Monday, 26 March 2012

Iron Age settlements and playing pitches make me happy.

Some time ago, I blogged about the proposed development at the back of my house, on Tithe, in Chatteris. It is part of the wholesale plan to vastly increase the population of the Fens and build on the remaining "island" land in the Fen market towns. Where there is currently field, there will be 1,000 plus houses, probably all little horrible boxes labelled "executive". The huff and puff about Section 106 and how it will, of course vastly improve our town to have so many new houses plonked in it, at the same time as all our buses, police, and other services are disappearing, is huff and puff that doesn't impress me one tiny jot. I am a mother to a three and 5 year old, and I can tell when politicians are lying without even asking them to stick their tongues out (imagines Cameron sticking his tongue out, me going "Yes, Mr Cameron, you're lying!" to gasps from the cabinet and whispers of "how does she do that?!" Always impresses the kids, as do my bat ears). 

But the one silver lining about the development is that there has to be archaeological work beforehand. The investigative trenching on Tithe showed there were probable Bronze Age settlements that were possibly worthy of further investigation, and possible mitigation onec work started. However, the trenching and pre-build investigation was done for the corporation who want to build, and as such, the trenching done was the bare minimum, approx. 2% of the entire plot, and that it showed up anything, even using old finds as a guide, was a miracle. And this is why I am very pleased that the Secondary school are extending into the same plot. Their privately owned plot abuts Tithe, and is being made into an all weather pitch. Being school, and therefore Council owned, the pre-build investigation was not as commercially driven (although it IS being driven, very rapidly by bidding concerns: the project has to be completed within time frame for the school to get the money). Hence, many more trenches were dug, a vastly superior percentage to that on Tithe. And lo! They have hit what looks like an Iron Age settlement. 

Iron Age settlements in the Fens are a much rarer breed of post hole. Until 1978, and the Fenland Archaeological Survey, it was more or less believed that Iron Age settlers hadn't made it to the Fens. The water level in the Fens was at it's highest in the Iron age and hence the modern fen-edge essentially marks the lower limits of Iron Age settlement (c. 700BC-50AD).  Chatteris has already been noted as being fairly replete with pre-historic archaeology, having yielded some 13,000 Iron Age artefacts from a substantial prior digs at Langwood Fen and Stonea Camp, which also threw up Roman habitation finds, suggesting continuous habitation. ( a quick search of the Heritage Gateway will show you what they found). This latest find can only add to the information on the area. Iron Age peoples came AFTER the Bronze Age blokes mentioned a lot at the Must Farm site, and were in all likelihood different peoples from different areas. I'm not up on the latest methodology, but it used to be thought that the Iron Age people of Fenland were a "Third Wave" of immigrants of Celtic and Germanic stock, responding to overcrowding of their territories by expanding, upwards towards Peterborough, at around 50AD. A lot of the Iron Age finds in this part of Fenland are from that later period, merging with Early Roman.  But this site seems to be an Early Iron Age site, and so it's that bit rarer. Whether it marries up with the previous finds, I don't know. Either way, it's a joy for me to know that my back garden field now has a recognised Iron Age settlement on the edge of it, even though it will shortly be a playing pitch. 

So, to the find itself. the very excellent Stephen Macaulay showed me the site. He is there as part of the Oxford Archaeology East team, who are confusingly named, like much of the "sort-of" public sector now, in a fashion that makes it almost impossible to tell that they are in fact Cambridgeshire County Councils Archaeology Unit, and hence responsible for the archaeology remit prior to builds as part of the planning process. The mitigation given in this instance was, as i've mentioned, extremely limited due to tight time constraints on the build and bid money, so the team have had to excavate and work very quickly, a bit like the bods on Time Team, only without Tony Robinson being not funny and the shouting and fake relief after they find something. After the flash and unique pictures  from Must Farm last week, inevitably the Iron Age settlement found here is constrained to suffer by comparison, but it's no less beautiful. Much of archaeology is in fact scraping away at things that don't look much like anything in dire weather for shit pay, it's love they do it for. And what we have here is: 

Signs of settlement, postholes, and lots of little white notes marking where things have been found. 
 Iron Age pottery shards. Alright, they don't look much, but they're a little bit of pre-Roman in your hands.
 You can clearly see the dips and bowls left by the settlers here, along with postholes.
 More of the same, cleared areas, possibly used for storage.

