track.
First, we’ve got some phrases for any lucky people who are off to Italy this summer. Perhaps you’re going to soak up the rays in a villa in Tuscany, or see the magnificent sights that Rome has to offer. Either way, you’ll need a bit of vocab up your sleeve…
Thank you: Grazie
Thank you very much: Grazie mille
No, thank you: Non, grazie
Yes, please: Si, grazie
Please (asking for something): Per favore
Can you tell me…?: Potrebbe dirmi…?
Can I have…? : Potrei avere…?
Where can I get…? : Dove potrei trovare…?
How much is it? : Quanto costa?
Where are the toilets?: Dove sono I gabinetti?
I would like a…: Vorrei una/un…
What’s the weather like?: Che tempo fa?
Can you help me? : Puo aiutarmi?
I don’t understand: non capisco
I can’t speak Italian: Non parlo Italiano
Do you speak English: Parla inglese?
Please can I have the bill: il conto per favore
Breakfast: la colazione
Lunch: il pranzo
Dinner: la cena
Ticket: il biglietto
A table for two please: Un tavolo per due per favore
Do you have any vegetarian dishes?: Avete piatti vegetariani?
I’m allergic to nuts: Sono allergico/a alle noci
Enjoy your meal: Buon appetito!
Can we have some water?: Potremmo avere un po’ d’acqua?
I’d like a double room please: Vorre una stanza doppia per favore
How much does a room cost per night?: Quanto si paga per notte?
What time is breakfast served?: A che ora viene servita la colazione?
When is the next train/bus to Venice?: A che ora c’e il prossimo treno/autobus per Venezia?
Does the train/bus stop at Padua?: Il treno/l’autobus ferma a Padua?
How long does it take to get to Trieste?: Quamto tempo ci mette per arrivare a Trieste?
Where can I buy a ticket?: Dove posso comprare il biglietto?
Could you help me with my luggage please?: Potrebbe darmi un mano con I bagagli, per favore?
How do I get to Milan? : Come posso andare a Milano?
Hopefully these phrases should get you started, and inspire you to pick up some more before you go away. In bocca al lupo! (Good luck!) e bon viaggio! (have a good journey!).
Posted on 28th June 2011
Last week we looked at the Civil War and Oliver Cromwell, who had basically become king of England, except he wasn’t called ‘King’ he was called ‘Lord Protector’. He even named his son, Richard, as his heir, just like kings usually did. The only problem was that Richard wasn’t a very good ruler; in fact he was much better at farming, and was happier in the fields than on the throne. Parliament got a bit fed up with Richard and decided to ask Charles (Charles I’s son) to come back to England and become Charles II.
Charles was very happy to come out of exile and he made a deal wit Parliament in April 1660, called the ‘Declaration of Breda’. In the Declaration Charles promised that he would rule with Parliament, and not rule as an autocrat. This satisfied Parliament and they let him become England’s monarch.
Charles was known as the ‘Merrie Monarch’ on account of the liveliness of his court. He had a penchant for luxurious parties, indulgent food and pretty ladies. Charles did not have any legitimate children with his wife Catherine of Braganza, but he did have lots of illegitimate children (12!) with his various mistresses (7!).
The return of the monarchy is known as the Restoration. Under Charles II theatre flourished again and if you read any Restoration comedies you will find them full of bawdy humour, and for the first time ever women were officially allowed to perform on stage. One of the most famous actresses of the time (and one of Charles II’s mistresses) was Nell Gwyn.
Although Charles’ reign wasn’t all full of fun and frolics and the period was beset with troubles. In 1665 the Great Plague of London broke out, killing around 7000 people. Then on 2nd September 1666 the Great Fire of London began. It started in a bakery on Pudding Lane and gobbled up 13,200 houses, 87 churches and St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, on the plus side, it did bring an end to the Plague.
Charles died in 1685, and since he had no legitimate heir, his brother James took the throne. However, it was not a simple takeover, as James was a Catholic and this proved to be rather troublesome…
Posted on 28th June 2011
In just over a year, the Coalition has made some pretty drastic changes to British Education, and the shift isn’t over yet. Education secretary Michael Gove has announced that he wishes to get rid of modular GCSEs, and instead pupils will have to sit all of their exams at the end of the two-year GCSE course.
At the moment pupils can sit parts of their GCSEs throughout the year and they can also resit exams later in order to try and improve their marks. According to Gove, “that meant instead of concentrating on teaching and learning you had people who were being trained again and again to clear the hurdle of the examination along the way. That meant that unfortunately less time was being spent developing a deep and rounded knowledge of the subject.”
The changes to the GCSE examination system will be implemented from September 2012 and from September 2013 pupils will be able to sit new, specially designed GCSE subjects.
