Category Archives: Maths Education

Applying to rent a house in England is shocking, and here’s why

“Please sir, can I give you money to live in one of your many houses?”

“No, scumbag! Come back when you have a job.”

“But sir, I have been offered a job! That’s why I’d like to rent your house. I was employed full time since, forever. I just worked my 3 months notice on my last job so that I was free to move 270 miles to your town to take up this job. I would like to start the job next week, I just need sort out somewhere for me and my partner to live.”

“No scumbag! To rent my property you have to have worked in your current job for more than 3 months or your living working parents own their own house and promise to pay the rent when you die of exhaustion or get fired. Oh, and 12 months rent in advance.”

“My dad expired four years ago and my mother is long retired. I’ve rented houses for 20 consecutive years, and I can give references for all of them (apart from the one I took to court because they fleeced me for the deposit). I’ve never needed a guarantor before. What’s changed?”

“You’ve changed, scumbag. Scumbags like you stopped paying rent in 2020 as soon as you had the opportunity. It’s too risky for me to have you living in my house if you can’t guarantee my income. Anyway, what was that about being in court? What did you do wrong? What’s on your criminal record? You’ll now need 18 months rent in advance.”

“I didn’t stop paying rent! And I don’t have a criminal record. I took my landlord to small claims court, and I won. He got the CCJ, not me. He was a scumbag. I paid all my rent for the last 20 years, on time, every time. I have a 100% record for on time rent payments, which I can prove via my bank statements going back to 2016.”

“Scumbag. Young people these days don’t know they’re born.”

“But sir, I’m 44 years old. I’ve a long history of being in full time employment in a profession that is much in demand (teaching mathematics) and I haven’t had more than two weeks break in employment in 20 years. I have good references and in the spectacularly unlikely event I don’t pass my probation in 6 month’s time, I can pretty much guarantee I would be gainfully employed as a substitute teacher within one week of getting my P45!”

“What was that scumbag? You haven’t even passed your probation yet? In that case you’ll need 24 months rent in advance, a guarantor and consent to having a torch regularly shined up your backside for the next 10 years.”

“But sir, how would I pass my probation if I haven’t started work yet? How can I start work at all if you won’t agree to rent me a house in the area that I work?”

“Scumbag, you are just poor. Face it, you’re just too poor so you don’t deserve to live anywhere. Here’s a cardboard box, live in that, stop drinking oat milk lattes and cancel your Netflix.”

“But sir, I’m not poor, but I don’t have a guarantor and I don’t already live in your local area. I’ve been paying my current rent (which is TWICE your property’s rent) on my own for more than a year and they never asked me for a guarantor. Why do you need a guarantor?”

“Well, scumbag, you mean you can afford twice the rent? In that case, my rent will be £2000pcm, with £2500 deposit and 12 months rent in advance.”

“But sir, that’s… (counts on fingers) £26,500 up front! I’ve got savings, but who has that much just sitting around?

“Well scumbag, sounds like you can’t afford it”.

“But sir, it sounds like you can’t afford to be a landlord if you can’t afford to risk losing even one month’s rent.”

“Well yes, scumbag but I’m providing a public service. I really don’t know why I do it. It’s altruism, I’m just one of the good guys.”

“But sir, you’re not. You’re saying you won’t rent to me unless somebody else takes all the risk. That’s not public service, it’s self-service. It’s because you feel entitled to profit from your investment in housing stock. That’s not how other financial investments work – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you’re saying you can’t afford to lose, ever. If you stay in the market long enough, your tenants pay for an entire house that you then get to keep! That sounds like an insane profit to me. How is that even allowed?”

“Scumbag, you’re talking like a god-damned commie right now. Why can’t you just accept that some people own houses, and some people don’t. “

“Well that’s fine. I have never felt that desire to own a house, to be honest. I just want to rent a place, be left alone for quiet enjoyment, and to have the opportunity available to move around the country and experience new people, new areas, new ideas whenever I want to. Otherwise I would have settled down long ago…”

“Who doesn’t want to own their own house? Scumbags, that’s who. You want to move out already? You’re going to need to pay 10 years rent in advance, to stop you moving out before you’ve paid up the rest of my mortgage. You fly-by-nights, you don’t know where you’ll be next week, let alone next year.”

“Yes sir. Sorry sir. I had no idea I’d be this close to bein homeless despite doing everything the right way. I had no idea I’d get rinsed. Breaking Bad doesn’t seem like such an outlandish concept – I’ll sell narcotics and count up the pennies from down the back of the sofa and see if I’ve got enough.”

“Scumbag, I only accept folding money. Or your blood. Ah, yes, of course! I’ll accept actual blood, as long as it’s yours or that of your close relatives. 40 litres a month. In advance.”

(Sound of an IV line being inserted)

“Ouch, sir, it hurts! I’m being…. draiiiiiiiined…. ” *thud*

“What did you expect, scumbag? Get up, you’ve got rent to pay. Get back to work. Also, move out, here’s an eviction notice. My son’s moving in next week.”

This account was based on several true accounts of renting in England. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. The landlord was Mr Parsimonious of Parsimonius & Acquisitive Tax Accountancy.

The problem with being a maths teacher, is that… you’re a maths teacher

I’ve got to admit, I’m considering a new career. Not because I’m bored of teaching maths, but because I could do with the PR boost.

Not everybody loves maths teachers. I get it. We stand lonely in the corner at parties with an empty glass, longing for somebody to start an interesting conversation but it never seems to get past the career choice. I wish I could just say “I’m a programmer” or “I work in a warehouse” and then the conversation just drifts onto other things and nobody is interested in how you “deal with the teenagers” or they lean into you with gin breath and tell you how they are simply ravenous for a Sudoku challenge. I don’t think that counts as flirting, does it?