A section of a ditch that runs in a line out past the site, towards Tithe. This could be Roman or Iron Age, if Iron Age, which hopefully before they have to fill the site, they'll pinpoint, it points to the settlement being quite large, with purpose built ditches.

For me, the sheer joy of having a bit of pre-history at the bottom of my garden is made all the more fantabulous by the fact that this clearly holds out hope for the archaeology at Tithe once the development begins in earnest being of some import. The fact that Iron Age finds have popped up here points towards this small section of Chatteris being constantly populated from Bronze Age to Roman times.The view I see from my window is less watery than the one they saw, but the skyline was no less long, and the outlook no hillier. Just knowing that Stephen has found this has started the ball rolling for me: now the trick will be to ensure that this site, and eventually, Tithe, get the publicity and support they deserve. Last week, it was almost galling for me to have to say that big business were supporting archaeology. At Must farm I was placed in the position of almost needing the expansion of building in the Fens to allow the dig at Must Farm to prosper. Here, I am again in the situation that the steamroller of Toytown houses must be driven across the fields by Melton, to allow us to access the wonder underneath the fields. I do find it difficult. I find it hard to accept that knowledge and learning about our pre-historical past has to be reliant on funding from business, and entrenched in planning and growth. But while it is, it's definately going to be my business to do my shouty best to keep the work of the archaeologists in peoples' minds, and to be an annoying person arguing, where there is evidence, for mitigation and community involvement. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting both Stephen and Mark (from last week), and what shines forth from both of them is how utterly they love their jobs. How i'd love to be able to hand them both a big Lottery wad of cash and free them and their teams from their planning and business constraints. But in the meantime, all I can do is say watch this space, and watch the earth under you. Who lived there before you did?

Next blog (or the one after, hey, i'm disorganised) i'm hoping to write a little about the  Jigsaw programme of community archaeology. That's if son has got over the Pox.

Previous blogs on archaeology and Tithe:

Friday, 16 March 2012

Must Farm, Whittlesey. Archaeological heaven in Fenland.

When you teach history at school, it starts with the Normans, in the main. You might get a little tickle of Vikings and Saxons in primary school, but History Proper starts with William I, and he was French. There's a necessary nod to the Romans, but they're, well, the Romans. You can't ignore them. They built the roads. But the rest of British Pre-history is swept aside in a gallop that lasts three years from the Normans in Year 7 to defeating the Nazis and living a Cold War in Year 9.  Even Schama, who professes to tell "Our island story" and , along with Niall Ferguson, declaims a desire to re-introduce a love of History and narrative to history in schools, relegates pre-history society to one measly chapter in his 4 volume story that is 10% mesolithic-iron age and 90% Romans. Think about it. Neolithic-Bronze age equates to 8000-800BC. It's a LONG TIME to ignore. But it's just people in loinclothes eating mud, right? Till the Romans came along?

Er, no. But most assuredly, apart from that tranche of people who admire that long haired Scottish TV historian who pops up for pre-history on the odd occaision,  for varied reasons, this is what a large amount of people think. Civilization, farming, clothing, probably speech, started with the Romans. Except not. Complex communities, trading between countries, wars, farming, were undoubtedly happening before togas appeared. And Fenland is uniquely placed to show just how amazing these pre-history societies were.

Bronze age scythe. I love the screw hole.
A fantastic combination of geology and business has combined to preserve, and then explore, one of the biggest Bronze age and earlier archaeological sites in the UK, if not Europe. Must Farm, in Whittlesey, is owned by Hansons, the brick makers, who use it as a quarry for the Fenland Blue Clay. Hansons are able to dig deep, way down below the usual scoping trenches offered in a planning application, and way, way back, the first inklings that Must Farm held something special were proven correct when the Bronze age platform, a bridge between islands, was revealed in 2006. Since then, the dig has thrown so much pre-history wide open that academia will have to seriously reconsider some of the perceptions of Bronze Age life. The site  is a gigantic 3D experience, with a Bronze Age River channel, and digs revealing land back to a Mesolithic base, sloping seawards.  The dig aims to push further back. What becomes apparent is that Fenland was not ever thus: it was once dry and forested, then wet, then dry, then wet.(I think i've got that right....) In the Bronze age, the (vast) time period that the majority of the dig currently focuses on, the population existed on islands, with bridges between them.

