It’s now been over 7 years since our last family holiday to PERFECT Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. Perfect for relaxing. Perfect for adventure. Wonderful food and drink. With its precision perfect public transport, no need for a car. Friendly. Polite. Safe. Cultural. Healthy. I could go on and on. But there is another reason that it’s PERFECT for our FAMILY. Asperger/Autism Families often find travel difficult. Ours most definitely did. Holidays can be a logistical nightmare. For an enjoyable holiday, so many factors often need to be carefully controlled. Routine is important. Does Hawklad feel safe, relaxed, happy. He needs so many factors to be in place to enjoy a holiday. It’s so easy for things to spiral out of control and you end up just wishing to be back home. Back home to that safe, predictable and controlled environment.
But here’s the thing about Switzerland. He is always happy here. Yes the trip part way across Europe by plane or train was usually a nightmare for Hawklad. Yes a logistical nightmare which needed precision planning. But every single time we crossed the border into alpine heaven, he was relaxed and happy. Everything seemed to be in place for him and worked just right for him.
Hawklad definitely doesn’t get his memory from me. Today I misplaced my car keys THREE times. Couldn’t remember a colleagues name. Forgot to put washing powder in todays wash. Set off to the shops without my debit card…. That sort of thing. Nothing new there, my memory has always been a tad leaky.
Thankfully the only things that I’ve currently passed down the line to Hawklad are gorgeous eyelashes and a love for ROCK music. Only time will tell on things like my large hairy backside and Homer Simpson side profile…..
One of the great puzzles in life. Secretly I quite like the idea of being a rebellious kid like Bart Simpson but in the end why do I inevitably just end up looking like his Dad… Do’h.
Hawklad doesn’t have his Dad’s leaky memory. In such a short time he can process and store huge amounts of information. If it’s something that interests him then he just soaks it all up. Once it’s absorbed, it stays absorbed. It started with Birds of Prey. Then History. The other day I asked him to name every English Monarch, he did it, perfectly and in order. And he’s moved on to other areas, some academic, some cultural, some other things. F1 motor racing being one thing. He’s been absorbing the results, the characters, the history. Only after a couple of weeks it’s mind blowing to me.
Yesterday I tested him.
Name every winner of the world title since F1 started.
Who has won a particular GP the most.
How many career wins for drivers.
Which manufacturers did drivers race for.
In the 50s and 60s which teams did Fangio win titles with.
He was faultless. Like the last question he instantly replied
Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and Maserati.
How does he do that. Somedays I even struggle to remember what car I drive. Why can’t school see this. Why can’t school tap into this.
A random door appeared in the village today. I wonder which world it leads to. I wasn’t brave enough to open it this time, maybe the child in me might have a few years back.
A closer inspection revealed a note, ‘free to a good home’. Is that referring to the wooden door or the world behind it.
Just over 5 weeks now until school reopens. A return to the classroom appearing to be a more distant prospect than the mystery world behind that white door. Constant hand washing, repeated clothing changes, inability to touch any alien surfaces, unable to be physically close to others, debilitating anxieties bubbling just under the surface. In a quiet, peaceful village with few people and much space, this is manageable. In a classroom and overcrowded school, definitely not currently manageable.
So let’s try to make this summer holiday time as fun and as relaxing as possible. Let’s see where the education door leads Hawklad when it’s time to open it……
The end of July brings the start of the six week school holiday. Wow was that welcome. School had worn pupil and parent down. I’m sure the teachers would say a similar thing. Why does it have to be such a grind for everyone.
This year school kinda just fizzled out, hardly the stuff of an Alice Cooper epic single.
The work and contact with teachers just ebbed away over the last few weeks. Hours and Days would pass where school made no contact with Hawklad. Occasionally work would come appear on the online system. One subject teacher would send an email before some of the lessons providing a two line guide on the upcoming lesson. Nothing from the other teachers. Work dutifully submitted was never marked. Eventually it all just dwindled away into nothing. Finally the last day came and went with complete radio silence. Around midday Hawklad kinda shrugged his shoulders and whispered
“I guess that’s it then, might as well blast out SCHOOLS OUT FOR SUMMER then”
And with that the school year ended. No goodbyes. No enjoy the summer. No date to return. No plan for September. Is the school signalling that Hawklad is on his own. NO IDEA. But at least Alice Cooper cranked up to 11 never fails to deliver.
As a child living in what felt like a remote, cut adrift Yorkshire seaside town, life felt very restrictive. I knew a world was out there but only via a black and white TV, the town cinema and books. Money was tight in that grey misty town, few had cars, holidays were taken locally. Normally any holidays revolved round a visit to another seaside town a just a few miles up the coast. No one I knew ever got on a plane and went abroad.
