Category Archives: School

Taking the Plunge

Well, not literally.  I suppose it’s just as well we have no cliffs in London because the last few weeks at work would have certainly made the thought of it very appealing.  The trouble with having a difficult time at work is that it inevitably creeps into your home life too.  Hubby and I were arguing more and I was losing my patience with my children.  Nobody likes to be “that” mum.  The whole thing ends up spiralling up until you really don’t think you can take it anymore.

You may have remembered that I had a bit of a “losing it” moment with a senior executive a couple of weeks ago.  Well, not content with having one emotional angry moment I decided to book end it with another.  This time with my bosses boss.  This isn’t generally seen as a good career move, but I think it really summed up my general mood at the time.  Thankfully this man has a bit more emotional intelligence than the other guy and pressed me to the point where I was in fight or flight mode.  I was either going to shout “Fuck off” to him or walk out and even I was a bit apprehensive at which way I was going to go.  He saw the whites of my eyes, backed down and wandered off.  I knew I hadn’t won.  I had been lucky though.  I could have really made a mess of that.  We met the following Monday, much calmly and sorted out the disagreement in the right way.  Thank goodness.

So I’m at a cross roads.  I’ve been here 10 years in March and I recently decided I was going to find another job.  I’ve got lots of obstacles to getting there, but none that can’t be overcome.  I just need to break this all done in nice manageable chunks.  I’m concerned I’m going to miss out on my long service leave in March.  An extra 2 weeks holiday on top of the 4 weeks (Pro-rata for me, but works out the same).  It may take me that long to find the job I want, I can’t let that be a reason to hang on.  “I won’t earn as much” – Well, you never know.  “I won’t get the same benefits” – you never know, and at any rate, being happier is much more important. “I haven’t got a CV” – schedule the time to work on it.

The plan was that I start to look for a new job and then that would dictate where we might move out to.  We really want to move.  I feel stifled where I am.  The trouble is I don’t want to get a job somewhere only to discover all the areas around it I don’t want to live in.  We are, therefore, planning to go and do a bit of snoop around in areas we might like.  Hubby knows these places quite well, but I’m been a Londoner for 17 years and have never been to most.  First stop is this weekend.  Off to Hampshire to sample the delights that this county has to offer.  I’ve got a couple of villages recommended to me by people on Twitter (we nearly went on Sunday with hangovers, but some friends cancelled a weekend with us this week, so we thought we would use that), so we are going to check them all out.The Woods

We are making a whole weekend of it and will be staying overnight at relatives in Newbury which also gives us the opportunity to have a look West of Newbury too.  I’m really excited about it.  If we find an area we like I can find out about school and other amenities and then look for jobs that sit somewhere between there and where I am now.  Then I can commute for a while from here, hopefully with some flexibility and Pickle can complete Year 1 at her current school without me feeling guilty for pulling her out early.

All sounds so simple on paper though doesn’t it.  I’m hoping it pans out that well.

Any advice on what to look for in a new area, other than good schools?  What do you think makes a good place to live?

Competitive Parenting

I think I’m missing a special gene or something.  The gene that tells you that a 5-year-old child should be over achieving and focussing solely on maths and English and little else.  I don’t know why I don’t have it but I sure as hell am VERY VERY glad it’s missing.hard working school girl

I have had my eyes opened to the competitive parent this week.  School reports were sent home on Monday and it was very exciting for me and the hubby. Our little girl’s first report. New education measures have meant the reports have changed (although having not seen a report for a good 20 odd years, we didn’t really know what we were missing).  For Reception children there is a new grading system of 3 grades.  These are listed as “Emerging”, “Expecting” and “Exceededing”.  I think I’ve got a pretty bright little girl, she comes from pretty bright stock, but I’m not really one to start shouting it from the rooftops, or for that matter put a load of pressure on my daughter.  We’ve spent our first year in school focussing on the enjoyment, understanding how homework fits into homelife, learning to read (woo hoo) and being creative with the ways we learn (numbers with cooking, reading street signs, counting in twos on the house numbers).  I’ve not wanted anything more as I really wanted Pickle to get a thirst for learning, the joy of passing on that knowledge either to me or her brother and the understanding of what needs to happen in a classroom, how to conduct yourself, follow instructions, be kind to your classmates.  At any rate, her report had her at “Expected” on every level.  I was happy with that.  It was her first year.  She’ll find a subject she really likes and I’ve no doubt she’ll get a few “exceeding” scores in years to come. I just liked reading her teacher’s comments. Glowing comments about her being a joy to teach and her social skills.  She has a good grasp of everything. Well rounded I’d say.

