I believe

I was listening to the radio while I was cooking tea today. The local radio station had a local politician on talking about how good brexit was. I kept it on as it was definitely car crash stuff. He was asked why brexit was so good. It wasn’t the most convincing of answers. The answer seemed to be based on ‘Boris is funny and is the worlds best leader – ever ‘ line of thinking. Finally the politician was asked to give one thing that was better now than a year a go. After a few moments of stuttering around the line ‘Britain’s better because erm’ he plumped for ‘because we can be great again’.

Not entirely sold on that one….

But speaking on the radio is hard. Maybe he froze. So I’ve been thinking about the stuff he just forgot to mention. So here goes…

Britain is better under Johnson because….

  • We have had 75000 covid deaths so far and now adding 1000 a day to that total,
  • At a time when we should have lockdowned the government offered discount vouchers for people to go to restaurants and pubs, telling everyone that the virus fight was over and that we had a civic duty to get out and mix,
  • Allowed the countries largest horse racing festival to go ahead as the pandemic started to rage. That’s good as the man in charge of the Health Service received significant funding each year from the Horse Racing Industry.
  • Our hospitals are full to busting. The highest ever number of covid patients. Ambulances are queuing outside waiting to be admitted. That’s what happens when with a growing population, the Johnson’s party have cut hospital bed numbers by 17000 since 2010,
  • The Government found it in their hearts to finally give medical staff a very modest pay increase after years of enforcing a pay freeze. And they gave them a new badge as well. But on a more important note our PM moaned that he couldn’t afford to live on his leader salary and investments….
  • We are told that schools are safe yet the hospitals are admitting increasing numbers of children,
  • The Government for months told us that there was no need to wear face masks. That’s still the case for children in classrooms. Think of the money we have saved there….
  • Instructed police and authorities to issue fines for breaking covid rules including keeping children off school but then didn’t apply those rules when one of their own smashed the rules. Apparently he was acting like any responsible parent would do. At least we know whose back they have got.
  • More than ever there is now one rule for us and one rule for them,
  • We officially backed fake news. The Government instructed its supporters to weaponise fake news…
  • Kent has been turned into a giant lorry park,
  • A parcel which would have cost £14 to send to Europe now costs £44,
  • We now have a blue passport to use going into Europe – not needing a passport to travel across Europe was such a burden,
  • We have left Europe and immediately some of those promoting this have applied for European passports (including the PMs Dad). That’s a right which I now don’t have,
  • A border has suddenly appeared in the sea,
  • Companies will have to change all their packaging as the CE Mark will not be enough. Now the UKCA mark has to be added. Bet that’s cheap….
  • More and more government contracts are now given to friends and party supporters without due process,
  • Illegally waived planning rules for one of the governing parties biggest backers. That’s good as the government looks after the right people.
  • They have issued instructions for the country to not accept any form of workplace bullying and then backed wholeheartedly a senior cabinet minister found guilty of bullying – no action required here,
  • The Government interfered in the college exam process to give many pupils a lower mark,
  • The Government made a big play of refusing to give free school meal vouchers out to children who were likely to go hungry.

I could go on. But so many things to rejoice in after only one year of Boris Johnson being in charge. Why do I think the list will get so much longer during 2021.

And finally

And finally……

Yes Yorkshire can have the sun. Ok I was slowly sinking into the mud but it was still nice. The problem with waterproof trail running shoes is that they work until the mud reaches the top of the shoe. Then it’s wet feet time…

I was writing to school to tell them that we would not be making a decision about dropping French until after Christmas. Then a thought hit me. Yes I have them occasionally. And this one didn’t involve cheese and onion crisps.

Hawklad has not been in school since March. Up to July he was like all his other classmates. After September he has been at home while his classmates have returned. I’ve had the occasional email asking if he needed anything from one teaching assistant. And one of the teachers has wrote asking about our decision on French. But that’s it. No one asking about his well being. No one asking when he’s coming back. No one asking about how much schooling he does each day. No one asking if I’m working on his dyslexia. No one asking about his Aspergers. Or his ADHD. Or his dyspraxia. The paediatrician hasn’t seen him in over two years.

Here’s the thing School only contact us after I email them. The health services only contact us after I hassle them. What would happen if I stopped making contact…..

In our case it’s not a real issue. But there will be kids out there struggling. In need. At risk. Is anyone checking on them.

I suspect not. That’s what happens when you cut services back to the bone. When you try to outsource everything.

Definitely an unsettling thought.

You couldn’t make it up.

Britain basically has self absorbed, one rule for us one rule for them, clowns running the country. Everyday they lower the bar even further. Who would have thought that the ‘everyone needs to isolate if you travel abroad unless you are a HIGH VALUE person who the rules will not apply to…’ gem could be topped. Well yes they did.

Schools had been told at short notice that they should consider closing on the 18th for Christmas to tie in with the temporary relaxation of the pandemic rules. A relaxation which is going against scientific advice. Well now the Government has decided to threaten legal action against schools……

Some schools are suffering from seriously high infection rates amongst pupils and staff. Often the schools find themselves in the highest risk areas. As a result some schools have taken the decision to switch to remote learning. That didn’t go down well The Clowns.

