Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Ofsted Report

Instructions for talking to me about the Ofsted

  •  Tip your head to one side
  • Look down then up (the Princess Diana look)
  • Suck in your lower lip and say
  •  “I’m really sorry to hear that?”

 Yep, the report that I talked about here has been written and all the parents and teachers got advanced copies.  Worse it could possibly be.  It’s in special measures, which is now called “Inadequate”.

 Whenever I’ve heard of schools being in Special Measures I’ve imagined a school full of vigilantes, teachers smoking in the corner of the classroom, unruly behaviour, terrible grades and a school falling apart.  Our school could not be further from this if you tried.  It is a lovely school with kind, supportive teachers and very very happy well-behaved children.  OfstedIt was just unlucky that the framework changed and our school has had an inspection right at the start of it.  Throw in the fact our headmaster had been with the school for over 20 years and you really do have the recipe for “how to fail an Ofsted”.  I imagine there are some headteachers out there who have a curriculum they can pull out the bag in a days notice ready for inspections, but our school isn’t like that.  It’s a straight forward, no-nonsense school who isn’t going to pretend it’s anything but. 

 Obviously, I’m not excusing the failure. Things could definitely have been done and clearly some of the teachers have let things slip, moved their eye off the ball.  It’s a shame that one of the biggest failures was a lack of the school to create separate areas in the classroom for differing pupils abilities.  This was cited from Years 3 to 6.  Yet, myself and several of the other parents said it was seeing this on our walk around the school that made us choose it.  Was it an “off” day?  Clearly.  It also failed on interaction in the classroom, something else that I’ve seen on various occasions.

 Thankfully Reception came out Outstanding, which I would have been surprised if it hadn’t.  Pickle is learning so much and enjoying it a lot and her teacher is amazing, so I’m glad that that was recognised. 

They’ve already done so much since last term, since the school learnt just days after the inspection that they had done so badly.  Our head teacher retired as he had wanted to back in December, a new interim headteacher has been bought in with an Ofsted background and we have had a maths specialist appointed, curriculum moved about, extra teacher training days, a complete stop to all leave during school hours and various other changes.  I’m feeling positive about things now.  As many teachers I’ve talked to have said that it’s a bit of a blessing to get a score like this so early in my daughter’s learning.  The borough will chuck a lot of money and expertise at the problem to bring it up to scratch and Pickle will benefit from that as she moves up the school.  Of course, most of my teacher friends are not big fans of Ofsted anyway.  Constantly moving the goal posts and it being a box ticking exercise rather than a real reflection of the school.

 I have to agree. The school I know is very different to the one in the report.  Thankfully, there were some good points raised.  Good relationship between pupils and teachers.  Teachers and Pupils having pride for their school and pupils enjoying school and feeling safe and important there.  That to me is one of the most important things about a primary school and I’m glad they picked up on it.

 So, what am I doing about this report?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m not embarrassed about it but I’m glad things have been pointed out and improved and I will fully support the school in improving its results.  My daughter is happy and loves school and I wouldn’t for a second pull her out of this sort of environment.

 So you can take your head tilt and condescending words and shove off!   :)


The Generation that grew up with “Friends”

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like we are a little bit of the lucky generation.  Not lucky in that we have more money or more opportunity, but that we are considered in society and marketing, that we are a force to be reckoned with.  Don’t mess with those 40 year olds!  Bear with me, I have a few examples.

Take fashion.

My mum was 35 when I was born, so by the time I realised what she was wearing she was in her 40’s and 50’s and wearing REALLY mumsy clothes.  This was the 80’s and when she wasn’t wearing her “house coat” she was wearing stretchy leggings with open toe sandals and stretchy t-shirts.  When she went out, she would wear a knee-length A line skirt of some sort, a very old long-sleeved blouse and boring brown court shoes.  To me as a teenager she looked such a mummy. Soooooo embarrassing.  So old-fashioned.  Mums weren’t expected to be wearing the latest trends.  That was for the 20 year olds.

Then it got me thinking.  Where did she go for her fashion advice?  No internet, no bloggers.  Movie stars were glamorous but their styles were often out of reach to ordinary women.  Her magazines were Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own.  Jeez, no wonder she had no inspiration.

