Pink

Colour hanging grimly on in Yorkshire. This is an oasis surrounded by unremitting greyness.

Truly dreadful weather day. The wind has been blowing horizontal rain at the back door all day. Currently on the third towel trying to keep the utility room dry. It’s a bit of a losing battle. Let’s hope it’s the only losing battle today. I went to vote straight after the morning’s school run. Let’s leave it as that. Tomorrow will either be a hopeful post or a monumental rant of a post. You have been warned.

I’m writing this as son sits on the sofa watching a documentary on his tablet about Auschwitz. Yesterday he watched a few videos on the plight of the Palestinians. Puts everything into perspective. The fact that the youth of today watch this gives me hope for the future. Let’s hope we leave the next generation with a habitable planet so that they can mould a far better world.

With work for the day completed I set off for a run. Better described as a splash. Wow it was wet. After a few miles my poor hands were frozen so I foolishly put them in my waterproofs pockets for a warm. Rather than finding a haven of warmness they found a hidden pool of cold rain water. Lovely. I’m pleased that I opted for shorts. Not sure I fancied my leggings shrinking. My mind goes back to a mountain marathon during my university days. A six hour night drive to the Highlands of Scotland ready for the 9am race start. Everything was going so well until we arrived and changed for the race. I had forgotten my shorts. 30 minutes to the start time and the nearest sports shop was 20 miles away. The strange looks I was was getting as I walked around the runners saying ‘have you got a spare pair of shorts’. Looking like I would have to sit out the race when my race partner came to the rescue. ‘I can wear my shorts and you can try to use my leggings’. The problem was my partner was called Suzanne and she was somewhat more petite than me. To much laughter on her part I squeezed into the tight leggings. I was the only male competitor running in bright pink. It was also the only competitor that completed the race in with tears. Must admit the constrictor leggings did wonders for my dodgy hamstrings. But since then tight leggings have gone nowhere near my nether regions.

With my wet run completed it was a quick change and off on the school run. As a I arrived a very sodden Son trudged across the car park still in his sports gear. You could see him shaking with cold and the water dripping off his clothes. With the car heating full on he tried to get changed into his dry school uniform.

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“You’re drenched why didn’t you get changed out of your wet kit”

I didn’t want to risk it. We only get 5 minutes to change. If we are not out in that time you get a negative from the teacher.

Have any kids been given negatives”

Virtually every week at least one kid gets a negative. It’s unfair especially as it’s the last lesson of the day.

*****

And another telephone call will be made to school. Five minutes. When I played football it would take me at least 10 minutes to get changed. It took five minutes just to prize my constrictor pink leggings off my butt all those years ago. Five minutes sounds tight before you factor in Aspergers and Dyspraxia. Getting changed does not come easy to him. School have been told this on several occasions by me and in writing by the Paediatrician. So much for the school making positive adjustments to make his school life comfortable and enriching.

It’s the frustration felt by far too many children and their parents. Everything has to be fought for. It’s a battle to get a diagnosis in the first place then the real fight starts. Trying to get any positive adjustments and help. As much as the media try to paint a different story … we are not looking for special treatment … we just want our kids (all kids) to get a fair chance in life. Is that too much to ask for.

*** late addition *** it WILL be a monumental rant….

Time for punishment

After weeks of rain the clouds finally parted and reassuringly the sky is still blue. The sky is blue and the ground is still muddy.

Since it’s a day with a name that ends with DAY – it must be a day for another school moan. Don’t worry it will be the Christmas holidays soon and you will get a break from the rants – hopefully.

Next week our dyslexic son has to sit TWO spelling tests. One for English and one for DRAMA. That’s DRAMA. So to develop any Performing Arts talents he has to learn to spell words like

Melodrama, Exaggeration, Facial Expressions, Placards, Stock Character….

I guess when he wins his first Oscar in his acceptance speech he can thank these Spellings…..

Then we have the English Spelling Test. The weekly spelling test. This week he has 15 words to learn. Including such beauties as

Advertisement, Similarity, Persuade, Exaggeration, Testimonial, Alliteration….

All the class (regardless of individual spelling ability, regardless of dyslexia) have to spell the same words. The expectation is that you will get 100%. All it takes is a bit of effort. Hang on we need to raise the stakes just a bit higher. Anyone not getting at least 10 out of 15 exactly right will get a Negative. Four Negatives get you detention and much shame. It also rules you out of the end of year trip to the Fun Park/Zoo.

For F*#@ Sake.

