Posts Tagged ‘parents’

The New 3R’s of Education

October 16, 2016

The New 3R’s of Education.

As the world shifts and changes and becomes both more amazing and more disturbing we need a new focus in schools, a big focus on becoming decent people; citizens of an ever-changing world, able to survive, manage and even thrive in whatever is to come. So today’s schools must focus more explicitly on Respect, Responsibility and Resilience. Once upon a time this used to be the covert curriculum, and much of this rested in the hands of parents. But now it needs to be front and centre in schools too.


Respect covers a range of sins and must be paramount as we become a more uncertain world with borders shifting and changing, identity and gender being more fluid and more open, with religious and cultural differences more defined as we become a global community. It is as simple as respect for yourself and for others. But it is so much harder in practice.

There was a time where we embraced the ‘live and let live’ ethos of a more tolerant and accepting view of each other. But now we seem to feel free to abuse, vilify and attack on the slenderest of reasons. Indeed Social Media and the constant streaming of ‘news’ has to take some share of the blame for the rise in hate in society, but it can’t be that simple, can it?

Why do we feel free to berate and abuse others? Where did that ‘freedom’ come from?


Schools must be vigilant about respect, and in truth, many are trying to address the constancy of social issues that ever creep into our crowded curriculums. Respect is about tolerance, patience, consideration and kindness. It is being aware that others have different beliefs, customs, ways of living, attitudes and ideas. This is important as we don’t really want an homogenous society where we all think the same and parrot platitudes and dangerous ideas that are never challenged. Oh, yes, too much agreement and similarity is a very dangerous thing.

Thus instilling respect as a central tenant of how to live a decent life is crucial. 1.Respect for yourself, so you keep your body safe, so you can express your ideas freely but thoughtfully without hate and vitriol.

2.Respect for others, so they can get on with their own ways of life, be it of a different colour, different religion, different sexuality, different beliefs and ways of doing things.

3.Respect means understanding that there is no right way to do things, that there are many voices, many ideas, many people and we all have the right to exist peacefully in this world.


Responsibility is perhaps the thing in schools and society that does my head in most. For fuck’s sake, get a pen, learn how to cook, stop buying sugar-laden shit and expecting to be healthy, vote in elections, accept when you make a mistake and stop blaming everything and everyone else for your shitty life.

Being responsible for yourself, for your life can start early. Simple things like making your bed, putting your clothes in the wash, doing your homework, packing your school bag for the day ahead. Parents do need to build in these little pathways to responsibility early and naturally. It doesn’t mean you make them self-sufficient by 11 but by the time they get to secondary school most kiddies should be able to do a great many things for themselves.

Responsibility means being responsible for what you say and how you behave – under pressure and under normal circumstances – organizing your own life; owning it and making things happen.

Not being responsible is to expect all sorts of other people to make things happen for you and blaming them when things don’t fall the right way for you. So teaching responsibility early is vital for a human being who is self sustaining, accepts that sometimes things are their fault and doesn’t spend their life blaming, in no particular order – their parents, their teachers, the government, politicians, God, ISIS, Pauline Hanson, Trump, Clinton, etc, etc – for all that is wrong with their lives.


Loving parents and good schools (even when the system is against them – whose GCSE results are they??? Just ask a failing school…) ensure that young people take responsibility for what is theirs and do the right thing in owning both the good and the bad that they say and do. Responsible youngsters become responsible citizens who take on more than just managing their own lives, who take responsibility for making the world a better place.


Resilience became a fashionable term a few years ago and there were various programs designed to help make students better able to cope with their worlds when things went wrong. For my mind responsibility and resilience go hand in hand. A responsible person can accept their own short comings and face up to them and do something about them. They are able to work through the tough times and stay afloat.

A person who blames others, a child who is so cosseted by their parents (and yes, schools too) that they cannot cope with slights, or failures is going to have a very tough life. All this helicopter-parenting, this Tiger-mothering of the young does them no good in the harsh light of the real world.

Resilience is perhaps more important than ever in this world of cyber-bullying, trolling and stalking. Young people are more vulnerable than ever to the slings and arrows of others, piercing their young feather-light hides with barbs and poison that stings to the core. Teenagers are horrendously sensitive creatures, their self esteem balancing on a pin head. Of course they are vulnerable and in the glow of their screens, in the dark of their rooms they are more vulnerable than ever. Recent studies deplore the levels of self-harm and unhappiness that young people feel, not to mention the constant stress of exams and that old faithful, peer pressure.


If there was more respect for others, more tolerance of difference, of the outsider; if we took responsibility for our words and actions from the youngest age, there would be little need for resilience training for the young. But we must be aware that not all of us have the capacity to deal with the tough times, that not all of us have people who care enough to hold our hands and keep us steady through failure, rejection, self doubt, illness, bullying and harassment.

