School inspection

Ok troops stand by your bed at 6am for a kit and bed inspection from the Sergeant Major. If you fail you will do 100 press-ups and your on peeling spud duty for a week. Dad had those when he was in the army. He’s one of the troops in the photo above – enjoying the winter weather in Iceland. Apparently inspections are good for discipline and builds character….

Dad can you help me with my school bag and kit. I’m really worried I don’t have the right stuff.

Don’t worry son I filled your bag up with school supplies last week.

Do I have a 4b pencil.

Not sure but you have pencils.

If you don’t have a 4b pencil you get a negative.

Son it will be ok you have pencils.

No Dad you get a negative for not having the right pencil. Do we have colouring pencils covering all of the colours of the rainbow.

You have a load of pencils in the Peppa Pig pencil case. (I really must change that). It’s at the bottom of your school bag. It has lots of different colours.

No you need to ensure you have all the colours covered or it’s another negative.

It will be ok Son you do have enough coloured pencils for art and the teachers won’t know anyway.

Dad on Thursday the Form Tutor is doing a full school bag inspection. He’s going to check that we have every item on the school list. Every time he finds a mistake he will give you a negative.

******My jaw hits the flaw and I am stunned. It was later confirmed that school bag inspections are taking place with punishments for breaches of rules. I am speechless.*******

So after 30 minutes work we managed to rustled up a kit list that would hopefully pass the Drill Sergeant role call.

Dad we will need to move the coloured pencils to the main pencil case as the tutor has said that he will only check one case. And all the essential items have to be in there.

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Maybe it’s just me but I find this completely staggering. I’ve got a kid with Aspergers seriously spooked over the type of pencil he has in his school bag. How can that be right. Whatever happened to the idea of building a warm and welcoming learning environment. I thought the days of negative reinforcement had been assigned to the bin. A few months ago we went to a zoo where the keeper in charge of the Sea Lions talked about how an approach based on punishments never works. The animals will only respond to positive reinforcement. So an approach not ok for Sea Lions is perfectly acceptable for our children.

Why can’t school turn this round and award house points for the neatest bag. Or give every kid with the full school kit a flapjack. School could have prizes for the sharpest pencil tip, the funniest sharpener and the most original pencil case design.

To be fair to school they are following an approach favoured by our so called government. But I’m sorry the approach is fundamentally wrong. If I could sort the finances out he would be pulled from school immediately and taught at home. School and more importantly the so called government have a duty of care to kids which they are failing. This years battle with school is going to get very messy indeed.

School

So it’s about to start again. SCHOOL. The anxieties are building. The sleepless nights. The upset stomach. The worries. And that’s just me.

For our son it’s worse. Far worse. He is already stressed out. Anxious about the return to that alien world. An institution which could not have been designed in a more anti-autistic way if they had honestly tried. A system which is designed for kids with dyslexia to automatically fail. An underfunded service which is not fit for purpose.

So he will get on the bus at 8am tomorrow with hope. Hope that school has changed. It now positively promotes uniqueness and individuality. Kids with specific learning obstacles are giving tailored support to help them fly. In fact all kids are given a tailored education not just the privileged few. The 1950s school infrastructure has been replaced with modern, bright and welcoming learning facilities. The strict rule structure has been relaxed. Kids are allowed to be kids for at least part of the day. Good dedicated professionals are supported and properly rewarded.

But in reality we understand what our son will face again tomorrow. A broken system where the bonkers government sees stricter rules for kids as the answer to everything. Stricter rules for kids and teachers yet wants less rules for those trying to make a profit out of our kids education. Yes an education but not the one we want for our kids.

The summer holidays were great but the fight for many parents starts again.

Eyes wide open

It’s amazing what you find when you open your eyes.

Another application for additional support. This one was a long shot. Additional funding to provide some specialist support in school for our son. Turned down.

Same line. He already has funding (the maximum available with an Education Health Care Plan) which allows him to take up his place in school. The funding goes into the general support budget which funds the school wide teaching assistant system. Plus he’s doing so well without support.

The fight goes on.

Then speaking with his Doctor. Son is now starting to become too old for many of the health programmes focusing on autism.

The fight goes on.

It feels like the agencies have signed up to support our son while he is in school or college up to the age of 25. The agencies provide virtually no support now. They will continue to provide virtually no support up to the age of 25. Then they can officially provide no support after that….

Ultimately the agencies are just following Government policy and funding decisions. The current government sees austerity and cutbacks as essential for health and education. Yet they are happy to provide funding for tax breaks for the better off and bungs to Northern Ireland Unionists to keep themselves in power.

