Saturday, December 22, 2012

Malaysia’s slide in maths, science rankings unsurprising, says PAGE

Malaysia’s slide in maths, science rankings unsurprising, says PAGE

December 22, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 22 — Malaysian students will continue their slide into mathematics and science mediocrity if the current education policies do not change, an education lobby group has warned.
Parent Action Group for Education’s (PAGE) response came after the latest results last Wednesday revealed Malaysia had continued its alarming slip down the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranking over the years.
“We expected the results to be that ... If we continue what we’re doing now, we’ll continue to do worse,” PAGE chief Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (picture) toldThe Malaysian Insider.
According to Azimah, the Malaysian education system only teaches content knowledge, knowledge recall and rote learning, which unfortunately only make up a minor portion of TIMSS, unlike reasoning and problem solving.
“We haven’t done anything to prepare our kids in TIMSS ... Might as well we don’t take the exams, what a shame,” she said.
TIMSS assesses fourth and eighth grade students (equivalent to Standard Four and Form Two students in Malaysia) over 63 countries in four international benchmarks since 1995.
Malaysia had sent only Form Two students to participate in the study, and 5,773 students from 180 schools took part last year.
For the latest survey in 2011, Malaysia scored 440 in mathematics and 426 in science, below the TIMSS Scale Centerpoint of 500.
In 2007, Malaysia had scored 474 in mathematics and 471 in science. The scores were 519 and 492 respectively in 1999, when Malaysia first participated.
Azimah expressed her cynicism over the government’s plan in the New Education Blueprint to benchmark Malaysian examinations to TIMSS, and reach a top third ranking by 2025.
“If we’re serious of doing well, change,” stressed Azimah, whose group has been championing for Malaysia to continue teaching mathematics and science in English.
Putrajaya has decided to abort the policy that was initiated by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad despite some encouraging results.
“Don’t just give rhetorics, we need to sit down and actually change the curriculum ... so that it’s more inclined towards problem solving and reasoning. We need a total revamp.
“The question mark now are we going to get there?” Azimah asked.
The PAGE chairperson conceded that lack of reasoning and problem solving was an unfortunate consequence of our conservative teacher-centric education.
“Kids should be encouraged to speak up and ask questions,” she suggested.
“They don’t do it because the teachers will reprimand them if they ask the wrong question.
“They’re afraid to make mistakes, they’re ashamed and they don’t want to ridiculed by their friends, so it is best to keep quiet.”
The solution, Azimah explained, is to go back to the root of the problem and overhaul teacher training to move towards making education student-centric.
“The focus should be on the child, not on the teacher.
“Teachers should be more engaging, they should encourage the students, for them to be opinionated,” Azimah added.
TIMMS is run every four years by the International Study Center of Lynch School of Education, Boston College.
Besides examinations, TIMSS also collects contextual information on school environment and location, native language, teachers and family background from the students, teachers and principals.
In 2011, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan led both the mathematics and science rankings by a substantial margin.
Countries declining in science besides Malaysia included Hungary, Macedonia, Norway, Sweden and Thailand.
The same countries also declined in mathematics, with the addition of Japan, Jordan, Romania and Tunisia.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sunday November 11, 2012

Challenges at the end


While teachers in the better classes should count their blessings, those managing the end classes have more on their plate besides putting up with the dismal attitude and apathy of their charges.

WHILE almost every school teacher in the country is relieved that the term has nearly ended and that the school holidays are only a few days away, there are definitely some who are more relieved than the others.

Quite possibly at the top end of this “more-relieved-than-you” list are those who have had to endure a gruelling year of being the form teacher of an “end” class.

Teachers who have never worked anywhere other than high-performance schools with minimal discipline problems may never truly appreciate what the position of “class-teacher to the end class” really means.

In fact, the end-class in their schools may very well be equal to the most advanced class in another school.

The plain truth is no matter which way you look at it, and all else being equal, class teachers of the end classes definitely have more on their plates compared to those of the better academic achievers.

This is a fact that can be verified by most teachers who have in their years of service been class teachers at both ends.

Sometimes the status of a class, or which “end” it belongs to, is pretty obvious by its physical app-earance.

Reason to rejoice

The ambience when you enter to teach students in the first or most advanced class at times can actually cause delight. Chairs and tables are in perfect order and students in crisp neat uniforms.

