If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Big Feelings in Small People.

The last two weeks have been tough, child 4 has been clingy, tantrumy and shouty, well to be honest just plain difficult.
He wants to know what he is doing throughout the day and then will ask over and over again when something is going to happen. For example in the half term holiday we were going to my parents one afternoon to celebrate my youngest nephews birthday. "When are we going to Nannas?" "After lunch" "When are we having lunch?" "After we have had breakfast, got dressed, walked the dog and collected the shopping" - major tantrum - on the floor kicking and screaming "that's TOOOOO LONG!!!!!" Then it's clingy cuddle time, he burys himself into my arms and neck sobbing before he asks "when are we going to Nannas?" And so the spiral of behaviour begins again.
He sits on the sofa, watching TV and will shout and scream until someone goes into to see what he wants - his legs don't work so he can't walk into the kitchen to ask for a wrap or a drink.
If we dare to say no, he will call us "butt heads, poos, stinky heads" then slam doors, throw whatever is close to hand, on Thursday he threw the little table across the living room screaming how much he hated me.
He will demand that I tell his siblings that they have to play with him and when I say no he hates us all.
When they do play he will lose his temper if one of them wins or if they are playing hide and seek he doesn't want to count and seek so will refuse to and then have a tantrum when they won't play with him anymore.
In the playground he will react to rough and tumble that gets out of control, with even greater agression.

I know some of this is a phase, some is half term tribulations - routines have changed and he struggles to cope. But I do worry a little that this is a sign of what could be coming. With that in mind we are trying to come up with strategies to help him.
Being angry is fine, being sad, disappointed or frustrated are all perfectly acceptable feelings but tantrums, agression, violence and rudeness are not, so how do we help our little boy with these massive feelings and how do we help him come up with ways of managing them. He is so little but will be heading to school in September, he will alienate friends and staff if he reacts with excessive anger when life doesn't go his way.

We have found that proactive, close supervision is imperative, if we can step in before a behaviour escalates we can help calm everything down.
 I am using picture explanations of his day and telling him only what he needs to know of our plans. This one is tricky as he will ask what we are doing that day the minute he wakes up.
We are always available for a cuddle, this is by far our quickest way of calming a situation. Although it is often on his terms and only when he is ready.
His siblings are managing really well. They are so good at playing with him but understandably don't want to play with him every minute of the day, although it's hard I am sure this sibling play, rivalry and bickering is so important to his maturing. They love him unconditionally but provide tough but natural consequences when he will not play by the rules. With his dad and I in the background to smooth the way he will learn that taking turns, not cheating and not always being the winner is part of life.
We certainly are not always getting it right but we are working on it, hoping that the foundations we are trying to lay will help him throughout his future.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Narrowing the Gap

I have been thinking about this quote all week. I am sure that everyone agrees with it yet we do not seem to live by it. Since comparison testing whether it be local, county or country we generalise our children all the time. Expecting them to not only want to study subjects decided for them but also achieve in the same way.  I have read so many education articles this week, Theresa May wants police commissioners to set up free schools for troubled children, an article written by a student on why art subjects are so important and one by a teacher explaining why schools are not to blame for the lack of social mobility.
Our education system is so very good at expecting our children to all be the same. It tests them all in the same way and now those that fail those tests (phonics in KS1, year 6 tests and GCSE maths and English) they have to retake again and again.  To my way of thinking that is surely setting some of our children up to be failures often before they are 7 years old. In a country diverse in class, race and culture, a country that is open to EU citizens, a country that is offering to take in 3000 unaccompanied refugee children, how on earth can we expect all our children to be the same. How can we expect them to start in the same place, move through school together doing the same and then finish completing the same or similar exams, when they so obviously don't.

I live in one of the most poorly funded county councils in the country and our education system is letting down many of our children. On Monday I attended governor training about narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children, that is children on free school meals and pupil premium children, and children not classed as disadvantaged.This course was aimed at encouraging governors to dig deep into the data available in schools, to ask lots of questions about how much progress and what type of progress all our children are making, especially our disadvantaged ones. The reason for the course was because our county is failing disadvantaged children, in fact the gap gets terrifyingly bigger the older the children get.

The course was fascinating and gave a really good insight into figures provided by a system called Raise On Line (this data system is however now extinct as the government has removed SAT testing) we were able to look at all types of different groups of children, male, female, traveller, English as an additional language and so on and we could see the academic progress that they had made. But and a big but was the lack of discussion about what could be actually done to support the children who are not making the grade. There is talk of intervention, more pupil planning, more reviewing and at the same time I know that speech therapy and occupational therapy funding is being cut.

The lack of understanding about pupil premium children is compounding the problem. These children tended to be generalised and lumped together, there doesn't seem to be a recognition that all of them have different stories, so their needs are different. It was suggested that pupil premium money could be spent creatively giving schools more choice but then they generalised by suggesting it covered PPA time or reviewing time. I don't have a problem with the money being used for teacher preparation time per se so long as it means that the preparation is to ensure that the lesson plans are suitable for pupil premium children. In our case for example if it meant that lessons were aimed at outdoor learning and forest school that would be perfect for our child 4, however I am very aware that this is not the best use of the money for all children. It is imperative that pupil premium money is handled on a case by case basis and not one that is necessarily about academic achievements. Pupil premium children have to be happy, safe and secure before they can make academic progress. There will be no narrowing of any gaps if our education leaders do not recognise this.