The School Minister Nick Gibb in particular. Remember him, he’s the one he thought it was a good idea to start getting 4 year olds to sit tests. He is the clown who described children taking time off for family bereavement as having an EXTENDED HOLIDAY…. Well he has started contacting schools to tell them that they must immediately shut down online tuition and bring all kids back into classrooms or he will take legal action against them.

How on earth do we end up with these people in charge.

Now I realise that there are people out there who will think the School Minister is brilliant (especially himself). Who think that this country is heading in the right direction under this government. They are so entitled to their option. They have got the government they wanted. They won’t care what I prattle on about. Today they will be happy with the state of the country. For me that sums it all up. When was the last time they opened their eyes. I guess they don’t want to. That’s the thing. In previous times we have had differences of opinion on how the country should be run. But it was clear both sides of the argument wanted the best for the country. Now I am not so sure everybody shares that view. That’s why I have never been so pessimistic for the future and what inheritance we are leaving for future generations.

Something needs to change

I was talking to a colleague about the lack of work currently. The company will probably survive but it’s going to be many months before things start to slowly pick up. Is it just me but currently Im not missing it. Yes the bank balance is only going in one direction but as for worknot really in the mood for it.

Anyway this chap has a son on the spectrum. He’s a lovely, really bright boy. A couple of years older than Hawklad. It’s a depressingly familiar school story. Hardly any support. It’s all down to him to put his hand up in class and ask for help. Nothing proactive. The teaching is not suiting him. He’s going backwards. His potential grades are falling and it’s not ringing any alarm bells. It’s because he is Special Needs. The bar is set low so that there is no need to work on potential. Anything is seen as a bonus. What a waste.

Too many wonderful kids get let down like this. How can we have got education so badly wrong here. Something needs to change.

Curve ball

Definite curve ball from school today.

I have wrote about the problems Hawklad has been having with French classes at school. The way the subject is taught just don’t suit him. Dyslexia complicates the learning process. Being at home adds to the difficulties.

I have been trying to get the school to modify the teaching approach in this one subject. Even switch the language to one which better suits him and one he is more interested in. Basically met with a brick wall. Then today’s curve ball.

The school doesn’t feel that he will be able to pass exams in this subject due to his learning issues. So they are now recommending that he drops the subject completely. Undertake no language learning at all. He would use the French class time to work on his other subjects.

So rather than try other learning routes they just want to ditch the subject. I’m kind of speechless. Will let Hawklad decide what happens next. BUT my initial take is that

…..Sadly it reflects the lack of flexibility in the UK teaching system. It also reflects the general approach schools take with those pupils who have learning disabilities.

Boring

Walking through that undergrowth will do havoc to my legs when I’m wearing shorts. It would ruin my catwalk career.

I can think of something else that really feels as bad as thorns and nettles on exposed legs.

Dad what is the point of this. I can’t do it. Never will do it and it’s boring. I’d rather wash the car. It’s that boring.”

I know Son. It really is.

If I could drop the subject Dad I would just to stop this weekly torture.”

Sadly you can’t drop Computing. Plus you need to be ok with computing and technology. Apart from this little bit of the subject you are really good at it.

I might be but every week this comes up and I it does my head in. Every week.”

It is just about every lesson. It is really stupid.

Just why?”

Sadly that’s not the teachers fault. The government forces schools to teach this. They think it’s a good idea. Which frankly shows you just how little they understand or care about the real world.

I don’t need it do I?”

No you certainly don’t. Certainly not the way it’s taught in our schools. I was never great with it and I’ve got a Masters Degree in Computing. In fact apart from my first job, I have never used it. The way schools do it, they get you to use languages that will be obsolete. Languages that are mind numbingly boring. Ones which only work if you get every word perfectly correct and everything in precisely the right order.

Which I can’t do Dad, I’m dyslexic….”

I know. It’s madness that you have to do it. It would be so much better if they encouraged you to problem solve and then teach you to have fun with technology. See what brilliant things you can do with computing.

##################

What are talking about.

CODING….

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.

What could have been

Sometimes you get those moments when you just sigh. Sigh and think – what could have been. Now I could go down many routes with that thought. But today while watching a sunset flicker into life my mind was in schooling mode.

A fruitless day with school and the education authorities. Does look like support will be minimal going forward. The message is that if you can’t start back at school next week then it’s the parents responsibility to keep your child in line with classroom progress until they return. Suddenly the parent becomes curriculum specialist and teacher. I guess the hope is your child returns to school quick enough that they don’t fall too far behind. But what happens if it’s not a quick return.

We have a medical letter informing school that because of his severe anxieties and fears our son cannot currently return to school. No timescale has been set. Son has mentioned the end of October as a goal. The start of the next term. If that was the case then it’s 7 weeks of trying to keep up with the classroom teaching. But that’s just a finger in the air date. We have no idea when he will be in a position to return to the cramped classrooms. The first goal is to try and get him into a less anxious place. Then it’s to see if he can start venturing out into the wider world. Then we move into trying to get son more comfortable being inside with other people. Only then when he is more comfortable with life, can we consider a return to school. I’m not sure our PM or Education Secretary actual realise that to truly learn you need to be in a good place. Content, relaxed and comfortable. Actually they probably do realise this but they just don’t care. In their eyes it’s all about set teaching approaches, targets and discipline. Anxieties about a pandemic are brushed aside – schools are perfectly safe – no risk at all – force them back into cramped out of date classrooms – trust us or we force you back. Not ideal learning environments, a nightmare for those suffering from anxieties and fears.

