FUN

Since I’ve been a parent watching my son go through the school system I have heard many things. Many things from those in charge of our school system. I’ve heard things like

The school day is too short

The children get too many holidays

We need to test and test again from as early as 5 years old

Schools fail not because of the system but because of poor classroom discipline

We need to bring back Victorian school values

Time off for bereavement is just an extended holiday for kids

Learning has to be about the needs of the economy

Teaching materials need to be carefully controlled so that pupils learn the right things

Smaller class sizes are overrated

Pupils taking a stand on climate change is really just an excuse to miss lessons

The school lunch break is too long

Pupils get too many breaks during the school day

Not enough children are taking part in after school learning activities

Not enough homework is issued

Ok you get the picture. Now ok I understand some parents will agree with those above statements but not me. I wouldn’t let this bunch of charlatans pretending to be a Government run a bath never mind our children’s schools.

But here’s the key thing. I’m hearing discipline, testing, work pupils harder…. One word I don’t hear is

FUN

What happened to childhood being the happiest time of our life’s.

Another word I don’t hear is

PLAY

What happened to childhood being about dreaming and playing.

Another word I don’t hear is

IMAGINATION

What happened to childhood being about dreaming and learning to think big.

Maybe that’s why we have such a huge mental health crisis amongst our young. Too much pressure. The world is changing rapidly so to me the last thing we need as a society is forcing our children through a factory school based system. Factory Education Farming based on values from over 100 years ago. It’s time to free up our schools. Let’s make schooling FUN again.

Times have changed

How times change….

When I was at school you did no work on the final day of the summer term. It was bring a game in day. Or play football all day. Or bring a pet into school (actually in my day it was bring a Dinosaur into school). It would end up with the ceremonial burning of the school exercise books behind the bike shed. The teachers never venturing too far from the staff common room all day, unless that was for an emergency replenish the stock trip to the alcohol off licence. Basically a more unruly version of The Purge.

Times have changed….

Hawklad received a class email this morning. The class has to revise for a science test. Two days to revise for the examination on Friday. The last day of the Summer term.

Wow times have changed.

Big Step Tuesday

Tomorrow could be called Big Step Tuesday.

Hawklad hasn’t been to school since March 2020. Not been within one mile of the site. That’s a long time to be away. School at home has replaced it. But tomorrow maybe that starts to change.

We have tentatively setup a school visit. After school closes tomorrow, we will drive through the school gates and park up. Just doing that would be a huge step forward. Then just maybe Hawklad will venture into school. A school with no other pupils and have a walk round. A teacher will walk with him if it helps. Or his muppet dad can. Or he can walk around himself. Whatever he feels most comfortable with. He could stay for an hour or he could spend just a couple of minutes. It’s all about trying to rebuild bridges.

Yes it could be a big step towards a school return in September. Or it could confirmation that September is too soon. Or even it could be further evidence that full homeschooling is the way forward.

Yes Big Step Tuesday.

Deadline

The one thing we have been careful about is not putting deadlines on the way forward. Somethings can’t be rushed. They have to happen in their own time frames especially as there are so many roadblocks out there. Especially when you get days where it’s one step forward and two back. That applies to my life just as much as it applies to Hawklad’s.

But it feels like a deadline is forming. The start of September. That sees the beginning of the new school year. But it’s different this year. His subject options have been picked. He is starting the final 21 month push towards his main exams. Fall behind now and it’s tough to catch up. This school year is hard enough even without anxieties and fears. Hard enough without having to worry about if it’s homeschooling or the classroom. Delaying a decision to return to the class adds so many complications. Hawklad would face the stress of returning to classes midway through the year. New classes. Different from the ones he left. Different faces. Established relationships and dynamics. That’s a real challenge for anyone but to someone with social anxieties, a nightmare.

Ideally September brings certainty. This is the start of how the learning and schooling goes until the exams. There shouldn’t be any sudden changes of approach. That’s why September feels like a deadline. A really tight deadline. Too tight. So many hurdles still to climb, so many bridges still to be rebuilt. Walking quiet country lanes although great progress is a million miles away from sitting without anxieties in overcrowded classrooms. Just under 8 weeks to do all that.

It’s also not much time to organise a full homeschooling approach leading to something meaningful for him.

Yes it feels like a deadline approaching fast.

Emails

Three emails from school over the last few hours. Kinda sums up the the modern world. The first two emails informed parents that more pupils had tested positive for COVID. Close contacts had been identified and told to isolate for two weeks. The rest of the school was still open and pupils are still NOT required to wear masks in school in line with Government policy.

The third email was more specific. In Hawklad’s Class yet another student had now tested positive for COVID. The Class would have to now isolate as well.

The number of cases in English schools continue to rise at alarming rates. I really hope that the pupils recover quickly and they are not in the 10% of children who develop long covid or end up in hospital with serious complications.

This is real. This is happening in my countries school’s today.

Odd choice

Thousands of years of history. A world of unique and fascinating areas for schools to study.

Hawklad’s favourite subject. He loves absorbing and living bygone places and events. Already he has an in-depth knowledge of Britain’s Kings and Queen’s dating back before 1066. He’s pretty hot on the Roman Empire. During lockdown he has developed real expertise in Hitler and German fascism. These all were developed largely without school help.

