Homework comes home to roost!

kid-doing-homework-900x599Following from my previous piece on homework my 6 year old daughter has been given six pieces, yes six pieces of homework to do this week. They are:

  • Reading each day
  • Phonics 3 times a week
  • Spellings every night
  • Do one activity from ‘The Grid’. These can include a visit to a zoo, sending an email and researching parts of the brain and heart on the internet/write a story…
  • Revising phonics sounds
  • Download bingo card and play a game

This is actually homework for parents. My daughter is in year 1, and is not yet able to do most of the grid activities!

My wife and I work full time and my daughter goes to bed at 7pm.

Do I really want to spend any time I have with her during the week just doing homework? The answer of course is no.

Reading is what I would expect for year 1, phonic sounds and possibly some simple spellings from the Year 1/2 most frequent words but downloading games, printing them out, showing my daughter images of the heart and brain…hardly appropriate.

So I have asked to speak to the head about this and I hope some constructive dialogue will come of it.

will come of




Christian couple to sue school for letting a boy wear a dress

From The Express 11/09/2017

inclusive or divisive?

A couple are to sue a Church of England School. Nigel and Sally Rowe said they had been bullied into “accepting a new moral framework which strongly conflicts with what we believe in”.

They raised concerns with the head after a six-year-old boy arrived at the unnamed school dressed as a boy one day and wore girl’s clothes on another.

But the school defended its behaviour, stating: “The refusal to acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender” was ‘transphobic behaviour’.”

Today, Mr Rowe, 44, from the Isle of Wight, said: “I’m shocked that just because we question the notion that a six-year-old boy can really become a girl, we are transphobic.

The couple’s lawyers are expected to argue the school is discriminating against them by implying their wish to bring up their sons as Christian is transphobic.

Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Six-year-olds are far too young to consider issues as complex as gender and sexuality.”

“As Christians, we believe that all people are loved by God. But the school’s behaviour has created a clash between our family’s rights and the imposition of this new ideology.”

What do you think?

For me, a six year old seems far too young to be trans anything, I may be wrong. I am not sure a child of 6 can barely tie their shoes laces let alone have any understanding of gender.

This immediate acceptance of something that we still don’t understand is baffling to me and must be baffling when children are told on one day to treat the child as a girl and then the next as a boy.

Is this really necessary for such a young child?

I don’t really see what this has to do with the faith of this couple but I can understand not wanting to have their child confused in such a way.

I am a little saddened that for a school that claims to be doing this to be inclusive cannot accommodate a different opinion…it doesn’t seem very inclusive to me.

I wonder what the school uniform policy says!

Precision Teaching and Low Working Memory

Precision Teaching is a method of planning a teaching programme to meet the needs of an individual child or young person who is experiencing difficulty with acquiring or maintaining some skills, the child will have special needs.

child-teacher-1236x824In this instance we are thinking about children with memory issues and low working memory.

Precision Teaching has an inbuilt monitoring function and is basically a means of evaluating the effectiveness of what is being taught.

It can be used in early years, primary and secondary settings and can be applied to areas of the curriculum that can be broken down into clear objectives, eg: numeracy and literacy skills.

One area which I have experience with is children with Low Working Memory.

So what does Precision Teaching look like, here’s some examples:

Times Table are the backbone of mathematics but very hard for a child with Low Working Memory. In this instance the teaching is put in place and repetition is the key. So

I will use the 3 times table to demonstrate:

  • Spend 5 to 10 minutes teaching the child.
  • The child is shown a number of squares with a times table on it. 3×4 or 7×4 and using time and patience you help the child work at the answer.
  • When you have been through all the squares which may take some time you will use a timer and a sheet with the different times table in a random order.
  • The child then one minute and you run through the probe sheet seeing how many they can answer.
  • This needs to be done every day, repetition is the key.

Results differ depending on the learning issues with the child. In my experience some of teaching is absorbed, some for a few minutes, some for weeks and some for longer.

Precision teaching was developed in the 1970s to target teaching/learning key skills, it focuses on measuring fluency. Vygotsky suggested that effective teaching should be geared towards a learner’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). Precision teaching encourages us to be very specific about the material used with the child, ensuring that it is within the ZPD.

Precision teaching also draws on Haring and Easton’s learning hierarchy which shows us how new learning needs to be fluent before it can be maintained effectively.



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.

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.

Dyslexia…and what it is not.

Dyslexia is not just a male problem

Dyslexia does not just affect males

However, boys with dyslexia are more frequently identified in school because girls will tend to muddle through according to Bob Cunningham, EdM (Understood.org) But dyslexia affects both genders in nearly equal numbers.

So what explains the difference in schools? In general boy’s behaviour tends to draw attention to any problems they are having.

Dyslexia is not hereditary
However, both genetics and differences in the brain play a role in dyslexia.

Dyslexia can have familial element and research suggests that 40 percent of siblings, children, or parents of a person with dyslexia will also have dyslexia.

Brain imaging studies have shown differences in brain structure and function in people with dyslexia compared to those who don’t have it. For instance reversing letters is quite common in children who do not have dyslexia, especially in young children who are learning to form their letters.

As with any potential learning difficulty you will be looking for several different issues to reach a suspected conclusion.

Dyslexia is not just a reading problem
It really doesn’t. It does make reading very challenging. Children with dyslexia will struggle to break down words.

Symptoms (and this is not exhaustive) can include flipping letter, reversing letters (this isn’t always a sign of dyslexia), reading well below the expected level for age, problems processing and understanding what he or she hears, difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions, problems remembering the sequence of things, difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words (phonics), problems rhyming, inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word, difficulty spelling. Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing and sometimes avoiding activities that involve reading.

Dyslexia is not a simple identifiable condition
Dyslexia affects different children in different ways. It can affect writing, spelling, speaking, and even social skills. It is important to understand that dyslexia is a complex, brain-based condition; it really can affect different children in many, many different ways.

Dyslexia is not solved by children trying harder
As a teaching assistant we need to understand that brain functions differently in people with dyslexia and you will find that some traditional reading and language instruction just will not work for them.

Strategies such as precision teaching or colourful semantics may well help but you would discuss this with your SENCo and Teacher.

Dyslexia is not a sign of a low intelligence
Dyslexia occurs in children of all backgrounds and intelligence levels. Having dyslexia certainly doesn’t mean your child isn’t intelligent and we need to make that clear to the children we are with.

Most children respond well to praise and this is especially true when you are helping to build the confidence of a child, I have seen it happen with some of the children I have worked with.

Dyslexia is not a barrier to success
It is not and many different notable people have enjoyed success in their field.

For instance: Artists Pablo Picasso, Actor Tom Cruise, Entrepreneur Richard Branson, Scientist Albert Einstein, Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave, Actor Henry Winkler and Director Steven Spielberg and there are more.

Dyslexia is not curable
It is certainly not curable at present but who knows with genetics and all that has to discover about the brain in the future.

Dyslexia is a brain-based condition and a lifelong challenge. But early intervention and helpful classroom accommodations can have a significant, positive impact on reading ability and academic achievement.

This is really important and parents (who are their child’s number-one source of dyslexia support) need to be onside with the school, listening to the school and working with the school, the SENCo, the teacher and us, the teaching assistant.