This new penalty rule was introduced minutes before today’s test. One unfortunate student received his punishment. Our son managed 11 so survived. As he says he had to guess the ending of most words and was largely lucky today. But he’s a nervous wreck. Having seen this weeks words he’s convinced he has no chance. How can this be part of modern teaching. Oh I forgot our Government wants to return to Victorian values. Well they can all bugger off back to Victorian Times and leave us in peace.

On a side not I see our Prime Minister is avoiding being asked difficult questions so he has started sending his Dad to do some of his interviews. I’m not making this up. Well today a member of the public phoned in and basically said Johnson was like Pinocchio. His Dad then said mockingly “the British Public couldn’t even spell Pinocchio if they tried”. Well let’s try – Pinocchio.***** up yours you posh snob.

So what do we do. We have the weekend to think about it. I’ve offered son the day off if school insist on him sitting the test. At the moment he is saying that he will have to sit the test. He doesn’t want to be picked out as different. But that’s the problem with the current approach to handling dyslexia in the classroom. It’s the same as with Aspergers and the classroom. The approach is so fundamentally wrong.

Assume the child is low attainment.

Resist providing proactive support

Deliver one standard teaching programme for all kids – no variations

Put the onus on the child to put a hand up and ask for help – in front of all the other kids

Child doesn’t put the hand up so assume everything is fine

Watch child struggle in tests and class work

Confirm assessment that child is low attainment

One final thought. It’s ok to penalise the kids but what about those leading us. Our School Minister – Remember him he’s the lovely chap who thought kids having time off for bereavement was like “an extended holiday” – was asked a grammar question he was expecting school kids to get right. Guess what the numpty got it wrong. So maybe he should get a negative and be barred with running our schools. That is one punishment I can agree to.

More rain

And still it rains. And rains. And rains.

And still it rains at school.

French Homework is to complete a crossword. A French Crossword. Marks will be deducted for incorrect spellings.

Dad I can’t even do a crossword in English never mind French. I can remember the sounds but I can’t spell the words. The Teacher knows this but just says I have to try harder.

And we have more…

Drama Homework is to complete an acting related Word Search Game. Really. Very early on his previous school it was identified that he could just not do Word Searches Tables. The Psychologist who looked into this established that for some reason he was not able to visualise letters and collections of letters if they were printed diagonally or backwards. On top of this his dyslexia just made identifying words difficult. As this was stressful for him it was strongly recommended that his education did not use word based games. Fast forward a couple of years and his current school now requires him to do word searches as it’s the set task for the class.

I can see the point of a French Crossword for some kids but how is a dyslexic kid expected to complete this. Has our school system become so inflexible that we can’t just vary the teaching programme a little for each individual child need. Clearly not. The Government is committed to this Factory/Production line model of education. That’s for State Schools. Private Schools have more scope to flex the teaching programme. Unfortunately many can’t afford to go Private. But that won’t bother Boris and his buddies. As long as the chauffeur driven car turns up and the expensive wine keeps coming.

Ok I can see the point of a crossword for French for some BUT… What is the pigging point of a word search for Drama. I guess it’s all part of the Government’s drive to make every kid spell correctly the defined key words. Spelling is given a higher profile that actually understanding what the word means. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the best way to develop the next Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise is to focus on spelling. Oh hang on a minute these have dyslexia as well. So no I don’t see the point.

We just set too many of our kids up to fail. They see other kids repeatedly praised for great spelling or neat handwriting while at the same time they are just told to try harder. How demoralising is that. A phrase you hear often is that kids with learning difficulties have to try super hard just to keep the perceived learning gap from widening. DAMM RIGHT THEY DO. Too many kids are forced through the same stereotyped classroom hoop. Never given a chance to demonstrate their unique skill sets as these are not in the areas deemed valuable by the Government.

Too many kids have been failed by our society. It’s not as if our society is particularly successful or sustainable on the back of this. This has to stop. When it does stop and we start allowing all our kids to grow – just take a few minutes to think how good this world will become. That is a hope worth fighting for. That is a hope worth voting for.

Spark an Interest

York Minster is one of Europe’s finest Cathedrals.

The central tower is 235ft (72m) tall. It’s Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic Cathedral.

The first religious building was built on this site in 637AD. Work started on the current Gothic structure in 1230 and was completed in 1472. The Minster has 128 stained glass windows which apparently have 2000000 individual glass pieces. It’s a busy place of worship with over 1600 services each year.