On the other hand we’re  the target audience for magazine companies.  In fact I think we are referred to as “Middle Youth”. As a teen I grew up on English “Girl” magazine, then the Australian title “Dolly” and then dabbled in Cosmopolitan and Vogue. All of them perfect for me.  Red MagazineAs I got older I wondered if there would be magazines to cater for me or whether I would have to be old before my time, take my magazine out of my pinny and read about how to make my weekly grocery money stretch further.  Thankfully by the time I got to my late 20’s RED magazine had appeared on the scene and contains everything I could possibly want for the complex 30-50 year old.  We all have very similar likes and dislikes but we have a lot of varying lifestyles and Red Magazine caters for that.

Fashion, Latest Trends, money, cooking, articles on relationships, sex, dealing with emotional issues, raising children or just how to start your own business.  Perfect.

So how are we represented out there?

We are the “Friends” Generation.  We had a whole show dedicated to being in your late 20’s and early 30’s.  From the age of around 24 there were people just like me having conversations just like me on tv.   We got to see them grow up, have babies, deal with death, self-esteem, family problems and relationships.  I don’t know about you, but I think you can pretty much live your life by episodes of that tv series.  As they got older, I did too, they were still good looking, had good hair, made mistakes and I loved that I was growing up with them all.

Then around 1998 whilst I was in my late 20’s Sex and the City started.  I started watching properly in my 30’s.  These were 30 something women who did glamorous things, negotiated men, love, sex and friendships.  This followed on through to their 40’s (Samantha was in her 40’s at the start of the series) and I was there, watching this gorgeous creatures who still “had it” despite being older.

Not forgetting that in the UK, we also had the delight of “Cold Feet”.  A later 20’s early 30’s series, again, with the trials and tribulations of relationships, marriages and children. These people hadn’t been chucked in the dustbin for being married, having kids or getting old. They were out there, living their lives, enjoying life. A whole series was written about them!

We must be a pretty important generation that we spawned all of these shows.  I can’t think of one that did that back when my mum was in her 30’s.  The Good life?  Hardly aspirational. (great show though, I should add).

When I was 30, 30 was the new 20.  Now 40 is the new 30.  We’ve all gained 10 years.  HOORAY.

Although seriously, I feel quite buoyant about all of this.  Our generation appears to be pushing things through. TV shows, fashion for the 40 year olds (see Emma Forbes new Saluting Style venture) and it keeps happening.  Clothing companies are opening up aimed at our age range and why not?  We still want to look fab AND we have the money to spend. Win win for everyone involved.

Some of us 40 year olds have kids and we quite fancy a bit of cake making Voila! They create “Great British Bake Off”.

I quite fancy going back to basics you know, perhaps a bit of sewing. Voila “Great Sewing Bee”.

Be nice to learn to love our wobbly bodies, wouldn’t it?  Take pride in our mummy tummy’s. Voila “How to look good Naked”.  It’s all for us you know.  They are pushing it all for us.

By the time I get into my 50’s (the new 40) We’ll be reading about how to change careers whilst still managing to meet up with the girls.  Our 60’s?  Pah. No problem. They’ll be a mag for us, giving us tips on how walk the red carpet without our corns or bunions causing us any pain.  How to wear our grey hair with pride, which Cath Kidston pillowcase fits a orthepeadic pillow. Care homes will be setup and run by fit, healthy older people who are working later because they need to top up their pension pots, but ensure we are taken care of in a manner that suits us.  New policies will be in place to ensure we get to do more of what we want.  Old people will be the biggest demographic. By the time I’m in my 80’s, the over 65’s will account for nearly 30% of the population.  Don’t piss the oldies off — they are your biggest customers.

We’ll be ok.  I have a good feeling about this.

My Midlife Crisis

Hi!  *stands up* My name is The40yearold and I like gardening.  Phew, I feel better for getting that off my chest. Let’s be honest.  It’s not seen as a particularly cool hobby is it.  The sort of thing my 18 year old self would have rolled her eyes at.  Wish I could go back and let “me” know that it seems boring now, but is actually a joy when you reach a certain age.

 In fact there are a lot of things that I would have deemed boring 20 years ago, but now put a smile on my face, make my heart lift and relax me like nothing else.

 To be fair, I started enjoying gardening as soon as I owned my own garden at the age of 32 so I’m not sure if that is age related or ownership related. sunflower I guess it’s often seen as an “older persons” hobby but probably for that very reason.  I know I had no enthusiasm for parents garden as a teenager, but it wasn’t mine.  Any work I did on it was a chore and I was happy to use it, just not look after it.

