No surprise

Most definitely a nice change today….

So the end of term school report has arrived. When I say arrived I mean an email appeared informing me that the report was available online. After 3 hours of trying to get the app to work finally a unique set of parameters opened up the report. Fifth cup of decaf, third chocolate bar, complete packet of biscuits, the clock striking midnight and me threatening to hurl the laptop out of the window. All this worked.

So is the report a surprise! Sadly not. It’s as expected.

  • Just grades, target grades, performance and behaviour grades. A mass of numbers and seemingly random letters. Absolutely no narrative from the teachers.
  • No information on areas of weakness or plans of action.
  • No test scores. No work feedback.

Almost feels like one of those automated factory production cards. Cold, faceless, uncaring. So what do the numbers and letters tell me. Hawklad is still seen as low attainment. The work I’ve seen in a number of subjects not reflected in the expected final exam grades (another 2 and a bit years time). A subject where his last teacher told me that he knows the subject better than the teachers is marked as just about squeaking a pass. Another subject in which he regularly gets 100% on the online teaching app tests is listed as an expected subject fail. A handful of subjects listed as expected passes (most just the lowest pass grades). Bizarrely one of which is a subject the school want him to drop as they are not prepared to provide any additional help. No mention of why some of his expected grades are falling. No mention of what action is needed to reverse that.

No surprise at all really. For children like our son the approach is to set the bar low. No need to invest in potential then. Then any results at the end are seen as a real bonus. Evidence that the education system is clearly working 🤯. What that really means is too many are left to stagnate. Too many are let down by the system.

So yep no surprise at all.

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.

Clear the mist.

A brief break in the weather but then within minutes it’s back to this.

Another home at school week almost done. One more to go before the holiday break. A break which will start a day early. Schools have been asked at very short notice by the so called Government to consider closing before next Friday. Friday is when the National pandemic restrictions are relaxed for a week or so. Apparently they are worried about running schools at the same time as having limited restrictions in the place. So our school is reluctantly closing early.

I’m sure the kids won’t lose too much sleep over that.

So where do we find ourselves on the school at home project. Well Hawklad is still gamely plodding along. If it’s in the right direction – who knows. I guess we will find out in the next week or so when the term reports are sent out. That’s the thing Hawklad just doesn’t really know. Yes knowing what he has to do in the lesson has improved. Most of the subjects now have a teaching assistant who will either email him or will put some lesson material on the online system. Unfortunately there still are subjects that either just dump some random documents onto the system without any explanation or just forget about him. But at least most subjects are working better.

The real problem is feedback or the lack of it. There are 3 or 4 subjects that do try to give feedback. Not as much as he got in class but it’s still good feedback. A couple more subjects where he might get the very occasional brief comment. But in too many subjects he has had zero feedback. Nothing in a whole term. Not even marks back from work or homework submitted.

So yes we wait with baited breath for the term report. We don’t even know if he will be marked as having 100% attendance or as 100% missing in action. Hopefully that report will clear some of the mist….

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….

Start again

Another Monday and the start of another school at home week. I make that Week 38. That’s a lot of weeks. Funny thing is that it doesn’t feel like 38 weeks. Somedays it feels like only a couple of months. Other days it seems like years.

In all probability during the early part of 2021 it will be a full year of schooling at home. That wasn’t really in the plan.

It has really all felt a bit hit and miss. Some good bits and some not so good bits. Lots of frustrations. But equally lots of laughs. Some subjects where the teaching is working. Others where after 38 weeks it is still a complete waste of time. But that’s thing. With having to stick to the school curriculum we don’t have much scope to change things. We are dependent on the school making changes. But they have to stick to the national curriculum.

But over those 38 weeks we have settled into a rhythm. Parent and Son. No need to set the alarm as we just naturally wake up at the right time. No real pressure if Hawklad starts a few minutes early or late. No need to think about breaks or food. They kind of just happen. We know which lessons will work and which won’t. If we don’t have an item for a lesson we now know how to wing it. We are not surprised by the lack of feedback. Hawklad doesn’t panic now if a teacher forgets about him. I get on with stuff until I’m needed to help out. The school week just happens now.