However, being in the school grounds on Tuesday was apparently not for the faint hearted. Hubby was there for an end of year picnic and the other parents were up in arms!!  Over what, you might say?  Well there were two things specifically.  Firstly, the wishy-washy scoring system.  “What does it mean, exactly”? spouted one irate mother.  “So she is exceeding.  By how much?”.  “What is it she isn’t doing that means she gets “expected”” shouted another.  Geez!!  You’ll note that these were all mother’s of girls.  They happen to be my daughter’s friends parents.  I’ve never been so glad that they are all being split up in Year 1. Hallelujah.

The second thing that one such mother talked to me about this morning was about the comments on the report. “I don’t want to know how she’s feeling or about how she moves her body” she complained, rolling her eyes.  I want to know what maths problems she’s working towards. FGS!! These are 5 year olds, people. 5 YEAR OLDS!

When I was 5 in Australia, I was doing water play and playing in the sand pit in pre-school.  I hadn’t touched a book.  It was fun.  I learnt to read very quickly from the age of 6 and as I got older, some grades slipped and some went through the roof.  I somehow muddled through it all.  I got there.  I came out the other side an intelligent woman. I’d like to think I could do anything I put my mind to.  I’m still learning now. It never stops.

I loved all the stuff in the report about Pickle’s social skills.  At this age, it’s so important.  All the bloody high scores in the world, but if you can’t actually conduct normal relationships with people then how will you ever be fulfilled?  I loved hearing about her PE skills too. Nice to know she is coordinated and enjoys it.  All of it was heart warming, comforting and demonstrated to me that she will be a good student.

Clearly it’s just me though. I have yet to find a parent in her class who isn’t fuming.  I’m actually gobsmacked, truth be told. I appear to be one of the few parents with a child that didn’t get an “Exceeeding” score on one of the areas.  I had no idea people started getting so worked up about grades at this age.  As if these grades set the scene forever.  If Pickle had got “emerging” for everything, maybe I might have been a little concerned. Maybe I’d have chatted to the teacher about getting her up.  How can anyone be upset that their child has achieved set goals though?  At this age?

The mother I spoke to this morning informed me that her and her husband had spent all night on the internet downloading homework for her daughter to do over the summer break.  I looked at her aghast. “Really?  I’m letting Pickle have a well deserved break”.  She replied “Oh no.  We are getting on with this.  She did some homework this morning before she came to school. She loves it.  She gets bored otherwise.  I’ll let her have a week off when we are on holiday and then she’s back on it”.

*Sigh*

I feel incredibly sad for her daughter, because if this is what her parent’s are like now, what will they be like when she’s 8, 10, 11?

I’m clearly in the minority.  Education IS important but enjoying learning and doing so in a measured way, at your own pace, surely that’s important too.  I WILL be doing homework with Pickle. I will be teaching her over the summer break, but it’ll be accidental.  She will be reading books she has chosen and enjoy and exploring her new knowledge by using it in everyday settings.  I’ll probably be teaching her without even realising.

She’s 5 FGS!!

Epiphany

I’ve had an epiphany.

I really have.  I reached breaking point on Sunday.  Tired, emotional and in the midst of tidying the house and I had one fleeting thought about work and BAM I started feeling dizzy.  I took a moment to sit down and it didn’t go away.  My heart started palpitating and I felt a bit sick and I realised……I was having a panic attack.