How times changed in just a few years ……
But back then I so wanted to escape. To travel. I especially loved the idea of mountains. They looked unreal on the screen or in books, I had never seen a proper mountain, just small hills. I loved the idea that each mountain had its own name, it’s own personality. One mountain in particular stood out, the fearsome EIGER. I dreamt of standing below it and looking up.
Years later, holidays to Switzerland, to The Alps. Who would have thought that my son would end up standing next to that might mountain I had dreamt about when I was his age. Hawklad was capivated by the local fairy tale about 3 the great local mountains. About a Monk (The Monch), an Ogre (The Eiger) and a young girl (The Jungfrau).
Switzerland is that kinda place. A place of adventure, dreams and wonderful memories.
Day One of the Two Day Heatwave. Todays garden temperature from our mini weather station hiding in the shade was….
That is ridiculously hot for Yorkshire, unheard of. The forecast is that it goes even higher tomorrow. At this rate I might have to take my jumper off. Unbelievably, it was so hot that Hawklad put shorts on, WOW, the last time that happened was when he was at nursery.
You can only fire water pistols for so many hours. Well if the school doesn’t send any work, you have to improvise the learning day….. So as we sheltered inside for a few moments and dried out, I tried to get my head round the Government’s latest ideas to sort out the Special Education mess. From what I can see it’s about replacing one mess with another mess while saving a bit more money….
Currently parents have to jump through a seemingly never ending number of ever shrinking hoops until their child gets a Plan approved (or mostly doesn’t). It’s a process which forces shellshocked parents to take on the mighty big bureaucracy. The lucky few emerge with a plan that is supposed to identify needs to be met. A personalised budget is then awarded to the child to help fund this. Sounds promising but what then tends to happen is that the big bad bureaucracy then says
You now have to give us that money back and that buys you a place in a mainstream school. No money no place. That money then pays for general teaching assistants who the school then use to help out teachers. They provide no dedicated help to Special Needs pupils. Then the big bad bureaucracy talks up the idea that PUSHY parents get this gold plated education for the lucky child. PUSHY parents are taking money from the majority of other pupils. This sets parent against parent while the special need pupil is mostly left without support. That’s the current system.
The new proposed system seems to be, keep the same nightmare approval process, make it harder but add in a bit of mediation when the application is almost inevitably rejected. If you do fluke it through to getting approval then rather than bothering identifying individual child need, parents are just offered a standard ‘one size fits all’ solution. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t suit the individual child, at least we are saving money and it’s much easier to administer.
So it’s a mess and if it changes it’s going to be just another mess, but cheaper.
Sigh, breathe deeply and slump a bit lower in the chair. Definitely time for water pistols…..
The farmer is hard at work in the fields. Whatever it takes.
We have a real problem with education in the UK. Too much potential is missed. Too many pupils are served up factory production line schooling which is about the needs of the system rather than the needs of the individual child. If you don’t fit the expected mould then you are discarded.
The farmer chooses to focus on the crops that provide him with what he needs to keep going.
What a perfect indication of the health of the UK’s education system than hearing one of the loathsome, self absorbed candidates standing to be our next Prime Minister talking about a disabled child needing to go to a special school because ‘disabled children are generally aren’t intelligent enough’ to go to a mainstream school.
Lost for words……
Sadly it’s not an isolated view……
Had a long video meeting with school today about Hawklad. Call me NAIVE but I thought school might have been just a tad POSITIVE. A pupil against the odds teaching himself to read when school told him it was beyond him. From having a reading age of about 6 years behind the expected school standard to now reading History Texts without assistance. All achieved through his hard work in just over 2 years. A pupil who is getting really great marks in the exams and tests he sits at home. Definitely NAIVE I am.
‘We are concerned that his marks aren’t reflective of the true position”
“Are you sure that you are not helping him, or he is using GOOGLE to answer questions”
“He is performing way ahead of his predicted attainment levels”
“So he wants to go to college. Has he thought about some more vocational routes rather than college. He may probably not meet Our College’s entry requirements. College might be beyond his academic levels. Don’t want to disappoint him .”
“Other colleges and places might have offerings more suited to his level and requirements.”
“Unless he can demonstrate he can perform in formal exams then there is little we can do, course work and home work doesn’t really count these days. That’s how the system works….”
School can’t seem to get their head round the sad irony that he learnt to read and overcome his dyslexia when he was REMOVED from their CLASSROOM environment. Like too many pupils with dyslexia, with special educational needs, they are just dumped into the bottom set with minimal help. Assumptions are made on low attainment levels. To get even the most minimal help they are required to put their hand up in front of the rest of the class and admit they are struggling. That is never going to happen long term, occasionally when Hawklad did that, other kids poked fun at him. The teachers often focusing on those pupils with the worst behaviour so even if the hand went up, help never arrived. So he stopped putting his hand up and he started to fall behind. This is not an isolated case, it’s sadly reflective of modern UK schooling. It’s all about EXAMS. Schools become EXCELLENT because of exam results not because they meet individual educational needs. This school is no different to most schools here.
