Children used in gender neutral experiment on TV

gender-neutral-lanesend-primary-pupils-with-dr-javidTonight, that is Wednesday 17th August sees the first of two hour-long programmes that shows an experiment with 23 seven year olds from Lanesend primary school in Cowes.

The BBC have produced a program called ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?‘ and the experiment is for the children to spend a term ‘gender neutral’.

I am a little surprised that a whole class and a whole term can be devoted to this experiment. Certainly in my school the children have a curriculum that is full and there would be little room to run an ‘experiment’ with them for the BBC.

Dr Javid Abelmoneim asks this question:

Is the way we treat boys and girls in childhood the real reason we still haven’t achieved true equality between men and women in adult life? And could stripping away the pink and blue – and the other more subtle ways that boys and girls are shaped to be different – be the way to raise kids with abilities and attitudes that are the same regardless of their gender?

An interesting question but experimenting on 27 children for a whole term?

This strikes me as slightly odd:

  • What effect will it have on the children?
  • Should we really allow this sort of reality TV to interfere with children’s education?

The experiment has attracted some criticism from Wiltshire councillor, Mary Douglas, who claimed it was “abusive” and “inappropriate”, she has also been slammed for suggesting transgender people are mentally ill which seems a little unfair if you are to take Transabled into the equation, and of course she is entitled to her opinion.

There does seem to be some confusion over gender identity with an ever growing list of of terms and is being added to on a daily basis. However Dr Javid claims that ‘this is absolutely not about gender identity’ and that ‘in no way could you imagine anyone ever trying to steer children in a way that’s harmful’

I would disagree with Dr Javid and actually many children have been steered in a harmful, abusive and cruel way by adults over the years.

He goes on to say: We’re talking about the BBC. I’m a Doctor. Their parents and teachers were involved.

Which may suggest that because he is a ‘Doctor’ that some how we should defer to his authority and that it is the ‘BBC’ that it has no bias.

and finishes saying ‘watch the programme and then if you still want to hold that view – well, then you’re daft.’

Well I hope I am not ‘daft’ for not holding the same opinion as the BBC and a Doctor and yet this programme is steering children in an experiment and we obviously can’t tell the results until it is finished.

A little disingenuous from a Doctor I feel.

So I am looking forward to the viewing.

Tune into BBC2 at 9pm to see the first of the two programmes. It will be on the BBC iPlayer after the broadcast if you are unable to watch tonight.

Inclusion…does it work?

Wheelchair-Inclusion.jpgInclusion in schools is about no longer distinguishing between “general education” and “special education” programs.

At its most basic it means children with special needs join school in mainstream classes, this does work for some children but for others it is proving difficult, not just for the child with special needs but for the other children that are in the classroom.

One lovely child I worked with when I was a LSA (Learning Support Assistant) in another school was a wheelchair user, had autism, physical disabilities and a chronic disease. He was a bright child with a wicked sense of humour, however his special needs would cause to shout out loudly in class, to break wind and disrupt the teaching.

We also caused disruptions by going out of class to do some exercise every 15 minutes. It was at this point that the teacher would more than likely ask me to keep him out because of the disruption caused on the during the lesson.

It saddened me to see the upset caused to the child, teacher and the class, it is clearly unfair on all parties. This happened in every lesson and the teacher was exasperated with whole situation, sadly though this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Teachers have enough on their hands with the differentiation (that means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to planning and instruction) within any class.

Each school will have a SENCO (SENCO stands for “Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator”. A SENCO is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy. All mainstream schools must appoint a teacher to be their SENCO) whose job it is to help the children follow interventions and other work that has been decided on an IEP (Individual Education Plan is a plan or programme designed for children with SEN to help them to get the most out of their education) between child psychologists, parents, teachers and the school SENCO.

Each child is different and the programme can be very involved, and for the teaching assistant it will be a major part of your role and with 30 children in a class time is at a premium and with school cuts the number of teaching assistant is dropping.

If there are three or four children in one class with SEN and the Teaching Assistant is only employed for four hours a day is it really possible to do all that is required?

So does inclusion work? Inclusion in principle is a great idea as we live in a world where people are very different and it is lovely children just accept how people are.

However, children are individuals so the solution needs to be individual. There are numerous examples of children with SEN who have successfully integrated in mainstream schools which has been a benefit to both themselves and their peers.

