Tag Archives: GCSE

Congratulations, you didn’t get ill this year…

Tonight was our termly ACE awards – Academic and Character Excellence – it is a superb event to highlight how well some of the students are doing. Overall, I support and encourage these events and I encourage the children to always try their hardest and set their lives to their own code of character. They are helpful (we’ll ignore their home chores), polite, kind and caring, considerate and a pleasure to be around.

I am privileged to be raising fantastic human beings. They trust us, as parents, to meet their needs, they rely on us to take care of them when they’re poorly and stand up for them when there is an injustice.

That’s what I am doing now. We’ve had occasions when one or two of the children have managed to stay healthy the whole term long. That’s fantastic. It’s also potluck. They had absolutely no control over their immune systems, they just happened to miss the seasonal flu and the stomach virus which took the rest of us out. It isn’t part of their character not to be ill, it’s just luck.

I remember being a fairly healthy child and missing very little school. My elder sister had nearly the whole school year off after an accident at home broke her lower leg and put her in plastercast. She got a nasty infection, there were multiple attempts at repairing and reducing damage. She had all her class work brought in to the hospital and managed to learn what was needed to see her through the school year. My younger sister was born premature and it had a knock on effect on her health. Ear infections, Mumps (despite having all our MMR jabs – it happens), chest infections, asthma. It meant many appointments and many missed days at school.

This year hasn’t been The Boy’s month. He has been constantly “under the weather” since Christmas. Most days he gets on with it. He has a bit of a temperature, his throats a bit sore, and every now and again, he’ll vomit. Our school policy is 24 hours. He has missed one day a week all this term. This is really not what I want but rules are there to protect others and I would feel utterly guilty if my Boy’s bug made another child seriously unwell. Then you have the Big Boy. Numerous appointments with various services and they all operate on a 9:30-4:30 timetable. The Big Boy can’t control when he has to have his blockers or the fact that we have to go into Central London because our GP doesn’t support the treatment. He has very limited control over his mental health and a bad dip can creep up and take hold. He can’t just pull up his socks and keep going.

Essentially, my children won’t be winning the top notch award because you have to show academic progress, character excellence and, crucially, 100% attendance. It doesn’t matter that their teachers are super proud of their achievements. It won’t count if they have the most positive points in their year group. They could rescue ducklings, feed the homeless, and be the personal assistant their teachers always wanted. As soon as they catch that bug, their chances of gaining the best possible praise award is finished.

How is that fair? Our very own Teacher’s Pet was doing really well. She had made it through 5 out of 6 of the half terms and had nothing bigger than a sniffle. One Tuesday morning, the boy sitting next to her vomited next to their desk. His parents were called to collect him. They weren’t able to get back to school any sooner than the end of the school day so he was *sent back to class*. He spent the next 4hrs sat next to one of the most wonderful students you could wish to meet. Come Thursday morning, around 3am, my poor 11 year old was green and heart broken. She knew it would mean not going into school and her hopes of the 100% attendance award was gone. Oh yes, the poorly young boy from her class? He stayed at school all week despite having spent Tuesday and Wednesday running to the toilets. He got his 100% attendance award whilst our family got tears and a nasty bug that we didn’t shift for over a month.

Why do we continue to praise attendance so highly, even higher than a person being in good health? When my child is having a panic attack, their breathing becoming difficult, their face clammy, their head pounding, and their stomach churning, what learning are they going to done in a class with 25 other wonderful children and 2 cruel and unkind children who use bullying tactics to tear down my child’s defences? Why is my child’s mental health not worth protecting?

Do I want my child to be considered for the top spot *despite* missing a day or two from school? Yes, of course I do. I want them to be able to gain first place in any race. Am I going to send my ill child to school to keep them in the race? Nope. That accolade just isn’t worth it. Maybe, if my children were struggling academically or having problems finding their feet as a growing individual, I *might* consider making sure that we keep on top of things as parents; help them learn, explore, grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally but I can’t see myself being the parent who leaves their child at school unless I truly don’t have any other choice.

Please, teachers, take the time to praise our children, we love that you do but try to do it without putting a special shiny star on the 100% attendance thing. For my physically disabled nephew, for my gender dysphoria suffering son, for my daughter who just has to listen to a sneeze before becoming unwell, for my elder sister and her accident, and my younger sister and her premature system, for all those children who are genuinely ill and whose parents have the facility to keep them home and wrapped up. For everyone who has missed out on that 100% attendance award. Your worth will never be valued, by me, by how well your immune system fights off bugs.

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Shall I compare thee…to your siblings?

Everything I know about parenting I learnt by being a parent. I do have younger sisters but we are close enough in age that we didn’t take on any significant “parenting” in the true sense although my little sister (not my baby one!) and I are only 18 months apart and we have had to keep each other safe over the years, stepping in when, for whatever reason, our own parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. We’ve had each others’ back and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’d think that would make us very similar but we actually more like our opposites. We know how to push each other’s buttons but equally, we complement and counterbalance each other which allows us to be very different and yet both very positive and, hopefully, good mothers.