All the boys have their shirts perfectly tucked in, “correct” hair length, and ties in place. The classroom notice boards are testimonies of the students’ creativity and achievements. The class motto is emblazoned on the smudge-free walls with little messages of inspiration tucked in between.

The teacher’s table has a very nice fake-lace tablecloth and there is even a little vase of silk gardenias at the corner. The floor looks clean and the waste paper baskets have been emptied. Everyone stands up promptly to greet you when you enter with looks of such earnest expectation that at that very moment, you are convinced that you are truly fulfilling your life’s calling.

If you have had the good fortune to be the class teacher of this class for the year you have even more reason to rejoice. You never have to worry about your class being given the lowest marks when the “class cleanliness” patrol team makes its rounds.

You never have to cringe with embarrassment during school assemblies when the name of your class keeps popping up for various “achievements” like “untidiest class of the week”, “class that hasn’t settled it’s magazine fund”, “class that hasn’t submitted parental consent form”, “class that left all its lights and fans on after school”, “class where cigarette stubs were found” and the list goes on.

Oh no! You never have to worry about these things at all.

If you are the class teacher of the first class, then all you have to worry about is how to disguise your feeling of smugness and fake a modest smile when you go up to receive trophies for achievement on behalf of your class.

A different turn

If you have been designated class teacher of the end class however, things take an entirely different turn.

One of the first things you would have to learn is to take deep breaths or focus on how to maintain an air of calm each time you have to face your students.

In fact, there may be times when you were walking towards the class you hope certain students who generally give you a rough time during the lesson have not turned up in school that day.

But no such luck, because even as you enter the class you see one of them standing on his desk with a broom in his hand trying to touch the ceiling fan. (He tells you later that he was trying to make it go faster, the weather being so hot and all).

His friend the other student who makes you wonder why you signed up for retirement at 60 (instead of sensibly sticking to 55), is surrounded by a group of admiring classmates as he demonstrates the right way to make a cockroach (the one he caught from the overflowing dustbin) go up and down your arm!

Nobody stands up when you enter. In fact, they haven’t even noticed that you have entered the classroom.

After several vain attempts to awaken the monitor who is sprawled over his desk deep in sleep, you give up and ask them if they had had any problems with the previous day’s homework.

All of them shake their heads even though they have no idea what you are talking about.

You proceed with the day’s lessons. You tell them to take out exercise book 1.

They begin to dig deeply into their bags and some of them manage to find the book.

It’s a bit tattered to be sure and much thinner than any exercise book has a right to be, but well, when you are in the end class, you have to be grateful for the little things in life.

Like the fact that they do have an exercise book for your subject even if some of the pages have been used for History notes (you don’t teach History) and others for song lyrics!

If you are the form teacher of this particular class, your ordeal doesn’t end when you leave the class. Class ordeal

Apart from having to send the many letters to parents regarding their children missing school or other discipline problems, which can take up a large amount of your time considering the number of classes you have, you may have to single-handedly be responsible for the cleanliness and order of your classroom.

The duty roster seems to have vanished from the notice board and nobody admits to it being their turn to sweep the floor or arrange the desks.

At times you wonder how they can sit and continue animated conversations with each other in the midst of what looks like a rubbish dump instead of a classroom

Other problems include general untidiness, usually too-long hair (for boys) and too short skirts (for girls).

It is at times, almost impossible to collect completed student forms when you need them and often you end up doing the job for them just to meet deadlines.

The thing about your class that actually fills you with the most dismay sometimes is their apathetic nature and careless attitude towards life in general.

It is this, rather than the lack of academic achievement that teachers of these classes are generally concerned about.

This sometimes leads to frustration which makes us feel unfulfilled and almost envious of teachers of classes who seem to be reaping glorious academic harvests.

Sometime we wonder whether our students’ attitudes are the way they are because they belong to classes at the end, or whether they are in the end classes because of their attitudes. The cycle seems to be vicious.

We sigh with relief knowing that usually the school policy shifts from teachers at both ends in alternate years, and chances are that you will be having a more “advanced” class next year.

However, we can’t seem to shake off the uneasy feeling about whether we could have done something more to instil some sense of pride and self-esteem among such students to make a change.