Nothing is going to change any time soon.

So the fight goes on. But one day the government will change and hopefully we will get one which governs with eyes wide open.

Moody

It’s been one of those days. Lack of sleep, work piling up, house falling to bits, nothing seeming to go to plan. Mood level – somewhere between not great and moody. This photograph sorta sums it up.

Well Son went to school for the first time since he had his accident at school last week. He was still in a lot of pain but we decided to give it a go. Dosed up on child painkillers he was dropped off. School given clear instructions to contact me immediately if he was struggling with the pain and I would pick him up.

No phone call came from school so I assumed things went ok. If only.

Apparently during his first lesson the pain started to get worse. At the end of the lesson the class teacher noticed he was struggling and he was told to get his bag and go to reception. Reception then sent him to see a senior teacher – a teacher who has had no contact with our son previously. Son told him the circumstances, that he was struggling with pain and the instructions I had given school. The teacher went onto the computer and after a few seconds said something like

You have had a lot of time off. Your attendance record is too poor for you to be sent home. Go to reception get some painkillers and then go to your next lesson.”

So he stayed in school, in pain and in his words not able to concentrate on any of his lesson.

Mood level now – pissed off.

Yes his attendance record has dropped below 95% – a Government target. Yet that’s because he has had two accidents AT SCHOOL which have required hospital intervention and medically approved time off. Take those out and his record is just about 100%.

So it appears that if attendance drops below 95% then regardless of pain level or illness, a child will not be sent home. However a child with an attendance over 95% would be sent home. Apparently today a girl fell over and hurt her knee. She was in tears and clearly in a lot of pain but was not sent home due to her attendance record. Yet a boy who had a sore throat was sent home because they had a good attendance record.

Mood level now – Apoplectic.

So tomorrow I will drop off son and then demand to see the Headteacher. The only reason I’m not doing it now is that son wants me to calm down as he doesn’t trust me at the moment. That is probably a really good call.

What do you see

What do you see?

Well Dad I see a fox on a motorbike crashing into an alien while being chased by seahorses.”

That’s better than my Lego Ninjago Ghost Warriors playing cricket….

Lying on the ground seeing what pictures the clouds can paint. It was always a favourite of mine as a kid and it’s the same with our son. I’m pleased he still enjoys the game. It’s good to exercise the imagination every so often. The best thing it’s free. Unfortunately in Yorkshire it’s often just a plain grey sheet we can see.

In Nursery and Primary school they did provide the kids with a platform to dream and play. To let their minds fly. Secondary school is different. Suddenly it’s all change. No play, no freedom, no room to imagine. The lucky few if they can act or sing or dance or play an instrument can get into the school performing scene. For the rest it’s just facts and rules for them. 100% focused on exams at 16. Nothing else matters.

Is that really in the best interests of our kids. Or is it just about feeding the system. Justifying the Government Target Policy. I think we know the answer to this.

So back to the clouds. What do we see now. That big cloud looks like a hippo at a watering hole.

“I’m just seeing something big. Something very big. I’m seeing my dads belly. That will block the sun out for days…”

Break time

Why had Captain Chaos adopted his ‘please don’t’ position. Not being threatened with a walk. Not been shouted out. No need for a bath. Bizarre.

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An item on the news caught my attention. Strangely it was not the ongoing brexit cockup. It wasn’t the story about some TV celebrity going out with somebody else I had never heard of. It wasn’t the recurring piece on the UK is about to have the best summer in 50 years – more chance of my football team winning something. Don’t start me on that one – 1969 for the last European trophy and 1955 for a domestic one.

No it was the story which got the least news time. ‘ School break times are becoming a thing of the past’. If you listened hard enough you could hear a few quickly presented facts.

  • 11 to 16 year olds now get 65 minutes per week less break time than they did 25 years ago
  • Just 1% of secondary schools now have an afternoon break time
  • 82% of secondary schools now have less than 55 minutes for lunch
  • 25% of schools have lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes
  • One in eight school children have a reported mental health problem (I suspect this only scratches the surface)
  • 22000 pupils in Year 6 are classed as severely obese but apparently this has nothing to do with the reduction in break times. Even though the Chief Medical Officer is calling for at least 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day – unlikely to happen when you are sat at a desk

A helpful person from the Government said it was nothing to do with them as it was up to schools to sort out the school day. Strangely he didn’t mention the strict targets his Government had placed on schools.

