Another week.

So that’s the first week of the next instalment of our school at home project. The first was when the whole school was doing online education. This time most of the school is back but our son is still trying to home school via online education.

So how has it gone?

I think the best word to use is Patchy. Actually two words – Very Patchy.

A few teachers are making sure that Hawklad is keeping up. They try to share as many class notes as possible. Provide structured work and will mark it. Then you get some teachers who send a few summary notes, not much but at least it gives us a feel for what our son should be looking at. Then some teachers are just dumping the whole terms class assignments across (without instructions). So for one subject that was a single 70 page document filled with questions. No idea how much and when the work is submitted. No idea the format. Poor Hawklad is convinced that he needs to complete all the booklet right now. So much stress for him. Then you get some subjects where we get absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. In terms of pastoral care again it is nothing.

So definitely very patchy. Speaking to school I suspect that will be the case going forward. Fingers crossed that those teachers trying to support Hawklad will continue to do so. It’s good to have a few subjects where Hawklad feels like he is on top of things. Keeping up with his classmates.

At present we are working on getting through to the end of October and have another think about things. It’s a milestone to work to but it is highly likely that it won’t represent the end of the project. Hawklad is just starting on a very long road of help and counselling. Any progress is likely to be hard fought and slow. The School at a Home project will be a long one, well past the next 7 weeks.

Much patience is required and never losing sight that his wellbeing always comes first. Schooling comes behind that.

We are in this together!

Apparently we are in this all together.

In the UK our Test and Trace system is supposed to be World Leading. Sorry time to shake head and mutter. In practice it has collapsed for many. This true story says it all. Schools are struggling to get those showing symptoms tested. In many areas tests are just not available. I know one school where a number of teachers and students are showing symptoms but local tests have not been available for over a week. The only option for those who are sick has been the offer to travel on a road trip to Shropshire for a potential (not guaranteed) test. That’s a round trip of 470 miles. Because test results are not available the school has not been allowed to go into full lockdown measures.

Remember we are all in this together.

Yesterday our loathsome government told us to Stop Carping and celebrate the phenomenal success of the government’s Test and Trace approach.

Ok I will try. I’m a simple person. I’m seeing an approach which has a Test and a Trace system. Most can’t get a Test, there is a massive backlog of test samples (more than 200000), timeframes are missed, sick are having to travel for hours and then queue, results are inaccurate, we don’t have enough kits. Ok. Let’s look at the Trace system. Currently even by the governments own figures the tracing system is contacting way less than 50% of those they urgently need to contact. That’s an awful lot of people who should be shielding who just don’t know. So in our phenomenal Test and Trace system – Testing has failed, Tracing is failing. So ok if we exclude the test and trace elements, then the Test and Trace system might be a phenomenal success.

Remember we are all in this together.

If you to virtually all schools in the country, they have returned without tests. It’s not considered important for those teachers, pupils, support staff and families. Only when someone has symptoms is it then deemed necessary to have a test.

Many of our government went to a very select and expensive private school – Eton. When Eton returned all staff and pupils had covid tests whether they needed them or not. It was deemed essential for them.

We are all in this together.

Another sign

Another sign. Another sign that autumn is fast approaching.

Signs are always useful. Like signs from school. Signs telling us what on Earth are we supposed to be doing.

School did say that the individual subject teachers would be hopefully in touch to let Hawklad know what he is supposed to be doing while he is doing the enforced ‘school at home’ project. Teachers are really busy. We are not expecting one to one help or lots of telephone calls. But I was hoping for maybe just one email for each subject just summarising the work requirement for the lesson or the week. Maybe another email to check if he is doing ok.

So far only one teacher has emailed once setting out what is expected of Hawklad for that subject. Luckily one of the new Teaching Assistants is really trying to help as well. She is attempting to contact the teachers and remind them about Hawklad. She has sometimes obtained some more information that she has passed onto us. But she is struggling as well. Plus she has her existing class responsibilities which she can’t just drop.

So in a nutshell we are really none the wiser about what is going on in most of the classes. We don’t even know what topics are being looked at. So the school day consists maybe of one 90 minute block when Hawklad can do a reasonably full lesson. The rest of the day is filled with looking at blank screens and empty school email boxes. All we can do is wait and randomly pick some educational videos to watch. It’s all so very frustrating.

So definite signs of Autumn arriving, signs of meaningful school help would be most welcome.

Cobwebs

Sorry this post is a day late. Think MONDAY….

