Mummy needs Gin…

This interesting piece is from a blog called ‘Mummy Needs Gin‘…

Untitled 1My son is 5 and a half and in Year One. In my opinion, his early experiences of education should be a good mix of social interaction, play and learning. As after all, the purpose of schooling is to develop children in readiness for all aspects of adult life, not just educationally. Emotionally it should help to build their confidence, expose them to social interaction with all age groups, races, gender, backgrounds etc. and help them develop emotional intelligence as well as educational ability. Many schools do this, and do it well, however, the Governments latest high-jump bar of targets is leaving little room for children’s emotional development, as academic test results are being steam-rolled to the forefront.

My 5 year old is already expected to read aloud to me 5 times a week. He’s expected to learn to read, write, and spell a range of 50 words by July and also have his letter and number formation scored to make sure it’s at the correct standard. He’s expected to practise additional reading, writing and maths at home 7 days a week while getting enough exercise.

Today he came home with the following letter:

Not only is he expected to continue the current scheme of further learning, but the bar has now been raised even higher to include a weekly spelling test. Fair enough, I thought, it can only be a good thing. But there’s a catch. These children need to get 8 out of 10 answers correct or they will be kept behind in play times and ‘Golden Time’ (a free play time) to correct their errors.

On top of this, they now need to push their tiny bodies further as well as their minds. Currently, our school asks all children to complete a mile walk every day before class to energise them for the days learning. I have always thought this was an excellent idea. But now asking them to squeeze another 30 minutes of exercise into their days seems to be a little bit much.

This all comes from the Government who wants both parents to be working and preferably full time. How are we meant to  devote ourselves to work when so much is required at home? Similarly, how are we meant to ask our children to achieve more and more when we have no time to invest in them? Aren’t we simply going to produce a generation of exhausted young people before they’ve even stepped foot into their first workplace?

Besides this, I see no room for considering our children’s emotional well being. In his first year and half in school, my son has gone from being a vibrant confident boy, to now feeling that he’s not good enough, he’s not smart enough, he’s too stupid. He’s anxious that he’s always getting it wrong. He’s terrified of being put back a year and descends into tears when he confuses writing a ‘b’ and a ‘d’. The targets that the government are setting are also making some teachers look out for learning difficulties and disabilities that may not even be there. We are beginning to lose sight of the fact that these children are only five. They are not stupid, lazy, naughty or with an undiagnosed difficulty. They are simply not emotionally or physically ready for this pressure.

Wonderful schools and teachers such as ours are feeling the strain and are first in line to hear complaints from angry parents when they are simply doing the best they can. They are forced to amend homework levels and make changes to try and meet these ever changing targets. I wonder how much it affects them to have these targets. I should imagine their emotional wellbeing is also taking a bit of a beating.

Sally Goddard-Blythe, Director of The Institute for Neuro Pysiological Pyschology (INPP) in Chester says “Children are not mini-adults. The process of development – physical, emotional and mental – is a long one during which there are recognised milestones, which children are generally expected to reach at certain ages – but within and without of these milestones there is also considerable scope for individual differences, especially in developmental readiness for formal aspects of learning. In other countries the process of formal education does not begin until at least six years of age. Elsewhere the pre-school years focus on getting children ready for school in terms of physical, social and emotional development and it is well recognised that are differences in rates of readiness between boys and girls with the needs and skills of boys and girls being different at various stages.”

So here we have three different demographics of strained, stressed and possibly under-achievers:

  • The working parents: struggling to balance a career with being a parent. Trying to squeeze additional requirements in whilst trying to ensure that their children are also managing.
  • The child: under pressure, feeling that they are often not good enough, not clever enough. Exhausted.
  • The School/Teachers: trying to hit their targets and develop children in line with these. Trying to make sure that the children are emotionally as well as academically coping with these pressures so that they don’t become a bad statistic or Ofsted report. Many of these teachers are also balancing bullet point one and two.

So I ask the Government directly how they expect these hypocritical demands to be met? No one would argue that we want to develop the future generations to be achievers, but look to the generation that is growing, teaching and loving these little future stars, we are all struggling with your current demands in one way or another. Is that the lesson you want them to learn?

Academia is important, literacy, numeracy and vocabulary are all essential. But please don’t discount our children’s emotions. They may all go on to pass exams, but if they don’t have to confidence to go for an interview for fear that they are ‘not good enough’ then what was on earth was the point.

I have since been interviewed by the BBC further to this blog. Skip to 1:08 and listen to it here. Radio Interview

If you liked this blog and agree that schools, teachers and children are under too much pressure from the Government, please sign the petition to take this to Downing Street: Make a change 


Naughty Children

So what do you do with naughty children?

Untitled 1
Typical Classroom Behaviour Ladder

As a Teaching Assistant you will have naughty, willful, obnoxious rude children.

Hopefully not too many but they can be tricky to deal with.

Firstly, you need to familiarise yourself with your schools policy on behaviour.

Every school has a policy (which will differ slightly) and each classroom should have a behaviour ladder of sorts.

Pegs are moved up and down depending on the behaviour of every child in the class.

If it goes beyond the ladder or is in the playground then you need to know who to take the child to. In the classroom, it will normally be down to the Teacher although you should advise the teachers on any behaviour issues anywhere in the school as soon as possible.

If it is serious you may need to write the incident down, sign it and date as part of safeguarding.

Relationships with children are complex and sometimes fraught but in a school every child is treated equally, no favourites and no arch enemies!

In my experience every child has a reason for good or bad behaviour, but I have on occasion (and rarely) seen some children treated poorly by adults, being called stupid or sarcasm used which saddens me but it is a rarity.

My key word is kindness, being kind without being soft.

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.

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.

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.

More than 500,000 primary school children are taught in super-sized classes of over 30 pupils.

Shockingly (or maybe not) more than half a million primary school children in England are being taught in “super-sized” classes, new figures show.

Youngsters in the South East and North West are the worst affected, with more than 90,000 primary age children in each area in classes of over 30 pupils, according to Labour.

Shadow Schools Minister Mike Kane said the numbers of youngsters in large classes was “sky-rocketing”.

He said: “These figures expose seven years of Tory failure in our schools. The number of pupils being taught in super-sized classes is skyrocketing while schools face the first real terms cuts to their budgets in a generation.

“This situation is unsustainable. If the Tories wanted to give every child the education they deserve they would ensure that children were not crammed into super-sized classes.”

The analysis of Government figures shows as of January there were 503,591 state primary school pupils aged five to 11 – in classes of 31 to 35 children.

That’s up from 498,152 the year before.

class-size-300x240In addition, 39,088 primary youngsters were in classes of 36 or more pupils, down slightly from 40,102 in 2016.

Of these, 16,571 children were in classes with 40 or more pupils, compared to 16,655 the year before.

A regional breakdown shows that 96,471 primary pupils in the South East were being taught in classes of 31 or more children, along with 92,049 in the North West.

At the other end of the scale, 20,512 children in the North East were in large classes.

What is a reasonable amount of children teachers can teacher?

What size of class should we really have in our primary schools?