True homeschooling did feel daunting now it feels very doable. Tough but something we can cope with. But Week 38 also marks a dangerous time. That’s a lot of weeks of emailing and phoning school. Trying to make improvements to the teaching. Make it more tailored to Hawklad. Am I starting to take my eye off the ball. Not pushing the school as much. Maybe week 38 is time to refocus and start again. Or maybe it’s just going to be another one of those weeks. If I was a betting man I would put my money on the latter. It just feels that way.

School

That’s as clear as it’s been so far today. The mist lifted for a few minutes but far too quickly returned.

In the UK the Government’s handling of the pandemic has been an absolute shambles and that’s putting it mildly. Sometimes following the science, sometimes following politics, sometimes it’s all about common sense, sometimes it’s about enforcing rules but then not applying those rules to themselves. Telling people a national lockdown would be an unnecessary madness then days later enforcing one. Banning many safe activities but allowing other much riskier things to continue. Dithering on things like masks, testing and social distancing. Culminating in telling the public to go out and mix as it’s our civic duty to get the economy going THEN weeks later blaming people for meeting up and causing the virus to spread again.

It’s just a complete mess. So how tough must it be for schools to operate in these circumstances. All major social gatherings are banned but schools are instructed to stay open. My beef here is not with headteachers but with those above them….

We received an email from our school yesterday trying to set out the current rules. To summarise

  • Even though the country has entered a national lockdown the School remains open but large numbers of pupils and staff are isolating. The school has a number of confirmed cases. Pupils and staff are struggling to get tests undertaken.
  • Pupils must attend school unless they have written confirmation from a Doctor that they are not medically cleared. Even if a pupil is clinically vulnerable they must attend unless a doctor has signed them off.
  • If the pupil lives in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable then the government line is that the pupil should still attend school.
  • If a pupil develops symptoms then the school recommends that the pupil isolates until a test is undertaken however this cannot be enforced due to Government rules.
  • If a pupil is legitimately unable to attend then they must use the online teaching systems. They must stick to school timetabling or punishments will be issued.
  • Masks should be worn on school buses, while walking in school corridors, visits to the toilet and while queuing for school meals. These will be enforced.
  • Masks can be worn outside school buildings and at times during classroom time but not when answering teacher questions or during group work. The wearing of masks in class cannot be enforced due to Government instructions.
  • Pupils are encouraged to observe 2m (6ft) social distancing outside of the classroom. Space does not permit that in classroom settings. The school is not currently allowed to install additional screening in the classrooms.
  • Pupils must not mix with pupils outside of their designated year group during the school day. That includes family members and close friends.
  • The school is still not permitted by the Government to make more general use of online tuition to free up space within the school.
  • During winter it will be necessary to keep many windows open for improved ventilation. Teachers have the discretion to allow pupils to wear coats if the classroom temperature drops. The wearing of hoodies or non school uniform is not permitted.
  • All out of school activities have had to be suspended due to Government instructions.
  • Due to the number of staff absences it is likely that a growing number of lessons will be taught by teachers who are not the normal class assigned one.

How stressful is this for children, staff and parents. Its such a mess which according to the Government is a bastion of best practice. We are told schools are perfectly safe, feature the highest standards of care and that it’s a parents civic duty to send their children into school……..

OK so here we start another week of homeschooling.

Francais

So the dawn of another school at home week. Let’s ignore the fact this is a sunset…..

School at home is kind of working for some subjects. That’s often down to the availability of the online content, the accessibility of the material and how interesting the material is. Unfortunately some subjects are just not working. Prime amongst all of them is FRENCH.

Le Francais ne fonctionne pas

This is not something new. I remember struggling with the subject at school. The teaching method seems to be very dry. This works great for some kids but not others. But in the UK we are still focused on delivering one teaching approach to all pupils regardless of it works or not. One day we will shift to tailoring learning to suit the individual child rather than the needs of the Government.

Our Son is dyslexic. That presents significant issues when trying to learn another language. For a start certain languages are less transparent than others. Presenting more issues with learning pronunciation, spelling, grammar and word order. English and French are two really difficult languages in that respect. Potentially presenting greater challenges for those with dyslexia. Languages like German, Italian and Spanish may present easier routes to learning.