Next year we tell ourselves, there is always next year!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


KUALA LUMPUR - Sistem satu sesi persekolahan dijangka dapat dilaksanakan sepenuhnya di seluruh negara dalam tempoh lima hingga 10 tahun, kata Timbalan Perdana Menteri Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin hari ini.
Muhyiddin yang juga Menteri Pelajaran berkata, buat masa sekarang, kurang 20 peratus daripada keseluruhan sekolah di seluruh negara yang masih mengamalkan sistem persekolahan dua sesi.
Katanya sejak sekian lama, kerajaan mahu melaksanakan sistem satu sesi di seluruh negara kerana ia lebih sesuai untuk pembelajaran di negara ini tetapi perlu menambah bilangan bilik darjah dan mengatasi masalah kekurangan guru.
"Bilangan bilik darjah jadi masalah kerana di sesetengah tempat kita tidak meramalkan bilangan pelajar meningkat dengan begitu besar sekali. Jadi, terpaksa diadakan dua sesi iaitu pagi dan petang," katanya kepada pemberita selepas membuat tinjauan peperiksaan Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Gombak Setia, di sini.
Muhyiddin berkata, pelaksanaan sistem persekolahan satu sesi penting kerana tempoh masa boleh dilanjutkan dengan menambah satu atau dua jam untuk mata pelajaran Matematik, Sains atau Bahasa Inggeris.
"Itu mudah dilakukan kerana mereka tidak perlu pulang lebih awal seperti yang dilakukan oleh sekolah-sekolah swasta. Aktiviti kokurikulum juga dapat diadakan pada waktu petang sekiranya sistem persekolahan satu sistem dilaksanakan," katanya.
Muhyiddin berkata Laporan Awal Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia 2013-2025 juga mensasarkan pelaksanaan sistem persekolahan satu sesi sepenuhnya sekiranya mendapat peruntukan yang besar.
Dalam perkembangan lain, beliau berkata peperiksaan bagi pelajar Tingkatan Tiga akan dibuat melalui penilaian sistem Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (SBA) apabila PMR dimansuhkan pada 2014.
Muhyiddin berkata selepas ini, hanya ada dua peperiksaan utama diadakan iaitu Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) pada peringkat rendah dan Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) pada peringkat menengah.
"Setiap pelajar masih boleh diukur tahap pencapaian pelajaran mereka menerusi peperiksaan SBA yang dikendalikan oleh sekolah. Tetapi, ia masih lagi dipantau oleh Lembaga Peperiksaan agar soalan yang disediakan itu berkualiti dan dapat ukur kejayaan pelajar," jelas beliau.
Muhyiddin berkata, langkah ini juga membolehkan ibu bapa mendapat maklumat terkini prestasi anak mereka dalam menguasai bidang pelajaran mereka.
Mengulas lanjut, beliau berkata pengambilan pelajar tingkatan empat ke sekolah berasrama penuh dan Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) tidak akan dihentikan walaupun PMR akan dimansuhkan pada 2014.
"Pelajar cemerlang dan latar belakang ibu bapa yang miskin akan diberi keutamaan untuk mendapat tempat di sekolah berasrama penuh dan ini telah dimulakan sejak tahun lepas," katanya.
Seramai 481,424 calon menduduki PMR di 3,560 pusat peperiksaan di seluruh negara mulai Isnin lepas hingga 16 Oktober ini. - Bernama


Friday, September 28, 2012




Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M)
  • RM500 cash for households with combined income of RM3,000 or less
  • RM250 cash for unmarried individuals who are 21 and above and earning RM2,000 and below

  • RM591 million for crime prevention
  • 1,000 motorcycles for the police neighbourhood patrol unit.
  • Additional 10,000 volunteer police
  • 496 CCTV in 25 local councils
  • RM10,000 grants for neighbourhood associations for patrols
  • New uniforms for 300,000 Rela members
  • Incentives for companies that install security systems
  • Additional 150 staff for Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)
  • RM20 million for legal aid

Education and labour
  • RM1 bil to improve school infrastructure
  • RM1.2 bil for pre-schools under government programmes including Permata
  • RM10,000 launching grants for private pre-school operators
  • Five-year tax holiday and building allowance for pre-school operators
  • Six pilot pre-schools for the disabled
  • RM3.7 bil for vocational training
  • Additional allocation of RM500 million for training of teachers in core subjects: Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science and Maths
  • Free health checks, twice a year, for Perkeso members

*RM38.7bil to improve quality of education in the country with an additional RM500mil to training teachers in the core subjects of English, Bahasa Malaysia, Science and Maths.

