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Money matters: Doctors vs Teachers

Peter Preston has posed the controversial question: “Is one doctor with three teachers?”. His article is interesting, and makes some good points about the fact that doctors should, perhaps, not complain about a pay increase when they are already far more highly paid than equivalent doctors in other European countries.

Unfortunately, hiis eponymous question is not so good: This is a comparison based on the latest doctors’ contract, comparing conslutants – the most highly paid doctors – with the average teacher. As a contrast, here’s a alternative view.

A newly qualified teacher has an average debt of £12,069. Under the latest pilot scheme, the government repays this off for them as long as they work in teaching. They are paid an average of around £22,000, plus a £5,000 bonus for sticking it out for a year. That’s £27,000. According to the Government, primary teachers work an average 39 weeks per year (38 teaching weeks, 1 admin/training week), at 37.5hrs per week (9-4.30, Mon-Fri). So they get roughly £18.46 per hour.

A newly qualified doctor has an average student debt of £15,000. Since the government doesn’t understand that working nine to five every day precludes you from doing as much part time work as being at university for fewer hours, the average student has to supplement this with £5,000 of bank loans. That adds up to a first-year repayment of £467 worth of student debts, and £538 to the bank. The starting salary for a junior doctor is £20,295. Net income (before tax): £19,290. That’s for the basic 47 weeks, at 45hrs per week (Mon-Fri, 9-6) plus variable overtime, which for argument’s sake we won’t include. That works out at £9.12 per hour: Just under half of what the teacher gets.

So the question is: Is one teacher worth two doctors?

Or, more pertinently: Are questions like this conceptually flawed and misleading?

Edit: Yes, I clearly do have some problems with maths. But I’ve corrected them now.

This 849th post was filed under: News and Comment.

Cheating

Back on Monday, the media were worrying about the reported 27% increase in the number of pupils cheating in public exams, with the increase mainly surrounding mobile phone usage. This is a topic I’ve touched on a couple of times before (here and here).

Of course the biggest question is whether the larger figure indicates an actual increase in the level of cheating (which I doubt), or whether it represents an increase in the number of pupils being found to have their mobile phones on them at the time of the exam thanks to greater awareness amongst invigilators (which I suspect). Cheating has gone on since the first exams. After all, by putting all of the emphasis of the educational system on the outcome of standardised tests, rather than on the learning experience itself, we are positively encouraging cheating. There’s certainly an argument to be made that those that succeed in cheating in exams are those that have the ability to use their initiative. But that’s not what we’re trying to test, for whatever reason.

The current development of the short-answer exam style lends itself, of course, to cheating. More challenging essay-questions are harder to cheat, but also harder and more time-consuming to mark. However, the announcement that the number of modules in each A-Level is to be cut, which will allow for more essay questions, goes some way to tackling this issue.

The bigger picture here is that whilst cheating in an exam is relatively difficult, cheating in coursework is easy, and almost certainly much more common. That’s where the bigger, and more difficult, problem in the exam system resides. That one’s going to be harder to solve.

The other big cheating story of the week is that Blue Peter badges have been sold on eBay. But fear not. I have it on good authority, from the most hard-hitting of news sites, that a solution has been found: Badge Holders’ Cards are to be issued along with the badges, to identify the rightful owner. Obviously, as a Blue Peter badge winner myself, I was personally incredibly shocked by this awful news. Though why on Earth people are paying £70 for a badge they can win by writing a letter to the show (for the cost of a second-class stamp) is beyond me. Clearly these people aren’t clever enough to deserve the honour.

Finally, just returning to the exam story, I loved this comment by Benjamin Murphy on the Guardian website:

As a student at a Catholic seminary, I was told a story of a student who predicted probable essay titles, wrote an essay ahead of time and sneaked it into the examination. All he had to do was write the appropriate question title at the top and hand it in. His one fatal error was to type the essay.

Fantastic.

This 848th post was filed under: News and Comment.

Hilarious investigative journalism

Just to flag up the funniest, laugh-out-loud piece of journalism I’ve read this year:

They are one of the irritations of modern life – prerecorded messages that tell us to press a button in order to join a queue to speak to a real person. But who are the people behind the disembodied voices? Jon Ronson meets them

Read it on Guardian Unlimited.

This 847th post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

Blair admits mistake… or does he?

Mr Blair has apparently admitted that announcing that he wouldn’t serve a fourth term in office was a mistake. From the Beeb:

He said: “What happened when you get into your third term and you are coming up to your tenth year is that it really doesn’t matter what you say, you are going to get people saying it should be time for a change.

“This speculation, I think, probably would happen whatever decision you take.

“Now, it was an unusual thing for me to say but people kept asking me the question so I decided to answer it. Maybe that was a mistake.”

So is he finally admitting that he’s done something strategically wrong? Well, no. The PMOS has come out, all guns blazing, with a ‘What he meant to say’ statement:

What he had intended to say was, she said: “It was a mistake… to believe that the announcement would kill off the speculation as to when I would resign.”

Except, clearly not, as he had a fully formed sentence there already. But hey. The slightly ridiculous thing is that what Mr Blair says no longer seems to tally with, well, what Mr Blair actually says. Just a couple of weeks back, Nick Robinson discovered this problem. He looked through the official transcript of the Prime Minister’s monthly press conference to find when he had said this:

Look as you say I am hopeful we will get the vast majority of Labour MPs behind us, in fact I am absolutely sure we will get the vast majority. The question is whether we manage to get enough to get it through with Labour votes alone. But in a sense the issue is doing the right thing for the country, it’s what the country expects and of course I want to do it with Labour MPs in full support. Look I think this is a very, very critical issue for the Labour Party for its instincts, for what it’s about, for what it is trying to do.

He had said it, it was there on tape. But the official transcript said:

I think I have said what I have said on Guantanamo. And on the first part, you know if you look at the school system at the moment…

Now, there’s always a good place for corrections and clarifications. They’re an important part of everyday life. But when you are making them up (as seemingly with the first) or just not acknowledging that a change has been made (as with the second), you’re getting into very, very dodgy territory.

This 846th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.


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