Riverbed, showing fishing traps.
It is at once clear, as soon as you walk into the dig area, that these people were canny workers, exploiting the landscape. The river channel, although dry, is nonetheless clearly indicative of a working community, and you can see instantly how the river was utilised. The boats lie there, the channel is regularly dotted with fish traps and weirs. These could be contemporary, a mediveal, early modern and aquatically inclined fenlander of today could recognise, and use the fish traps, and probably make them. Effective then, effective now. It feels, in fact, as if the river has simply drained away, and if you whipped round the bend quick enough you might catch the last Bronze Age fisherman paddling away in his longboat. Of which there are many.

Longboats had been found, in Bradly Fen, and Peterborough, but not in this joyous amount. 8 so far and counting, this is clearly a race of water babies, and possibly seafaring ones (much of the Bronze age finds here relate to those found in Norway, there may well have been a link betwen the cultures, they may well have been, in fact, one culture). The boats are dug out, not fired out, mostly oak (with 2 ash) and carved. The flotilla contains probably one of the earliest examples of a log boat made from a single trunk, with a separate panel for the rear. Even to a complete novice like me, they can't fail to impress.

A great deal of domestic pottery, textile and implements have been found, including farming tools and cookware, all beautifully preserved, due to the clay and, a ruddy great fire. (The pot to the right shows food still carbonised in the pot). The platform bridge and the surrounds were quite clearly burnt in a huge fire at some point, and what we can't know, of course is why.Cooking gone wrong, or attack? When you look at the huge array of weaponry found, you can't help but think that the times were perhaps less calm than "Time Team" might have you believe. Less building bridges to meet and trade, than to attack and defend. There are hundreds of finds lining the dig,  some swords nicked and clashed with signs of battle,and this, combined with the amount of bone found in  the river channel, may lead you to conclude that it wasn't always farming and fishing the community concentrated on. No burial chambers or sites have been found, but plenty of bone and ceremonially broken swords in the river,  leading you to ponder whether the river was also a cemetary as well as dinner source.

Rapier. Not for playing with.
After a stomp around, and an enthusiastic commentary from Mark, the CAU chap, it was impossible to feel anything other than awe at the site, which is surely unique in Europe. Nowhere but Fenland has such a geological past, and nowhere else can you go back this far and cleanly to the past. The mussell shells I picked up from the river bed were from 800BC, but fresh. The gravel we trod on at one point was mesolithic. The clay pits have preserved it all. And industry has made this dig possible. Without our modern expansion and pressing need for brick and new housing, the quarry would not be here. The history would remain buried. And we need the development to go on for the dig to go on, which is funded purely by Hansons, as part of the dvelopment procedure. And they more they find, the more it costs. The more they find, the more important it becomes to continue. There is an almost impossible balancing act between the needs of business and the needs of the dig, but thus far it's holding. Mark was openly grateful to Hansons for the efforts they had made to accomodate the archaeology, and when you are onsite it's not hard to see why; it's a massive undertaking and the costs of keeping a Bronze Age boat preserved are not small.  But Hansons need people to keep buying bricks (and have recently laid people off) and need development to continue, for the quarry, and the dig, to continue. There is much much more to find, so I found myself in the unlikely position of wishing for some more toytown housing pods to pop up merely so I can see what else they dig up.

Oak longboat
What they dig and have dug up will be, eventually, housed in a variety of homes, most likely Cambridge archaeology and anthropology musuem, Whittlesey museum, and Flag Fen musuem and centre, so you will be able to see a lot of it. What I would like to see is a co-ordinated effort to ensure that the finds are part of an overview of Fenland aracheology, properly promoted and funded, so that tourists visit and locals are proud of what they walk on. I'd like to see the research published, and academia interested. Academic and business money is needed here. Fenland, lord knows, whilst a beautiful place when  you've got a ken for it, is not a universally acknowledge visitor attraction, it's no Norfolk Broads, but in Must Farm we see a frankly amazing heritage that is little understood and unexploited. I'd like to see schools on board, the local history section of GCSE focusing on the Bronze Age. I'd basically, just like to see it again. And catch a Bronze Age fisherman out of the corner of my eye.

 Map showing the platform (bridges) between islands, and the river channel in blue. Sword deposisitions are marked in yellow. Quite a bit of defending and fighting round bridges going on, I surmise !

You can see my flickr set of the visit here:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The pox, it cometh.

All that glib talk of chicken pox parties, wanting your kid to get the pox, starts to look really stupid when your kid actually HAS the pox, because Chicken Pox, despite the fluffy name, is NO FUN AT ALL. A few posts ago, I wrote that daughter was feeling ill, feverish. Many days after, lo! The pox, it cometh. And here we are , 5 days in, still popping out new spots and feeling dreadful. Her, because she's itchy, some spots hurt, she's up all night, itching, and she's coughing, and me, because i'm up all night pasting on various ungents and comforting, inadequately.