When our son returned from school today I found his uneaten lunch and unopened bottle of water. Apparently he didn’t get time to have them today. So no food or drink in 8 hours – that is clearly conducive to educational excellence.

His average school day seems to be a 10 to 15 minute morning break which is just enough time to get to the next class. A lunchtime of queuing to get into the canteen, then grabbing some food and making your way to the next lesson. Again in the afternoon a break just long enough to allow kids to get to the next lesson.

How can this be right. I can hear the howls about ‘kids are there to learn so that they can get good jobs’. But sorry kids do need to have fun. If they are enjoying school they will learn better. School is not just about feeding our warped society, it’s about preparing kids for life. It’s ups and downs. It’s work time and its leisure time.

Modern day schooling has become sadly dysfunctional.

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Food in the kitchen finally moved the dog. All is revealed. It wasn’t his ‘please don’t’ position. It was in fact the ‘all the socks from the washing basket looked too tempting so I pinched them and needed somewhere quick to hide them and lying on them is the best I can think of’ position.

School Dracula

This is the Hospitium a 14th century listed building in York’s Museum Gardens. These days it’s a venue for conferences, weddings and special events. Many years ago it was a support building for the Abbey.

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088. The surviving ruins date back from about 1270. York is such a good place for kids to actually touch history.

Over Christmas our son spent a few hours here trying to imagine what life was like before it fell into ruin. Recreating the sounds, the people, the buildings, the life. Big scale creative play. I must admit I was lost in the world of dreams to. Mine was a world of ghosts, ghouls and vampires. I had almost forgotten how much fun you can have when you release your imagination.

This was the visit when the first seeds of home schooling started to be scattered. Last term had been grisly. No real sign of development. No evidence of school making any effort to provide an effective and supportive teaching environment. Most importantly a really unhappy and anxious child.

Our son loves subjects like history but not the way school deliver it. He likes the History Teacher, she is really nice. But being in the bottom set and given his encyclopaedic knowledge – he’s not learning anything. Plus regardless of which class you are in the teaching is so traditional. Text book after text book. Very dry and not very dyslexic friendly. Unfortunately it’s the set teaching approach dictated by the government.

Between my thoughts of ghosts and ghouls I also pondered with so much real life history so close to hand, why not bring the classroom here. Bring the lessons alive. That’s when the thought pinged, if school won’t teach here, why don’t I.

We will see.

The trip was completed with the required extra portions of ice cream. That night my imagination had clearly not been put back in its box yet. A dream about Dracula. But not the bloodthirsty vampire. This one was about a reformed Prince of Darkness. He had sold his Transylvanian castle and bought York’s Museum Gardens. He wanted to turn the gardens into the finest history school in the world. All the teachers were ghosts and ghouls. And Dracula was selling the ice creams and he didn’t skimp on the portions. Now that’s a school.

Testing times

Our son’s school tests kids every couple of months (most schools do the same). Speaking with some of the other parents – most of the kids are getting stressed out over them. Maybe I’m old fashioned but these kids aren’t even teenagers yet.

My frustration is not only with the amount of testing, it’s with what is being tested. We currently focus on such a limited range of skills and are so inflexible on how the tests are operated. Not all kids are suited to the current testing environment.

I was talking to one parent whose child has really struggled to reach the set expected performance levels. However this child is brilliant. I’ve seen her paintings and cartoon sketches. Unfortunately we don’t have a test environment which allows her to demonstrate this brilliance. No government targets for painting.

Our son astounds me with his knowledge and understanding of history. He is scheduled to do a school test which is about the Battle of Hastings. He has a forensic knowledge in the area. Last night he spent two minutes explaining details of Bishop Odo who took part in the battle. The night before he explained in detail what William did after victory including how he persecuted the north. So if we could design a test environment so he could just talk for 30 minutes about the battle and then verbally answer detailed questions – then he could demonstrate his brilliance.

Problem is the test is to write a one page essay on the battle. Without help then he has no chance. Even with help he won’t be able to shine. This can’t be right. No government targets for developing autistic kids with dyslexia.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN WE GIVE ALL KIDS THE CHANCE TO SHINE

I always thought I was pretty good on history. I tried to show this off to our son.

“William the Conqueror brought his army to the field in October 1066”

My so called knowledge was shot down in one line…

“Dad it was the 14th and he was not at that stage William the Conqueror. He was called William Duke of Normanby or sometimes William the Bastard because his mum was unmarried. The Conqueror was first referred to in around 1120, sorry I can’t be more precise”.