Someone has been very busy. Boris is happily sat admiring all the hard work. Poor Boris the spider. Having a name which is now associated with our so called leader. Boris is a part timer, a serial liar, heartless, out of his depth, out of step with the world, a relic of a bygone era, addicted to his privileged lifestyle, not interested in the future of the species, has been repeatedly sacked, likes to hear his own voice and is basically a reptile at heart. Qualities not found thankfully in our little garden Boris.

So the start of the next phase of the school at home project got off to a predictable start. Looking at a blank screen. Waiting for something from school to allow Hawklad to try and do some work. Two hours of a blank screen. As we don’t even know what subjects are being taught today, there is nothing we can do. So all we can do is – I will send another email into school and Hawklad can play on Minecraft. You never know that game maybe part of the curriculum.

Cobwebs is an apt description for today. The first school day. An early start for Hawklad and even earlier start for me. Back to the delights of early morning workouts. Those early mornings when I just can’t seem to shake those cobwebs from my brain. It’s times like this that I really miss caffeine.

A few times this morning I found myself just repeating the same exercise. Over and over again for several minutes. The brain stuck in a tired loop or maybe it had just switched off and I was in autopilot mode.

Stuck in autopilot mode is probably a good description of the school system. Repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again, no variation, almost forgetting what you are trying to achieve. At least our garden Boris doesn’t do that. He is definitely a most able teacher about life.

The third sequel

The third sequel already. The Trilogy done in one day. Eat your heart out Peter Jackson.

So this is the third instalment in the ‘what has changed over the 6 months of pandemic isolation’ saga. This time it’s what has changed for me. I guess this one is called The Return of the Kermit the Frog King. So what has changed then for me.

  • With Hawklads increasingly pronounced Social and Health related anxieties the last six months have seen a ramping up of the parenting pressures. Fewer breaks, more challenges and yes less support. In the UK small amount of support that has survived the Conservative Funding Cutbacks largely stops when kids hit the teenage years.
  • Have become a home educator. A school facilitator. A Classroom Supplies specialist. Much smirking…. After 6 months I’m still winging it.
  • I’m sleeping less. Much less. Just can’t seem to reset the insomnia cycle.
  • Certainly more isolated in terms of actually meeting people outside our little bubble. In 6 months I’ve seen family members twice, one work colleague (and good friend) maybe three times, neighbours a handful of times, the local shop workers maybe a couple of times a month, the dentist once, one visit from the boilerman, a few health workers and doctors. That’s about it. Oh actually forgot one person. The Postman, the only person I see regularly. I count his fairly frequent waves as my most regular physical contact. Luckily I have lovely online friends.
  • With not meeting too many people I’ve started noticing human life more. I notice dog walkers in the fields, cyclists, passing cars, voices from the street, even planes in the sky. A reminder that a bigger world still exists out there.
  • My conversation skills have never come easy to me. I have to work on and practice them. That’s just not happened for months. Even on most phone calls I can feel myself becoming increasingly wooden.
  • My largely unseen dress sense is becoming increasingly avant-garde.
  • I have lost 6lbs but you wouldn’t notice it. Having to resort to consuming far too much Soya (Soy) which isn’t great for my tummy. No I’m not pregnant.
  • I’ve stopped running and walking and road cycling. Must admit it’s not doing my old contact sport injuries any good. Bits are starting to seize up. So I’m trying to find my inner Yoga. Or as I call it Controlled Falling Over.
  • Work has dried up. This was supposed to be a really busy year. Lots of new jobs and major events. In practice that all was cancelled. Remains cancelled. Some plans have been put in place but really I’m not going to get much work until 2021.
  • I’m more able to fill my day without leaving our little household world. No need to visit shops daily, coffee shops, cinema, visit family or friends. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it comes easier to me now.
  • I do tend to overthink things now. Can have days when I do sober too much time internalising stuff. With me that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s such a short stroll to self doubt and negativity.

Yes things have changed for me. They will continue to change as our personal lockdown is not going to end anytime soon. Potentially months more, maybe much longer. With us being an Aspergers Family that was kind of in place before the pandemic. Maybe many of these changes were already happening before the March lockdown. They have just become more pronounced. Maybe these are longer term changes. Maybe it’s much more than a three episode trilogy. Maybe it’s a permanent feature.

Where did that go

Where did that go? Where did the summer holidays go. For so many families, where did that lockdown go? That’s 7 weeks of summer and exactly 6 months of lockdown.

We leave the summer holidays like we found them. Grey.