Picture of some sad teachers with tinsel pretending to have a good time at an office party

I could start again. Professionally I mean. In my youth I worked in purchasing administration and I was quite nifty with raising the purchase orders and getting the best price. I got offered a job as a trainee IT Support at Sharp in 2001, but I opted to move to Suffolk and start my teaching career. I mean, it felt like the exciting option at the time, but it started me on what now feels like the single track of working in education. Perhaps in an alternative universe I’m an IT tech, swapping RJ45’s around on the server, wondering if I’d have been better off moving to Suffolk and selling my soul to City College Norwich (A-Haaaaa!).

I know there’s a lot of transferable skills within teaching (I won’t bore you) but when you see a CV and you see “maths teacher” the memories of a tweed jacket and being hit on the head with a flying board rubber come flooding back; how frustrating would it be to have an employee in the habit of answering a question with a question? I might turn up with a red Biro and start correcting your emails for SPaG and who in the world would want to work with that?

The problem is, I do really want to stay in the classroom. At the chalk face. It’s the only thing that keeps me interested. Does that happen with other careers? Do electricians get promoted to Manager and yearn to be back in somebody’s cellar, re-wiring the circuit breaker? Does Richard Hammond pine for the days he used to make the tea at the local radio station?

The problem is, if you like the classroom stuff; you’re good at the classroom interactions; the students enjoy your classes and you get good results year upon year. Who wants to move good teachers out of the classroom? Your manager certainly doesn’t. Reliable maths teacher are difficult to replace already. But far beyond the staffing and recruitment crisis that seems to be going on right now, what incentive is there for anybody to move up in the ranks in education? The further one goes up the pay scale, the less teaching and contact you have with students. And that’s fine if you don’t enjoy the teaching part, but… what if you do? What’s the incentive to “develop” upwards?

Realistically, the only reason anybody would wants to take on FE manager responsibilities is the opportunity to move up the pay scale. Otherwise, there’s not really much else, is there? The workload can be more intensive than teaching and it’s more difficult to prioritise. Many days you’ll work 12 hours, sometimes more than 5 days a week (I curse ye, Open Days!) and not really seeing your family or friends before the end of November. Even at this time of year, when the pressure is easing off a little with the teaching workload, it’s still full-speed ahead getting students finished and claimed before the deadlines, and then timetabling, and then that’s the summer months wiped out as well.

This is the cue for all the party-goers to chime in with “ah but you get the summer holidays, I bet that’s lovely! I wish I got 8 weeks off work”. No, no. We really don’t. We get 2 weeks to get that GP appointment that has been needed since November, book the dental hygienist for a bloody mouthful followed by a good telling off and a promise to stop grinding; purchase new work clothes for the new term online, clean under the fridge, mow the lawn, move house, get a new job, you know, the normal stuff. I seem to get a short sit down just in time for the neighbour’s grubby faced tweenagers to start screaming at each other on the trampoline and then it’s GCSE results day. Again.

This year I really have got some things to do in my “holiday”, as mentioned above I am hoping to get a new job up north and alongside that comes the difficulty of relocating with a houseful of useless gubbins that we bought in the COVID-19 lockdowns. Here’s a functional maths spatial challenge for you. How do you fit a treadmill, a garden patio set, a gazebo, an arcade machine, 2 scooters, a motorbike, 4 IKEA shelving units, a freezer, a bed, a CUDDLY TOY!!!!, a weights rack, 4 metric tonnes of Warhammer 40K figurines, a holiday to Malta and a projector screen into a single Luton van?

The answer? Nothing short of a miracle. I have no idea how we’re going to do it in one trip. Possibly we won’t.

“I passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the NORTH, and remain Galadriel.”


The never ending issue with passwords and running away north in pursuit of…?

I do have an issue with passwords and it is showing.

My WordPress posts are so infrequently published, and the main reason is that I am simply very good at setting strong passwords. If only I were worse (better?).

On one of my other posts some years ago, I was moaning because my website had been hacked and redirected to a website that was selling Gucci handbags. I steadfastly committed to setting extremely strong passwords for all my accounts from now on, safe in the knowledge that this would mean that I would never again have the ability to log in and post on my own website. I refuse to use a password manager. I mean, how can that be as secure as my own brain?

My current security gauntlet consists of 17 password attempts, 4 password reset emails, three two step verification text messages, 12 CAPTCHA tasks to establish whether I’m human (at this point I’m not sure myself) and a Notepad file containing several strings of non-alphabetical characters, none of which work ever again.

I reset several passwords today to get me to here, writing this post. And I already don’t know what those passwords were. So I won’t be able to log in again for some time, until I can again be bothered to contact and raise a ticket for another password reset, at which point the whole process will begin again. Maybe Easter 2024?

Anyway – I’m moving soon. I am leaving London, I’m committed, I’m moving in a VERY northerly direction, and with any luck we’ll get to Scotland. Where, I don’t know yet, but it’s going to be colder, wetter, more hilly, less metropolitan and with soft water. I can’t wait for that last bit.

Edit: Turns out my post-16 PGCE means I’m only eligible to be registered with the GTCS as a college lecturer, and there ain’t any maths lecturer jobs that I can find, so I’ve had to put my dreams of vegan haggis and bracing cold on hold for a wee while while I get qualified to teach secondary in a country that actually upholds teaching standards. Bah!