Posts Tagged ‘homework’

Dear Parents – you need to do so much more…

September 20, 2014

We’re three weeks into the new school year and once more, dear friends, I wonder what parents actually think being a parent is all about. Let me share with you the letter I’d like to send to many of them…

Dear Parent

I am using that term loosely, perhaps essentially biologically because the rest of the parent-child deal you seem to have entirely ignored. Perhaps accidentally because you don’t really know any better, or perhaps because you don’t really care, and like the rest of the country believe it’s up to teachers to, well, teach your child about everything.

I must inform you that already your child is miles behind. They’re so far behind, they’ll probably never catch up. And you know what, it’s nothing to do with me. By the time they get to me in secondary school so much damage has been done that it is virtually impossible to correct. Yet, we are expected to. We’re expected to do your job as well as ours. We’re expected to devote our lives to your children. I wonder why you aren’t expected to do that?

And, luckily for your child, I will do my best to be their mother, their teacher, their confessor, their therapist, their social worker and anything else Ofsted, or senior management think I need to be to do my job. Fortunately for you, it’s not just me but a plethora of equally devoted, hard working teachers, whom you simply take for granted or complain about.


Do you want to help your child? Do you really want them to learn at school and become decent, thoughtful, functioning citizens, instead of the ignorant young lumps they are now?


Listen well, then, because here are some practical, straight forward and useful things you can do for your child, regardless of your income or social status.

1.Buy a map of the world and stick it on your walls. If you manage to have dinner together then look at it and discuss it. Your children need to know where places are, what oceans are, how far away New Zealand is.

2.Buy a dictionary and a thesaurus – don’t just rely on computers for everything. Reading a dictionary helps your word power, your ability to spell. A thesaurus will also help word power.

3.Read to your children when they are young. They will love it and it will do wonders for your relationship with them. Read fairy stories, myths, legends, classic children’s stories. Don’t let them know the world only through movies and screens. Reading helps them in everything – spelling, grammar, expression, empathy, understanding the world and people in it. Oh, and reading helps you learn to concentrate and concentration spans still matter. And those who run the world are readers.

4.Get an atlas too – look through it, read it together, talk about the world – it’s an interesting place.



5.Take your children out – not just to Thorpe Park. Living in the UK, especially around London means history and Art and Culture are but a train/bus ride away. It’s scandalous that children living in London do not know there is a river running through it, or haven’t been to the Globe theatre or a gallery. Lots of things are cheap or free. Take your children out and let them learn about their city, their world.




6.Eat together. Have meals at the table, eat with knives and forks from plates. Eat healthy food – meat, fish and vegetables. Talk to each other. Leave all electronic equipment turned off.

7.Teach your child manners and respect for others. This means tolerance too.


8.Teach your child to take responsibility for themselves – give them chores and expect them to do more than sit on their increasingly fat arses doing nothing, being waited on by all and sundry. Expecting others to give them a bloody pen!

9.Check that they’re doing homework. Challenge them, help them, expect more from them. This lets you know what they know, if they’re coping or not, when you should get more involved.

10.Talk to your child, and, very importantly, listen to them.

11.Finally, be prepared to say NO to them. Give them limits, give them rules. Don’t let them be brats. No-body likes a brat, or a bitch.

Is that too hard? Is it too much to expect that you take some responsibility for your child becoming a decent adult, someone people like, admire, want to employ and spend time with?

But you need to start at the start. When they’re young and pliable, and love you no matter what. If you leave proper parenting until they meet me it’s too late for you too. They’ll be rude, argumentative, horrible, sulky, aggressive chunks of uncoordinated hormone driven, pimple infested teen monsters.

out tog

Perhaps you need to think harder about what being a parent really means? Perhaps you need to take your job as seriously as I take mine?


Ms Pink (Images from Private Collection)

GCSE’s – bring on the ungrateful

May 3, 2014

In some parts of the world children are dying because they want to be educated. In some parts of this country children would rather die than be educated. Think that’s a bit harsh for a Saturday?

Well think about this. This week 230 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from school while studying for their final exams – who knows what has happened to them and lord knows their government hasn’t been doing a great deal to find out. They reside in a part of their country where going to school can be fatal. This week my year 11s came back from their latest gee them up and boost their confidence assembly with this: ‘Why should we care about our education, why should we have to do anything about it?’ Coupled with a general: ‘Oh my god, are you going to make me work this morning when I’m so tired from the weekend?’

Needless to say I was not terribly compassionate to those who have complained this week about how much they have to do to get their C, or make progress in English. No, I’ve been singularly angry with those who don’t care, with those who think it’s all a joke, all somebody else’s problem. (Please note there is a disclaimer at the end regarding sweeping generalisations and students.)