Many leave the lockdown as we found it. Well actually that’s sadly not strictly true here in the UK. The daily rise in pandemic and the rate of spread (R number) is actually higher now than when it forced us all into lockdown. I guess the confusion is the same. Some times it’s safe to meet in groups then at other times it’s considered most unsafe. Sometimes masks are required, sometimes they are not. Get tested but please don’t get tested. It’s safe to meet work colleagues but most unsafe to meet friends and family. There are those in high risk groups but you don’t need to worry about that. You must observe 2m social distancing but it’s ok if you don’t especially in pubs and at Horse Racing events. Don’t worry about the details it will be fine.

But for some families and households, the lockdown is most certainly not over. The Government seems to be demonising those in that position. We are being unpatriotic. Not doing our civic duty. Letting others down. As a result support is being pulled, threats made, blamed for the problems of the country and fines starting to be issued. I can assure the so called Government that it’s not out of choice. We are dealing with the reality of life. And that life is messy, complicated, unpredictable and frustrating. We have to deal with the details.

That part of life has not changed during the summer holidays and lockdown.

Turning

Those leaves 🍁 are turning. Autumn is coming.

Well actually the last few nights it has felt like winter has already arrived. It’s been freezing. Heating and lights full on. Jumpers (sweaters) most definitely are out of storage. I’m not very organised but I do always remember where I put my million jumpers. Normally I have all of them on at the same time.

So school starts on Monday. Our Son will not be returning at that time. If and when he returns is a matter of much uncertainty.

Dad have school decided what is happening on Monday then ?”

Not yet Hawklad.

Has school sent you the new codes so that we can check the online pupil pages for each subject?”

Not yet. Until we get these then we are basically stuffed.

So what will I be doing?”

Not sure as yet. I don’t have the school timetable. Don’t know what the subject teachers will be looking at.

As I’m now in a new set we won’t even know any kids we can ask to see what they have been doing.”

No. So I can’t speak to any parents and see what they have been given.

So basically Dad we will be winging the homeschooling thing.”

Yes definitely winging it.

So a bit like your cooking then. Bit of a disaster…”

Yep, but at least it won’t be dull.

If it’s bad then I’m going back to bed. Just to let you know.”

Don’t worry son, if it’s that bad I will be resorting to building lego sets…

***********

As it stands the plan is

  • Follow the school timetabled lessons for the day,
  • Email the individual teacher for a guide to what we should be doing….. not entirely hopeful about that. Failing that will see if any lesson notes have been loaded onto the pupil online pages ….. these are often blank or feature very brief notes loaded days after the lesson,
  • Look out for any homework tasks being posted. Submit these to the teacher somehow,
  • Try to find relevant videos online for him to watch. The BBC and other countries have some good resources,
  • Send copies of any work he does to the teacher …. somehow.

Yes winging it sums it up perfectly. I’m actually quite relaxed about the schooling side. The key is for our son to be in a good place. Assuming he is not at school for this half term, then it’s just about keeping him from falling too far behind the rest of the class. Certainly not looking for him to get gold stars. If keeping his hand in means he gets the school day done in an hour, then so be it. More time for him. More time for him to try and reconnect with his happy side.

The key thing is.

Yes we are doing school but it’s not the priority.

Monday

Got to just follow a trail. Hope it leads in the right direction.

So the school reopens a week today. Most kids will return. Some won’t. Our son will not be able to return at this stage. How long will he be out of school. Weeks, months, permanently – no idea. So we have to work on the assumption that he will return at some stage. So with minimal help from school and nothing from the authorities, who do we try to keep him on track with his classmates. To ensure that if and when he does return that he has not fallen behind.

The plan is to get the class timetable from school. That will form the basis of the learning each day. We won’t stick to the class timings but will try to focus on covering the subject matter. First call will be any lesson notes that are posted in the school system. Ensuring we do any work assignments that might be posted as well. I will ask each teacher to at least provide an indication of what topics will be covered and the copies of any handouts that are provided. Then it’s Dad trying to be teacher, looking for relevant videos and resources on the internet. All work completed will be emailed to each teacher at the end of the day. Any gaps we will make up with stuff son wants to cover.

If this school at home project extends further then I will supplement gaps with buying online teaching packages.

We are lucky that my work has basically dried up. Not much until 2021 at the earliest. The positive is that frees my time up to focus on being a teacher. Maybe I need to dress like a teacher?

That’s the plan. What could possibly go wrong.

On one

You get days when you can just let the crashing waves of life wash over you. Serene in the knowledge that you are at one with the world. Accepting of the challenges and hurdles that lie ahead. Prepared to just put on the kettle, breathe, smile and then calmly deal with the issues facing you.

Then you get other days…..

Today is one of those days. I don’t like swearing. It’s not big or clever. But today

I’M SERIOUSLY PISSED OFF.

No serene model of self restraint. Much more Hulk Smash.

