Saturday, February 25, 2017

Principe Philip Museum, Valencia

Sadly, not one of my photographs. This came from Flickr Explore and was taken by David Sangüesa.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Take care

Better still, stay away from where they are working.

A word of warning

Don't bother cleaning your car or putting out any washing for the next couple of days. Look up to the sky and you can see that it is laden with Sahara dust brought over from Africa.

Rain is forecast for this morning and with that rain, everything will be covered in dust. The Spanish call it “lluvia de sangre” because the dust is often a reddish brown colour. We just call it mucky rain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How can they afford this?

There is now a question mark about whether Wayne Rooney will stay at Manchester United or take a lucrative offer to play in the Chinese Super League. The current window of opportunity closes at the end of this month.

When asked about this, Jose  Mourinho has said you need to ask Rooney. He has no intentions of forcing the player out, in fact he would like him to stay with the club. However, he doesn't seem to want to play Rooney and admits that the team plays better without him.

This just highlights the crazy world of football where money does not seem to matter. Wayne Rooney is paid an incredible £300,000 per week for sitting on the bench. Where else would anybody paid even a fraction of that for essentially doing nothing?

Since he signed his last contract in 2014, Rooney has cost the club £47,007,080. Each year he earns (I use that word lightly)  £15,600,000. Surely, there must be someone at United, if not Mourinho, who sees the sense in encouraging Rooney to go.

Our biggest concern

We are already suffering as a result of Brexit and Article 50 hasn't even been triggered, As soon as the vote was counted, the pound lost strength meaning we got fewer euros each month. People said, don't worry it will be temporary, the pound will pick up in time. Well that hasn't happened yet and there is no sign of it happening in the near future.

As worrying as that may be for us, it is totally eclipsed by what may happen to our entitlement to free health care. As things stand, Britain reimburses Spain for our healthcare under a reciprocal agreement. All that may go unless some alternative agreement is made before Brexit is finalised.

It is a requirement for our continued residence that we have provision for our healthcare just as it is a requirement that we have a sufficient income to maintain ourselves. When Pam and I went to renew our "residencia", those were the two basic proofs that we had to show before receiving our cards.

Unless there is some agreement made for post Brexit, we will be in limbo. Spain cannot and will not foot the bill for us. Our choices would be to either pay for private health care or return to Britain.  We won't be kicked out because we have permanent residence status, just won't be able to visit the doctor or get treatment in hospital.  

There has already been a lot of talk about what will happen to the status of EU nationals living in Britain but very little about British nationals living in the EU.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The looming crisis

According to reports in several newspapers, there is a looming crisis in the British education system created by an acute shortage of teachers.

Numbers of pupils in secondary schools are expected to spike by more than 500,000 to 3.3 million by 2025. Set that figure against the fact that the overall number of full-time teachers in secondary schools fell by 10,000 between 2010 and 2015 and you can sense the problem.

A YouGov poll found that 53 per cent of teachers were considering leaving teaching and it wasn’t just experienced senior staff. 11,000 young teachers actually leave in training, an exodus that has tripled in the last six years and points to a terrible loss of energy and new talent into teaching.

Shortages lead schools to spend £733million on supply teachers from agencies. Apart from the stress on school's budgets that are being constantly cut, a supply teacher can often be just a "bum in the classroom" because they are  used to fill in for subjects that they have no specialisation in.

Why do so many teachers want to leave?

A regime of inspections by OFSTED which seeks to destroy rather than support teachers has not helped. An increasing workload has not helped either. Teachers are weary and feel undervalued by governments that  constantly criticise them and pick faults in their work. When did you ever read a report by government that said teachers were doing a great job? Instead of praising the good work that many do, it is easier to find fault with the few who fail.

During term times, many teachers work late into the night marking and preparing for their lessons. And those long holidays that people complain about are often cut into by visits to the school just to keep up with classroom management.

There is also a problem for teachers who, too often face low level disruption in their classrooms. Exclusion units that helped in these cases became unfashionable as teachers were told that inclusion was the right of every pupil. You could sense the logic when you saw the same children spending much of their time outside their normal classroom. Exclusion units tended to offer simple repetitive tasks to occupy the children rather than any actual teaching.

Of more concern than minor disruption, in an increasing number of cases, teachers have also had to suffer abuse, either mental or physical, from their empowered pupils. Going to work only to be bruised in this way is no fun. Often, the teachers are told that it is their fault, the abuse is a result of their failing.