I am appalled and disgusted by the attitude of too many children I have met over the last six years who simply don’t give a shit. Fair enough, my non-teaching friends are thinking, let them fail. And in a fair world we would. But Education in England is not about the consequences of your actions, or even learning; no, it’s about teaching. Specifically it’s about league tables, year on year improvements, and meeting and exceeding targets, that actually are not realistic or based in any sensible or rationale logic, just some massaged numbers.

Education is not about learning at all! It’s not about the students (and their families) taking responsibility, no it’s about teachers and schools busting their guts to get the numbers, to not fail, to not have Ofsted breathing down your neck, to avoid being bullied out of your job or sacked, or ending up in Special Measures.

At the moment, across the country teachers are offering extra lessons, spending weekends at school, creating booster packages for home study, running residential weekends; are doing everything they can other than write the exams themselves to get their students over the line. Teachers sit in meetings where management asks – what else could you do for them? Why isn’t management asking the students – what else could you be doing for yourself?

Why are schools chasing students to attend classes, offering inducements to attend extra lessons, ringing them up to remind them to attend extra lessons, allowing extra time for everything, even driving to their homes to pick them up for the exams? Why don’t students and their families care enough to do these things for themselves?

The poor woman who was stabbed this week was doing such a thing – in school on her day off to teach an extra lesson for her GCSE Spanish class.

Indeed, why do teachers care more about students’ results than they do, why are we working harder than they are for their GCSE’s????

In other parts of the world students are desperate to be educated, some walk miles and miles to get to school, some get shot on the way, especially if they happen to be a girl (remember Malala) and their schools do not have remotely adequate facilities. In other parts of the world students compete fiercely to get into the government schools (Shanghai) because they know if they don’t they’ll never have a decent job and there is no welfare to prop them up the rest of their lives. In other parts of the world students take responsibility for their learning; they read, they complete their homework, they focus in class and do their best.

pal studying

Here, in failing schools across the country students don’t care. They want to be entertained, because education must be fun! They don’t want to be in class every day or work effectively when they’re there. They don’t read and wonder why they can’t pass an exam. They get to year 11 having done bugger all for too many years and wonder why they aren’t going to get a C. And they blame their teachers because finally it starts to sink in, school is nearly over and what the hell am I going to do – it must be someone else’s fault…

And you know what, it isn’t actually all their fault. It’s the system that is failing them. Not their teachers, who are as much the victim of the pernicious focus on league tables and Ofsted as they are, but a system that has taken away the students democratic right to failure and to their own true success.

They exist in a system that is not about learning, not about becoming a worthwhile person, a person who doesn’t understand the worth of an education because they have not had to work for it. No, they are failed and continue to fail because schools are not allowed to fail and so we spew out endless young people whose C is not theirs, who haven’t read an entire book in years, who don’t know how to think, who have been drilled and coached and had words and phrases shoved down their throats so they know how to pass. But they don’t know anything worth knowing about English.


In Shanghai and other places there are consequences for not learning, for not trying. Schools work because students and families respect education, know that learning is the only way to a good life, self respect and security. Teachers are respected, not blamed. Education is valued.

Gove’s reforms are doomed. Not just because he’s an egotistical idiot, but because he is dealing with the symptoms, not the underlying cause, not the disease at the heart of education. Ofsted and league tables breed lies, cheating and all sorts of scurrilous behaviour. Exams are a blunt instrument, but given everything else in the system is singularly lacking in refinement and finesse what do you expect?

It won’t be until this country looks at itself, at its issues, its massive gap between the rich and poor, and creates a bespoke education system, one for all the people who live here, not just patched in from bits from the rest of the world, that all children will have the chance of a good education and a better future. Someone really should be asking how you can have such world class universities as Oxford and Cambridge and such a third rate government sector… someone still needs to be joining the dots much much better.

Singapore and Shanghai looked inward, looked at themselves and what they needed and then they changed their systems. The best performing Scandinavian countries do the same. They didn’t cherry pick from the rest of the world and now look at them!

Disclaimer: I have taught some amazing and hard working students here, those who have really cared about their education and were impressively decent people. I still do! I have also worked with some amazingly dedicated and hard working teachers. Teachers and students are not the problem, not at all… (Images from Private Collection)

To Complain or Not – What to do when your child is suffering at school

November 20, 2011

In the best of all possible worlds parents need only be in touch with their child’s school for the good things, concerts, assemblies, reports and newsletters. But what happens when something goes wrong, when there is a problem: when do you need to complain to the school?