Resilience doesn’t make you callous, it doesn’t stop you feeling, it allows you to deal with the darker side of life and we need to prepare students in dealing with those things, the things that de-stabilise young people – lack of friends; ill, dead or absent parents, abusive families, drugs, bullying, failing to get the grades we expect, or into the uni course we so desperately want.


As a parent and a teacher I can bring these three elements to my teaching, to my dealings with young people. Honesty, integrity and authentic relationships with young people matter enormously. They need people they can trust – parents, teachers, coaches, other adults; people who will listen to them, be there for them, tell them the truth, and offer support in a practical and useful way.

Surely at the end of every day what we want is a better world, full of people who care about each other and themselves and are bringing good to the planet. God knows it needs it! (Images from Private Collection)


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)

So, what do we mean by Gifted & Talented – as posted in the Guardian this week

May 11, 2012

My daughters are both exceptional at Art; my son has always been a Mathematical genius. My girls have won prizes for Art; my boy has won an academic prize every year of his life, including university scholarships, the latest being a PhD scholarship to Oxford. Are my kids G&T?

What do we mean when by Gifted? Gagne (2003) says: Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, creative, social and physical.

Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance.

Gagne’s key word is potential. He believes in the power of environmental factors, that being natively smart isn’t enough; a child needs support and guidance to achieve his/her gifted potential. Supporting and encouraging gifted kiddies is exactly where home and school collide.


How do you know if a child is Gifted?

Teachers, but mostly parents, can identify gifted children through their own observation and instincts. Often we know if there’s something ‘extra’ about a child: their questions, their insights. For my son it was his instant grasp of patterns and numbers, such that his Kindergarten teacher had to stop him answering so other kiddies had a chance. For guidance Betts & Neihart(1988) list 6 types of gifted students (link below), with particular needs. This identification grid can be a useful starting place for conversations between parents and school.

If we fail to identify G&T students we risk damage to individuals who are so turned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar, on their way to dropping out. We risk damage to society by not encouraging these students to fly and value add to society through their exceptional abilities.

Be clear – giftedness is not necessarily found in attainment or a steady march through the top of the grade/level bands, or in exam results. Attainment levels can mislead on many fronts, a clear example is EAL students. Top performance in your school may not match with top performance in another school and IQ scores do not automatically equate with achievement. As a parent you need to know what being on the G&T register actually means…

Sadly schools often ignore the needs of students with exceptional potential, or miss the under-achieving gifted child due to inadequate identification and pressure on resources (money, time & staff can only go so far). We can’t afford to assume G&T students will be all right, are easy to spot, just need more work, and don’t need the nourishment that other SEN students need.

I bet there are inner city kids who are G&T but, while they are identified primarily on attainment, won’t be accurately identified or supported and therefore will miss the much vaunted social mobility boat. To that end, the growth of Academies could spawn a growth in rigorous identification of students to better facilitate student’s achieving their true potential, which is what Academies claim to be about.


What can you do as a parent?

Encourage their interests; focus on reading. Play games such as Scrabble, Articulate, Boggle; lateral thinking games are excellent. Extra classes, personal tutors, clubs, travelling. Valuing, understanding and supporting your child is essential.

Fighting on their behalf may be necessary too.

A story is appropriate here.

Jo was a high achieving student with a particular flair for English. In year 11 she had a teacher who found her challenging questions to be under-mining and as a consequence humiliated her in class. Jo began failing English and started bunking school. Noticing this, her parents got in touch with the school, agreed to an independent English program tailored to her interests and needs. Jo returned to excellence in her work and was happy to return to school.


What can schools do?

Schools must show the G&T child they are valued, giving them appropriate academic challenge; and chances to be together, to feel less isolated. The following strategies do work!

Acceleration. Students can be accelerated across the year or within subjects.

Differentiation – an over-used term, it means creating something to extend the child in your class; richer or more challenging tasks

Teacher – student matching. Matching personalities as well as learning styles

Mentoring/cross age tutoring – Matching younger or older students with similar interests/abilities to enhance learning of both

Independent Negotiated Programs – Student interest and skills determine the scale and scope of the project, negotiated with staff regarding resources, etc

Competitions – individual, team internal external – there are heaps of them!

Gardner says: “I don’t care what intelligence people have. I care whether they can do things we value in our culture. What good is it to know if you have an IQ of 90 or 130… if, in the end you can’t do anything?” We must make sure G&T kiddies get the chance to do something fabulous.


