Archive for August, 2010

Exams are getting easier every year

Saturday, August 28th, 2010 | Thoughts

Another year of record exam results is upon us, and of course, they’ve got easier again.

While this is often refuted by the industry, here are two reasons why exams arguably genuinely are getting easier every year.

1. Teaching standards get better and the exams do not get proportionally harder as a result.

The argument against this is that just because teaching standards are getting better doesn’t mean that the exams should get harder as well. After all, if you can teach a child more stuff in a shorter period of time, that actually means they do actually know more and thus deserve a higher grade than the generation before.

However, to add to this discussion, there isn’t a great deal of evidence that younger generations are actually significantly smarter than previous ones. Teaching standards are getting better, but not necessarily at teaching children useful information, rather they are getting better at teaching kids to do well in exams.

If there was huge leaps of improvement in teaching techniques to make children smarter, surely we would all expect to be significantly smarter than our parents and I don’t think this is the case.

2. The exam board make conscious decision to award higher grades each year.

It’s all very well saying more children reached A grade standard this year, every year, but this is actually a long way from the way that universities work.

At degree level, everyone sits the same paper, they are all marked and then they work out how easy or how hard the paper was and move the grade boundaries according – so if everyone got really high marks they will up the grade boundaries to reduce the amount of people that did well and if everyone did really badly they reduce the grade boundaries to increase the amount of people that passed.

This prevents one year who get a really hard paper being unfairly punished against a year later which may get a much easier paper. This is a system which has been functioning in universities for a long time and seems to work very well.

Arguably this means that fifty years down the line you end up with people who should be achieving far higher grades than people do now, getting the same grades but who really cares? Exam grades are really about employers and universities being able to differentiate between people and once you have a degree or a job nobody really gives a crap about your GCSEs and A-Levels so what does it even matter if that is the case?

August Skeptics

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 | Humanism

Yesterday saw Tom Williamson speaking at Leeds Skeptics in the Pub on “The Scientific Method: Uses and Abuses.” He was a really good speaker and I really enjoyed the talk. I was also quite pleased that even though it was August there was good attendance. Good times all round really.

Vive Le Cercle

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 | Life

Last night was the best Wendy I have had in a long time. And it’s always good so that is quite impressive. The broad range of characters turning up really helped the situation I think, it felt so old school with so many people back there. Indeed in total we managed 18 people making us easily the biggest circle on the dance floor. Who says we’re too old to party 😉 .

Suit day

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Photos

We’ve long talked about doing suit day at work. Well this week it finally happened! Now of course we’re back to “dress down year” but it was fun while it lasted.

Next month: Sunrise Conference 2010

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Foundation

The first weekend of September will play host to our new national event, Sunrise Conference. Hosted by LUU Debating Society in association with ourselves, Sunrise will bring together leaders of free thinking groups from across the UK to share ideas, knowledge and experience.

The conference will feature multiple streams aimed at local groups, student groups and also provide training for those wishing to volunteer as humanist chaplains. A full timetable along with a list of speakers already signed up to speak at the conference can be found on the website.

Humanist Chaplaincy Network

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Foundation

This September we’ll be launching the Humanist Chaplaincy Network, a support network for those who are volunteering or working as non-religious chaplains. The network will provide training, resources, advice and a community. To find out more information, visit the website.

Inclusivity programme

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Foundation

At CWF we want to make sure that as many people as possible can get access to our events and resources. Because of this, we are today launching the CWF inclusively programme. This will enable those suffering from financial hardship to apply for relief on costs such as event tickets and registration fees so that those would could not normally afford to attend our events are still able to come. This will begin with our Sunrise Conference for which applications are now open.

Opal, Pipex and their band of wacky characters

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Life

We got in this morning to find that one of the server’s external connections was down. Upon further investigation I found that the internet was in fact working fine, we just had a different IP address which is why the network monitoring was reporting that the server wasn’t responding.

I phoned up Opal, a part of TalkTalk, who have apparently taken over from Pipex – they didn’t tell us or anything, I just headed over to the Pipex Business website and found it was now an Opal website. I tried logging in to see our customer details but it didn’t accept my username or password and I couldn’t reset my password because I didn’t have an Opal customer number.

I phoned them up and sat in a queue for 10 minutes before getting through to someone who told me I was through to the wrong department. She informed me our line had a block on it and then put me through to the “other” technical department at which point I sat in another phone queue for 10 minutes before finally getting through to the right person.

I asked about the block and he informed me that they had cut us off because we hadn’t paid. This is because none of the credit or debit card payments transferred over when Pipex customers were moved over to Opal – only direct debit customers were safe and we’re not a direct debit customer because they messed that up recently and so we had to pay via credit card instead.

As a result they had cut our internet off – except in a moment of sheer incompetence they haven’t actually cut us off, they just think they have – I can actually access the internet fine. If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed our IP address back I would have just ignored them as the fools they are.

He informed me that if I made a payment they could re-activate my account. But he couldn’t take that payment or put me through – I had to phone back on a different number. I then asked about the fact I couldn’t log in and he said I would need to speak to Pipex, providing a third separate number I would need to phone to get that sorted out.

Fun times.

Registered charity status

Saturday, August 7th, 2010 | Foundation

I’m pleased to announce that the Charity Commission for England and Wales has accepted our application for registered charity status.

This won’t mean a great deal for the day to day operations at CWF. Already having charitable status with HMR&C and Leeds City Council, this latest development is more a confirmation than a new development in the great work we’re doing but we’re more than happy that the Charity Commission are yet another body giving us the thumbs up.

As a consequence we are now registered charity 1137220 and you can find us listed on the Charity Commission’s website here.

Leeds Pride 2010

Friday, August 6th, 2010 | Events, Photos

Last weekend saw Leeds Pride 2010, stealing many of our members of Humanist Community away for the day – but we’re not bitter or anything 😉 . The event itself was good, there were stalls and some live entertainment though I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by the parade.

Having spent time at Disneyland maybe I expect too much out of parades but Gijsbert noted the same thing – even compared to St. Lois our parade was rather low effort. Most of it was just people walking around, which is rubbish, you want to see floats and coordinated dancing, and costumes. Even the floats that were there were simply people riding around on buses.

Ultimately though it probably comes down to the apathy generated by a lack of marginalisation. Gays are simply not discriminated against in the UK, it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to be gay (as it should be too!) so we simply don’t feel the need to make as much noise as they would in the US for example.

A few things did really amuse me though.

First of all, LGBT Conservatives. Lol.

Also, the fact that there were two different Christian groups – “Christians Together at Pride” and “Some Christians are Gay – Get over it!” Even if something as niche as gay Christians (or Christians suffering from “same sex attraction” as the True Freedom Trust puts it) they still manage to splinter themselves.

You can see loads more photos from Leeds Pride on my Facebook album.