Our Son has Aspergers. The impact on language learning is not entirely clear. It largely depends on the individual. In our sons case he can visually remember lots of facts and instantly remember then. Not so good if it involves text. Visual imagery is best.

Then we come to the learning approach. What is the current approach. Trying to remember words parrot fashion. Translating text. Writing out sections of text. Old school spelling tests. Then expecting that to be brought together into listening and answering comprehension questions on spoken dialogue. Penalising errors. That just isn’t working for our Son. In his words

“I’m now dyslexic in two languages.”

Maybe a better approach is to let the child pick a language first…..

Then offer a range of multi sensory learning methods. See which ones work and which don’t. Every child will be different. Maybe our son would benefit from concentrating on listening and speaking. Focusing any other learning on more graphical approaches. He loves history. Maybe try to incorporate history about the country into the language learning.

That’s the ideal world.

But back to reality. The current school approach. I keep stressing to school that the current approach is just not working. He is quickly losing interest and patience with French. Eventually school has said that it will see what it can do. It looks like they will try to add some more explanations to the text and potentially video some parts of the classroom lesson. Problem is that it’s still the same teaching method just with added detail. It’s a bit like when you go abroad and struggle to make yourself understood. So what do you do. Often you don’t try to change what you are saying, you just end up saying exactly the same thing but now shouting it. So I’m not entirely hopeful of progress.

If and when we do go full homeschooling then language learning will be the very first thing we change. Find something that works for our Son. It has to be that way.

Ca doit etre mieux que ca

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.

Monday

Got to just follow a trail. Hope it leads in the right direction.

So the school reopens a week today. Most kids will return. Some won’t. Our son will not be able to return at this stage. How long will he be out of school. Weeks, months, permanently – no idea. So we have to work on the assumption that he will return at some stage. So with minimal help from school and nothing from the authorities, who do we try to keep him on track with his classmates. To ensure that if and when he does return that he has not fallen behind.

The plan is to get the class timetable from school. That will form the basis of the learning each day. We won’t stick to the class timings but will try to focus on covering the subject matter. First call will be any lesson notes that are posted in the school system. Ensuring we do any work assignments that might be posted as well. I will ask each teacher to at least provide an indication of what topics will be covered and the copies of any handouts that are provided. Then it’s Dad trying to be teacher, looking for relevant videos and resources on the internet. All work completed will be emailed to each teacher at the end of the day. Any gaps we will make up with stuff son wants to cover.

If this school at home project extends further then I will supplement gaps with buying online teaching packages.

We are lucky that my work has basically dried up. Not much until 2021 at the earliest. The positive is that frees my time up to focus on being a teacher. Maybe I need to dress like a teacher?

That’s the plan. What could possibly go wrong.

Telepathy

Free Gardening Tip Number 1: Clearly if you leave the garden long enough it will sort itself out. You can just stand back and enjoy the results.

If I was listing my many wonderful features I might start with

  • Chiselled Features
  • Thor like body
  • Razor sharp intellect
  • Reactions of a cat
  • Chef supreme
  • Cunning linguist
  • Sporting Superbeing

And on and on. The list would be extensive but one word that does not appear is Telepathic.

Dad we have a problem. Class have been working on a project for the last two weeks. It’s going to be used as this terms evaluation mark. The project has to be finished in one hours time. I didn’t know about it.”

The two week project period almost perfectly mirrored the time Hawklad had been off from school since his unplanned operation. Now in the normal scheme of things this would not be a problem. He had a valid reason to be unavailable for schoolwork. School was notified of this. Common sense would surely prevail……

Oh no……no, no, no, no, pigging NO.

It is the responsibility of the pupil and the parent to be fully aware of all assignments. These are clearly communicated via class lessons and the class notes. Failure to be aware of an assignment is not a valid exception to the rule. This applies to ALL parents and pupils. So basically if your sick and return to school then you should ensure you read all class documentation before your first day back. You can then immediately start working on any projects. This bad, bad, bad parent did not do this. So I never came across the assignment. That’s where the power of telepathy would have been most useful.

Free Parenting Tip Number 1: So clearly what any responsible parent should have done is read all the class notes, work out deadlines for the various projects and then return your child back to school THE DAY AFTER THE PROJECTS HAD TO BE HANDED IN. Job done and no need for a one hour mad scramble to cobble together a project….