Now I know all this. I can see how siblings don’t necessarily follow each other, how we all learn, interact, play up, in our own unique ways. So why do I continue to compare my own children? There are 8 of them, of course they’re all going to plough their own paths, it would be madness to think otherwise. I think I must be mad.

I find myself constantly doing it; did The Boy walk this early? Did The Prefect ever miss a joke this badly? Are the smalls even cheekier than the bigs ever were? Oddly, the only time I didn’t was the one time that it may have been most beneficial. 

When The Newstarter was about 18 months, I realised that her speech was a little less recognisable than I recalled the older children being. I then reminded myself that each was unique and that I shouldn’t judge based on my experience with the bigger ones. By the time we got to 30 months, with the babbles of The Baby coming along, it was clear that her speech was definitely being stubborn. She could say plenty, I could get what I needed out of her to make our day easier but I began to take note of the words she could and couldn’t say. 

When she started nursery, the first thing I did was raise my concerns with her new teacher. She took some time to settle her in and make an evaluation. Miss Teacher seemed to think she had quite a severe need for a SaLT referral and made noises that suggested that there may be some learning delay. 

I’m mum, I might not have rushed to the GP with concerns but I have done this a couple of times. At home, she would tell me the colours, some simple counting, she had a fantastic group of little friends who would play some crazy games and she got herself understood as well as knowing exactly what others were saying to her, she sang nursery rhymes and could puzzle away like she had the answer sheet! If anything (mummy bias & sibling comparisons) she is actually a faster learner than some of her older siblings. I am in no way worried about her progress.

Back to nursery. We took the school’s advice and went to a play & stay specifically aimed at children with SaLT needs. We arrived and were invited to play. The girls gravitated straight to the play kitchen where they made us cups of tea, cake with vegetables, and even did some ironing – that’s quite scary because only Mr Dad irons and it normally occurs when the smalls are fast asleep. I have no clue where they picked up such great ironing skills!

I spoke to an assistant therapist, we discussed a few things, bit more play, a sing song and a brief overview. In its simplest meaning; she’s doing fine, stick with what you’re doing, ask the school to continue as they are, come back if you need anything else.

It was a little frustrating. The therapist agreed that there was definitely an issue with her speech but, unfortunately, there just aren’t enough funds to justify further support at this stage beyond what we were already receiving via the nursery staff having the training to help the two children at the nursery in need of support. Mostly, I’m okay with that. 

Don’t get me wrong, if they offer us further support moving forward, that is amazing and an opportunity we would welcome but at the grand age of 4, we’re okay. She’ll meet with her new teacher soon, we’ll go through all the questions, hear the “oh gosh!” when they understand that she is 7th of 8 children, and we will eventually get to the part of her story where we discuss any additional needs she may have. It’s at this stage where I will explain her “school passport” which has a detailed account of last years progress. I’ll tell her of our wonderful holidays where we tried to engage The Newbie in conversation wherever we could, my eyes will glisten when I recall how much she impressed us with her talk of the “blue humped big whale” or how well she is doing going from her short, easy to say name, to her long, tougher to say all the syllables full name. We’ll work on a care plan, The Newbie will smash it out of the park and we will sail through Reception with as much ease as any of her siblings (see, I did it again!)

Next month marks another milestone in my life. Another small person starting school and I’m left at home with just The Baby who seems less baby like with every passing day. She’s a huge part of us identifying The Newbies speech patterns, mainly because she never stops talking! I will have a whole year getting this little jumping bean up to speed ready for nursery but I don’t think it will take more than the first term of school, she has all the makings of being just as sponge like as her biggest siblings! Oh darn it, I just can’t help myself.

So on the last note for today’s ramblings, The Big Boy did himself proud. A couple of A*s, a B, and a lot of As. I keep telling him he can be whoever he wants to be. These results are going to make it so much easier for him. He has poured all of himself into his GCSEs and now he can “relax” as he starts his A levels. He thought he’d kick it off by joining an elite group of teenagers all trying to discover how best they can support their communities and being Advocates for those who have been or will be victims of bullying or discrimination because they dare to stand out from the crowd. 
It is my honour to be his mum. It is my honour to be a mother to each and every one of them. Any burden I carry easily, safe in the knowledge that my little people will always fight for themselves and for those who need help. They are all utterly beautiful inside and out.

Apple for Teacher

Once upon a school class, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I felt a compelling sense that I needed to help people especially the young. Little by little I grew as an individual and decided that my path had led away from medicine. I could not stand to be in school and the idea that I had to spend another 10 years of life not being able to help children whilst I studied and amounted a vast debt just didn’t seem right.

The Mr and I met at college. He is the reason I absolutely believe in love at first sight. He came out of a meeting in the hall and swaggered down towards the common area and I knew with every fibre of my being that I was going to have children with him. Fourteen months later our first child was delivered by caesarean section, a more than healthy 9lb 15oz and a beautifully fuzzy ginger top. Looking at this tiny (!) human being I knew that I had found my path. I wanted to be a mother, a really good mother. 