On the other hand if it is not working with a particular child who exactly is it benefiting? Not the child, the class or the school, maybe we need to find specialist help for those who cannot integrate because surely if we don’t we are letting them down?

Up the creek…

‘More must be done’

A report states almost a third of 11-year-olds in England leave primary school unable to swim. The survey for Swim England asked if the could save themselves if they gt into trouble in water.

Steve Parry, a former Olympic swimmer and chairman of a report urging an overhaul of school swimming. Figures released today last year revealed that 321 people lost their lives in accidental drownings in the UK in 2015.

Ministers agreed “more must be done” to improve school swimming but of course constant cuts to school funding makes this almost impossible.

“Water safety is the only part of the national curriculum that will save children’s lives, it can’t be treated as an optional extra,” said Mr Parry. This is a great idea and is already part of the national curriculum but just how many primary schools have swimming pools?

It’s about one quarter which means that the other three-quarters of primary schools travel to local authority pools for lessons and transport can be time-consuming and expensive. If time is spent travelling it means other lessons are dropped in favour of swimming and with the curriculum being so tight it may well mean a loss of something such as science or history.

The report, compiled after eight months of research, points out that the National Curriculum requires all children to be able to swim 82ft (25m) by the age of 11 – but says that too many schools miss the target. And this is clearly because of the time and money spent organising visits to a local pool and a government that is happy to see cuts and enforce a curriculum decided not by teachers or educators but by Members of Parliament who have no training in education whatsoever’ lack the understanding needed to create a good curriculum and see more worried about the UK’s position in the PISA tables than a good education for our children. In his foreword to the report, Mr Parry called the figures “unacceptable” and he is right. If he squeeze some money from the government then great, if not, the figures will not change.

The independent report, by a group of sporting and educational bodies called Swim Group, was commissioned by the government. Its recommendations for swimming and water safety teaching include:

  • a new national Top-Up Swimming programme to ensure all children reach statutory standards
  • a new swimming achievement award for pupils
  • better swimming resources for schools
  • swimming to be included in the next national curriculum review
  • better training for staff who teach swimming

The authors say that schools tend to “prioritise subjects for which they are graded” and says that if school inspections paid greater attention to swimming this could be a “silver bullet” for standards.

“Swimming is a vital life skill,” said Children’s Minister Robert Goodwill and said the government would work closely with the authors to review the recommendations, a year on and still nothing has happened. More hot air I fear.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of the National Association of Head Teachers, hits the nail on the head. He agreed swimming was a crucial life skill but added that schools needed more resources “to hire a pool, pay for qualified instructors and to arrange transport”.

He added: “At a time when budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point, many schools find it difficult to deliver anything outside of the academic core.

“The government must invest, or risk seeing a further decline in swimming amongst primary age children.”

When most schools can barely find the money for essentials because of government cuts I cannot see any hands going in the pockets to fund this.

The recent announcement of just over a billion ponds for schools means that schools will receive 0.5% extra whilst some schools are taking a 10% loss over all.

Gender Dysphoria in Children

download (1)
Gender Dysphoria – How much do we really understand?

As a father of two, the current growth in transgender transitioning of children worries me somewhat. I was watching a report on the BBC about two children who are changing their sex with the help of their parents, doctors and therapists.

Gender Dysphoria is a very real condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

According to the Tavistock Centre, the UK’s only centre specialising in gender issues in under-18s is the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which is based in London and has clinics across the UK.

  • ‘In the last two years, the number of children aged 10 or under who were referred to the NHS because they were unhappy with their biological gender has risen from 87 to 216, including 32 aged five or under over the last year’

I do not believe that a child has the understanding or capacity to make such a life changing decision at such a young age.

As an adult that is your decision, your responsibility and you should be supported in that. However, saying that I am concerned about that as well psychological effects that this can cause.

This is a definition of transgender from the BBC.

  • ‘Transgender is a term used to describe a person who does not identify as the gender that was assigned to them at birth – they may wish to be seen as a different gender or no gender at all’

So how exactly are we assigned a gender?

Surely if we are born as a male then our gender is that of a male and born as a female our gender is that of a female.

We are not born gender neutral so who is it that assigns our gender?