I was fine with the washing machine suddenly sounding like a pneumatic drill. Ok smashing another cup. Fine with the cat repeatedly missing his cat litter tray. Accepting of not feeling 100% today. But school and the education system today has got under my skin.

School have officially confirmed that they will not be able to provide any additional support if he is not able to start back at school. The online teaching system will be not available. No online lesson support. The only support will be that some basic class notes may be available after lessons on the school system. But these will be patchy and only for some lessons. This classroom notes facility has been in place for a year. In practice it’s a great idea however in practice very few teachers use the system. They stick to the white pen and marker pen approach. It was also confirmed that no dedicated teaching support would be provided. No home visits I can understand but no telephone or email support – really. The local council apparently would normally provide some support in these cases however that service has been reorganised and is not currently available. But apparently I’m supposed to ensure our son follows the curriculum so he doesn’t fall behind his class mates.

OK. So in practice I am none the wiser. Feels like we have been cast adrift but then expected to keep up with a rapidly receding school ship. It appears to me that school would be delighted to force us out and into full on homeschooling. But that’s not for me or the school to decide. That’s our Sons decision. One I will make sure he decides for himself.

So yes I am ON ONE. One step forward and then two back.

Reality Check

****** this post may descend into shouting at the government *******

Apparently I am many things

  • A bad parent,
  • Scaremonger,
  • Irrational,
  • Unpatriotic,
  • Have no morals,
  • Coward,
  • Selfish,
  • Life chance basher,
  • Union supporter,
  • Left wing troublemaker,
  • Part of the problem.

These are all terms which the government and its chosen media friends have labelled those who have raised doubts over the decision to fully reopen schools. At those parents and teachers who are not yet convinced that schools are as safe as they should be. It’s no surprise as Boris has a mantra – you are with me or against us. Well I’d rather be against you…..

So if the likes of me are going to be demonised well I might as well set out a few facts for Boris. I’m sure he is a facts man.

  • Actually I want schools to open. But I want our schools to be safe for children and adults. I also want them to be modern, inclusive and true sites of learning. Sadly run down cramped classrooms operating under Victorian principles are just not good enough.
  • Repeating ‘they are safe’ over and over again without backing that up with actions isn’t going to win me over. Remember this is the government that said it had thrown a protective wall around care homes – lies – tens of thousands died as a result.
  • No real change has taken place in schools. A few more hand washing facilities. Some one way markings. Giant group bubbles. Masks on school buses, sometimes in corridors but not in classrooms. To Boris why make meaningful change when it’s much easier and cheaper to demonise teachers and parents for any failings.
  • ‘They are safe’ would imply that a deal has been done with the virus so that it won’t venture into school buildings….. Children can get it. Children can pass it on. Adults can get it.
  • By bringing in giant year group bubbles schools are said to be perfectly safe. What about the adults in the system. Teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents.
  • How does the ‘they are safe’ phrase work for pupils and adults with underlying health conditions.
  • How long does it take a government to bring in an effective testing and tracing system. In March we were told we had a world class one. April we were promised a world class one by June. In June we were told it wasn’t a priority anymore. In August they can’t decide if we need one or not.
  • It’s ok showing glossy pictures of modern classrooms with a handful of pupils studying in socially distanced bliss BUT the reality is that too many children are crammed in crumbling classes with at least 30 other classmates and teachers – social distancing is impossible for them.
  • Issuing pandemic guidance to schools on a Friday before many schools open again 3 days later is beyond shambolic.
  • Young people gathering outside a school in groups of 30 are liable to be fined £10000 for breaking social distancing rules yet put them in a class and suddenly it’s completely safe.
  • Parents considering the safety of their children are not the threat to life chances. The threat to life chances is a government that intentionally messed up the exam grading process for thousands of pupils this August – many have lost university places as a result. It’s a government that is hell bent on taking education back to the 19th century. It’s a government that intentionally discriminates against children with learning disabilities. It’s a government that sees kids taking time off for bereavement as an extended holiday.
  • So parents will be fined for not sending their kids into school even if they think it’s not safe. Yet Boris fully backed his Chief Advisor when he broke lockdown rules. He apparently was doing what any caring parent would do. So a caring parent would drive 200 miles as a family to their grandparents country estate hours after testing positive. Stopping off for petrol on the way. Then a couple of days later drive 30 miles on your wife’s birthday to a tourist location. Apparently this was to test the advisor’s damaged eyesight and to see if he was fit to drive – with their poor toddler sat in the back seat. It’s not even double standards.

In short the real enemy to our children is not parents. It’s not teachers. It’s not even a virus. It’s the Government.