*Tax-free incentives and grants for setting up of new nurseries and kindergartens. RM1.2bil allocation for pre-school development

*Total of 1bil to upgrade schools - RM400mil for national schools, and RM100mil each for Chinese, Tamil, mission, religious, boarding schools and MRSM

*RM1bil fund to be set up to help bumiputra SMEs to increase their equity share in the economy

*Minimum pension to be increased to RM820 for those who had served govt for at least 25 years. More than 50,000 pensioners afftected.

*Government will establish the Graduate Employability Taskforce with an allocation of RM200mil to strengthen employability of unemployed graduates under Graduate Employability Blueprint by end-2012

*The Government will allocate RM440 million to the Skills Development Fund Corporation (PTPK), to provide loans for trainees to undergo skills training

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sample Answer (Step by Wicked Step)

Sample Question:
Choose a character that you admire from a novel that you have learned in Form 5. With close reference to the text, give reasons to support your answer.

I choose the novel Step by Wicked Step, written by Anne Fine. The character that I admire is Claudia. There are many reasons why I admire her very much.

First of all, I admire Claudia because she is a gentle person. Listening to Richard's sad story, makes her weep. Besides, she is loyal to her mother. She tries not to sound too happy when speaking to her father because she does not want to hurt her mother's feeling. She rejects Stella and refuses to enjoy her time with her father out of loyalty to her mother. She knows that her parents break-up is serious even though her mother sounded cheerful.

Apart from that, I really admire Claudia because she is a fair and sensible person. She does not blame Stella for her parents' break-up. At the dinner party, she thinks that the guests are rude for not appreciating Stella's hard work. She realizes that ignoring Stella would not help solving matters between her parents. Feeling sorry for Stella who is being ignored by the guests, she decides to help her get accepted by showing off the green pyjamas which Stella gave her.

In a nutshell, the character that I admire from Step by Wicked Step is Claudia because she is gentle, loyal, fair and sensible. I think we could learn a lot from her character.

Step by wicked Step

Step By Wicked Step

It is a wild and stormy night when five British school children from Mordanger School arrive ahead of their classmates for a week-long field trip at “haunted” Old Harwick Hall. With the aid of flashes of lightning, the two girls Claudia and Pixie and three boys, Robbo, Ralph and Colin find a long-abandoned secret room containing a mysterious journal. On the cover, it reads, ‘ Richard Clayton Harwick – My Story. Read and Weep’. From the journal, the children uncover the story of a boy who runs away from the sinister influence of a loveless stepfather. Richard Clayton Harwick’s longhidden journal provides an inner tale that triggers off, one by one, each of the stories of
the listening children, all of whom also have “steps,” or step-parents, to share their own sagas. And what engrossing, heart-rending stories they are: of hurting but still humorous children picking their way through a minefield of embittered or uncommunicative or just plain immature parents, insecure or reluctant step parents and resentful step siblings. However, the lack of a principal plot is of no consequence as the novel main purpose is to serve as a forum for the various stories. “Step by Wicked Step” proves that all pain eventually heals and that we have the power to change things
for the better.

This novel is really five stories within a story that are induced by a story, like a nesting puzzle. So, we have six stories in the book. There may be a lack of a principal plot here but it is of no consequence as the novel’s main purpose is to serve as a forum for six various stories of Richard Clayton Harwick, Claudia, Colin, Ralph, Pixie and Robbo. In Step by Wicked Step, five boys and girls find themselves in an old house on a stormy night. In a hidden tower room they discover an old diary of Richard Clayton Harwick, who left behind a journal account of his wicked stepfather. “Read and Weep,’ says the spidery writing on the cover of the book.

After Richard Clayton Harwick’s father passes away, he was sent to Mordanger School for four long years. He wishes to burn Mordanger to ‘ashes’ as to him, ‘there’s no meaner place on earth’ than this boarding school. When he returns to Old Harwick Hall, he could not get along with his wicked and loveless stepfather, Reverend Coldstone. Being ‘robbed of all his precious tokens’ from home, Richard makes the decision to leave and become a cabin boy when ‘a great ship strains at the tide’. His decision has caused anguish in his mother and sister, who have spent a fortune seeking his return. He did not return to see his mother or sister until he read a square print from Riddle & Flook which requested him to claim his ownership to Old Harwick Hall. By then, Richard knows that his stepfather, mother and sister have passed on. Only then, he realises his decision to leave has changed the lives of his family members.