No one, certainly not the doctor.

When your child is born the doctor will look at your children’s genitals and tell you it is a boy or a girl. That is not an assignment it is a clinical observation, the same with weight, height or eye color. Those are descriptions, not assignments.

Interestingly whilst researching this post I cam across this:

  • A staggering 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide, according to a new survey.

These statistics (if true) are just some of the sobering findings from a survey of more than 7,000 transgender people conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, released in October 2010.

Is this because of the rejection of the transgender agenda or because being transgender is psychologically very difficult?

There are differing opinions about this.

Certainly some transgender people go on to live a happy life but a percentage do not, sadly some take their lives and some surprisingly change back.

Is gender that fluid?

My doubts were raised about how we treat Gender Dysphoria was when I read about a group of ‘Transabled’ people.

They’re the people with fully functioning bodies, who are disabled by choice. Men and women who say they have the condition claim they feel trapped in their able bodies, much like, they say, like trans people feel born into the wrong gender.

I have read in different reports from different outlets and a documentary some years ago on the BBC reports that some have gone to extreme lengths to give themselves disabilities or to act disabled.

One man cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool”, and now calls himself ‘One Hand Jason’, telling everyone it had happened in a tragic accident.

Another dropped heavy concrete slabs on to his legs in order to get them amputated.

However doctors were able to save his legs from amputation, and though he now has a limp, he says he wishes to try again until they’re amputated.

People like One Hand Jason have been classified as ‘transabled’ feeling like imposters in their fully working bodies. Identifying as something they are not.

The condition has also been known by the medical name Body Integrity Identity Disorder since 2013.

  • “We define transability as the desire or the need for a person identified as able-bodied by other people to transform his or her body to obtain a physical impairment,” says Alexandre Baril, an academic who will present on ‘transability’ at a Social Sciences and Humanities session at the University of Ottawa.

The person could want to become deaf, blind, amputee, paraplegic. It’s a really, really strong desire.”

Clive Baldwin, an academic at St. Thomas University, says he’s interviewed 37 people with the condition to date.

This is again worrying and I certainly hope we won’t be removing peoples limbs.

If Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a psychological disorder because people identify with being disabled, is it really a stretch to say that could be said of those with Gender Dysphoria who identify with a different gender?

and what about our the children?

They are being given a choice of what gender they wish to be when they can barely tie their shoe laces up. It just doesn’t sit right with me and everything  know about children but i’m not an expert by any means.

I don’t know what the answer is but much more research to truly understand the ‘trans’ area is, what it means and how it is treated.

Whatever the answer is all trans people need to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity.

Assaults on teaching staff

You wouldn’t think that violence towards teaching staff would be an issue in primary school but it is something to be concerned about.

Last Essex saw a record number of attacks on staff.

There were 408 fixed term exclusions of pupils as a result of these incidents between 2015 to 2016, the highest number since 2006.

The number of assaults was up from the 368 recorded in 2014 to 2015, with classroom violence now far more prevalent in recent years than ever before.

Secondary school pupils in Essex were suspended 64 times for physical attacks on adults in 2015 to 2016. 

Myself, work friends and colleagues can recall at least one or two instances, one punched in the testicles, one bitten, I have been spat at in the face. These are very unpleasant and of course not acceptable and were dealt with by the schools in quesrions. 

So what do I do if something happens to me?

Write down exactly what happened puting on the date and time of it, give a copy to your line manager and take a copy for yourself.

I tend to type it out and email it to myself as it is stored and time stampes by your conputer.

What steps are taken next will be down to the schools senior staff and the governors should it go that far. 

Just remember to keep yourself safe first. Do everything by the book and make sure you are followinh the school safeguarding policy.

DBS (The Disclosure and Barring Service)

downloadIf you want to work in a school you will need to get a DBS (The Disclosure and Barring Service) check.

The school you are applying to will do this for you and pay for it but you will need to chase it.

Why do I need a DBS Check?

The Disclosure and Barring Service manage lists of individuals who are barred from working with children and adults. New safeguarding regulations introduced in October 2009 place an obligation on employers, social services and professional regulators to notify the DBS of relevant information.

This obligation ensures that individuals who pose a threat to vulnerable groups can be barred from working with them. It also makes it a criminal offence for barred individuals to apply to work with these groups and for employers to knowingly employ them.