Now he us keen to expand his knowledge into ancient Egypt and the French Revolution.

It would be nice if the school system would run with this desire to learn. Sadly the UK state school system has developed a Henry Ford approach. You can have any learning as long as it’s only the one that is imposed on pupils. One learning fits all approach.

So what subjects will school history focus on for the remainder of his schools days.

Russian Tsars – ok Hawklad can live with that one

American Wild West ok

Victorian Crime and Punishment……

I’m sorry he has zero interest in that. Learning graphic details of the Ripper Crimes is not his thing. He struggles to even think about this area due to his anxieties. Effectively a third of his best subject course and exam is likely to cause him severe stress.

Of all the fantastic areas they could have picked and they went for this. When did History effectively become Criminology. So a complete school stay and no European history (apart from the two world wars), no ancient history. Here’s what really bugs me. Hawklad’s school history has failed to look at some of the great historical figures. Nero, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Martin Luther, Louis XIV, Charlemagne, Constantine the Great. Nothing. Yet Jack the Ripper gets shed loads of focus.

Some might want that, but many won’t.

Here’s a radical thought. Let the pupils have discretion to pick from a wide range of subject interests. That’s how you great a true lifelong spirit of learning.

Schools Masks

On the radio I have just heard a politician describe those who are advocating a rethink on school Covid safety as ‘left wingers playing politics with our kids future’. Apparently schools are perfectly safe and don’t need any form of additional safeguards. Items like masks are not needed and are an infringement on civil liberties. Parents should listen to those that know the facts……

Ok I am just your average muppet single parent. What do I know. How can I possibly doubt the Government’s decision to remove masks from schools.

Shall we listen to the Independent Science Advisory Group. Independent Sage concluded that “don’t think we can do anything but conclude that this government is seriously carrying out its herd immunity policy through natural infection, through school children.”

Or shall we see what a leading World Epidemiologist thinks. I’d rather listen to him than some trumped up politician who plays politics.

Mobile

There is so much wrong with my countries education system. Teachers aren’t allowed to freely teach as they are told what and how to teach by the Government. Headteachers have to follow instructions from above. Parents are threatened with fines by the Government. Government policy discriminates against those fantastic kids who don’t fit the mould set by the Government. Most school classrooms are overcrowded set in ancient buildings that are not fit for purpose and have next to no ventilation. The country has the highest class sizes in Western Europe. Historically our schools have been a haven for spreading bugs rather than spreading hope. Covid cases are rising rapidly in school age children, up by 80% in one week. Over 10% of children with Covid end up in hospital or develop long Covid. That is at a time when Covid safety rules on things like masks have been removed in schools. It’s as if the Government are intentionally trying to infect as many children as possible. There is a massive mental health crisis amongst our young at a time when cuts have left services at breaking point. Thousands of children are going hungry, living in poverty.

So much for the Government to act on. So what is the priority. What is the one thing the Secretary of State for Education wants to focus on…

Stopping pupils using mobile phones in school. Apparently they think there is a behaviour problem. Yes there is. NOT in schools, it is in the Government. It starts with the Prime Minister and infects those at the top.

Talk about skewed priorities. But what do we expect from this Government led by Boris Johnson. What do we expect from a Secretary of State for Education who proudly has a horse whip on his desk.

Our children deserve better than this.

The sooner we get rid of the cesspit in charge of our country the sooner we can start to build the future that our children deserve.

Not sure

A return to school for Hawklad in September will have to be so carefully managed. To be fair to school they are happy to do what they can. Phased start. Days to suit Hawklad. Prepared to make adjustments where they can.

But here’s the problem.

The set teaching material.

Some topics will open old wounds, reignite anxieties. This could derail everything

Let’s take this weeks lessons.

Science exam questions on Cancer,

Science lessons on diseases,

History lesson researching the murders and causes of death of the victims of Jack the Ripper. The details are graphic,

A lesson on food poisoning,

A lesson on mental health and suicide.

That’s one week. I can manage this at home but how do you address this at school. I’m not sure at all.

Anxieties

Is traditional school based education possible for every child.

I’m thinking more and more about that.

Trying not to go over too much old ground but Hawklad has been off from school since March 2020. A combination of school lockdowns and extreme anxieties. Anxieties about health, about viruses, about people, about crowds.

He is really fortunate to have a Child Psychologist working with him. The Psychologist is clear that one of the biggest tasks Hawklad is facing is to start to unpick all these anxieties. See which ones can be addressed in the short term and those that are deeper engrained or are a part of his personality. This is a difficult at the best of times but trying to do this during a pandemic is a nightmare. And most certainly real progress on some of his health and virus anxieties will not happen while people need to wear masks, while their is still so much uncertainty and while people are catching the virus in their thousands each day. Yesterday here it was 27000 new cases and still 1800 in hospital. Sadly 22 deaths yesterday.

The Government is clear. Children have to return to the classroom immediately. Schools should not encourage homeschooling. Schools are perfectly safe. School COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly. At present there are over 400 confirmed cases in the country with somewhere between 10 and 20% experiencing serious symptoms or encountering Long COVID implications.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of schools being open with no additional safeguards one fact is clear. There are children out there who have severe anxieties or have underlying health conditions who shouldn’t be in school right now. We are fortunate in that we have a medical note that rules out a return to school at present. Many are not so fortunate.