Thankfully York has not succumbed to the plague of high rise buildings. So The Minster still dominates the city view from all directions. I remember having a chat with an American work colleague who on visiting the city for the first time told me

“That’s a lovely church but it would have been better if they had built it on a hill”

Unfortunately the nearest hill is about 15 miles away. Strangely our little bungalow is on that very hill. We struggle to fill our little church so I’m pretty sure a Cathedral would be bit of over kill.

It’s absolutely stunning inside but we never make it that far. Son loves to walk round it and think. Then he looks to the skies for a glimpse of the nesting Peregrine Falcons. Finally we always end at a statue of a Roman Emperor. In 306AD Constantious died in York. The soldiers in York immediately proclaimed Constantine the Emperor. So for a brief moment in time York was the centre of the Roman Empire. Son loves to drink up this history.

Surely when you have such history on your doorstep why not use. York has the largest Train Museum in the World showcasing engineering and invention at its finest. What better way to spark an interest. To learn. To grow. But apparently this is not the case. It would seem writing out spelling mistakes 3 times is the way to go. Regardless of the subject – Science, History, Maths, Design Technology, Drama – let’s just get the spelling right. I bet that will spark an interest!!!!

Little things

A beautiful little thing from warmer months.

Unfortunately many little things are not so enjoyable.

Little things are sent to test us. The one day when it had to be a full day at the work base would also have to be the day the office heating failed. The heating failure had to be on the coldest day of the year so far. In the morning the thermometer was resolutely stuck at -2C. In the afternoon the thermometer reached the heady heights of 1C. Sat huddled over the computer with a coat stretched like a tent over me and the screen. Inside the makeshift tent hoping that the hot tea and the heat from the CPU would fend of frost bite. Lovely

Little things are sent to test us. Maybe it’s the frostbite but as soon as I got into the car a warning light came on. Car Key Battery Low – Change Battery. Not a problem as we have a vast collection of various types of batteries at home. Guess what. Having ransacked the house I found 11 different types of battery but unbelievably not one which would fit the key. So let’s hope the key has enough juice left to allow me to get to the shop in the morning.

Little things are sent to test us. Like WordPress being most vexing. For the last 6 months the WP Ipad app has been hopeless. Well not sure what has happened but it is now firing on at least 3 cylinders. Best it’s been for a while. Not saying much but at least it’s partly working. Unfortunately we come to the Yang. Now my WP email updates are a disaster. They arrive as normal but it’s impossible to do anything with them. That leaves trying to read and comment using the app – that is the cylinder which is misfiring. How can it be so difficult to leave a comment or just like something. Just so frustrating.

Little things are sent to try us. Spelling Tests for a Dyslexic. If son doesn’t sit the test then he will be given zero marks and this will rule out any chance of him moving up sets this year. But if he does sit the test he will be given no help and no marking adjustments – setup to fail. As son has decided to try the test he has been practising the words. After much frustration (from both child and parent) Son announced.

This is not happening. I’ve got a photograph in my head of all the words and will just see what happens on Thursday. I can find better things to spend my time on. I can name every English Monarch since 827. Their main achievements, notable events, claim to the throne and how they died. I know it been no use at this school but it’s fascinating. So I’m going to do the same with the French Monarchy. Much better use of my time.

And off he went on his quest. If a child has a passion then that passion should be given every opportunity to flourish. Our bureaucratic education system has forgotten this. Thankfully kids and many parents have not. That’s why there is always hope. Hope in little things.

Perfect timing

Perfect timing. The walking woolly jumper had been resolutely looking the other way. After a minute of waiting I gave up and took the shot. Just in time for the sheep to turn it’s head and briefly pose for the photo.

Perfect timing. After 4 hours of excruciatingly boring work I needed a run. But some days the mojo is just not there. After a couple of minutes I was on the verge of abandoning. Just outside the village a car was at the side of the road. The car had conked out going through a deep flood. After a few minutes with a push start we managed to get it going again. A quite reasonable run followed and I only remembered that I was going to give up when I was sat back down at the works laptop.

Perfect timing. I made homemade ice cream tonight. For some reason my vanilla recipe came out luminous yellow. The ice cream was served midway through the Monsters Inc movie. Unfortunately we were still sampling it when we got to the scene with the yellow snow cones and the Yeti. The immortal Yeti line rather killed off the taste sensation

“Oh would you look at that. We’re out of snowcones! Let me just go outside and make some more

Homemade Yellow ice cream is now banned.