A DBS check at its most basic is done to protect the children, adults and also yourself within the workplace. It is an important tool in the fight against abuse.

What does a DBS Check do?

There are 3 types of check
The employer or organisation you are working at or applying to should provide you with more information about the level of check required. In a school it will be an enhanced check.

This checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.

This includes the same as the standard check plus any additional information held by local police that’s reasonably considered relevant to the role being applied for.

Enhanced with list checks
This is like the enhanced check, but includes a check of the DBS barred lists. These are jobs that involve carrying out certain activities with or for children and adults, schools are of course included in here.

If you have anything on your DBS that is on the barred list you will not be able to work in a school or any other work involving children.

What Documents do I need?

Group 1: Primary identity documents

Document Notes
Passport Any current and valid passport
Biometric residence permit UK
Current driving licence photocard – (full or provisional) UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and EU
Birth certificate – issued within 12 months of birth UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands – including those issued by UK authorities overseas, for example embassies, High Commissions and HM Forces
Adoption certificate UK and Channel Islands

Group 2a: Trusted government documents

Document Notes
Current driving licence photocard – (full or provisional) All countries outside the EU (excluding Isle of Man and Channel Islands)
Current driving licence (full or provisional) – paper version (if issued before 1998) UK, Isle of Man, Channel Islands and EU
Birth certificate – issued after time of birth UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands
Marriage/civil partnership certificate UK and Channel Islands
HM Forces ID card UK
Firearms licence UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

All driving licences must be valid.

Group 2b: Financial and social history documents

Document Notes Issue date and validity
Mortgage statement UK or EEA Issued in last 12 months
Bank or building society statement UK and Channel Islands or EEA Issued in last 3 months
Bank or building society account opening confirmation letter UK Issued in last 3 months
Credit card statement UK or EEA Issued in last 3 months
Financial statement, for example pension or endowment UK Issued in last 12 months
P45 or P60 statement UK and Channel Islands Issued in last 12 months
Council Tax statement UK and Channel Islands Issued in last 12 months
Work permit or visa UK Valid up to expiry date
Letter of sponsorship from future employment provider Non-UK or non-EEA only – valid only for applicants residing outside of the UK at time of application Must still be valid
Utility bill UK – not mobile telephone bill Issued in last 3 months
Benefit statement, for example Child Benefit, Pension UK Issued in last 3 months
Central or local government, government agency, or local council document giving entitlement, for example from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Employment Service, HMRC UK and Channel Islands Issued in last 3 months
EU National ID card Must still be valid
Cards carrying the PASS accreditation logo UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands Must still be valid
Letter from head teacher or college principal UK – for 16 to 19 year olds in full time education – only used in exceptional circumstances if other documents cannot be provided Must still be valid

The documents needed will depend on the route the application takes. The applicant must try to provide documents from Route 1 first.

Route 1

The applicant must be able to show:

  • one document from Group 1, below
  • 2 further documents from either Group 1, or Group 2a or 2b, below

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address.

Route 2

If the applicant doesn’t have any of the documents in Group 1, then they must be able to show:

  • one document from Group 2a
  • 2 further documents from either Group 2a or 2b

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address. The organisation conducting their ID check must then also use an appropriate external ID validation service to check the application.

Route 3

Route 3 can only be used if it’s impossible to process the application through Routes 1 or 2.

For Route 3, the applicant must be able to show:

  • a birth certificate issued after the time of birth (UK and Channel Islands)
  • one document from Group 2a
  • 3 further documents from Group 2a or 2b

At least one of the documents must show the applicant’s current address. If the applicant can’t provide these documents they may need to be fingerprinted.

Your name must be exactly as it is on your birth certificate, driving licence etc. If you have changed a spelling, double barreled or something else this may cause problems and in my experience the DBS Service is not very good.

How do I get a DBS check?

The employer gets an application form from DBS or an umbrella body (a registered body that gives access to DBS checks). You will then need to fill in and return to them along with documents proving their identity.

Once that is done the employer sends the completed application form to DBS or their umbrella body.

This is when you start to wait as it passes through five separate stages.