Further reading:

Betts & Neihart (1988)

Practical Tools – Understanding Giftedness (the link to Gagne doesn’t work but the PDF files do and provide useful information and strategies

Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

Gagne and Differentiated Models of G&T


Levels of Giftedness

Mildly Gifted –                          IQ 115 – 129

Moderately Gifted –                         IQ 130 – 144

Highly Gifted –                         IQ 145 – 159

Exceptionally Gifted –            IQ 160 – 179

Profoundly Gifted –                         IQ 180+

 Some Gods in the G&T Pantheon

1905 Binet – Introduced the idea of ‘mental age’ & created the first structured intelligence test

1978 Renzulli – Developed the Three-ring Conception of Giftedness: the interaction between above average general intelligence; high levels of task commitment; and high levels of creativity.

1981 Gardner – Developed the theory of Multiple Intelligences; linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, the ability to notice and make distinctions; and access one’s own feelings about life

1983 Tannenbaum – Developed the Psychosocial Definition of Giftedness: giftedness = potential; talent = developed abilities. Five factors interact: general ability, special ability, non-intellectual factors, environmental and chance factors

1985 Gagne – Developed the Differentiated Model of Giftedness & Talent: the child progresses from giftedness (high potential) to talent (high performance) through the learning process, assisted by intra-personal and environmental factors

+ Bloom and that invidious taxonomy – ignore it at your peril!

This appeared in The Guardian on Monday 9 May 2012 –

It’s harder for fathers.

December 3, 2011

Being a mother has its challenges but I think, on balance being a father is harder. The love for a child comes more naturally to a woman, we carry them, bear them and in so doing bond more than any man can. Yes, this means nothing to some women, but for most of us giving birth is the most profound act of our life. It changes us as nothing else can. Men simply can’t get hold of that and that’s what separates them from us and what makes it harder for men to connect to their own children.

Men want children, it’s as much a basic need for them as it is for us. They want to see themselves reflected in a small being and watch it evolve into (hopefully) a better version of themselves (and take over the company one day). Men have changed the world for sons – look at Henry VIII. But there is no little switch in their head that tells them how to be a father. Their biological imperative only makes the child, doesn’t tell them how to be a father.

The burden of parenthood seems to manifest itself in fathers more than mothers. We become besotted, utterly absorbed with the helpless thing in our lives. Men get shut out and resent the intruder, no matter how much the child was wanted. Men can and do become sulky and resentful; relationships founder more on the rock of children and less (or no) sex than anything else.

More than ever though, men are hands on fathers who take their responsibilities seriously and acquit themselves admirably. We are many years from fathers being remote and distant beings. Look at David Beckham, often seen with his boys looking relaxed and happy, enjoying their company. He had a good dad of his own. Someone he admired and has emulated in the seeming easy way he is with his own boys.

So good sons need good fathers to become good fathers. Well, we know that. Is that why so many men struggle with being a dad – because of the paucity of decent parenting in their own life? I’m sure the experts say so. The impact of our parents upon us is deep and long lasting. All too often we turn into our parents. Suddenly, in the kitchen, on the stairs, you hear your mother’s words in your mouth. It’s a frightening moment for most of us!

Children of both sexes need their fathers. Children from broken homes do far worse than those raised with two parents taking equal part in the parenting. Absent fathers cause untold damage to young boys especially. The family is where we learn most about life, about becoming who we are, about being good people.

Sons need good fathers to become good men. Daughters need good fathers to know how to behave with men. It’s helpful if you are Daddy’s Princess growing up, feeling special, knowing that at least one man will always love you the way you are. It’s great if your dad does things with you, teaches you things, shows you things. Men like to do, so they often connect with their children this way.

Some men seem to thrive at being fathers at different stages of their child’s life. Many are troubled by the smallness, the smelliness and the helplessness of the baby. Many find the teenage years impossible – the growing son, challenging and almost threatening. The maturing daughter, frightening in the way she is turning into a younger, lovelier version of her mother. How to cope with the hormones and moods in the house? It seems to me the middle years – toddler to early teen are the easiest for fathers. Then again the relationship eases, when the child has left home and is an independent adult.

Some men shouldn’t have children – or at least not live with them. They don’t have the patience or the time for them. Women should think carefully about who they mate with – don’t ignore his antipathy to children. Most men do not change their minds after the baby is born. Remember too, that the father-child relationship is more fraught than the mother-child. Separated or divorced fathers are more likely to kill their children in the face of the disintegration of their family. Men are more fragile creatures, especially as fathers, especially as they so often cannot express their feelings or their love as easily as women can.

Fathers struggle. Their role in society is vital but under-rated. Women must help their partners more to be better fathers, to understand their centrality in their child’s life and in the betterment of society at large. (Pictures – Henry VIII &  David Beckham courtesy google images)

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.