Perfect timing. I was going to do a post about school. You can guess what it would have been like. Probably done a few of those over the last year or so. But as I started writing it a song came on the radio. Not sure who the band was but the songs basic theme was

Those with depression sit in silence. Feeling they are the only ones. Those who have suffered need to shout. So others know they are not alone. So they know it’s ok to shout to.

So here goes with a change of plan. Imagine I’m shouting to some Nordic Operatic Metal music.

I am a single parent. I’ve experienced a few too many deaths over the last few years. I’ve gone through phases where I’ve become too isolated. My personal confidence is shot. The upshot of this is that I have been to some really dark places in my mind. Scary frightening places. Yes I suffer from DEPRESSION. So if your reading this and you are suffering then please remember that your not alone. If you can then it’s good to talk. Talking or writing really helps. There is absolutely no shame in admitting your struggling. I struggle. Millions struggle. Let’s shout together. We can do this.

The Poorly Car Run

There is a run I do all too frequently. It’s a lovely run. It’s particularly lovely as it’s flat. But it’s a few miles away from my usual haunts. The run starts and ends at the garage. You see it’s a run which happens when my car is poorly. Today it was the tyres. So off the car went to the garage. So off I went on my Poorly Car Run. Nothing was than sitting in a garage waiting area reading about cars I can’t afford.

The run closely follows one of our larger and most beautiful rivers. The Ouse. As it’s a river that regularly floods you can see the river depth marker. Today it is quite high but thankfully below flooding levels. It did flood a few weeks ago and in the woods you can see the remnants of those high waters.

If I wasn’t about to be hammered financially by the Garage this run would be a truly stunning experience.

The run crosses the flood plains. Today it’s dry but when it floods here can be under 3ft of water. Cold Dark Yorkshire water.

It’s sad that it takes a Poorly Car to bring me here.

So the car has been returned. Monopoly money has been handed over to the Garage. It was a shorts run so my legs got well and truly muddy. Can’t imagine what a dry run feels like. So it was back to work but this muppet had forgotten a change of clothing. Work, autumn, shorts and dirty legs is not a great combo. Luckily it was a solo office stint today.

Few hours later it’s back to the latest school soap story. Another subject test sat without any reading help, no reading pen and no additional time. Even the questions are worded in such a way to make it harder for kids with Aspergers. Set up to fail. Set up to justify the schools assessment of low attainment. I really need another run to release the anger. Anger at the School. Anger at the Council. Anger at me. Anger at the Government. Above all anger at those who will flock in their millions to vote for this Government. A Government for the few.

Maybe tomorrow I will return to the Poorly Car Run. But hopefully it will be the ‘Nothing to do with the car, here out of choice to heal my soul Run’.

When diplomacy fails.

A largely stress free week for our son. It’s strange how these always coincide with times away from school. How can we have got education so badly wrong for so many kids. So many great teachers yet so many unhappy and unfulfilled children.

Our son likes lists. It reflects how is mind works. They are honest, raw and unfiltered.

Dad I have a top ten list of what I am looking forward to and not looking forward to with this school term

  • Being treated like I’m not allowed to understand stuff. I’m low attainment so I am supposed to act like it. Kids who get lower marks than me, who don’t answer as many questions are in classes above me.
  • Having to put my hand up for help. I have an invisible disability which school doesn’t want to see. So I don’t get any help. No help at all.
  • Never getting a chance to shine.
  • Having to do tests which are made to make me fail.
  • Completely pointless homework. It’s just testing your handwriting.
  • Too much noise. Too many people.
  • Being in a class with so many kids who don’t want to be there so they are naughty. Because I’m in the bottom class I’m supposed to be naughty.
  • Having to wear a uniform which is so uncomfortable and feels awful.
  • It’s never fun. Just rules and avoiding being given negatives.
  • At least it’s not an 8, 9 or 10 week school term.

So in a few hours it starts again. I will repeatedly bang my head on an unmoving brick wall as school and the local council won’t shift. They make me sound like that annoying parent who just will not see the clear logic of the situation. How dare I question the system.

All I can do is keep being there for our son. But maybe there is something else. Let’s really be that annoying pushy parent. Clearly working WITH school and the authorities doesn’t work. What has it produced. A kid stuck in bottom class getting absolutely no extra help at all.

Autism – nothing

Dyspraxia – nothing

Even the little bit of help he received with Dyslexia has been removed

Diplomacy has failed. Working with the authorities has failed. Maybe it’s time to fight them.