 I’d like to learn how to crochet or knit.  I knitted a bit as a child but I do have an overwhelming urge to make things, to tap into a creative side to me.  Life is too short to spend every evening in the prone position on the sofa with twitter in my hand and Paul Hollywood on the telly.  It’s not a bad way to spend an evening but at some point, I become very aware of my own mortality and can’t help thinking there is more I can be doing for myself.

 Next Monday I have decided to start an art course.  You may call this my mid-life crisis, that’s up to you, but if it is, I don’t mind.  I’ve spent the last year feeling an urge to be more creative.  I started blogging for that reason and am enjoying it immensely, but I want to draw and paint.

 I wasn’t an awful artist in school but my sister was the “arty” one and it’s hard to shine when you are in the shadows.  I did drama instead. She has gone on to forge a career using her artistic skills and my daughter is already showing signs of a flair for drawing.  Both my parents took up art in their late 50’s and 60’s.  Nothing spectacular was produced, but they enjoyed it a lot and I couldn’t help but think they felt it was worth pursuing if they had creative children.  I don’t want to wait that long. I want to do something now.

 One of my driving forces is that I have tried and failed to find suitable artwork for my house.  Something in the right colours, not too contemporary but contemporary enough. I have a vision in my head of some abstract art, but I can’t find it, certainly not in my price range.  Maybe, just maybe I might get to the point of creating my own.  I may not.  It’s worth pursuing though.

 I don’t want to wake up one day and wonder why I didn’t try something I wanted to do.  I have now blogged.  I have run 2 half marathons.  I want to do so much more. 

 My 18 year old self has probably stepped a few feet away from me now, embarrassed.  I really don’t care.  Being happy is the key to a long, fruitful life and that’s the life I choose.  To find the joy is one of life’s greatest gifts.

 What do you want to do?  Have you had an urge to learn or take something up?  Are you still doing it?  I’d love to hear similar stories.

The Joy Jar

I was recently reading my timeline and saw that someone had retweeted a Tweet. The original tweeter was not someone I know. The person the tweet was about, I didn’t know. It read:

“Go out, get drunk, be who you want, kiss who you want, be free, love madly & live greatly. @_____ only got 34 years. Don’t waste yours”.

It caught me at a particular time on a particular day where I was thinking about family and thinking about what I wanted out of life. It caught me and I spent a moment reading the words, I clicked on her blog and read her last post, a post written by a friend letting everyone know of her passing. I caught a breath in my throat and held on to the sofa and thought. A LOT.

Life can often be so short. I know this more than anyone. However, I’m a reluctant adventurer. I don’t like going to new places, trying new things, meeting new people. I do all of these things, but it isn’t comfortable. I rarely travel, certainly not to far-flung places.

There are, though, lots of things I want to do in my life. I wanted to run and I did. I spent 2 years before kids running 10ks and half marathons. I wanted to blog and here I am. Now I want to learn to knit or crotchet. I’d like to change jobs. I want to do some more further education, perhaps a Masters. I hope to get around to these “biggies” there are also smaller things I’d like to do. I want to do painting, drawing, creative things. There are some walks I’d like to do, stately homes I’d like to visit. How do I get around to all of these things?

So I went back to Pinterest and all those piccies where people decorated jars for particular reasons. Then I went off to a department store, got myself a lovely big jar and tonight Pickle and I decorated it.

The Joy Jar

The Joy Jar

So, the idea is that each member of the family writes down something they would like to do on a free day. Ideally we would pick from the jar when we know we have an upcoming weekend day that we have no plans for. They don’t happen often and I’m a bit of a sucker for staying at home, but I’m going to push myself.

Pickle kicked it off. The first one in the jar above is “Ice Skating”. Something she really wants to do and we keep fobbing her off. Which seems very wrong and perhaps we should just get on and let her try it.

So there you have it. Corny name maybe, but The Joy Jar is now sitting in pride of place in the kitchen ready for all our ideas. All we have to do is write them down, pop them in and grab it when we are looking for inspiration.

I’m trying to grab life with both hands. You just never know when it might slip from your fingers.

I’m supposed to like…..

