Saturday, 5 July 2014

Sports day…

Guess what? The weather held yesterday and we were able to get through the whole School Sports Day event outside for once. In fact, the weather was perfect. Not too hot so you’re worrying about whether the kids are dehydrated and not so cold that you think they are sitting on a field freezing to death. It was just right. The event itself was good too. Organised chaos with some fun thrown in. The children were grouped into countries and came to school dressed to represent the colours of their team. An opening ceremony type parade happened without the PA dying and there was a great turn out of parents supporting their children as well.

I stayed and watched it all too. I usually only watch the parade and then run off to organise and sort the Summer Fair that happens in the afternoon of Sports Day. However, due to the austere economic climate, our donations were sparse so there wasn’t much to sort and so the members of the parent forum and I gave up and watched Sports Day instead.

And it was fab, great sportsmanship by the kids, some wonderful moments with the staff and adult races. As well as some drama including an unfortunate incident involving a wheelchair that left me thinking about risk assessment… But I was watching it all with a tinge of sadness. I might not be able to watch one of these again. I got a full time job this week (hurray) but it also means, I’ll be working next year and will not be able to see my kids’ team picking up 3rd place like they did this time.

I have decided to pick up the balls and begin the juggling. Not only will I be entering the parent employment trap, I have to fit in my Governor duties and the continued professional development (training) that is required for the job. I will miss the special assemblies, the talks with other parents and teachers after school. I’ll also miss out on those Governor Learning Walks, strategy meetings and recruitment days. It’s going to be really hard in the beginning but I believe just like raising children, it will get easier. The plus side though, is that I’ll be more than just ‘someone’s mum’. It’s the start of some kind of new career in my forties and that has to be better for me, I think…

Wait, what? I’m a mum, I don’t do putting myself first, do I? Do I?

Oh, the sun’s out and there is washing to hang.


Comment is free - In praise of… sports day, The Guardian

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Monday, 16 June 2014

My issue with synthetic phonics

I’ll come clean with you, I’m nervous because my son is taking his phonic screen check this week. He’s in Year Two. He failed it last year and it is likely that he will fail it again. Systematic synthetic phonics has been a slow burn for my child, he is on School Action Plus for… I’m not sure as I’ve not had the report from the educational physiologist yet… But what I do know is that if given the right support, learning to read will happen for my son. I just think that he needs a variety of methods to help him read including synthetic phonics, decoding words in context and sight reading. 

The flip slide of this is that I have a daughter who began reading with the Jolly Phonics system back in 2008 and now I find it hard to pry a book out of her hand each night! I know the latest pedagogic thinking on learning to read works for most children, I just think that we should be able to trust our educators to adapt their teaching to the individual child’s learning style. 

The other issue is this. Although, many children can read and decode words fluently at the end of Key Stage Two, many do not understand what they are reading. Comprehension is a problem at this stage because some children are unable to put the words they are decoding into context. I listen to children read at a school I volunteer at and I hear some wonderful reading. However, when I stop the children and ask them to explain what is happening in the story the answers are often sketchy or missing important information. So, how do we conquer this? Perhaps we need to work on helping our children to have a love of reading, making sure that the texts in school are current and exciting, inviting authors into schools for readings and workshops and most importantly encouraging families to visit libraries, get out books and read together. Five minutes a day at bedtime can make all the difference.

As for my son, I know he can read ‘zee’ and ‘nerg’ but more importantly, I know my son loves books and with that foundation he will get there, he’s just going to take his own sweet time.

The Telegragh: Children taught to read using phonics 'two years ahead' by age seven

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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

In defence of faith schools…

This week faith schools have had some really bad press. This week community schools have had some really bad press too and I have been surprised by the strength of negative feeling people have had around the events unfolding in Birmingham. Many people are saying that in the light of the Trojan Horse scandal that there is no place for religion in education and with that I have to disagree. The school that I am a Chair of is a faith school and we do some really wonderful work. Our school is a diverse cultural mix with one-third of our school made up of Muslim children and guess what? They all get on. It is a school built on a foundation of respect and tolerance. The children learn about Catholicism and explore the practices of all faiths. Our children visit places of worship and learn about many world faiths in the pursuit of understanding, creating a culture of social cohesion. 