Although Gove is evidently vehemently against the modular system, there are many teachers who think that it is a good thing and say that it can have a motivational impact on (particularly low-achieving) students. Moreover “constant tinkering” with the system is “unproductive and unhelpful” for both teachers and pupils says Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders. Changing things is costly and it puts extra pressure on teachers.
I only took early modules for one of my GCSE subjects (Theatre Studies), but found that it made a great difference. I already had my mark from the module by the time I sat the rest of the examinations, and knowing that I had done well gave me extra confidence. It also meant that I had fewer subjects to revise, and could focus more intensely on the subjects that were left to do. Students are under so much pressure at the moment, I think it is only fair to try and reduce stress and enable them to work in the most productive way possible.
What do you think? Are modular GCSEs “wrong” as Michael Gove says, or are they a good idea?
Posted on 24th June 2011
We’re ploughing swiftly ahead with our History of Britain series and yesterday we reached the Civil War.
When you’re taking History A Level or GCSE you spend a lot of time examining the causes and effects of major events, so it would probably be a good idea to look at some of the reasons why the Civil War broke out, since it is a rather vital event indeed.
Some Historians think that there were lots of long-term factors that caused the Civil War. These included problems that began under Elizabeth I (mainly social tensions) and James I, who was unpopular with Parliament (they disagreed on matters such as finance and religion).
Other Historians believe that short-term factors were predominantly responsible. In the 1630s there had been a number of religious reforms, which had angered Puritans. In 1639 England was defeated by Scotland in the religious Bishops’ Wars. Then in 1642 Charles tried to arrest a number of Mps, but they escaped. In June 1642 Parliament demanded an increase in their power, which angered Charles greatly. Now that both sides were furious with each other, they raised armies…
The country became divided during the Civil War, with many people in the South and East, particularly small farmers and merchants, supporting Parliament and the North, West and Wales, particularly noblemen and the gentry, supporting the Royalist side. On the whole, most Puritans were on the side of Parliament and Catholics supported the King.
In the end Parliament won because they had skilled generals on their side (Fairfax and Cromwell); a more organised, better trained and disciplined army; they had control of the Navy and were able to raise taxes to fund themselves. Moreover, Charles turned out to be a pretty poor leader, so Parliament’s competition wasn’t terribly stiff in the end.
Poor Charles was beheaded on 30th January 1649, in front of Whitehall.
Now that the King was dead, someone had to decide who was going to rule the country. Naturally there were lots of arguments about what should happen next. But amidst the disputes Cromwell gathered power and notoriety and eventually he ended up as ‘Protector’ of the country in 1653. He died only a few years later, in 1658, and rather than being buried and left to rest in peace, he was dug up by Royalists in 1661 and had his head cut off. Rumour has it that it is buried underneath the chapel of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.
Posted on 23rd June 2011
We’re not going to spend much time on the Tudors as one of the points of doing this series was to fill in the gaps around Henry VIII and Hitler, both of whom feature heavily on the school curriculum. It would be rude to ignore them entirely though, so here’s a (very) quick timeline…
1485: Henry VII wins the Battle of Bosworth and ends the War of the Roses.
1509: Henry VIII becomes King. He is probably most famous for dissolving monasteries and having six wives
1547: Henry VIII’s son Edward becomes King even though he is just a child. He is rather sickly and doesn’t survive terribly long.
1553: Mary I becomes Queen. Mary is very Catholic and so she reverses all of the religious reforms carried out by her father.
1558: Elizabeth I takes over the thrown after her sister. Unlike her father, Elizabeth never marries. She defeats the Spaniards in the Spanish Armada and makes religious reforms which are more accommodating than those under Mary’s rule.
Elizabeth died in 1603. As she didn’t have any of her own children, King James Stuart of Scotland becomes King of England as well. He was very interested in witchcraft and wrote a great deal about witches. Mr William Shakespeare capitalised on this interest and wrote Macbeth for the King (remember ‘hubble, bubble, toil and trouble…’).
Things get really interesting under Charles I, who reigned from 1625-49. Charles was responsible for the growing tension between the Crown and Parliament due to his many unpopular decisions. Charles was responsible for a number of expensive wars with Scotland, France and Spain. Since these wars kept requiring more and more money, Charles needed to raise taxes even higher, but Parliament wouldn’t let him do this, so Charles then illegally taxed people. He tried to rule without parliament so that he could get what he wanted, and people were worried that he wanted to make the country Catholic again.
