Archive | March, 2015

You, Me, Coffee and Cake Boutique

31 Mar

The Place

This little coffee shop was tucked away in a side alley just off the main area of Bath town centre.  The outside appearance looked lovely and unique. Inside there was some nice quaint decor but also it appeared a little tired.

The cafe was utterly boiling inside. I’m sad to say the staff were not the sharpest on the ball. We were left waiting at the counter for some time, which I wouldn’t mind but for the fact there was no apology and from the somewhat zoned out waitress when we eventually were acknowledged. Service was also very slow after making the order. The cafe was relatively busy but not so much to justify the wait on food, especially when the majority of what was ordered simply needed to be sliced rather than cooked.

The Hot Chocolate

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There was no hot chocolate on this occasion.  Instead I matched the cake with a flavoured latte. I’m considering changing this section to hot chocolate or lattes in future as I’m opting more and more for a coffee these days. In terms of lattes there was a wide array of syrups available. I went steady with caramel.

The Carrot Cake

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Overall this was a slight miss for me.  The frosting was overly creamy with a texture that just wasn’t firm enough. The cake itself was not spicy enough and lacked that punch of proper cinnamon and ginger coming through. On the positive it was incredibly moist which made up for some of the other short comings

The Rest

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Satay chicken, crispy beef, spicy spring rolls and beef ribs for taps starters

I was in Bath for a birthday weekend and in the evening visited Koh Thai Tapas. This was an epic experience. As authentic as any Thai food I’ve had since I was there. Generous portions and unbelievably tasty. Well worth checking out if for the ribs alone which were sensational.

Keigo Higashino – Malice & Salvation of a Saint

30 Mar

I’ve been a fan of Keigo Higashino since I read ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ about two years ago.  It is a very intricate mystery.  So much so, that in all honesty I was trying to work out one riddle not knowing that a completely different one was running in parallel until the closing stages.  Once you get past the initial issue of distinguishing between the Japanese names and places it is a thoroughly enjoyable read and highly recommended.  I’ve always wanted to visit Japan and these novels have piqued my interest even further in the culture.

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I was a little disappointed in this simply because it didn’t measure up to the Devotion of Suspect X.  In reality it is a good offering and as a standalone book it is a well thought out mystery that deceives and misdirects in equal measure.  At times it felt as if the plot was being dragged out unnecessarily but it certainly warranted a read.

Salvation of a Saint

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This book saw the return of ‘Detective Galileo,’ from the Devotion of Suspect X.  Like the rest of Higashino’s novels this was a very fresh take on the locked room conundrum.  The book focuses on the death of Yoshitaka Mashiba.  He has been poisoned but the key suspect appears to have an air tight alibi being on the other side of the country at the time.

I don’t wish to go into too much detail as I am bound to give something away.  All that I will say is that Higashino once again succeeds in creating subtle smoke and mirrors while drawing the reader into the investigation with the fast pace that allows the almost 400 pages to be turned over in no time.

The gender balance of the teaching workforce

26 Mar

In the first year of this blog is wrote about the ongoing problem of attracting male role models to the teaching profession.  As I noted in that piece this was a concern that the GTCW had raised as early as 2005 when male representation was a lowly 26.9% of the workforce.  When I wrote about the issue in 2013 it was an even lower 26.28%.

According to the latest Stats Wales figures (2013/14) there are currently 27,064 teachers in Wales.  The gender breakdown is 20,209 female (or 74.7%) and 6,855 male (25.3%).  Clearly instead of finding a way to increase male ratios we are stagnating.  Indeed even seeing a continual dip, albeit marginal.  I rehearsed the reasons why this is an issue in the original piece so I won’t repeat them here.  Suffice to say that given the important function teachers play as role models having a diverse and equal balance of genders, ethnic minorities and abilities is crucial to establishing a more equitable society.  I’ve also previously written on the need to ensure better representation for BME communities in the sector.

Digging beyond the top line of these stats we see the gender disparity appears to be exacerbated at primary level where there is a 84%-16% ratio of female:male teachers.  This evens out slightly at secondary level to a 64.6%-35.4% split in favour of female practitioners.

There are undoubtably numerous reason as to why it continues to be difficult to make teaching an attractive career prospect to men.  There may well need to be some research conducted, possibly commissioned to be undertaken by an organisation like WISERD?  Fully understanding why we have failed as a sector to close this gender gap will better equip us to do so in future.  Ignoring the imbalance has evidently done nothing to resolve it.

One further thing that is worth examining is the prevalence of male appointees at leadership level.  Despite making up just over a quarter of the teaching compliment in Wales, males account for 42.2% of head teachers. (621 of the 1,470 to be exact).  Again the representation is significantly different at secondary level (70% male) than at primary (38% male).  The secondary figures are particularly noteworthy.  Men make up just 35.4% of the teaching workforce at that level but a whopping 70% of school leaders.

So why is this happening?  One explanation is the fact that male teachers are in such demand that they are fast-tracked into leadership positions.  Their uniqueness to the post makes them a valued asset in schools and are, potentially, given greater opportunities to progress and take the lead on school priorities as a result.  It could also be that as a minority in schools their work is consciously, or subconsciously, recognised more often.

One other major factor of course is the fact female teachers who start families take career breaks, (not all but most), during maternity periods while their male counterparts continue in post.  There is a big question therefore as to if female teachers are punished in their ability progress their careers due to having children.  That isn’t a unique proposition to the teaching profession of course but given the female dominance in this particular workplace it does perhaps have greater significance.

Why I am glad I don’t work in politics anymore

20 Mar

I have to say it is really nice to be facing a big election and not have any responsibilities for managing anything, publicizing anything or indeed personal commitment on the outcome.

A few years ago I left a position working for a political party and it is one of the best things I’ve done.  I had grown tired of the tribal nature of politics and the race to reach the lowest common denominator when it came to public “outrage.”  This approach isn’t one of a specific political party but something that is standard procedure for pretty much all.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t have the same view of politicians as the vast majority of the public.  I’ve worked with politicians of the highest integrity who inspire me to this day.  I’ve worked with political staff who are some of the most passionate and competent individuals I’ve ever met.  Good friends even now.  I don’t buy the argument that politicians get elected for the money or that they are lazy or greedy.  Some are, the vast majority are not.  I personally think politicians should be paid more.  Then again I also think teachers, nurses, firemen and others should be paid more.

What has been nice however is working now in a job that has left party politics behind.  I have clashed professionally with politicians in my existing role no doubt, but it has always been on policy discussions and nothing else.  It has also been great to work with politicians across all parties.  Working in Education I am perhaps fortunate at present to have individuals across the parties who are committed to developing a discussion around the issues in Wales in a constructive way.  The Donaldson Review reaction was a testament to that.  Furthermore all four parties have quality AMs on the Children’s committee on top of their briefs and invested in improving education.  They proved that to me again this week in quizzing me on supply teachers and the supply system at a committee session.

While there are lots I miss about working in politics; the people, the opportunities to change Wales etc, I do not miss the party politics side of things.  This side becomes ever more evident during elections.  It is petty, boring, unimaginative and unconstructive.  That’s not a dig at any particular party just the way things are I guess.

I’m almost on the verge of not bothering to read the papers or watch/listen to the news at the moment as it is a paint by numbers approach to some of the reactions politically.  Fingers crossed that once this election is done and dusted with we can have a more vibrant and challenging build up to the 2016 Welsh election.  With such direct impact on issues like health and education we really need it.