Harwick’s story prompts Claudia, Colin, Ralph, Pixie and Robbo to tell their own tales of stepfathers, stepmothers, and stepsiblings, who are in turn eccentric, beloved, unwelcome, and almost always misunderstood. Each vignette* is a wonderful study of human nature. As the lightning flashes, the children begin to relate their own tales of step parents, stories that are full of warmth and humour, yet with a fair share of sadness. At first it seems the children could have nothing in common. Sports-mad Robbo, quick-witted Ralph, sensible Claudia, fiery Pixie and dreamy Colin seem as different to each other as it is possible to be. Yet they soon find they have one thing in common, and that they are all the products of broken homes and they once have a turbulent relationship with a ‘step-’ or ‘steps-’ Below are the five stories in ‘steps by wicked steps’ spin off from Richard Clayton Harwick’s ‘My Story. Read and Weep’. As Ralph says, “Stories don’t have to be written,’ he reminded Claudia. ‘ This is the night for stories. Off you go,’ he reiterated.

*vignette – n. /vin-‘yet, v n-/ descriptive passage within ѐ a larger work
(French, “little vine”)

Chapter 1

On a wild and stormy night, five students, Claudia, Colin, Ralph, Pixie and Robbo, are sent ahead on a school trip to Old Harwick Hall. Instead of taking the school bus with Miss O’Dell and their other friends, they have to ride on a minibus with Mr. Plumley, one of their accompanying teachers, to their destination. After arriving, they explore the building and find an old, hexagonal tower room with five beds in it. In the dark of the night, with no electricity due to the raging storm, Colin spots a door which leads to an old, abandoned room where they discover a diary of a young boy by the name of Richard Clayton Harwick. Prior to reading the diary, they wonder why they are put together in the minibus. They achieved the answer after eavesdropping on Miss O’Dell and Mr. Plumley’s conversation – on Miss O’Dell’s list, their names had ticks which indicate that they each had two different addresses on their permission slips, one for their mother’s home and one for their father’s home. Each child comes from a divorced family. Alas, Pixie reads Richard’s diary out loud for the other children to hear.

Chapter 2

Richard Clayton Harwick’s father is ill and this worries everyone in Harwick Hall. Before his death, he tells Richard to take care of his mother and sister, Lilith and Charlotte Harwick. After that, Richard not only feels sad for his father’s death, but also because his father had only thought of his mother and sister instead of him until the end of his life. Later in the story, Lilith marries Reverend Coldstone, a priest who is cruel towards Richard but is very nice towards Charlotte. Richard is then sent to a boarding school called Mordanger School, where he is treated like a prisoner. He then decides to run away and sail all over the world. He comes back twice to Harwick Hall but never bothers to enter it or meet his mother and sister. He finally returns home after reading a print which states that solicitors have something to his advantage back home, discovering from a letter Charlotte had written before her death, that his family had been searching for him until the end of their lives and how Reverend Coldstone had turned out to be a very bad man. He then runs away forever, leaving his green diary in his room.

Chapter 3 – Claudia’s Story: Green Pyjamas

Claudia starts telling her story to the other children: Claudia’s parents quarrel a lot until her father decides to take his things and move away to his mother’s house. One night, there is a flood of phone calls, and for the first time, Claudia hears the name Stella, her dad’s new girlfriend. After that night, Claudia’s dad dare not visit nor come near the house anymore, but only talks to Claudia over the phone. On Boxing Day, Claudia meets Stella for the first time and thinks that Stella is a plain and mousy person. After a row with his mother, Claudia’s dad then moves into Stella’s house. Later, Stella gives Claudia a pair of beautiful green pyjamas as a late Christmas present even though Claudia is always rude and mean to her. One evening, Claudia’s dad and Stella holds a dinner party to celebrate his thirty-seventh birthday. During the dinner, Claudia’s dad’s friends ignores Stella as they think that by doing so they would be loyal to Claudia’s mum. Claudia felt sorry and went downstairs to thank her for the green pyjamas and thus making her point to the dinner guests that Stella is a wonderful person.

