Argument

One leaf in the corner of the garden. It definitely has a story to tell.

I was looking at a Social Media exchange about a secondary school in another part of the country. Parents were discussing how good the place was or wasn’t. Clearly it was quite a heated exchange. On one side you had comments like

It’s a great school…

Look at the grades the kids get…

It gets fantastic OFSTED ratings…

My daughter is likely to get straight A’s thanks to the teaching…

I love the school. It has discipline and look at the results it gets…

My daughter won an award for Drama because the school pushed her…

Fantastic teachers,

You always get a minority who are never happy…

Well if your not happy take your child to another school

Well homeschool then, miss out on the special treatment you son gets then…

And on the other hand you got comments like…

My child has just been dumped in the bottom class,

The teachers don’t care,

My daughter is getting no help, just left to fall behind,

My son keeps quiet and doesn’t cause any trouble in class. Wish he did as the teacher might start spending some time with him,

I’m not sure the teachers even want to know that he has ADHD,

School is not bothered that my son is scheduled to get no grades,

It is useless at helping kids out who have special needs.

That last line gives the basis of the argument away. The English School System provides one model of teaching for all pupils. It works for some kids but unfortunately a few too many are left behind. Increasingly special education is seen as a distraction to the main school function. An unnecessary drain on resources. You see articles in the Press basically talking about those children getting funding to cover additional needs as a gravy train for parents. That approach mirrors government thinking. Yes schools are given some targets for educational need but a school that fail in this area can still be seen as Excellent. The key is hitting the limited exam, performance management, how well they stick to the curriculum and the financial targets set for them.

I bet you can guess what side of the argument I would have been on. But I would add one important thing. All schools have good, dedicated teachers. Teachers who care. But they can’t provide for those children with additional educational needs when they are hamstrung by government. Where they are undervalued and trying to teach classes with up to 30 children crammed into them. With a set and unwieldy curriculum which must be strictly followed. I remember a conversation with school about computing. The teachers shared my frustration at having to teach Hawklad so much coding. Coding is a nightmare for dyslexics and some on the spectrum to learn. But they had to teach him that because it was a key part of the national curriculum set by government. Surely we can find a way of teaching all kids which offers the change to offer different learning routes depending on the individual.

A school can be excellent and at the same time fail to many of the next generation.

Well that’s sorted then

I was conscious that this Christmas will be different for us, different for Hawklad.

No end of school term activities and parties.

No Carol singing in the city while drinking hot chocolate.

No Santa Train ride. Ok we are doing our own car version.

No Charity Santa coming through the village on a trailer pulled by a tractor.

No festive walks along the beach and finishing off at a little cafe for his festive ice cream.

No visits to friends.

No family meet-ups.

No trips to the Christmas Market.

No trip to the zoo in New Years Day.

No family Christmas meal.

No Boxing Day walk with picnic.

No festive trip to the cinema to see a blockbuster and then whatever festive film they have showing.

No carol singers coming round the houses on Christmas Eve.

Basically it will be just the two of us and pets. Sticking to the house and garden. Maybe only one trip out to do the Santa Car ride. I was feeling bad about that so I brought it up with Hawklad. I explained the differences to him

……. so it’s going to be really different this year. How do you feel about that Hawklad?

“So no family at all?”

None!

“Absolutely no visitors?”

None!

“No festive trips out?”

It doesn’t look like it.

Dad, can we order in extra pizza over Christmas?”

Yes Son.

“Well that will be just fine then…….”

Wilderness

One of my sister lives about 30 minutes drive in that direction. During 2020 it might as well have been 1000 miles. No chance of seeing her.

Where we live always feels like it’s so cut off from the world. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that a city is not that far a drive away. It’s one of those rare cities that hasn’t allowed any high rise buildings. It hides easily away on the horizon.

That feeling of being cut off is helped by lack of kinks we have with the outside world. If you don’t want to use the car then it’s two small buses a day. Nothing on a Sunday. The village doesn’t have a pub, or cafe, or school, or shop. Not quite tumbleweed levels but definitely quiet and often feeling most definitely cut off. During a pandemic even the occasional rambler has become a real rarity. The only evidence that an outside world still exists is the fairly regular stream of passing cyclists. The challenge of climbing the steep hill to the village is attractive to those on two wheels. A climb I’ve not undertaken since a few weeks before the world changed for me in 2016.