But it didn’t have to be like this. Speaking with the school there was another way. School has introduced a very good homeschooling online system. It worked during the lockdown. The plan was from September that most pupils would only spend 50% of their time in school. Apart from those with exams, pupils would spend part of the week at home doing remote learning. That would allow school to further spread pupils out and create enhanced social distancing. Great plan but the government has dictated that all pupils must return full time. So the online schooling system has been turned off. So a potential route to help those pupils who are unable or uncomfortable about returning is not available. A method of helping a number of pupils to keep up, to learn and to avoid them being disadvantaged has been ended by the Government.

That’s a lot of school weeks that we have to navigate and try to stay in touch with his classmates. It’s going to be a real challenge. And it just won’t be our family in this position. Much sighing. Might as well enjoy the sunset.

Mothballed

This is a mothballed Coal Power Station that is right on the furthest horizon we can see. We can only see that far as we are on top of a hill. It takes an effort to find it from here. Can only see it from one extreme corner of the garden. This is also at my poor old camera’s maximum zoom. I guess it’s a reminder of a rapidly receding age and will be getting demolished soon.

Last school week and it’s trying to end the year on a most vexing high….

Let’s see how many assessments we can squeeze into 5 days. The answer ….. TOO MANY.

I had spoken to school and told them that son was still not 100% following his hospital visit but would give the last school week ago. However he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. School assured me that they would go easy on him. ASSESSMENTS are clearly easy on him. That’s so how I remember school tests in my day. Then we come to English. He completed the online lesson and submitted a rather fine gothic story. I was impressed with the storytelling and especially the writing. It was grammatically very good. Whisper it, spelling was almost perfect. That is some progress for him. So I was a little surprised to receive an email from school at 11.30pm to inform me that his work in the lesson had been below standard and incomplete. Really. The teacher has not responded to my query as the email failed to provide any details. Well that’s helpful. Having reviewed the lesson material several times I can only assume that he failed to respond to one rather vague question. A hard to spot question requiring a one sentence answer. Son had actually answered it but forgot to upload a photo of the one line answer. Unsurprisingly not a mention of the story he had submitted. If I wasn’t already convinced about the failures of mainstream education then this has finally clinched the deal. Well stuff school. I’ve assessed his work as brilliant and he will be getting a reward for it.

Maybe it’s time to mothball our countries factory farming educational approach…

Homework

The hardy old rose bush right next to the front door. Against all the odds, it just keeps on giving.

In a few hours the school at home project restarts again. One more 7 week push before we finally arrive at the summer holidays. What kind of Britain will it be? The old normal, the new normal or something else.

This afternoon was glorious. Hot (for here) and sunny. Unbelievably not a single cloud all day. This is Yorkshire remember.

Yes this is Yorkshire but sadly it’s connected to England. Which means it has to live with the Government’s take on education. So while the sun beat down, we were inside. Trying to get homework completed and revision to stick. It’s bizarre that we force kids to work during holidays and weekends AND yet we have a part time Prime Minister who avoids such weekend and holiday work at all costs…. Yet again one rule for the many and another much nicer rule for the few.

The really frustrating thing is what exactly is the homework achieving. Four hours today and what did our Son learn….

What is the point of this Dad. I’ve not learnt one new fact. Not done anything which is interesting. I’m bored out of my mind. My hand hurts from writing and I dislike these subjects even more.”

Sadly I can’t argue with this. The school system here has been deliberately broken. Not by the teachers but by people in The Government. People who enjoyed the benefits of expensive private education. It’s not about developing individual kids now. It’s all about ticking political boxes for those in power. This government will not change its mind. But change is needed. So it will be local change.

We will continue with the school at home project until the summer. Remember this is not homeschooling….this is just trying to do exactly the same school lessons just not with the kids sat at a desk in the cramped classroom. In the summer our Son will decide what he does next. To go back to school or to go for full homeschooling. It’s his call. If he defers to me then he is leaving school. But what to do with the next 7 weeks. We have just brought in a new house rule.

Son will only be expected to do additional homework if it meets one of 3 conditions

  • He will actually learn something from it,
  • He will find it interesting,
  • It actually is going to contribute to his overall assessment. (Staggeringly much homework does not. Frequently it is not even marked in detail and sometimes not at all.)

We did have a fourth condition but that was dropped

Dad that’s a pointless condition. How many kids will honestly admit to actually wanting to do a piece of homework. Definitely never me….”

So if a piece of homework does not meet one of these conditions then he won’t be asked to complete it. I will write into school and let the teacher know. If the school wants to push it then they can deal with me. In our house – I am the headteacher and remember I don’t currently have a PM…..