Chapter 5 – Ralph’s Story: A Tale of Three Stepmothers

Claudia Ralph has two brothers, two half-brothers, one half-sister, three stepbrothers, one stepsister,three stepmothers, one stepfather, two step-grandmothers and a step-grandfather. Living in a big family is no joke. After school on Mondays and Thursdays, he goes directly to Dad’s place. His mum or his step dad,Howard sends him. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he goes straight to his Mum’s place. At times,he will be lost not knowing where to go. The lunchboxes help. M for Mickey Mouse and Mum, D for Dumbo and Dad. If he is lost, he has to look at his lunch box to confirm his destination. Edward and George are his brothers. The boys liked Annabel, stepmother No. 1. The only problem was she never left the boys alone with their dad.Edward and George hated this. Dad and Annabel spent all their time kissing and cuddling. Annabel was always on a diet. She disapproved of coffee. So the boys had to drink Dandelion tea every morning. She loved to read out her star sign forecast in the mornings and again in the evenings. Sometimes, she even tried to look at Edward and George to tell their aura. However, the boys would deny anything she said.Yet, their dad would not feel embarrassed.One day, Brandy, Ralph’s cat was sent over as their Mum was varnishing the hall. The three boys took Brandy in a cage. Edward had made it from a broken milk bottle crate and bits of wire. Annabel was annoyed and blamed them to be cruel as Brandy did not have room to breathe. Dad distracted her by pointing out that they were out of bread. Annabel insisted in baking. The poor boys were starving to death.So, they went to the shops. They boys ate three large loaves and before they came home, they brushed away the crumbs. Dad was praising of how the dough had risen.When Annabel left it on the table, Brandy leapt up on the table and sniffed the dough. Then, Brandy lift edits paw and patted the dough. Next, Brandy curled himself comfortably into the dough. Annabel went mad.Dad tried to stick up for Brandy. The spell between Annabel and Dad was broken. In the end, Annabel ranoff with someone and Dad searched high and low to get the divorce papers signed.The boys did not miss her as she was more of dad’s girlfriend than a real stepmother.Dad then focused his attention on Janet, who was more keen on rules. However, Dad liked it. Edward and George did not mind as they were able to spend ample time with Dad. On the other hand, Janet was busy rushing her children to the doctors, dentist and school.
Janet’s own children, Tom, Joe and Doug and Ann moved in with the three boys.Tom and Ann could get along with Ralph but not Joe and Doug. Mum and Howard though Janet was wonderful. Janet could draw up proper schedule and Mum hardly bothered as she found Janet was easy to deal with. Due to the rules, Ralph knew he could pick up rules in no time if he was ever anywhere. Finally Janet left. She got fed up with Mum and Dad as they were taking advantage of her. Dad kept fixing up work trips on the days the boys were there. He told Janet that she had four children and another three would not make any difference.Mum started sneaking Victor’s romper suit hoping that Janet would come across them and get the stains out before sending them back. So, Janet left. The boys had a wonderful time after that. Unfortunately, it was only for a short period of time. Stepmother Number 3, Flora, came into the picture. Edward met herlying on Dad’s patio with hardly any clothes on. She had the cheek to tell Edward to cover up as she was enjoying the sun. George met Flora when they went shopping. Flora was dumping treats like strawberries,kiwi fruits, waffles, Belgian chocolates into the trolley. Dad was looking into the wallet, gloomily. Ralph went the next day. When he rang the bell, Flora opened and enquired. Ralph introduced himself. Flora blew her top as she did want to be a nanny. She took Ralph out for a Chinese Dinner and to watch a film. Then she met some friends and went to a coffee bar. At that time, Ralph informed his Dad of their whereabouts.Dad was furious and scolded Flora. Flora was cool and told him not to dump the children on her before checking her schedule. Ralph thought she was wonderful although she did all sorts of terrible things to him.Flora was pregnant and she ate only mint sauce sandwiches. Ralph was worried that his half sister or half brother would not be well taken care off by Flora. She did not know how and Ralph decided to help her out.The others usually teased Ralph. Most probably, Flora would settle in with this family.

