Autumn….

You can almost feel the nights drawing in.

A conversation today with Hawklad’s lead Clinician kinda confirmed the Plan A course. It’s been increasingly the likely path. Support which now comes his way from the NHS will not focus on a return to the school classroom. It will shift towards trying to get him ready for sitting exams in 10 months time, but sitting them away from the main group of pupils. A neutral, non school location. Plus the long term goal is to see if they can help him start College after this year is finished. They will issue a ‘can’t currently return to classroom note on medical grounds’. That is a relief as The Government is pressuring schools to start fining parents for keeping children away from school, even when the parent believes it’s in the child’s best interest.

So another year of school at home beckons, maybe it’s will end up being a full on homeschooling approach. Better stock up on the coffee then. Oh hang on, I’ve quit caffeine. Better stock up on Donuts then…..

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.

Worst

Biodiversity captured in one photo. Just moments later Captain Chaos decided it was a great place to cock his leg. The flying creatures didn’t hang around after that….

Maybe I should send The Captain to 10 Downing Street. Maybe that’s the only way of getting The Serial Liar to finally quit, end this nightmare and we can get our country back again.

Look at the mess here in the UK. That is what happens when you give power to the worst amongst us. When will we learn.

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.

Stuck in the middle

How did that old Stealers Wheel song go – Stuck in the middle with you…

Hawklad has done fantastically to start to overcome his dyslexia. He had found a way to read to the point that he now only occasionally asks for help but he still really struggles with handwriting and keyboard skills. He was due to get some help with that but the service was pulled basically because of national governmental changed priorities. School can’t provide any help as they don’t have the resources and the local education authority has drastically cut back special educational support. His Doctor thought about putting him on a health programme for support but the waiting list runs into years. Rapidly rising demand meets budget cuts…. Definitely feels like we are STUCK IN THE MIDDLE. Like most things, Hawklad and his muppet Dad will wing it ourselves.

Things are getting worse in this country, far worse. Special education and the support systems have become an easy target for budget cuts. For example the local council had to find a few million of savings so it slashed the Special Education Transport budget. On top of this health and schools are being stretched to breaking point with Covid. Many families are really struggling financially, they just don’t have the money to go private for support.

What worries me is just how many children with real pressing needs are just being left to fend for themselves. I had wrote ‘Forgotten about’, but that’s not strictly the case. Sadly they aren’t forgotten, they are just not a priority. That is unforgivable.

Another brick….

A cold chill blowing across the Moors. It might be June but it’s feeling more like November. Spot the well hidden, very secret military listening base in the distance.

They hid that one well 🤣🤣🤣🤣

I wonder if those at the base will listen in to me having a rant about education, AGAIN. If they are listening well can you record the next message. Boris Johnson has blood on his hands, he’s taking us all for fools and he should be in prison….

Anyway I’m GNARLY today…..

School finally sent through a bundle of mock exam papers. No instructions, so I guess it’s work through them under exam conditions and send them back for marking. So poor Hawklad sat the first paper today. In the living room wearing his Ron from Parks & Recreation T-shirt. You never see Ron and Ned Flanders in the same room together – just saying.

Anyway back to the two hour home sat mock exam. We tried near enough exam conditions. No help, no books, no internet, no extra time. But he could get up and walk about. No need to put a hand up to go to the toilet. If he wanted to get a snack from the kitchen, he could. Exams stop children doing what comes naturally to them. Modern day Victorian enslavement.

I am GNARLY…..

After the exam I checked how it went….

Hawklad struggled. Clearly in this subject much of what has been taught in the classroom has not found it’s way here. You can’t revise if you not taught the area first….. Then we come to the exam paper wording. Do this and you fail, don’t do this and you fail, your not allowed to do this…. Is it possible to make the instructions more cold and foreboding. And then the question wording. They’re not exactly brief…. Not exactly clear. Misread one key word and you’re stuffed. The convoluted wording is often open to multiple interpretations but only one will get you marks. That is a nightmare for pupils under pressure and stress. That is a nightmare for those who struggle with reading skills. It’s a nightmare for kids like Hawklad who often interpret things in different ways, who can read most of the words but occasionally get the odd word wrong.

Hawklad talked about two questions in particular that really spooked him. I’m not at all surprised. I have a Masters Degree in this area, I’ve worked for years doing things covered in these two questions. One question involved working out an angle. A seriously complex problem to solve that I would describe as a two coffee solution. I would need at least two coffees to work this one out. How can that be a fair school exam question. The other question involved completing a technical drawing of a complex 3D shape. I’m not entirely sure I could ever do it by hand, maybe with an online drawing package. If your going to do this as a question surely you use a far simpler shape that gives the pupils a chance of completing while under pressure. Again….

How can this be a fair question….

Why do we let our children go through this. The stress of exams. Some are good in exams, many are definitely not. Countless studies have shown the negative impact exam pressure can have on mental health. And why, what are they trying to achieve. These exams are not about showing what the child can do, it’s about showing what they can’t do. Exams like this are setting many up to fail. It’s definitely not about finding the special talents that every single child will have. They are only about filtering out, child weeding based on such a narrow, arcane part of life. PINK FLOYD definitely got it right with Another Brick in the Wall.

Look at the state of those in charge of The UK and you realise that the education system just doesn’t work. It definitely doesn’t work for the children.

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.

Not ready.

Another weekend has come and gone. Again just the two of us. Talks in the garden, walks around the deserted fields. Occasionally passing a fellow dog walker in the village, bringing just a quick nod. No deliveries. No postman. No sign of the neighbours. No phone calls.

Here some are starting to ignore the Government line that Covid is under control. Numbers are rising rapidly here. The hospitals are stretched again. So people are far less likely to stop and talk, preferring a quick shout from across the road.

That is adding to the isolation feel here.

We did look at visiting somewhere else, Hawklad fancied a historic site but the online booking systems clearly showed that there where extremely busy. So we stayed put. A weekend at home. Not using the car saved a bucket load of cash.

The last person I had a conversation with before the weekend was with his health professional. When I raised the school pushing for him to sit exams, she was clear. A clear “ he is not ready, not ready at all for that, he is potentially months or more likely much longer away from being anywhere near ready for classrooms or exams’. So let’s see what schools attitude is when I convey that message to them.