Squall

Somedays you end up looking back more than you look forward….

That brief rain shower had passed through a earlier. A heavy squall but soon no evidence on the ground that it happened. Just a receding cloud on the horizon.

Yes it’s been one of those days.

Reflecting on life rather than looking forward. I know it’s not good for me. Can so easily descend into a world of full on melancholy Pink Floyd and Leonard Cohen lyrics.

I did try to refocus. Do stuff but so much is really working today. I even got a pencil and blank piece of paper out to write out some short term goals. An hour later no writing just a brown circle matching perfectly the base of the coffee cup which had found its way onto the paper.

Signs of a half empty coffee cup on a so called sheet of Hope…….

Pants…. gone all Leonard Cohen and Roger Waters on you already.

Yep somedays are like that….

But then I remember what is important. Truly important to me. I smile. Even on days like, the sun can shine.

Childhood

Do you remember when school holidays meant time off for our kids….

Hawklad and I received emails from school this morning. The emails set out the times of the upcoming year exams. Straight after the half term week holiday. The emails listed all the areas which each pupil are expected to cover in revision. The revision also includes mandatory online tasks that won’t be marked but will be monitored by teachers. All tasks are expected to be completed. The email stressed that they are expecting pupils to undertake significant work levels over the week off…..

To be fair to school they are only following Government guidelines and instructions. The Government has repeatedly spoken of its desire to increase the length of the school day and reduce the number of school holidays. It believes children have too much time off. They have it too easy…..

Parents will have differing views on this. I think you might be able to guess my take on this. I think it’s all BS…… Making pupils work harder and longer is just a smokescreen for covering up the failings of our current school system. Too many trumped up experts getting jobs as politicians, thinking they know best. It shouldn’t be about the quantity of teaching, it should be about the QUALITY of the education.

Ban politicians from education. Let teachers teach… Let Headmaster run the school. Involve the pupils and parents fully. Reverse the trend to test at every level just to populate government performance league tables. We are even testing 5 year olds for pity sake. If the politicians want to do something useful then they should concentrate on finding the resources to help specialists deal with the growing mental health crisis amongst our children.

And above all. Let children enjoy their childhood.

Early

On our trip out the other day it was interesting to see the change in the pace of life. Suddenly shop car parks are full again. All the outside tables are taken at pubs and cafes. The public buses are busy again. People are gathering in groups again. Masks being worn outside are much more of a rarity. Social distancing…. what social distancing.

Don’t get me wrong I’m as eager as anyone to see things open up again. I won’t say return to normal as that thought annoys me – was the old normal that good and why didn’t we seize the opportunity to build a better normal. Yes our vaccination programme being delivered by the brilliant NHS is going really well. But I’m anxious. Hearing the Government announce that the battle is almost won, just beggars belief. It’s not won until all countries get on top of this dreadful virus. It’s not won when we are still getting deaths each day. Still at 2000 new cases a day. In younger age groups the infections rates are rising. Even after a period of lockdown rates are still stubbornly high. Outbreaks of mutations including the really worrying Indian variant are rising. The vaccines are not 100 effective, we are not sure just how long they will stay effective across the population and the younger groups have not been vaccinated at all. The Young can get severe CovidI was reading that as many as 12% of children catching the virus are needing to be hospitalised or are suffering from Long Covid. That doesn’t sound like a war won.

But we start the process of relaxing the rules. Foreign holidays allowed soon. Large Crowds returning to sporting and cultural events without social distancing. The requirement to wear masks in schools in communal areas such as corridors is to be removed. Rules surrounding isolation after contact with a positive case to be dropped in favour of fairly regular resting. The message is clear from the top hence I’m not surprised that the majority of people are ditching the masks.

Yes I’m anxious. At the very least masks and social distancing should stay while the reopening goes ahead, until mutations and case numbers fall to really low levels. Until vaccination is a world wide reality. This all feels like a bit of a punt to me. I just hope luck is with us this time.

Going round the bend

As part of the long process of helping Hawklad building bridges back to the wider world, we ventured out in the car. Further this time. In to the city. To get a take out burger.

All went well until we hit the city. More car, more people. Even though he was in the safety of the car he was on edge but willing to push on.

Finally we arrived at the burger place. You will know the one. It’s got some whopper burgers. The plan was Hawklad to stay in the car while I ventured out to get the takeout. As soon as I left the car Hawklad panicked. So plan B. The drive through. I’ve never tried one of those but they seem super cool in the movies.

We joined the queue of cars and and snaked our way towards the intercom. With excitement we finally made it to the marked intercom bay.

I started to patiently wait for the helpful voice.

Dad what are you waiting for.”

I’m waiting for the person to speak to me,

Dad you don’t wait you just say the order out. Come on Dad the cars behind will start to get annoyed”

####Pants so I blurted out the order. NOTHING. Is that it. Do I drive off now####

Dad they didn’t hear you, shout the order louder”

#### So I did, really loud this time. This time Hawklad got the giggles####

Dad you are a muppet”

####And suddenly the intercom whirled into life – ‘afternoon can I take your order’.####

I’m definitely going round the bend.