Teachers, perhaps more than most other workers, need support and guidance to make the most of their pupil's abilities. Sadly, it is easier to dismiss failing teachers than it is to support them. All those adverts about a rewarding and worthwhile career must seem to be a joke to many in British classrooms today.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A change of heart

When I was at school as a pupil,  teachers could touch a child without being accused of all sorts of nastiness. At times, it may have been to discipline them, at other times to offer praise or comfort. It was normal and expected.

Then the whole business of physical contact became an issue as children and their parents chose to wreck teacher's careers by making all sorts of accusations. In some cases, there may have been a foundation to the claims but mostly they were just malicious attempts to get back at a teacher who the children did not like.

Teachers, quite rightly, became cautious and their unions advised them against any sort of physical contact. As an Assistant Headteacher, that posed a problem for me because there were times when I had to break up a fight and the only way was to drag one of the pupils off the other.

In the case of two boys fighting that was less of a problem than where the scrapping pair were girls. When boys fight, they generally stand apart and throw punches; girls, on the other hand, get stuck in and pull hair or anything else they can grab. You have to literally pull them apart to stop the fight.  

Now, experts claim that teachers who avoid physical contact with children in the classroom are guilty of child abuse - really!

Members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) say that teachers who do not touch children when they are happy, upset or worried could in fact cause harm and hinder pupils’ development.

“What’s missing is a recognition of how important touch is,” child psychologist Sean Cameron told the Times Educational Supplement, “And that withholding touch is, in itself, a form of psychological abuse.”

So, it is a case of dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Medio ano Festero

Top marks go the La Pedrera Association for the Disabled who led the parade yesterday morning. They were the only group to actually perform for us. Dressed as planets, they circled around as they passed down the street.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Not guilty

From El Pais.

Cristina de Borbón, sister of Spanish King Felipe VI, has been acquitted of tax fraud complicity in a high-profile corruption trial known as the Nóos case.

Her husband Iñaki Urdangarin, considered one of the masterminds behind a scheme that obtained no-bid contracts from regional governments, has been sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

He has been found guilty of embezzlement, fraud, influence peddling and tax crimes. The court has also demanded that he pay a €512,000 fine.

Although Cristina de Borbón has been cleared of the criminal charges against her, she will have to pay a fine of €265,088 for her role in the scheme. The royal was never charged by either public prosecutors or tax authorities, but rather on the basis of a private prosecution.

Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres were behind the scheme that secured over €6 million in public contracts won for organising sports and tourism events. 

The contracts were obtained through no-bid awards that favoured a non-profit foundation called Instituto Nóos, run by the partners. Urdangarin allegedly leveraged his position as a member of the royal family to open doors within regional government structures.

Cristina allegedly used an Aizoon credit card to make personal purchases – including dance lessons and children’s clothing – then claimed tax deductions on her 2007 and 2008 filings.

The charges against the king’s sister were not brought by state prosecutors or by tax authorities, but by a private prosecution by a far-right anti-corruption group called Manos Limpias (Clean Hands), which has since been dismantled after its leader Miguel Bernad was arrested. Investigators found that Bernad had tried to extort the royal’s defense lawyers for a €3 million payment in exchange for dropping the charges against her.

The case further damaged the royal family's image and is thought to be partly the cause of Juan Carlos' decision to abdicate the throne in June 2014 in flavor of his son Felipe.

The Nóos case, while large in itself, is merely an offshoot of a much wider probe into the construction of a sports arena in Palma de Mallorca that has already resulted in a criminal conviction for Jaume Matas.

The Palma Arena case, which put the spotlight on political corruption in the popular Mediterranean island archipelago, has been broken down into 28 separate sections, of which Nóos is the 25th.

The story of graft and patronage in the Balearics feeds into other high-profile corruption cases in Spain, among them Gürtel, whose leaders were recently sent to prison for bribing officials in Valencia in exchange for government contracts.

So, even the people who brought the charges against the Princess were guilty of corruption. It makes you wonder if there is anybody of authority in Spain who is not corrupt.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We felt that!

Yesterday, we had a short thunderstorm during which lightening struck down to land nearby.

At first, many thought it might have been an earthquake but there is no report of any incidences in this area.

There were actually two lightening strikes, one positively charged and the other negatively charged,  two kilometres northeast of Rafal at 16:01.