Low-cost private schooling

Notwithstanding my general preference for state, non-selective, secular schooling, I am fascinated by Prof James Tooley’s work promoting the value of low-cost private schools. These two recent articles are well worth your time:

How much does your school spend on marking?

I have yet to meet a single head or senior teacher who can answer this off the top of their heads, but it is easy to work out using government-published figures.
  1. Teachers work 55.7 hours/week total1, and spend 9.4 hours/week marking2. That’s 17%.
  2. The average teacher salary is £38,2463, but we have to add the employer’s NI contribution of 13.8% to give an employer cost of £43,524, ignoring all overheads.
  3. 17% of £43,524 of is £7,399. That’s what we spend on marking per teacher, per year.
  4. The average secondary school employs 654 qualified teachers, so the total cost per school is £480,935.
I’ll repeat that. The average state secondary school spends just shy of half a Continue reading

Analysing spelling errors

When students misspell a common word, what is driving the error? I analysed 35,000 Peer Feedback entries in which the student had intended to write “wrong” and found 1614 instances of misspellings – about 5% of the total.


wrong again

Of the misspellings,

  • 62% entered “rong”, a phonetic error
  • 27% entered “worng”, a typographical error.

My own spelling changed from atrocious to moderately good overnight, when a psychologist colleague taught me the visual spelling strategy. It looks like a good proportion of these students could still benefit from the same thing. The rest just need to learn touch typing.

Xiaoice: the revolution just happened

7bab4aadae979479720a71bc699b945eIf you had to put one date on the Industrial Revolution, it would probably be 1776. This was the date when James Watt installed his first Atmospheric Steam Engine; an engine that for the first time did more work than the horses required to feed it with coal.

It changed everything. Industrialisation led to huge increases in personal wealth and opened new possibilities for ordinary people that even kings could not previously have aspired to.

James Watt’s engine came the better part of a century after the first steam engine patent had been issued (to Thomas Savery, in 1698), but looking back, we see this was the inflection point.

In the same vein, I nominate 2014 as the date of the computer revolution. Yes, 2014, just two years ago. Why? Because Continue reading