Mothering is so much more than making sure you meet the 4 Bs. – bottle/boob, bottom, burping, bundling. Bundling is my favourite part. The mini human gets laid in a lovingly made blanket from a nanna, aunt, bestfriend, and you tuck the edges around them almost too tightly. Some like their arms tucked too whilst others have one arm out, a thumb in their mouth, and then you hold them. Just hold them. 

In the late hours, when the world seems quiet and it is just you two, that’s when the lessons are learnt. You teach your child about love, acceptance, joy and laughter, even fear. In return your child shows you compassion, independence, loyalty, faith and trust.

Oddly, that isn’t exactly what I had planned on exploring but it is a good start to where our family finds itself right now.

The youngest gingerling has just finished doing some “fun” quizzes and as a reward she will be going to the seaside. Miss Diva didn’t find them so fun. You had to sit in boring seats and you weren’t allowed to even laugh! But she got to write a really good story only she didn’t have enough time to finish it and that isn’t fair.

Year 2 SATs suck. I have always had a passionate dislike of them. They tell us nothing about what truly matters when we look at our 6 and 7 year olds. It doesn’t state their favourite colour or toy, whether they prefer Science or Art, how high they climb on the bars or how much their handwriting has improved this year. My wonderful 6 (and a half! Very important to Miss Diva) year old has spent the last 6 months learning how to pass a test. She was told how to write with a start, a middle, and an end – like those are the only options available when writing a story. She knows how to work out a word problem in maths, which is useful in the long run but not so helpful in encouraging her how to remember her times table and then how to use that to work out division. The last time she worked on a beautiful piece of artwork was Christmas and they haven’t had a music lesson since the class assembly in January. She has had afterschool booster sessions and even a couple of days of extra mini quizzes during the holidays. My beautiful prancing, dancing, singing, smiling, giggling 6 and a half year old wasn’t even alloed to laugh.

Yay. I’m sure that tells the government lots about my child.

My not so little anymore CEO is just about to start her “fun quizzes” except without the sugar coating. She knows exactly what is expected of her by her teachers and is not sleeping because of it. Her SATs prep started last school year. As soon as My Daydreamer went off on her school leavers journey the lines were laid down to start teaching the year 5 class how to “do well” in their SATs. For the whole of the last 12 months they have had it drummed into them just how important these tests are and they have worked for nothing else. I have every faith in my rule enforcer, my little teacher’s pet, my stressed and anxious nearly nearly 11 year old. She has the most awe inspiring spirit, her mind is so enquisitive, always asking questions, always fighting for the World to be a better place to grow. I know she is intelligent, probably top 10 at her school, I have no desire for her to do these exams which leave her despondent and fearful. To see the light ebb from her as her shoulders slump and her wrists need rubbing from cramp. 

The tests don’t show that though. They aren’t interested in my child’s personality, her strengths and weaknesses, they only care about how well she can decipher the maths word puzzle, how her teachers have taught her the difference between clauses, how to use adverbs correctly, the humble comma, and when to use there, their, and they’re. She must also resist the use of emoticons because they’re not appropriate. 

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My no longer little but my almost fully grown red head has been stuck in his bedroom for the last two years. The once vivid green walls are now adorned with a revision timetable covered by an exam timetable, post it notes in various shapes and sizes, thought maps, English quotes, and words of hope that soon this month long stressfest will soon be over. 

The GCSEs are the ones that terrify me. The teachers have high hopes for my biggest boy. Meeting after meeting, email after email, each one telling us if he just studies a little longer, revises just a little harder, pushes himself just a little further…. He has bitten each and every fingernail, you can see the little patch of fringe where he has been tugging and twisting, he is mainlining chocolate and his light hasn’t been out before 2am in a ridiculously long length of time. 

We have spent so much of the last five years battling the anxiety and handling the stress so that he can explore his identity and then embrace his transition. My boy doesn’t need this extra burden. He would have put himself under enough pressure to do well. He desperately wants to do well, he wants to get the qualifications he needs to move forward on his career path and help children in a way I absolutely understand. He is determined to make a difference in this world and he sees the educational route as his future journey. 

His GCSEs won’t show that about him. They won’t show off his absolutely enchanting voice, his delicate style of drawing that he has no faith in, his dark sense of humour which he shares with his father, his passion for politics causing voices to shake and hands to clench. They won’t count the tears he has shed because he doesn’t think he is good enough, the notes screwed up because they need to be just so.

The numbers at the end of the day won’t matter to me, they won’t change how much I love and cherish them, I am not concerned about competing with the other mums in the playground or stealing the Best Mum award of 2017. 

My children have been, otherwise, fabulously educated and by some of the best teachers – when they leave compulsory education at 18 they will be articulate, well-rounded, informed young adults but a good chunk of it will come from us, as parents, family & friends, who have all worked just as hard as the professionals to ensure that the next generation are ready for what comes next.

They are going to be awesome adults. 

Jus’ Sayin’

😉