It saddens me that people are quick to forget the long history that religion has played in the United Kingdom education system. Almost a third of all schools in the UK are faith based and they are popular because parents want to send their children to a school that has a moral compass. Call me a dreamer but no one is born with hate in their hearts. These are views imprinted and if we can expose our children to a diversity of cultures and beliefs surely this will breed open-mindedness. 

In Birmingham, mistakes have been made but the schools at the heart of the investigation are community schools that have taken a bias of one particular religion too far. A faith school is obliged by the Department of Education under the national curriculum framework to give all its pupils a broad and balanced religious education that promotes spiritual, moral and cultural development. A community school needs to reflect the needs of every one in its community and not at the expense of one section or another. The education system in the UK is fractured. When a system is broken, a minority will abuse it. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Reform the system and try to make it work.

And finally, let’s think about those who are suffering in all this chaos. The children that attend those schools. When I took my GCSEs I was worried about suffering from hay fever during an exam. Imagine taking your GCSEs this week with a pack of journalists camped outside your school. Makes you think doesn’t it?

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Heinous Spelling Mistake


I responded to an Ofsted Inspection Governor Evaluation survey this morning. The questions were quite leading in order to praise Ofsted’s inspection regime. So, I answered the questions and then added a little rant about how the framework doesn’t celebrate all the wonderful things we do outside the standard curriculum; breakfast clubs, after school clubs, adult education programmes, school council, swimming lessons, nurture groups, inter-school competitions and the list went on. But will anyone read the response? Will it contribute to anything? Who knows, but I was asked to fill in the survey so I did it.

I was a little nervous writing this morning too because I wondered whether I could actually string two coherent sentences together without some heinous spelling mistake. This week, the jazz musician Jason Rebello tweeted to tell me I had a typo on the web address of my blog. It read, ‘Dairy of a Chair of Governors’. Imagine my embarrassment! There I am, a Chair of Governors, trying my best to improve literacy across the school I help and I'd made a silly mistake on the web address of my blog... I drew a big hole and jumped in it for a couple of hours. Then, fixed the link and moved on, just.

The wider issue for me is that because I’m no longer writing longer pieces of text on a daily basis I allowed the typo to slip through. Not the best way to begin blogging but the best I can do is learn from it and double check my work. It did however, make me think about the younger generation who are increasingly using computers and mobile phones to communicate. A recent article in the Daily Mail discussed the fact that, “Pupils are losing marks in their exams because standards of handwriting are declining and emoticons are creeping into answers. Tablets and smartphones are being blamed for poor handwriting and growing use of text message shorthand including smiley, sad or winking faces.”

What will our youngsters' literacy be like in twenty five years time when they are pushing forty like me? Will this generation of mobile users be able to write legible sentences in the future or wiL it b a bit llk DIS? Only time will tell... 


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Saturday, 24 May 2014

Teaching Assistant Interviews

Yesterday I spent all day on an interview panel for Teaching Assistant jobs. We had over 60 applications for 3 jobs. We whittled it down to 24 people to interview in one day. In order to get through this many people there were 3 interview teams and the day consisted of a presentation, an activity and the formal interview. There was elimination after the first two stages so we only interviewed who we seriously considered.

I dislike interviewing because I understand that we are shaping people's lives. It is a huge responsibility to decide whether a person is right for the job, the school, the team but someone has to do it. And that someone is us.

We saw some brilliant teaching and innovative answers to our probing questions but we couldn't take everyone and looking at the day's performance together with the application form and references, we made our decisions. I've been part of the process many times and I always reflect on those candidates we do not choose. How disappointed they must feel, did we make the right decision?

I also think about my circumstances. Have I been making the right career choices? Right now I'm a stay at home mum but I'd love to have a job even if it means compromising my voluntary work. However, four kids, a husband and two cats doesn't leave much time for working in a paid position so where does that leave me?

I'd like to hope we made the right decisions yesterday. I'd like to hope I've made the right decisions about my life and career choices. Interviews always make me do this. It's part of the responsibility I carry. 

Welcome to my world. 

Welcome to Diary of a Chair of Governors....

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