A lots happened in those years. Thoughts of needing a sportier frame have morphed into ‘that ornament gathering dust is taking up too much space in the increasingly cramped garage’.

But things will change eventually. We won’t seem so cut off again. The bike will again become a means of transport. Trips to the city and my sister will recommence. Life will become connected again. Even for those living in the wilderness……

Decimal places

A lovely start to the day. Looks are deceiving. Over my shoulder was a mass of grey YUK rapidly heading towards us. And now…

Wet, cold, grey and just grisly.

Another thing which is grisly here is DECIMAL POINTS.

Hawklad is dyslexic. That’s both letters and NUMBERS. 4,6,7 and 9’s can be difficult for him. Somedays they are fine others not so good. This is so frustrating as he is really good at Maths.

Something which is never fine are those pesky DECIMAL POINTS. He just can’t process them. He can do really complex calculations yet struggles to do the simplest additions if you introduce DECIMALS. When it comes to schooling it’s just keeping those fingers crossed that DECIMALS just don’t appear. They can mess up Maths, Science, Geography and Computing lessons.

His Maths Assessment Scores fluctuate according to those pesky dots. His last score was 60% as there was a large section on rounding up decimals and standard notation. He did another paper yesterday. This time only one decimal appeared. From what I can see he got that question wrong but was perfect on the other 16 questions. That paper as a final in 2 and a half years time would be so cool for him.

Black Friday

Dad what on earth have you bought…”

Tibetan Singing Bowl Set — Easy to Play with Cushion & New Dual-End striker for Holistic Healing, Calming & Mindfulness ~ Antique Design

It’s a Tibetan Singing Bowl.

Why…..”

It was really cheap in a Black Friday sale.

Ok Dad but why….”

It offers a multi sensory path to enhanced meditation and spiritual enlightenment.

You’ve just read that from the label.”

Yep you busted me. It does sound good.

So does an 100 inch TV and that would be much more useful. ”

Yes but the TV would not be less than £10. So tomorrow you might catch me sat outside creating some beautiful vibrations and hypnotic, haunting moods.

Can I throw a bucket of water over you.”

What’s it feel like to have a really cool and hip Dad.

I wouldn’t know. I can talk about having a muppet as a parent.”

Ok, do you think I should just use it as an ornament.

“Yes Dad but that still doesn’t change the fact that you are a monumental muppet.”

No I guess it doesn’t, especially when you see what I’ve bought next…..

Back to normal

Do you ever have those moments in time that are just a little too busy. When lots of random events decide to bloom at exactly the same time. When life goes kinda mad. Well I’ve just had another one of those career defining epochs.

I was happily trying to cook tea. Pan boiling nicely. Grill turned on. Looking through the window at the washing gently drying on the outside clothes horse. Everything under control. Even time for a little air guitar listening to Kiss and then …..

For some reason the TV Speaker Bar kicked into life and decided to join in with the kitchen speaker and blast out Kiss. And I mean blast out. Deafening. It does have a mind of its own, definitely when it comes to Bluetooth. So I rushed to turn it off but couldn’t find the remote control (it doesn’t have any useful buttons on the speaker, apparently that is progress). Then a shout from the toilet…

Dad the toilet is blocked and flooding.

So I ditched trying to turn the music down and headed towards the toilet. The phone rang.

Can I phone you back, bit of a crisis here (having to shout above the music),

Running towards the toilet and the front doorbell rang.

Can you leave the parcel there ….. Apparently not and I had to sign for it. Definitely getting an evil look for listening to that type of music so loud.

Heading towards the toilet when the smoke alarm goes off. Run to the kitchen to find the grill was arc welding the once tasty food options. Turn off grill and throw the food embers outside. Then throw the smoke alarm out as well. That’s now happily screeching away on the lawn.

Head towards the toilet and the cat knocks the school iPad off the table. I try to catch it but fail. Check the damage. Screen looks slightly cracked.

Dad the toilet is flooded and I’m busting. Hawklad shouting over Kiss.

Head towards the kitchen sink to find the plunger only to find the pan was now boiling over and the top of the electric cooker is like a boating lake. Turn the pan off.

Dad I’m busting. The words almost lost amongst the dialled to 11 metal music.

Plunger now in hand. Front doorbell rings again. Can our postman leave a parcel for next door with me. Apparently he likes Kiss and went to see them 20 years ago.