In the UK we have a looming food production crisis because we have become too dependent on factory, one big size fits all farming….
The school term finishes in a weeks time. Then it’s a 6 week break. I’m discussing with Hawklad what he wants to do. It’s his future. It’s has to be his call but I know what I would do in an instant if it was my call. Why does it feel like the school system is working against him.
I probably don’t do that much for Yorkshire Tourism. Actually I might even kill it off a tad. Face it, just how many times do I drone on about the dreadful Yorkshire Weather and rhubarb. Basically I’m screaming – “if you like Rhubarb Crumble with huge dollops of freezing horizontal rain, then Yorkshire is the place for you. “
Well let’s buck the trend. Time for a bit of Mr Blue Sky Yorkshire in the form of a very warm (YES I did say VERY WARM) walk around the countryside surrounding Castle Howard.
Now let’s rewind the Tourism Promotion clock, back to the mid 1970s. I was living in Redcar, a quirky Yorkshire seaside town, surrounded by heavy industry, it was a place that was sadly in decline. The town decided to run a competition amongst its various schools, let the pupils come up with posters and slogans to promote the area to tourists. The best ideas would get displayed in the town’s public art gallery.
Well guess what, this muppet, was awarded a ‘Runners Up’ badge. Looking back they probably awarded ‘Runner Up’ status to hundreds and hundreds of kids. I can’t remember the winning entry but mine is engraved on my mind. It was a really bad painting of the sea front with my catchy catchphrase painted in black across the top. I captured the essential essence of Redcar in B’s.
“COME TO REDCAR – BEER, BINGO AND BEAUTIFUL BEACHES”
How did that not win………
Yes maybe I do need to work on my Yorkshire Promotional Skills. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
Here’s a little known fact about Redcar. The Oscar nominated movie Atonement was partly filmed here. One of the movies most iconic scenes is of the troops waiting in Dunkirk to be evacuated. That part of the movie was filmed on Redcar Beach.…..
Apparently we have a heatwave heading our way. Probably not today…..
School are supposed to have approached the Exam Authorities to discuss what the position with Hawklad is. Three clear problems exist.
1) All the courses the school run are based on the pupil sitting a final exam. What happens if that child can’t sit the exam. They temporarily changed the rules because of Covid, allowing the use of teacher final assessments if exams could not be taken. Those changes have now been ditched by the Government.
2) Most of the subjects have practical, in class requirements. Activities that pupils must undertake or they fail the subject. For example Geography, pupils must undertake a supervised field trip. Hawklad has already missed that, so has he already failed the subject? In previous years there was some flexibility but the Government has tightened the requirements.
3) One of the only options school can come up with is for Hawklad to resit the entire subject. But if he still can’t sit exams, if he can’t do the required practicals ….. that gets us nowhere.
It’s another sign that the UK’s school education system is just too inflexible. It’s designed by politicians for the benefit of politicians, it’s not about the needs of the individual child. Education is really far too IMPORTANT to be left in the hands of Politicians.
See what happens when you let part of the garden take care of itself….
I came across a news story about parents who had threatened to take their child’s school to court. The story may sound sadly too familiar. A really bright and popular autistic boy who did really well in his Primary (First) School. He struggled with reading but the teachers tried to support him. He found out that he was really good at maths. He loved music and started to play an instrument. The other subject he loved was languages, he was always trying to speak French. Because of his dyslexia the school had used alternative methods of tuition with him. Some didn’t work but importantly some things really worked. One was using a graphical and picture approach to languages.
Then he started Secondary School. He went from a really small school to a massive one with nearly 1000 pupils. Everything changed. Even though his previous school grades were good, he was placed in the bottom set. No attempt was made to evaluate his dyslexia or even help with it. Apparently ‘nothing could be done’. The school taught him in exactly the same way it teaches every pupil, even though it clearly wasn’t working for him. He really struggled in his best subjects as well. He lost interest in languages because he was falling behind with the way school taught the subject. He stopped playing an instrument because the music lessons were awful because of the disruptive behaviour in class. He became increasingly isolated and unhappy. School used the small extra funding he received to fund general teaching assistants who could never be dedicated to his need, they covered all the pupils in the class. Often they just focused on the pupils with the worst behaviour. The parents tried to work with the system. That failed so they tried to fight the system. Their lawyers eventually advised them that they had no chance of success. Apparently the school was following Government Policy, doing what was expected of them, following the set national curriculum. So they pulled their child from the school system and have started trying to homeschool.
It is sadly a far too familiar story. This is what happens when you try to force every child through the same educational production line. When teachers are not allowed to teach freely but are forced to teach in a set way. When school is all about the needs of the economy rather than the needs of the individual child.