Relations between the King and Parliament got so bad that eventually Civil War broke out in 1642. It was long and bloody and lasted from 1642 to 1648. In 1648 Cromwell’s New Model Army defeated Charles’ army and England then became known as “the Commonwealth”, with Cromwell as President, which is where we’ll pick up tomorrow…
Posted on 22nd June 2011
The Catholic Church had an enormous impact on many areas of medieval life, and almost every British family would be linked to the Church in some way. People might have family or friends in the clergy, they may have had to pay rent to a Church landlord, pay taxes to the church or they might have worked for the Church. Many people would also leave money to the Church in their wills so that people would pray for them after death.
The Church was extremely rich and powerful in the fourteenth century and for most of the medieval period it was richer than the King was. One of the reasons for this was that the clergy didn’t have to pay taxes and the Church charged for baptisms, funerals and weddings. With all of this money, the Church could afford to build impressive stone buildings (most buildings at the time were made of wood, which was much cheaper). These lasted for hundreds of years and you can still visit the ruins of medieval monasteries.
A lot of people thought that the best way to lead your life at the time was to become a monk or a nun. In 1300 there were more than 600 monasteries in England and most followed the ‘Benedictine Rule’ (the rules designed by St Benedict). However, some monasteries were stricter than others.
Boys were able to join a monastery from the age of 7, although usually they didn’t take their vows until they turned 16. These included vows of chastity, obedience, stability and poverty. They would pray many times a day, and would often go to bed early so that they could get up at dawn to start praying.
The monks were also very good at building things, and monks built many of the country’s most magnificent abbeys. Pilgrims would often travel to these abbeys and visit the tombs of famous holy men and women. One of the earliest and greatest works of English literature focuses on a pilgrimage to Canterbury; it is of course ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Although most people in Britain were Christian, there was also a substantial Jewish community, and had been since around 1100. Since the Catholic Church considered usury a sin, many Jews became moneylenders and provided finances for wars, by lending money to the treasury. Although the Jewish community was extremely important, and helped the British economy enormously, a lot of people disliked them and they were persecuted a great deal. Many Jews were massacred in 1190 and then in 1290 they were expelled from England. As you’ll know from studying Nazi Germany, the Jews were also atrociously treated hundreds of years later. Evidently History really does repeat itself.
Posted on 22nd June 2011
If you thought the NHS was in trouble, then take a look back to the fourteenth century when Britain had major healthcare issues. In 1348 The Black Death ran riot and killed almost half of the population. Bubonic plague was not, as was commonly thought, spread by black rats themselves, but by fleas that were carried on rats.
The plague damaged people’s lungs and restricted their ability to breathe, and many were already very weak due to food shortages caused by bad summer weather. The symptoms of the plague were very nasty indeed: sweating, fever, vomiting, coughing, sneezing and red and black spots. Some people also developed ‘buboes’, which were horrible bumps that appeared in your armpits.
At the time medical care was a long way off today’s understanding of diseases and cures and people had their own explanations for illnesses. Many thought that the plague was an act of God, and that he was punishing them for their sins. Others thought it was an evil curse caused by malevolent spirits. Some thought that people had poisoned them.
All sorts of things were used to try and stop the plague, including carrying herbs and flowers and praying to God. Needless to say, these tactics didn’t really work and those who caught the plague were usually dead between one and five days.
Strangely, life for the survivors actually improved after the plague. Since there were fewer people, workers could demand higher wages and better working conditions. Every cloud clearly does have a silver lining!
Next up in our History of Britain series we’ll be looking at the medieval churches and monasteries.
Posted on 20th June 2011
King John isn’t just that Shakespeare play you have vaguely heard of but never got round to reading or seeing, King John was also King of England after his brother Richard II (‘The Lionheart’). Although Richard had been great on the battlefield, he wasn’t very good with money and had spent all of England’s cash on the crusades, which meant that John was in a bit of a tricky situation when he was crowned in 1199. John had also fallen out with the Pope and was excommunicated. King John made himself unpopular with the barons as he overtaxed them to try and raise funds, but this backfired and the barons rebelled.
The rebellious barons forced King John to meet them in a field at Runnymede in 1215 and they made him sign the Magna Carta. ‘Magna Carta’ means ‘Great Charter’ and it focussed on three crucial points:
1. The English church would now be free from state control
2. No man could be arrested, imprisoned and executed without being first allowed a fair trial
3. The King did not have the power to raise taxes without first getting the agreement of the Barons and Bishops.
Sadly the Magna Carta did not bring peace to England and since neither the Barons nor the King kept to their side of the bargain, civil war broke out. Louis of France supported the barons, and although King John died in the middle of the troubles, it was due to dysentery and not battle wounds.
If you are interested in King John, why not have a look at Shakespeare’s play after all. Its official title is The Life and Death of King John and you should be able to find it in your school or college library.