 So I told hubby I wasn’t feeling very well and headed upstairs to lie down for a bit.  I didn’t want to sleep so I didn’t shut my eyes, I just lay there wondering what the bloody hell was going on with me that I keep on having all these anxiety attacks happen to me. At this point I realised I had had a thought about work.  Could this really be the issue?

 So I picked up my notebook and started scribbling a pros and cons list.  This is what it looked like (I’ve typed it up so you can read it). Pros and Cons

 It looks pretty conclusive to me.

Admittedly on the top list the “money” side is heavily weighted.  I earn very well, but it’s clearly not making me any happier and I’ve got the same % of disposable income I had 10 years ago, because in order to keep my life ticking over 10 years later I have to spend more. 

Pickle’s love of her school is also heavily weighted.  I get very emotional about things like this. She loves her little friends and I would feel awful ripping her from that.  That all said though my husband moved about 4 times as a child to different parts of the country and has no bad memory of any move and I moved from one school to another at 8 years old and I don’t remember being distraught at all.  Still, the thought of doing it to Pickle weighs heavy on my heart.

 However, I can’t ignore the stark truth.  By simply writing down that list above and I looked at it in disbelief.  This is how I’m running my life.  Seems a pretty awful way to run your life if I’m honest.  I’ve worked out how to make me happy out of work (painting, Gardening etc..) so now I need to focus on my day to day life.

I had a brief chat with hubby about it after I skulked back downstairs with my list.  I think the first step is to find another job.  I don’t need to rush into it, but I need to start making some changes.  I’ll set a goal for September to produce a CV I can use and adapt for possible new job applications (seems a long way off, but we’re in July now and Pickle is on school holidays soon and we have a holiday booked in August).  Then I need to start looking at companies I might like to work for as well as looking out for jobs.  The most critical thing is to either work less hours OR find a job that will allow me to work a few days at home.  THAT will make all the difference I think.  I also need to brace myself for loss of income.  I will keep looking at the pros and cons list above and remind myself why I don’t need it.

If I find a job outside London but commutable, then we can stay where we are until we’ve worked out our strategy. This seems a less drastic plan of action than looking further afield and finding a new job AND a new house. After that, we can look to moving out and finding the place we REALLY want to live.  Hubby agrees. We really need to do this. Our house is not our forever house.

I’ve already had a few wobbles about my decision.  I get my long service leave in March and get an extra 2 weeks holiday. Part of me doesn’t want to squander that, but I have to be realistic. It’s only 2 weeks, it’ll be gone in a flash. I have just had my car allowance raised and was looking to get a new car.  Why is that so important? It really isn’t.  The mere thought of Pickle going to a new school or the fact a new school might not we walkable, worries me.  I love to worry about things I don’t even know is the truth. I need to calm down and just focus on each little baby step.

Each baby set that will slowly, s l o w l y create the life I’m dreaming of.

 

The Working Mum vs The Working Dad

No, I won’t be embarking on an “us against them” post, although I will be pointing out a few things that should remind us all that the battle for equal rights is not over just yet.

I am a working mum.  I don’t have the choice, unfortunately, so I’m not sure that if we were able to live on a single income I would be working.  I know the 4 days I do at the moment doesn’t feel right for my family, but it does work for my employer, so at least someone is winning.

I am lucky though (and unlucky) as my husband is an actor and he has a sporadic working life.  Generally he works around 2 days a week, but often we will have weeks on end where he is working more than that.  We have a few emergency options open to us and I just have to take leave from work occasionally.  However, he does do childcare 2 days a week most of the time.  I love those 2 days. I can come and go to work like a normal person.