Plot summary-A group of children are spending the night in the creepy Old Harwick Hall, as part of a school trip. They are placed into certain groups, and Claudia, Colin, Ralph, Pixie and Robbo find themselves together. None of the group members are really best friends, but throughout the night they discover a secret that the old mansion has kept hidden for years, and they suddenly find themselves coming closer together and discovering why they were put in a group with each other. They are all wondering why they are put together, when they discover that they each had two different addresses on their permission slips, one for their mother’s home and one for their father’s home. Each child comes from a divorced family. At least one of their parents has married again. Some children have to deal with either stepbrothers, stepsisters, or blood related siblings. They each in turn tell each other about how their parents broke up. It uncovers many mysterious questions.

This novel is a tale that is both funny and moving. Five children are stranded together for the night in a tower of creepy, dark old Harwick Hall. In that stormy night, the children uncover the story of Richard Clayton Harwick which is very disturbing. It is a tale of a boy who of many years ago learned what it was like to have a truly wicked stepfather.
Richard Clayton Harwick’s long hidden journal provides an inner tale that triggers off, one by one, each of the stories of the listening children. It turns out eventually that they all have step parents, some kind, some bad, some just plain wrong and so they tell each other their stories. After listening to Richard’s story, each of the five tells his or her own. Their stories are powerful and intensely moving tales of children struggling with change and shifting family conditions.
Claudia’s story shows things well on the way to a happy ending. Claudia feels disloyal to her mum whenever she has a good time with her father and his new girlfriend, Stella. Thus, she is unfriendly towards Stella. Finally, in front of her Dad’s friends who are rude to Stella, she compliments Stella and makes everyone notice the lady.
Colin’s story is moving. Colin’s seems the saddest. He had someone he thought of as his father and now he misses him so badly that it hurts. Colin’s mother leaves the only father Colin has known, a man she lived with for many years, and in her attempt to create a new life for herself does not see that Colin has been torn from a man he loves. Colin loves his stepfather, but hasn’t seen him for five years, and is obsessively determined to find him.
Ralph’s story, though merry, is as complicated as a maze. He has three stepmothers to deal with. All of them are different in their ways. In addition, he has a lot of stepbrothers, stepsisters, half brother and half sisters to accept in his life. Ralph cannot keep track of which parent’s house he should go to after school each day, so his parents develop a lunchbox system: the Dumbo lunchbox means Dad’s house after school; the Mickey Mouse one directs him to his mother’s.Towards the end, we can see that he is anxiously waiting for his little half sister or half brother to be born.
Pixie has to deal with two really irritating sisters. She hates to go over her dad’s house twice in a month. She feels that everyone is pretending to be in a happy family when thay are actually not. She has to deal with two really irritating stepsisters and father who pretends he doesn’t notice how difficult things are for her. Soon, Pixie discovers that her stepmother and stepsisters aren’t any happier about the situation than she is. She learns to adapt to the situation. One of her step sisters teaches her mathematics and in return she tells ghost stories.
Robbo and his sister, Callie find that their half sister, Dumpa is the problem. Both their Mum and stepfather, Roy keep on arguing. The arguments are mainly due to Callie.  Callie never seems to see eye to eye with Roy. Both Mum and Roy are committed with each other just because of Dumpa, their three year old son. Eventually, Callie moves out to her Dad’s place and that solves the problem.
Each of their stories is different, but through the act of telling, and through the responses of the other children, each one learns more about his or her life.

Colin’s Story: The Bluebird of Happiness
Colin and his mother left his father when he was a few weeks’ old. His mother takes up with a person whom he thinks of as his father. However, his immature mother also leaves this stepdad after a while. Now he misses him so badly that it hurts.
Ralph’s Story: A Tale of Three Stepmothers
Ralph’s life, though merry, is as complicated as a maze as he has three stepmothers and many stepfamily
Claudia’s Story: Green Pyjamas
After Claudia’s parents’ divorce, Dad finds a girlfriend, Stella. Claudia feels disloyal to her mum whenever she has a good time with her father and his new girlfriend. Even though Stella tries her best to be accepted by Claudia and her daddy’s friends, she is being ignored. Finally, Claudia realises her rudeness and she comes out of her closet by wearing the green pyjamas given by Stella.
Pixie’s Story: The Pains in my Life
Pixie has to deal with two really irritating stepsisters and a father who pretends he doesn’t notice how difficult things are for her. One day her stepmother (Lucy) and Pixie have a fight. They pour out their frustrations. Only then they realise that it is all because of Pixie’s father who is “selfish’, ‘always pretending he didn’t notice things’, and leaving them for Lucy to sort out the mess.
Robbo’s Story: Dumpa’s the Problem
Robbo and his sister, Callie always think that the birth of their stepbrother, Dumpa has caused numerous problems between them and their step father, Roy. When the relationship between Robbo’s mother and Roy is on the rock, Robbo realises that Roy does not move on because Dumpa’s the problem. Finally, Robbo realises that his mother is always stuck in between when Callie and Roy quarrel. This has caused mum and
Robbo’s stepfather to be upset.