Pox is hideous. Deprived of the ability to mix with other humans, a chess game of getting the other kid to school has taken up many hours, not least because he doesn't WANT to go now he knows his sister is sitting on the sofa watching Disney. She cannot mix with other kids or pregnant ladies and this means no mixing at the school gate while I drop son off, or evil looks result. So friends have to step in and relay between me and her at the outside entrance. General advice at the outside entrance to school has ranged from the unhelpful to the wise. The general belief is, I find, that Chicken Pox is a relatively harmless, almost fun week or so off of school, with a bit of a snivelly nose. This is far from the truth. Whilst some children may be rendered only slightly annoyed by it, others may be completely floored. In my case, 30 years ago, I managed to make my mother awestruck in silence (no mean feat) with my huge array of spots, which even, I recall, patterned the inside of my nose, mouth and eyelids. I was in bed for days.  My sister on the other hand, had about 20 spots and persisted in riding her trike up and down outside the bedroom door.

Fact is, that chicken pox is vaccinated against in many countries (but not this) for very good reasons. Firstly, for the harm it can do to pregnant women and their unborn children. Like German measles, the chicken pox sufferer may be relatively unbothered, but the recipient of the pox may not be, and it can result in babies being born with the pox, and various problems. So, it follows , that you should avoid pregnant women and newborns when you have it, or may be carrying it. But herein lies the problem. The incubation period of this very effective virus is such that it initially manifests as a cold, or flu like symptoms. Nobody keeps off of work or school for a snotty nose.Very unpopular you would be if you did. And yet this is exactly when the virus is at it's most contagious, BEFORE the spots appear. Hence, this week, son has been miserably attending school, resenting his sisters' placement in front of a Disney DVD while he learns more phonics, probably spreading far and wide the virus. But school policy doesn't say that he shouldn't attend. And he may not be carrying the virus. No point in him missing learning time and knackering the classes attendence figures for no reason. So you can see why vaccination is an attractive prospect to head this dilemma off.

The pox can also lead to complications in the case of children and adults with immune deficiencies, and, those with asthma who are regularly treated with streoids. As this includes most of  the children with asthma, this is quite a serious thought. Although having chicken pox in childhood has been linked to reducing your chances of the onset of asthma and related skin conditions, it's also been linked to worsening of asthma and severe complications if you catch it after a course of steroid tablets, or after an asthma attack or period of intense steroid use. Which means it's a risk to a lot of kids. And it's very nasty to get it as an adult, too.

After trawling around looking at various bits of research, I've found that the pox isn't as straightforward as you might think. For every kid who is biking about with it, there's one who ends up very poorly. There is conflicting advice about medication (ibuprofen, for example, has been shown to lead to complication with chicken pox,  leading to worsening asthma and possibly a link with necrotising skin disorders, and the advice as to whether to continue with steroid asthma medication is confused). Everybody has an idea about the best way to sort it out. Everyone has an idea about when it's contagious, before, after, during the spots. Everyone believes one or more myths about it. I was surprised to find out, for example, that yes, you can get it again. More than twice, even. No limit in fact. And no, the second time you get it, it isn't always shingles.  A good friend has racked up 4 counts of chicken pox. 13% of people have been reported to get it more than once. It seems that some people don't make those antibodies against it. And the incubation period is MASSIVE, 10-21 days from that snivelly cold. Daughter took 12 days to pop her first spot, and during that time, she was merrily away at playgroup, breathing it at people.  After being exposed to someone with the virus for 15 minutes, you are at risk. Playgroup can look forward to being quieter for a bit. It is not possible to catch shingles from chicken pox, and vice versa. Shingles is basically the remains of the childhood chicken pox virus re-activated at some point in your lilfe, possbly because your immune defences are low.You should never give your child aspirin when they have chicken pox as this has been linked to them getting Reyes Syndrome.And so on. For an everyday childhood disease, which is common, there's a lot of humming, hawing, and misinformation out there.

