Pesky minus

Autumn is here. The Swallows and Swifts have left for warmer climes. Today felt cold even under a thick hoody.

Hawklad is making great strides on the dyslexia front. His reading is really good, now able to read History Textbooks. It’s hard to believe that back in 2020 he struggled to read books aimed at 6 and 7 year olds and school had decided that he would never read, so there was no point trying anymore. Sadly I realise they never really started trying in the first place. I had even gone out and bought a reading pen. He can now accurately read maybe 80% of the words then he can make educated guesses on most of the other ones. It works for him and that’s all that matters.

What is still very much a work in progress is his number dyslexia. He has finally conquered his difficultly with 4 and 7’s. Getting the two mixed up and often writing the two numbers back to front. But he just can’t break the roadblocks that are decimal points, fractions and minuses. Today he was easily expanding out complex equations, yet he would immediately grind to a halt when faced with something like +5-7. He just can’t visualise that. The problem is at home I can gently help with that, but in an exam there is no help.

This week has also highlighted another school stumbling block with reading. SHAKESPEARE. Hawklad’s way of reading just can’t cope with Shakespearean language and spellings.

And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st,

An open et caetera, thou a poperin pear!

I did try to read the sonnets to him but I struggle with Shakespeare as well. Plus according to Hawklad when I read, my character voice sounds like I’m reading parts from a SpongeBob cartoon. My Romeo apparently is a dead ringer for Patrick. But at least we have a solution to this one. Just watch the play on thou swear’st Netflix.

Pushy

The farmer playing real life MINECRAFT.

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…..

Harvesting

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.

Unbelievable.

Unforgivable.

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….”

SPEECHLESS……

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.

Heatwave

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.

One way system

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.

It really shouldn’t be like this.

UFO

Can’t see any UFO’s here.

This post was started about three months ago. Back then I had found an odd argument raging online about a Google Maps Image. One particular object on the satellite view was of much interest. It was either seen as a crashed UFO, some secretive Military Weapon or a Garden Trampoline. As it was clearly in someone’s garden then we might have the answer….

Frustratingly I didn’t save the Google Image, which kinda wrecks the point of the post. I know it’s not the same but here is another crashed UFO I have found in a garden. Why did it take Mulder and Scully so many series of the X-Files to find hard evidence of the an alien invasion when it took me 5 minutes on Google. Looks like every town and city has many of these crash sites.

Had to laugh today. One of Hawklad’s teachers has not sent him anything all year. We have made do by finding stuff on the schools online system and just hoping we are looking at the right things. Anyway, unbelievably that teacher sent Hawklad some stuff today. It was the marking scheme and answers to a mock exam that Hawklad is waiting to sit (still waiting for the questions to arrive). I always thought the questions came before the answers. School has changed since my days.

But many things puzzle me about school these days. Hawklad has had four other mock exams marked which he sat at home. The marks 85%, 75%, 66%, 65%. Clearly he takes after his mum as my exam scores often never exceeded my school age. Here’s the bit that puzzles me. School is still reluctant to move Hawklad from the bottom set, as that’s ‘the group they feel reflects his current attainment level’. Why do many schools as standard, pigeon hole pupils as low attainment purely on the basis of a term like dyslexia or autism or ADHD or ……. What happened to the idea of treating each child as an individual and seeing how high they can soar. No I don’t understand this, so I’m going back to something I understand far better. Crashed UFOs…..

May

Glorious May weather here this week…..

Yes wet but still great for exploring our little part of the world. Even the mad one can always find things that stop him in his tracks….

School have agreed to book in a formal review meeting for Hawklad. He is supposed to get one every year but a pandemic rather messes up the normal. A lot has changed since the last one. COVID became a word. Hawklad taught himself to read. So let’s see what options school can give Hawklad for the final academic year. We need to see options for what happens if he returns to school in September. If he returns part time in September. If his return is further delayed. If he can’t go back at all. It’s one last push to get more support for him. An NHS Consultant has agreed to attend as well, definitely one last push on School. We are not entirely hopeful…..

The Government made a big promise about funding extra help to pupils to catch up following Covid, sadly it’s more hot air, bluster and fibs. Hundreds of millions can be found for a Royal Yacht but not for the children. There is another source of funding but school decided not to apply as they thought that there was little additional support that could be successfully offered to Hawklad. Rather frustratingly Pupil, Parent and Medical Professionals were not consulted……

NO, not entirely hopeful but let’s see what one last push can achieve.

what’s the point

Proper Yorkshire weather. Two waterproofs, two jumpers, extra thick thermals required. No umbrella in the world will last 5 seconds in this.