I have blogged before about the stress of doing the nursery, school run and dash to work (and then all in reverse on the way home) on the 2 days I have to do it.  Just 2 days seems like it’s okay really, but I dread those 2 days so much I can’t tell you.  My stomach in knots that I won’t make drop offs or be late for work or the worse one, that I will get stuck in traffic and my two children who are in two different places will be stuck there with no one to pick them up.  I can’t park near work (although I do pay to use a car park that costs me £10 a day if I am feeling particularly pressurised) so I drive so far and then use a Brompton folding bike the rest of the way.  Occasionally, if I’m sneaky, I can work out when a few people who have car parking spaces at my office are off and I can nick their space.  This makes things so much easier and cheaper and lifts a level of stress from me.

Recently at work I realised that it was mostly the mothers amongst us that were in charge of pick ups and drop offs from school, breakfast clubs, after school clubs or nurseries.  Most of the men, particularly those in a more senior position, were not.  They  didn’t really “get” our situation at all.  I get blank looks when I mention my parking problems or the stress of my 2 days.  When pressed they say “Oh yeah, I understand, my wife has the same problem”.  Ahhh, no.  You don’t understand, because it’s not you.  You aren’t going through this, you have no bloody idea.parents at work

Before you say it, it really isn’t bloody MY CHOICE. Yes, I wanted children, yes all of those women wanted children, but so did their husbands.  Why is it that the husbands aren’t also being responsible for the childcare?  Well, it’s down to our working culture primarily and until that changes, we haven’t got much hope.

A male colleague of mine has recently started doing the nursery run in the morning before work.  He lives very close to work and the nursery is nearby, so it’s not quite the juggling act others have, but none the less, he has to do this because his wife is a lawyer who has got a new job since maternity leave which is quite a distance away.

He has regularly arrived in to work late in the morning, to be greeted by me cheerily saying “Good afternoon”.  Helpful I know!!   He has sat down at his desk with a massive hurumphh, looking exhausted before he’s even started work.  He looked at me the other day quite forlornly.  “It’s a nightmare”!

“What is?”

“Trying to get two small children out of a house and to nursery before work”.

“Yes, isn’t it”.

“Finally got shoes on both of them and then eldest pushed the youngest one off the front step just as we were going to the car”.

“Yes, they do that.”

“I had to comfort her, get the first aid kit out. She refused to get up.  I got angry. It was horrible”

“It usually is”.

“I’m counting the days until I don’t have to do this anymore,  when we move and get that au-pair.  I can’t stand it. I’ve not even started work and I need a lie down”.  Ahh an Au-pair.  Yes, that would be helpful.

And here in lies the problem.  I need ALL male employees at my work to do this for, say, a period of 6 months.  To step into their helpful wives shoes, whether they are Stay at home mums, part-time employees or full-time employees, I need all my bosses to experience the pain in the arse that is childcare.  And I’m not suggesting this because I want to punish them or I think we deserve a medal or because I want special treatment.  I want this because if they realised what a bloody malarkey it was we may see a bit more equality and help in the work place.  Until more dad’s start doing this (and I know there are lots that do, unfortunately just not where I work!) we are never going to change a thing.

So, what might change if this childcare situation was more evenly distributed?

  • More emphasis on parking facilities for working mums and dads who are in charge of childcare.
  • Senior meetings or away days that don’t start at 8am and finish at 6pm (or at least a bit more notice of them.  Better still, I’d like to see a senior male manager leave at 4.30pm to go and do pickup so the rest of use don’t look like we are uncommitted)
  • An end to working long hours in order to impress people.  Let’s finish off the report at home, hey?
  • More crèche/nurseries in workplaces or nearby
  • Being able to work from home (biggy for me and my employer is very against this).  If you’ve got children and have worked at the business for XX number of years, this should be offered.  I’d happily fill in forms, write a business case and jump through hoops to allow me to have this flexibility. Especially when both my children are at school and then at an after school club. I could drop off and be at my desk by 9am and work until 5pm.
  • Flexible working hours for ALL employees. Why does it only get offered to women after maternity leave?  Surely that’s wrong.

So, there you have it.  It’s not very eloquent or a very well written rant, but it’s a rant none the less.  I am tired of it all.

Let’s get more equality back in the work place for all parents.

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!   :)