Communicating with Schools

Blogfest 2016 Challenging stereotypes and finding your voice… “Ehum. Laaa!”

Blogging is an art form of our technological age, few can ignore this.  So what did the Mumsnet conference develop in terms of wit, humour and brutal honesty?  Each year I go and each year I come away more alive and revved up than the last.  Blogging is a singular sport and very often I feel lonely in my quest to ensure that the world takes account of many different voices; it’s sometimes very hard to see the exact technological “wood” when you only see the “tree” that’s your laptop.  But worse than this, some times I have posts and simply never let them free to roam the technological super highway because I never know if I should…

writers Blogfest 16

So I vow to make a good account of what flavour of the day.  Each year develops a section in my brain that you may relate to.  My year 1 (Blogfest year 2), was my introduction into the more technical world of blogging.  I went because I felt that I was technologically falling behind changes from being a home mum.  I didn’t know what this world was all about so “Discovery” was the nomenclature and the beginnings of recovery from deep depression was an added bonus!  Thanks Mumsnet Blogfest!  I never expected to listen to “actual people” speaking about “actual experiences” and hearing actual passionate swearing and thinking OH MY GOD I never want to leave this place.

2013: Development, 2014: Confidence (and trying to persuade Carrie Longton to take two of her own cakes from the high tea MOST embarrassing moment ever!) 2015 Margaret Atwood shared my tweet, did I explain that clearly enough…?  “MARGARET ATWOOD SHARED MY TWEET!”

margaret-attwood Blogfest 15

Blogfest 2016 was more about authorial existentialism (quick pause to check in Google that I actually mean this),  Yup, cracking!  Grab your voice, pull it from you and don’t be ashamed of it. Allow your voice to exist “Ehum. Laaa!”

The highlights:

Fi Glover’s matriarchal trip through the challenges of writing for women allowed Shappi Khorsandi, Jess Phillips and Victoria Smith to unite in a blast of feminine power.  Khorsandi stating it’s hard to remove the British reserve and let loose (Jess Smith chirruping in “it isn’t”) and simply say what needs to be said, but once you do it, you don’t look back…

fi-glover Blogfest 16

Bryony Gordon’s Thinkbomb exploration through Obsessive ‘O’ a compulsive disorder that makes you believe you have done some really bad things, was heart breaking but essential. One thing that it is scary about mental health is how volatile it is, but for me what is scarier is missing the signs that makes someone vulnerable because this can be so easily misunderstood.

The ditsy (By this I mean little and amazingly creative) Emily Quinton and her fabulous photography tips  – the main message was all about lighting, so Emily, please don’t look too closely at my pictures from Blogfest16 – no natural light, eek!

Beyond the best part of the day was the fantastic session on Know Your Voice: I wish that I could wake up in the morning to Zoe Williams, Sara Pascoe, Stella Duffy, Miranda Sawyer, Liv Little and Cash Carraway, who were an entity of voice all in themselves, sitting at the end of my bed preparing me for the day ahead…  well I suppose that’s twitter.

Sara Pascoe’s advice for a mum struggling with MS and horrific fatigue was simply astounding.  Essentially her words were… become a fallow field and allow yourself the time to rest, note down some ideas when they bubble up, but wait knowing that the regeneration will come.

know-your-voice Blogfest 16

Then we snuggled up with Davina and felt safe in her warm guidance through developing resilience.  The definition of insanity is behaving in the same way, making the same mistakes and thinking the outcome will be any different.  Have an attitude of gratitude and you will begin to see things very differently.

Davina Blogfest 16

Thinking Theory:  If we have an idea and we write it down, we bring our own context to it.   When someone reads our writing, they bring their own context and will always involve themselves differently with our text.  So we cannot shape the people who read our texts, nor can we shape what they take from our texts, but we should still contribute, otherwise, as Cash Carraway said, then we can miss some good that can come from the things that are a little taboo.

I am already looking forward to next year’s highlights… Blogfest 17, you are just too far away.

Blogfest 16

From end of School Report to September Retort

As a child I remember holding my breath when my school report was due.  As a teacher I used to create a unique report for each child in my care clarifying successes and supporting the next step. Now I sit on the other side, the parent receiving the report.



My daughter reads independently every night, she absorbs herself into crafts and games.  When she watches a film, she has memorised the plot and begins to quote the script.  Having watched a few Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures, she is able to use play dough to take skin moulds and foot imprints of her different dinosaurs and proudly states on being asked what her favourite dinosaurs are “the Paraceratherium and the Argentinosaurus” much to the draw dropping gape of the unsuspecting adult asking, expecting to hear T-rex, most probably…

But this little girl’s report shows a very different picture. She is below her age range in all subjects (except Art).  She is struggling to disengage from her adult helper in all her subjects. She cannot access the class in the same way as her peers.

These memories are hard encoded, we cannot delete what has been, we can’t go back and start year 1 again…


I am so disappointed in this report.  There I have admitted it!

Yes I have cried BUT not because I am disappointed in my little girl.


I am disappointed that I have not been more overtly told through the year that things were this hard for her.  I am disappointed that she hasn’t been given more interventions to draw a measured target for her to follow.  I’m gutted that I am only now finding out that even though her teacher thinks that she is “good” to “excellent” in her class – that this was not something quantifiable.

But more than this, I am disappointed in the school system that these measures of success are the only ones prevalent for children between the ages of 5 and 6 years old.  I hugely feel for the teachers who are encouraged all year to not allow parents to focus on attainment in key stage one, (because, let’s face it, it could be so low) and then they are forced to write in a report structure that categorises children differently to the way conversations are developed through the year.  It’s no wonder that parents explode at these times and it becomes totally unfair on the teacher.

Where’s the structure and where does it quantify happiness…?


So as a parent what do I do? I’m a complete novice of being at this end of the report system…

Far from pulling my hair out I staged a response to the school, using the report response form.  I followed these important points:

  1.  I have assured the school of my commitment to them and their teaching staff – which I am
  2. I stated that I had truly no idea from the parent consultations with her teacher that she was below her age range in her subjects, and that this was worrying to me
  3. I have questioned what interventions they intend to put in place next year to boost my daughter’s understanding in line with her peers
  4. I have requested “guidance” in understanding the report labelling process and where they expect my daughter to be – just in case I am reading anything incorrectly

Essentially now, I will be a constant and positive presence with her achievements and will have better questions lined up for parent consultations.  Starting point.  “I can see you think that my daughter is good in Literacy.  How does this compare on age relation to her peers and is she separating from adults to effectively explore texts?” Maths “I can see that you have labelled my daughter as excellent in maths.  Can you tell me how her development is in relation to her age and how she separates from her peers to work on formulae?”  I think you may be getting my drift…

As for school…

To enable my position as a parent of a child who is going to require a bit of work, this is what I expect of her team of educators:

I expect to know where my child is with her development.

I expect to be told if this development is different and if support needs to be put in place.

I expect this support to provide targets that are measured and within reach of my daughter.

I expect them to be regularly checked.

I expect for her to be celebrated when she does achieve something, even though this achievement may be a different story compared to her peers.

At this age we should be making learning a rich and absorbing experience for our children so that they become liberated independent explorers of their own minds.


I wish you luck if you have had a report from your school about your child that is different to what you have been lead to believe or is different from what you see in your child.

Be prepared to ask questions and to see an emerging picture of support.  We are allowed to ask for measurable targets and regular input.  Never be afraid of asking for clarity. We all have one goal, parents and teachers alike,  making our little people realise just how important they are.