Stage 1 – Application Form received by the DBS and validated

Stage 2 – Police National Computer searched

Stage 3 – DBS Children, DBS Adults and List 99 searched (where applicable)

Stage 4 – With the Local Police Force (if at this point you have been waiting for 60 plus days you can ask for an ‘Escalation’) This may speed it up but my advice is to contact your MP.

Stage 5 – Certificate printed

In my experience the police took weeks and weeks to check mine. After calling everyday and getting no help I got my local MP involved who wrote a letter (which incidentally went missing) but my check came through rather speedily after that.

I lost £600 in wages but there is no way of claiming that.

I was not best pleased nor impressed by the whole process even though it has an important place in the safeguarding of our children.

Finally your certificate will be posted to you NOT your employer, they have to ask the the certificate. They cannot keep it or take a copy of it.

If you join the DBS Update Service your employed can check your certificate online, however most have not heard about it and will not use it.

Your employer will renew your DBS for you.


Classroom Behaviour #1

Classroom behaviour…it is easy to give a heavy sigh especially when I consider some of the issues I have had to deal with in the last year. However, the majority children I have help teach are great and their behaviour is also great.

Classroom behaviour starts formally with the school policy on behaviour, make sure you read this and understand it.

Many children respond well to classroom discipline

This will list the various steps up the ladder of discipline. For instance you may have: first warning, second warning, loss of play or lunchtime, sent to another class, sent to Deputy Head, letter home, parents called in, suspension or at worst exclusion.

Of course there are also praise and rewards than are used. These may include: special job, house points, up the reward ladder, raffle tickets and class rewards.

As the Teaching Assistant it may take you a while to understand how your teacher is with your class. You need to have exactly the same response. That must be fair and consistent and is one of the most important skills that you can display in the class.

Children need to know and understand that there are consequences to their actions. It would be nice to think that all children do but sadly that is not the case. There are many reasons why children misbehave but we must be consistent.

We need to work very hard to maintain consistency with all children not just in the class but in the school. We usually discuss and then write the class rules. This is typed, mounted and everyone including the Teacher and the Teaching Assistant signs it. It gives focus and food for thought about behaviour.

Your teacher will delegate jobs to your children such as book monitor, door monitor, there are many monitor jobs. These will help your children understand their rights and responsibilities and can only but assist with the culture of the class and the behaviour of the students.

Your teacher will also have a bag of skills that will help you and the teacher to engage your students. In my experience it is worth watching and understanding what is happening when she uses them. For instance my last teacher and I had a great relationship and we laughed a lot, this was good for several reasons. It puts the children at ease especially when it is a year move and the teacher and TA are unknown, it can be very funny and help with learning. My last teacher used to gesticulate wildly whilst explaining a point, it was a visual anchor which helped the children remember and made me laugh and was just fun. Learning and fun what more can you ask for. Good behaviour is just the best, it is wonderful to see children enjoying learning and having fun.

What about bad behaviour?

In my experience it is the low level disruption that you need to keep to a minimum. One thing you need to learn is ‘the look’ and the look just works. Essentially you are saying ‘stop, what are you doing and should you be doing that?’ be that wandering around the classroom, head on the table, not sitting up, talking when they shouldn’t be and other things.

If they do not spot you giving them the look then their name should be called out calmly and quietly as not to disturb the lesson.

As well as ‘the look’ you can use ‘the pause’, once one student notices it they all will and slowly one by one stop and pay attention.

Other strategies which a probably are small rhymes. You call out ‘one, two, three’ and they will reply ‘eyes on me’ or a personal favourite ‘hocus pocus’ and they respond ‘everybody focus’, if that doesn’t work the ‘freeze’ works well.

I will come back to this but children need to act appropriately in the classroom.

This Ofsted survey report follows concerns raised in the Ofsted Annual Report 2012/13 about low-level disruption in schools. As a consequence, guidance to inspectors was tightened to place greater emphasis on this issue in routine inspections. This survey was commissioned to ascertain the nature and extent of low-level disruptive behaviour in primary and secondary schools in England.

The findings from that survey show that teachers, parents and carers are rightly concerned about the frequent loss of learning time through low-level but persistent disruptive behaviour. This report demonstrates that, in too many schools, teachers are frustrated by this sort of behaviour and are critical of colleagues, particularly those in leadership positions, who are not doing enough to ensure high standards of pupil behaviour.