….Breakfast in bed

I don’t.  I just don’t get it.  What really is the point of it?  If I’m having to sit up at all I may as well just get up and sit up at a table downstairs and eat.  Sitting up in bed isn’t particularly comfortable anyway, I rarely sit with my legs out straight and you have to stuff 100 pillows behind you to help keep yourself propped up and/or to prevent your head from resting at an awkward angle on the headboard.

On top of that, there is a precarious moment as fork or spoon makes it way from the bowl/plate to your mouth.  At a table, if it falls, it may fall on the table, or in the bowl or worse case in your lap.  In bed it is likely to fall down your pyjamas or on the bedclothes. I don’t know about you but if breakfast in bed is going to cost me 30 minutes in stripping a bed, washing, hanging up and re-making a bed, I just want to skip the bleedin’ breakfast in bed thanks.

Just don’t get it.

I’m supposed to like baths.

Twitter is awash with pics of people legs, reclining in a candlelit bath, bubbles galore with a glass of wine.  I CANNOT think of something that gets me more stressed that this combination of awfulness.  For a kick off, I find baths reeeeeallly boring.  After the excitement of the “ahhh ohhhh ahhhh” as you get into a bath that feels a bit too hot, but you know won’t stay hot for very long, you’re there. Lying there. Staring at a boring tiled wall that probably needs a good mould spray on it. You swoosh a few suds around and then say. “right, I’m done”.

Given the fact you are effectively stewing in everything you’ve just washed off your body (ewww) and if you shave your legs…(ewwww) and wash your hair (clean water anyone?) then I find the whole thing quite unsavoury.  I don’t find it massively comfortable either (see sitting in bed position above) and either your knees or upper body gets cold unless you have a sunken Roman bath of some sort that allows you to swim in it.  Glass of wine?  Where the bloody hell does that go? and as you move positions and your soapy arm gives way on the edge of the bath you end up with wine in your “stew”. Nice!  You can’t read in there because you have to keep one hand dry and learn how to turn pages with one hand, although if you had an iPad or kindle that would help, right up until the point you lose your grip on it and wave £100-£300 goodbye as it sinks beneath the soapy scum of your body soup water.

Sorry — give me a shower any day.

I’m supposed to like Massages

I find them very unrelaxing.  Except the ones where you sit in a chair and they spend 10 minutes on your shoulders and necks and head. Those are ok.  But the ones where you have to strip off and lie down and the pummel you as if you are meat that needs tenderising, you can keep them.  I once had a free full body Clarins massage before my wedding and I have never spent an hour being so tense.  The scrub made my skin hurt and tingle and even after that, all the oil or cream that was rubbed into my skin just aggravated it.  I was self-conscious of bits of my body as well, it was just ghastly.

I find facials relaxing.  They relax my whole body as if I have had a massage all over. I’ll stick to those thanks.

I’m supposed to like Picnics

Now this tends to surprise a lot of people. One close friend really grilled me about it one day and I think I worked it out as a result.  Honestly, I really do not see the point of picnics at all and I think if you really deeply asked yourself, you probably don’t either.

hmmm, that looks comfortable. Photo courtesy of tilly and the buttons .com

hmmm, that looks comfortable.
Photo courtesy of tilly and the buttons .com

Sitting on the floor! Really?  That’s uncomfortable right there. Legs at right angles again, needing to lean on something, sore bum or having to sit cross-legged.  It’s so…….uncomfortable.  You put your hand out to get up and stick it in dirt/ants nest/mayonnaise/a bee.  WHY CAN’T WE JUST SIT AT A BLEEDIN’ TABLE!

Then there is the food itself.  You spend over an hour creating lots of little bits of food that are wrapped up into little containers and then packed in a big container with cutlery and condiments all in little containers.  You lug it about with you for over an hour, to unpack it somewhere again, open all the tops of, spend 20 minutes swatting insects away from it. It’s warm, it doesn’t look nearly as nice as it did in your kitchen and hour and a half ago.  You can’t find a flat surface for your cup so you have to eat  with one hand, drink with the other and use your elbow to carry out any other important tasks, like not falling over.

It ruins a perfectly good walk to be honest.  I want to eat before or eat afterwards, sit somewhere comfortable, eat fresh well prepared food and then head off to enjoy a proper walk.  Stupid Picnics, always ruining things.

So, what are you supposed to like that you don’t?

PS: worth noting I typed unhappy picnic/massage/breakfast in bed into google images and couldn’t find a single picture.  Really?  Everyone, universally, loves these things?