So what works?
  • Well, people told me calamine cream, which was as much use as, well, co-co-pops would have been. Aside from smearing itself over the bedsheets, it seems to have done little. Likewise calamine lotion. Piriton worked, but the dosage instructions ban you from using it as frequently as I found she has needed it. So I had recourse to other action. 
  • Baking powder is your friend. Tepid baths with 3-4 tablespoons of bicarb in, as often as you can. 
  • Make up a paste of bicarb and water, keep it in the fridge, paste it on particularly nasty spots.
  • Keep cool. Radiators, clothes, off. No waistbands, no pants. Spots appear where it is warm, in the nether regions and hairline, for example, so strip your child. Keep them out of the sun.
  • Witchazel for spots on the face. I found calamine too greasy, and annoying for the face. Witchazel works nicely and can be kept cool in the fridge. 
  • Peppermint tea in the bath, or as a cool solution to dab on spots. It also gives your child the satisfactory experience of bathing in what looks like wee. If, as below, they are having trouble weeing, this may be the best place to get them to do it.
  • Sudocrem. You know that big pot you got when your kid was a baby that you still have half of? It's that big for a reason. Add some tea-tree oil or lavender oil (only a few drops) to some, and dab on.
  • Keep cool inside. Ice pops, ice tea, cold drinks. Cotton sheets.
  • All natural fibres when you do get dressed. 
  • It's worse at night. Keep the room as cool as you can.
  • Cut your nails (they will be filled with sudocrem) and cut theirs. Right down.
  • The piriton makes them sleep. This is good.
  • Their appetite will vanish, particularly if they have spots in the mouth (yes, you can get them).

And here I am, 4 days into the spot appearing section (they can continue from between 5-10 days), and they show no signs of stopping. I found it enormously hard to find decent pictures of spots online, that were not too small or textbook. Here's my guide to the spot spotting.
  • The first spots will look like heat bumps. Daughter started with 5 or 6, round the neck. I thought it was heat rash.
  • After a time (10 hours in my case) the first signs will have developed into water carrying blisters. There will be more of them. 
  • They can vary in size. Enormously. One on daughter is the size of a 5p. Most are the size of a matchead. 
  • After the first few days, you will notice that the older spots are crusting over, but new spots will still be popping up. So you'll have some pink blistery ones alongside crustier, darker ones.
  • I'm on day 4. I have a wide range of heat rash-to-be spots, blistery spots, and crusty spots. The crusty ones itch. They also bleed REALLY easily. If you pick the kid up without due care, easily.  Be on guard to slap cream on, and hadle with sensitivity.
  • And a note. These spots go EVERYWHERE. Daughter has them on the scalp (washing hair with bicarb water helps, leave it to dry naturally), eyelids, inner ears, and down there. Going to the toilet is painful, so be sure to keep the child well watered, as dehydrated pee is painful. If you see a spot appearing on the actual eyeball, or if any get infected, go to the GP, as it's dangerous. But however nasty the spots "down there" may be to consider, they are normal.

So, I no longer, after a long three nights of hourly wakings plastering on cream and bicarb paste, and listening to daughter wee crying, think of chicken pox as a painless childhood illness. Be prepared.  As one child crawls out of the poxy tunnel, the other one wanders in. He has a runny nose. See you after Easter.And if anyone can tell me why kids fall like flies from chicken pox round Easter, you win a half used tub of calamine cream.
Picture shows daughter unimpressed by Princess Jasmine, sleeping, IN THE DAY, which she hasn't done since she was 12 months. AND she went to sleep tonight. She's ill. Note the spots round the ears, hairline, sweat lines.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

I can't add. I could, I can't, I can. My Maths skills story.

Well, it seems we are a nation of mathematical idiots. Articles in all the press this week emphasise the fact that people in the UK can't tell what change to expect, are unemployable, and basically idiotic, although we can read (just). It's my belief though, that this is simply a faliure to take a maths GCSE, NOT a faliure in general. Here is my maths story.

A child genius (according to me and my mum), I was put into my English and Maths O Levels early at 12/13. It was assumed, I think, that as I was really very bright at English, I was faking my complete idiocy at maths. I wasn't. I got the English, failed the maths. Onto the very first, ever, year of GCSE (1988). Passed 10 GCSE's at A and B. Failed maths. Onto A levels. Took 4, passed 4, failed maths GCSE again. And again. Onto university, as thankfully, this was before a maths GCSE was compulsory to go, as they (sensibly) reasoned that to take a History degree, 4 A levels and 2 S levels were perfectly adequate. Here, I retook, and re-failed the maths as a favour to the education department and their investigation into inumeracy. After completeing a postgradute degree, I gave up. I then worked in a large university library, where I had budgetry responsibility for an entire subject department, and regularly used complex formula to determine, amongst other things, wastage, withdrawal of material and reprographic usage. I completed yearly investigations into use of books, worked out percentages, wrote financial end of year reports,  statistical analysis reports, library OPAC computer statistical reports, and generally used maths every single day despite not having a GCSE, without any major disaster.