Name of characterDescriptions/ Attributes/ Personality
RobboSchool pupil, sports-mad especially football
RalphSchool pupil, quick-witted, hardworking and occasionally likes to intercept impolitely during a conversation
ColinSchool pupil, longs to be reunited with his stepdad, dreamy as ‘he drifts through the hours of each school day as if his thoughts were hundreds of miles away’ and this ‘ drove his teachers to despair’
ClaudiaSteady, sensible, did not get along well with her stepmother at the beginning
PixieFiery, a good reader, selfish
Richard Clayton HarwickOwner of Old Harwick Hall, lost his father at a very young age. His mother remarries the priest, Reverend Coldstone whose wrath Richard cannot stand. He runs away, without knowing that he has made a decision that will change three lives; his stepfather’s, mother’s and sister’s. When he inherits Old Harwick Hall, he has lost his three closest members of the family.
Rev. ColdstoneRichard’s wicked stepfather, strict and cold-hearted
Mr. PlumleyA staff of the school who accompanies the children to Old Harwick Hall
Miss O’ DellThe school teacher who picks five of the children on a trip aftera quick glance at her list.
Mr. DigbyGardener at the Harwick’s household
LucyMaid at the Harwick’s household
Charlotte RichardClayton Harwick’s sister.

1. Claudia’s Story : Green Pyjamas
  • · Dad’s girlfriend, Stella, who is a cook
2. Colin’s Story : The Bluebird ofHappiness
  • · Colin’s immature mother
  • · Colin’s endearing stepdad (Jack ) who calls him many nicknames.
3. Ralph’s Story : A Tale of ThreeStepmothers
  • · First stepmother, Annabelle
  • · Second stepmother, Janet
  • · Third stepmother, Flora
  • · Stepdad, Howard
4. Pixie’s Story : The Pains in myLife
  • · Pixie’s stepmother, Lucy
  • · Two stepsisters , Sophie and Hetty Payne
  • · Pixie’s dad, whose lackadaisical attitude towards his family makes things difficult for the family to come together as a happy one.
5. Robbo’s Story: Dumpa’s theProblem
  • · Roy ( a.k.a The Beard), Robbo’s step dad.
  • · Callie, Robbo’s sister who hates The Beard
  • · Dumpa, Robbo’s newly born step brother
  • · Robbo’s mum, Hope


Family unity
The nucleus of moral values, “the family unit,” is being invaded by outsiders (‘step’ or ‘steps’) and this causes disharmony.
Dealing with adversities
Young children and adults may find difficulties dealing with frustrations, fears and sadness.
Being happy
‘Life has dealt us one hard blow, there is no reason for us to be unhappy for ever’. For example, Claudia realises it is not fair to hate her new stepmother, Stella.
Think long enough before making a decision
Richard Harwick made a rash decision to run away and that had changed the lives of his stepfather, mother and sister.
Sibling rivalry
Resentful step-siblings cause burden and hostility in a home.
Coping with change
All pain eventually heals and that we have the power to change things for the better.
Being brave
Characters like Claudia and Pixie are brave as they confess to their own rotten behaviour.
Dealing with Separation and Divorce
It deals with a social phenomenon that many people are experiencing, the idea of a divorce
as somehow horrible. Separation and divorce, and the events leading up to them, interrupts the stability and predictability that children need.

1. It is important that children should tell their parents about their real feelings and vice versa.
2. One has to be brave when facing adversities.
3. We must not judge someone without knowing all the facts. We should weigh our pros or cons, and study the facts.
4. Adults or parents should be more thoughtful in making decision as it would affect the lives of their children.

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