Play

Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.

It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.

Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.

I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.

Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.

That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.

This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.

Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.

Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.

Call

The mobile phone is leading a charmed life. Yesterday it found its way into the garden refuse bin. Today as I weeded suddenly the little bucket next to me I was filling with weeds started playing music. Never been so thankful for one of those nuisance marketing call.

With the mobile safely back in my pocket. I got back on with the job of weeding.

Then another call. A work call. 60 minutes worth of …… what’s the word I’m looking for. I can think of a few, some I can even safely write down…

Boring

Dragging

Tiring

Fruitless

Frustrating

Dull

Monotonous

Wearisome

Mind-numbing

Soul-destroying

Insipid

Stupefying

After 60 minutes I was so tempted to switch the mobile off and voluntarily drop it back in the garden waste bin. I’m old enough to remember a time before mobile technology AND today I vote for going back to then….

Walking up the hill

Walking up the hill…

It’s hard work. Sometimes it seems never ending. But eventually the hill flattens out. You get there. There might be bigger hills or mountains surrounding you. But in that moment you can breathe. You can enjoy the moment. You can see clearly. See for miles.

The perfect place for a cheese sandwich, pasty, packet of crisps and a warming brew.😂😂😂

Today it feels like I’m not even half way up the latest hill. I’m tired. Feeling battered and worn down. Unsure of the direction. If anything it feels like I can’t chose the path. I’m being forced along one route which is probably not heading in the direction I want to.

But you know what. I like a good sandwich and a brew on top of a mountain. So I’m going to keep on trying to climb.

See you at the top.

Blinded by the light

Blinded by the light.

Ok which version is better Bruce Springsteen or Manfred Mann…..

The home at school project is rapidly feeling like it’s blinded by something. More lessons with no support or materials provided. More time spent trying to find any educational resources hidden on the confusing school system. Far fewer teachers making contact and trying to explain work requirements. When class materials are sent they are often only arriving at the end of lessons or hours late. Hardly any work feedback being sent back. Very few teachers checking in on Hawklad to see if it’s going ok.

Contacting school occasionally improves things for a lesson or two then things fall back again.

With national lockdowns, local school closures and family lockdowns its been over a year since Hawklads last in school classroom day. Maybe school have decided enough is enough. Falling in line with Government thinking. So with an imminent school return looking most unlikely, the educational future is so unclear. Blinded by something……

Mad

Blueberries just starting to develop.

It’s a mad world. A mad Britain.

So there are growing concerns over the use of the lateral flow rapid Covid tests. The Government has been pushing them in schools, forcing children to take them several times a week. The results available within minutes deemed perfectly robust as a basis of reopening schools. They worked so well that they were made available for free to everyone. I was sent 7 tests this week.

Then we here the the Governments own experts are questioning the accuracy of these quick results. They are potentially too unreliable to use on there own. Should be only used as a guide, a gateway to the more robust tests.

Then on Friday the Government talked about the frustration with testing. It’s keeping too many children and more importantly workers at home. To many false positives. Far too unreliable.

And today the Government announced that it will sanction a large scale indoor test event. A music concert with no social distancing and no masks. That’s 5000 people being used as guinea pigs. Anyone going would have to have a rapid Covid test the same day as the concert. Then the will have to be tested a few days afterwards…..

Can we make our mind up…..

Are we really happy to allow 5000 people to crowd together indoors as a number of troubling mutations are starting to take hold….

Are we happy that the only check is the unreliable test….

Are we happy that potentially clinically vulnerable and unvaccinated people and children are being used as test subjects…..

I remember the Government saying opening up for Christmas was perfectly safe. Just go and look at the death spike that caused. Do we remember just days before the first lockdown and the Government saying that it was safe to hold the countries largest horse racing festival. Studies have shown the large number of unnecessary deaths that lead to…..

Cracks

How easy is it to slip through the cracks.

It took too many years to get any support and help for Hawklad. A lot of important time during his key development years were missed. He was labelled with the following tags and descriptions…

A loner

Below average attainment

Having issues

Poor concentration

Under performer

Some discipline issues

Can’t sit still

Clumsy

Accident prone

Messy eater

Untidy

Behind national targets

Easily distracted

Needs to work on the basics

Does he need better discipline at home

Then it all changed when a group of Doctors and education experts finally issued a medical letter confirming

Aspergers

ADHD

Dyslexia

Dyspraxia

To get there was a nightmare. Yes it felt like a never ending slog. An ordeal. Constantly fighting the system. You end up doubting yourself. Are we just being pushy parents. Should we just fall back into line.

In the end our son was one of the lucky ones. Too many great kids don’t get the chance to shine. Wrote off. Misunderstood. They never get the support they need because they fell through the cracks in the system. A system which still has such poor levels of awareness, too many stereotypes, too few resources in specialised services.

It shouldn’t be like this.