Definitely had the country lanes to ourselves. In fact even too bad for animal or bird. The only exceptions, two intrepid swans on the lake but even those probably had wooly hats on.

As we hunkered even further down inside our waterproof Ironman suits we talked about life, school and Aspergers.

“Dad, now that I can read, can I get dyslexia taken off my medical record. I never got any help with it anyway..”

The conversation went on until….

“How do I get Aspergers taken off my medical record.”

Here’s why. To summarise this was Hawklad’s thoughts.

“I know I’m not cured. You can’t cure Aspergers. It is just who I am. It’s just that too many people don’t understand. They don’t bother to see, they just hear the word Aspergers and they just assume, assume wrong. Plus I don’t get any extra help for being listed as Aspergers from school and only a little bit from the Doctors. It isn’t doing me any good”.

What do you say to that. Especially when he’s right about too many people, the complete lack of adjustments from teachers and that the little bit of health support he does get is being phased out. Any support which had to be fought for is removed as the teenage years are reached. Adults are expected to fend for themselves. The Aspergers label helped explain some things initially, it probably helped the parents more but as Hawklad concluded

‘What is the point’…….

New year

Guess what. More mist…..

So Hawklad’s School Production Line Report arrived today. His best subjects ranked by school as his worst subjects, possible fails. His weakest subjects ranked better. Lots of random grades and targets. No pattern.

Then a pattern.

The few subjects where the teacher has looked at his work. Made suggestions. Actually tracked his work while he has been away from the classroom, tried to be proactive, these are his highest ranking subjects on the report. The subjects that are no more than borderline fails are the subjects where the teacher effectively has not been there for Hawklad during his homeschooling days. The subjects featuring no marking, no feedback, at best just minimal work sent out.

Does this show the inaccuracies of a metrics based report without any context.

Does it just show that because of the excessive teacher workloads, those pupils away from the classroom just suffer educationally.

Does it show that some teachers still fall back on assumptions. Pupils with unique educational needs are just shoehorned into the bottom set, labelled low attainment. Much more productive to spend teaching time on other pupils

Does it show a school system ravaged by a pandemic.

Does it show the way forward for Hawklad.

I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of too tired to process all this yet. But it’s clear as we move into the new year, to me Hawklad is making massive strides forward especially given the challenges he is having to deal with. It’s also yet another year which starts with the a school system which for whatever the reason, apparently isn’t delivering for Hawklad. Another year of battles with school.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, let’s all dust ourselves down and go again. We can do this.

Recharge

Another day, another one of those days……

Absolutely no sign of the sun. Unremittingly damp, cold and bleak. Our poor outdoor solar festive lights have now officially gone on strike. Switch them on and there is just about enough power generated to muster a dim flicker and then nothing.

I can’t begin to tell you just how wet and muddy I got on today’s walk. but it was still good to be outside. There is always things to see.

That is a seriously impressive Hay Snake.

Yesterday I talked about the fantastic reading progress Hawklad has made. Reading history textbooks is a real statement. But things are never straightforward. He still really struggles with writing. Getting his ideas out on paper. Here his dyslexia still dominates. His handwriting just won’t develop. His typing is laboured and inaccurate. His ideas don’t reach the paper.

He feels so much frustration when he can’t make much progress in this area. And he does feel real frustration. He can now read. He has an amazing mind and can visualise things that are way beyond me. Ask him something like to list all the British Monarchs in order, and it’s a breeze for him. Ask him who where the defendants at Nuremberg and he can name them, including the verdicts. Ask him to work out a complex sum in his head and he can do it effortlessly. Yet ask him to add to simple decimals together and he is lost. Ask him to tell the time and as hard as he tries, he just can’t. Ask him to list the alphabet and he just can’t get the order right after D.

It’s tough seeing your son get so down on himself. I feel his frustration intensely. As a parent you feel like you have run out of ideas. It’s impossible to not get down on yourself as well. But that’s not helping anyone. When tomorrow comes and Hawklad is again trying his heart out, and he will. He hasn’t given up. He won’t give up. I’m the one who needs to get going again. So that’s why those walks in nature are so important. Even in bad weather and unlike those solar lights, I do recharge. So we can try again tomorrow.