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…..

Weeks

Why do my wheat photos always come out so GRAINy.

It’s BARLEY believable that I told that one. Might be the last STRAW for many.

Sorry….

10 weeks. Just 10 weeks before the start of the new school year. Hawklad’s last in this school with the delights of the final exams. Just 10 weeks now. Deep down, I realise it’s not enough time. Yes he has made great strides, even a concert. BUT. He’s so on edge when people get too close (within yards). He can’t touch alien surfaces. That’s outside, inside the issues are ramped up so much more. He can’t even stand in a shop for more than a few moments.

He’s a million miles from returning to the cramped classroom, sitting there for hour after hour. Probably too many miles to cover in just 10 weeks. If that’s the case then where does that leave us. Starting another school year at home with exams that he might not be able to sit. The antiquated UK school system just has no flexibility or desire to cope with that.

At least this pesky school year will be done in 4 weeks time. That’s 6 weeks of freedom from schooling. 6 weeks to be free to wander the fields. Good weeks but never enough good weeks before it all starts again.

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.

Look but don’t touch

It’s been a long time….

Back before 2020 Hawklad had made fantastic progress. Not a natural socialite, even School was endured rather than embraced. Apart from one or two really close friends, he avoided large groups. But he pushed on. He forced himself on to do a few things he wanted to do even though it meant being amongst the masses. Sports matches, normally to see my so called team lose. Thankfully the wise young one picked a team that didn’t play in black and white to support. He could relax and laugh at his Dad.

The other thing he wanted to do was go to Rock Concerts. He managed it. Hood pulled firmly over his head and he found a way that worked for him. But then a pandemic hit. Alter Bridge and Shinedown was his last concert back in December 2019.

Everything then stopped.

2022 finds his fears and anxieties ramped up even further. But HE WANTS TO GO TO CONCERTS AGAIN.

So here goes.

With much planning, we find ourselves on a car journey right across to the other side of the country. A walk through a strange new busy city. Public Transport strictly avoided so we walked for miles to a football stadium. We waited outside for the right moment. A lull in the queues. We dived in. On the pitch and standing, that way we can control how close people get to him.

And with luck on our side Hawklad gets to see Echo and The Bunnymen AND THE ROLLING STONES. Yes it was crowded but we maintained a clear zone at all times. Yes I did have to get the elbows out at times to enforce that…. but the zone held. Years of metal concerts fully prepared me for that job.

A few hours later we are heading back home on the motorway. From Car to STONES to Car without Hawklad once touching an alien surface. But he did it. Hawklad a chatterbox telling me just how fantastic the Stones had been.

Here’s the sting in the tail. Poor Mick Jagger then went down with COVID a couple of days later. He may well have caught it doing this concert or in the city we had visited. That has been duly noted by Hawklad. But it’s still a step forward.

Downton

The village went all Downton Abbey like last weekend. Can’t think why 🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔

Bizarrely we watched Downton the other night. Hawklad is rather taken by the whole thing. It’s fictionally set somewhere round here but filmed mostly outside of Yorkshire. Just like the cool start to an American Werewolf in London, that spooky Yorkshire Pub and foggy Moor was randomly filmed in Wales – clearly real Yorkshire is even TOO scary for a Horror Movie. The Earl, his family and servants keep visiting places right around us. It is most unsettling when they look nothing like the real place. They went riding just a few miles from us and I had a thought, I hope I remembered to pick up the mad dog’s morning constitutional poo. Would hate for the good noble family horse shoes to step in that.

It’s been one of those few days. Actually it’s been one of those few weeks. Not enough sleep, school issues, work issues, life issues, just ISSUES. Never stopping, running around in ever decreasing circles and actually achieving absolutely nothing. Where do those 24 hours go…..

So I walked through the village looking at the bunting while thinking, odds on that our mad dog will at some stage try to pull all that lot down and then bury it in our front lawn. Out of nowhere a villager stuck his head out of the village hall and shouted, “When are you bringing the cucumbers for the sandwiches”. This villager could have well been a head butler in a past life. A head butler with remarkably bad eyesight as his next words demonstrated. “Oh I’m sorry, you are not Margaret…”. Never been mistaken for a Margaret before. Never even mistaken for a woman. Even when I dressed in a full on and very well ventilated French Can Can costume and ended up walking through a town centre searching for the Uni Party, I was DEFINITELY NOT ladylike MOST DEFINITELY not mistaken for a woman.

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.

Reading

Mostly a day to stay inside and dry but always keeping an eye out for those brief gifts.

In the end, no video conference call this week with school. School staffing unavailability led to a late cancellation. Apparently school will organise another teacher – parent day in a months time.

Ok move on, it’s the weekend.

As a kid I remember one thing really clearly from childhood weekends. Virtually every Saturday morning I would walk to the town’s library. The northern coastal town looked old and tired yet the library was a bit of an oasis. On the outside it looked like any other slate grey concrete block. But on the inside it looked brand new. Clean, bright. It even had a little indoor goldfish pond in the middle of the children’s section. I would select a book and sit beside the pond. For a couple of hours it was an escape from the claustrophobic reality. A working town cut off from the world by the sea on one side and polluting industry on all other sides. Hardly anyone went on holidays. It seemed like most adults would venture as far as the local chemical and steel plants to work, then it was back to the town to live. It did feel so claustrophobic. The only two escapes. The freshness of the beach and books in the library.

Fast forward far too many decades and it was like life repeating itself. Now miles from that old existence and a pandemic hit. Suddenly a picturesque village on a hill became isolated. Month after month of enforced isolation and it felt claustrophobic again. In the modern life there was thankfully a few more escape routes. One of which was again a library. This time quite a bit smaller and an awful lot redder than the old town library.

The village library

The converted old telephone box is the village community library. So a bit like when I was a child, excitedly checking out books to read, let’s see what books are in the library today. Sadly no goldfish to share the books with this time, it’s probably going to be with cows in the farmers field.

Spot anything you like ? Pleasingly the books I’ve donated on a few occasions are not there. Hopefully someone in the village is reading them as I write this.

I can’t begin to tell you just how great it felt during the lockdown to be able to walk a few yards to a little red library. To pick a book and have an adventure. Just like that little boy from that northern town, having an adventure in a library.