Dad the cat is drinking the toilet water and I’m seriously busting.

Ten minutes later the toilet is working. Son isn’t busting anymore. Kiss is playing at less than 150 decibels. Soup has now replaced the wrecked food. I’ve got no idea who phoned. The smoke alarm is getting a free wash on the front lawn in a passing rain storm. As is the once almost dry washing.

Back to normal again.

Eat chocolate

I received a lovely present today in the post. The government support package for Hawklad will expire soon. So I need to reapply. Helpfully they have sent the 50 page application form to complete. I can’t submit the old paperwork and need to have more recent assessments and evidence. That’s a nightmare at the best of times but during a pandemic!!!!!!!

Only thing for it….. A bar of dark chocolate, a decaf coffee and listen to some angry music. Today’s choice, the latest from Roger Waters. That’s one seriously cheesed off artist recording those songs. That fits as that’s the music I would make today. Normal people are forced to jump through hoop after hoop for their kids yet friends of the Government are awarded multi million pound contracts without any due process. Roger Waters would certainly get the irony.

Well I then made a start. Book an appointment for a new assessment from a Paediatrician. On the waiting list. That’s currently a one year wait and growing. It’s a start…. Where’s the next chocolate bar.

But here’s the really scary thing. Our Son is fortunate as he has had some support. We somehow battled through the intentionally difficult minefield to get that. So many are either unsuccessful or are just missed. That’s the children, adult support is almost none existent. Discarded by our society that has its priorities so badly skewed. What’s the answer. Certainly to keep fighting. Most definitely to eat chocolate.

Perfect or imperfect

Just a little something to break up the dark greens, browns and greys. Definitely really appreciated. Si adorable…..

Dad why do they make French so difficult to learn. It feels like we are trying to build a fusion reactor some days. Not trying to describe what I did on a visit to a Paris Park.

Hawklad is so right. Yesterday he was given a long list of French words and asked to work out the correct endings for both Perfect and Imperfect tenses. How about first checking if the pupil actually knows the word first. Asking a dyslexic to write 40 words out perfectly (twice with slightly different endings) is like asking me to cook the perfect Soufflé. It isn’t happening and is basically a waste of time.

The problem is that in the UK teachers are not allowed to teach. They are basically just presenting what the Government tells them to say. The Government is not interested in pupils developing and growing. It’s all about passing one exam. Parrot Learning in the good old way Victorian children did. Only last month schools were instructed to not use any learning materials from sources which are considered to be anti-capitalist.

It’s really time to let Teachers teach and the Government can focus on governing. Oh hang on a minute – our Government can’t even do that properly.

Time to love Yorkshire

I put my hands up. I might poke a bit of fun at my county of birth. Well actually a lot. Yes the weather can be grim, the people can be a bit odd (me certainly included), we might be a little behind the cutting edge, probably spend too much time focusing on the past BUT….

It is a great place to live and visit. So much history, beautiful brooding landscapes, welcoming, diverse, a wonderful quirkiness and a place that has definitely left its mark on the world. So maybe every so often I should really show and tell the good about Yorkshire.

So here goes. I give you just a fraction of what Yorkshire has to offer.

Worth it

That was the backdrop to my early morning workout. So much better that grey, damp , gnarly mist.

At the end of the workout I was finishing off with 10 minutes tai chi when a couple of thoughts crossed my mind. Apart from ITS FREEZING and why on earth did I come outside in cycle shorts.

I thought about clearly looking like a complete Wally and also what my family would think if they could see me now. One of my sisters would be cool with it as she does yoga. The others not so sure. My brother would definitely mutter something involving the word ‘hippy’. My parents would have talked about the world clearly going completely mad. Their idea of a mindfulness workout would have just about stretched to putting on the kettle for a cup of Yorkshire Tea. It’s a Yorkshire thing. We have a saying here

If the country raises the threat level to national panic, Yorkshire would raise the threat level to ‘ put a mug of tea on’.

I guess we all have to find whatever works for us.

But that’s the thing. I’m not sure my parents ever really did. Too many people don’t. We still don’t talk about mental health enough. That has to change.

So tomorrow I will be outside and trying to master Tai Chi. I might look like a Wally but that’s fine with me. Trying to deal with mental health issues is so worth it.