Children suffer at school. They are bullied, they do have useless teachers from time to time. They endure it all, in some faint belief that it will make them better people, that this is part of the covert curriculum of school – all the things you learn while pretending to learn about Shakespeare, glaciers and Pythagoras.

Distressed parents need particular handling and many schools haven’t the first clue how to deal with them.  Children don’t want their parents involved as they know the problem can’t be fixed and in fact, their life will be made worse by their parents’ interference. The bullying rarely stops and the teacher who has been complained about will likely become more unpleasant and mark the work less fairly.

The reality is that most parents will not contact the school. Why is this? It’s because the school rarely does anything to solve the problem and improve the situation. Remember Matilda – ‘I’m big, you’re small; I’m right, you’re wrong’? Schools are somewhat the same – ‘we’re the school, you’re not; we’re right, you’re not.’

Before you contact the school look at what you can do to help your child. Their fears about retribution from the bully or the teacher are real. The last thing you want to do is make their life worse. It’s your job to help your child cope with these problems – contacting the school is the final straw.


Bullying takes many forms, it is insidious, corrosive and the impact on your child can be far reaching. Your child will be reluctant to tell you it’s happening, for many reason, including embarrassment, guilt and fear. They can’t defend themselves and are fearful that if you get involved things will get worse. What can you do?

1. Try to get them involved in things outside school such as sports teams, clubs, music, etc so they have friends and interests other than school. This helps with their self confidence.

2. Encourage them to be in ‘safe places’ at lunchtime, eg go to the library or the computer rooms – somewhere where there are teachers and other lonely souls.

3. Ensure they are safe going to and from school (this is often a time for bullying – away from teachers and home). Either take them yourself or have them team up with others. Bullies aren’t so good with groups.

4. The classroom is trickier. Have your child speak to the teacher about where they sit. Make sure your child can sit away from the bully(ies) – near the teacher is best, either right up the front or at the back of the room with the bullies at the front.

5. Teach your child some self-defence. Send them to karate or judo classes. It will help with confidence even if they never use it.

6. If the bullying is serious and on-going you must contact the school, even if your child doesn’t want you to. Hopefully there is a sympathetic teacher – usually your child’s form teacher or the Head of Year – who can help your child. If they are an aware teacher they will already know of the problem and be taking steps to help your child.

7. If all this fails, even contacting the school fails, then you need to remove your child from the school – their safety and emotional well being must be paramount.


Academic progress can be a thorny issue. What happens when your child has a less than competent teacher? Sometimes it simply doesn’t matter – because of the subject, the year level, your child’s ability in that subject. But when things get serious – GCSE’s A levels, HSC – then your child must be well taught by teachers who know what they’re doingWhat can you do to help your child?

1.Ensure your child has all the right equipment – eg, textbooks, study guides (all available in high street bookshops and on-line), on-line accounts for various subjects.

2. Ensure your child does their homework when it’s set. Ensure they have a quiet dedicated place to study. Music can be fine but working with the internet on – unless its to do MyMaths or SAM Learning, research, etc – can be a major distraction

3. If you have the expertise then help your child with their study. There’s no point being an expert in an area if you can’t help your child. I’ve been correcting my children’s essays and stories for years. My husband helps them with their Maths – it’s the only way our baby girl got a B in her recent GCSE Maths unit exam. This is good love, supportive caring parenting. I even correct my daughter’s friends’ course-work!

4. Get a tutor, or enrol in Kumon classes or similar. Many students benefit from an extra couple of hours a week on top of their schooling to ensure they really understand the work. Tutoring is excellent for students struggling with a subject and with those after A* and perfect scores. It can be money very well spent. You do not need permission from the school to have your child tutored. But you must ensure that the tutor is not doing your child’s work for them – then you are cheating and not supporting your child to learn. Also ensure the tutor knows what they are doing – check their credentials carefully!

5. Visit the various exam board and subject sites on the internet, ensure you are up to speed with the various subject requirements.

6. Parent evenings are your chance to challenge the teacher, to ensure your child is being well taught and fairly assessed. If you have any unresolved issues then proceed up the chain – Head of Department, Curriculum Deputy, Principal. You do have a right to ensure your child is well taught.


Supporting your child at school can be challenging. It’s not so hard at primary level where there’s just the one teacher to work with but secondary can be a mine-field. Some schools are not good at dealing with assertive, knowledgeable parents. They are not used to being challenged and may revert to bullying tactics. My daughter was told by her principal that parents were not allowed to help their children! This is an Ofsted rated Outstanding school, who needless to say, did not take well to us complaining about an academic matter.

But your duty as a parent is clear, you must be supportive. Do all you can yourself before involving the school but if you have to contact the school be prepared to fight for your child, remember you are the one who loves them best.