The view opens up

One of my Running trail runs is tough. It’s a muddy slog through increasingly thick woods. It’s a slow claggy run climbing through undergrowth that sees only glimpses of the sun. It’s very claustrophobic. Your on your own. A little voice keeps telling you to just stop. Why am I doing this. One step forward, two back.

But with patience and effort the going becomes easier. The ground levels out. The cover starts to thin and the distant view begins to reveal itself.

Then your out. The openness is initially disorientating but it’s been so worth the struggle.

Then a reluctance. A moment of doubt. Need to turn your back on the openness and head back into the dark. The way is back through the woods.

This trail run reminds me of our life these days. I head into the working week with trepidation. Too much to do and not enough time. Self doubt is king. Often so little direction and so much frustration. It feels like you are against the world. Battling uphill through mud. Our Son heads into 5 days of mainstream school. So little help. Fighting on his own. Not sure why he is doing this. It’s an alien world. You just have to keep plodding on but then Friday comes. Our hopes and spirits build. Then you arrive at the weekend. For two sweet days life improves. The week’s slog and struggles are forgotten. But so quickly it’s late Sunday and you face the trepidation of the upcoming week and the return to the darkness.

So we move on. The week calls and maybe so does the woodland trail. That’s our life cycle.

The Golden Ticket

It’s amazing what you come across on a daily basis. You get good discoveries that just make you go ‘wow’. The ones you can look at for ages and get a sense of wonder.

Then you get other discoveries which make you go ‘wow’ for entirely different reasons.

Today I came across a headline in one of our so called better newspaper – The Times.

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Pupils lose out as £400m schools funding diverted to special needs

Children have been losing out because millions of pounds earmarked for their education has been siphoned off to pay for special needs education, an investigation by The Times has found.

A surge in pupils categorised as having special needs has led schools to lay off staff, increase class sizes and cut back on subjects as councils raid mainstream education budgets to fund support for them.

One headteacher said that the funding reforms introduced in 2014 created a new education, health and care plans that were seen by some parents as golden tickets”

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Don’t try to read the article as you have to pay Murdock for the pleasure. No free news here. Where do we start with this article from the Rupert Murdock stable.

  • Am I missing the point here but surely SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) kids are pupils as well. My son is a pupil surely. Not according to this newspaper. Clearly The Times would like to scrap inclusion and go back to the good old days where too many kids where denied the opportunity of mainstream education. The Times journalists have an underlying principle to most of its commentaries. Well if I don’t need that support so why should we be paying for it.
  • This article is likely to cause some parents to start resenting and blaming SEND kids for school problems. It’s pouring fuel on the fire of resentment and bullying. Basically what this article is saying is the those SEND kids are robbing Normal kids. It is deeply irresponsible and distasteful journalism.
  • The article doesn’t mention the 1500 SEND kids who are unable to find a mainstream school that will accept them. But it according to this journalist – that doesn’t matter as they are not pupils.
  • Blaming SEND kids for the £400m short fall in school budgets is lamentable. Clearly according to The Times this countries crisis in class sizes and falling teacher numbers is purely down to SEN kids. Let’s not mention that school budgets have been severely squeezed as a directly consequence of Government funding cuts. Let’s not mention that this Government introduced a new assessment system but refused to fund that change, That’s the very Government this newspaper supports whole heartedly.
  • This country has had a crisis in SEND school funding for years. It is chronically underfunded, it has always been chronically underfunded. Recently it has been subject to further Government cuts. No mention of that then.
  • A surge in pupils categorised as having special needs. It makes it sound as if suddenly parents are inventing SEND symptoms. This country has an estimated 350000 kids with a learning disability. Most experts say this is a fraction of the actual number. So many kids go through education without having a learning disability diagnosed. For too many years we have failed to address this educational crisis. This is going to get worse as a direct consequence of Government Policy as the criteria for SEND diagnosis is becoming stricter – purely to save money and not based on any health grounds. This is at the same time that funding cuts are resulting in longer wait times for an actual diagnosis to take place.
  • Finally ‘a golden ticket’. Really. In our case it’s the reverse of the article. The funding which has been awarded to our son for his learning disabilities is being used to part fund Teaching Assistant support for the whole school. The article also fails to reference that most SEND parents are already paying for additional care and educational support. This so called Golden Ticket only covers a fraction of the true cost of support.

Once again journalism gives us an insight into the deep rooted problems we have in society. The media reflects the current views of our so called Governments. It shows how far we have to go. How difficult this fight is going to be. I will leave the last word to my old Dad. He would call The Times ‘excellent toilet paper’. Thats all its good for.