But then I decided i'd retrain as a teacher. And a maths GCSE was compulsory. So I betook myself off to an evening course and related my sorry history to the teacher. Who promptly undertook to pass me. And lo! at the ripe old age of 28, I finally found a teacher who managed to explain to a very left brained person the right brained side of maths. He got me drawing fractions, imagining equations, and suddenly, for a brief period running up to the exam, I was maths wonderwoman. I dreamt maths. I drew maths. I bored people witless in the pub with maths. We had a debate about the paper to put me in for. Intermediate, I said ( you can get a C, but no more). Higher, he said. He took me out for many beers, and won. I sat the higher. I got an A. My mother still doesn't believe me.

Almost immediately after leaving the exam hall, all knowledge about quadratic equations left me. I found myself, in maths terms, almost exactly the same as I was prior to my mathematical genius being born. Except now, I could teach. So I did. I used my maths to demonstrate hyperinflation in Weimar Germany, to explain communism, the Tithe, the Weregild and taxation. And to write statistical reports. Every, sodding, job. In effect, the GCSE did nothing for me.

No, no. It's not that the GCSE did nothing. It's that the difference between a D grade (fail) and a C grade (pass) is nothing. As a teacher, I know that the crunch point comes when you decide what paper you are going to put the student in for. Lower means you don't expect anything much. Intermediate means they might scrape a C. Higher means that the school is happy for them to risk that League Table status. In any other subject the teacher makes the decision in YEAR 9, sometimes 10. Yes, you read that right. Your kid is already pigeonholed as they start taking the GCSE year(s). In History, one paper fits all, so I was often in the unique situation to see a student who was taking "lower" in all other subjects suddenly come into their own in Year 11, and acheive a B or C in history, which is not, believe me, an easy option. It's simply that, particularly for boys, the "on" switch happens later, and more slowly, for some. It became apparent to me that many, many students were in effect written off and denied the chance to attain a good grade simply because they might be late developers, or not have attained in earlier years. And for the sake of the league tables, schools do not want to risk a "fail". I suffered from blind optimism and bad teaching, other kids suffer from underestimation. So, the first thing to go is the assumption that all kids can be pigeonholed for GCSe paper selection.

Next up is the assumption that to get a "D" grade in maths is to fail. I got a D 5 times. I was a successful, financially responsible person in charge of budgets. Many, many people who bemoan the lack of mathematical intelligence in kids now would benefit from taking a look at what you need to do to get a"C". Frankly, everything you need to know to function as an adult is there at "D". Fractions, percentages, cash knowledge, statistics, measurements, all at "D". "C" is quadratics, trigonometry. Cleverer, yes. Utterly necessary, no.

And then, there's the teaching of maths. It's HARD if you are not a maths person, and it is very hard to make the subject thrilling. Furthermore, it's not the sort of thing that you can  catch up on if you miss a lot. I had months at a time off of school as a child, due to hospitalisation, and whilst I could catch up on reading, and even, indeed, get ahead (on on notable occaision I returned to school having read the entire reading scheme, and was afterwards allowed to bring my own books into school), it is very difficult to keep up with maths. Miss the first few lessons on percentages, and you stand a real chance of never "getting" it.

Add to that the fact that it's teacher relevant. Get a good one, you "get" it. Get a bad one, you don't. I am a perfect example of that. If, at 13, my teacher had shown me the simple tactic of drawing fractions and percentages, I might have had my on-swicth moment a good 15 years earlier.

Of course more people need to get maths. It's shopping, it's special offers, it's averages and pay slips, it's budgets and weekly shops and mortgages. But that is the true measure of worth. Teach money management, teach credit and percentage increase on cards. Your life is better if you can manage money. The ability to solve a quadratic equation, whilst fun, is not vital. Let's make it clear what makes an employable, numerate person. It isn't, always a "C" grade. It isn't, always, an "A" grade. Maths needs a revamp. If i were in charge (oh, please.....), i'd take the route of AS/A2. I'd hive off "real" math from the harder stuff. I'd get together a pass mark that was certified to say "this person can handle a budget". "This person can buy/shop/sell sensibly". Make a new maths pass mark.

That's not to say, mind you, that I don't utterly love my daughters invention of the number "eleventeen".