Playing for Success…but not for long.

 

Yesterday evening I was the guest of honour at a Playing for Success (PfS) award ceremony. I expect you’ve heard of Playing for Success. No? It’s another superb programme that supports children’s learning and development and has got the thumbs down from the government. Funding ends in March.

 PfS uses top flight sports venues such as premier league football stadiums as after school study centres. PfS is not about sport but uses the discipline that sportspeople have as inspiration to support children in their basic literacy and numeracy skills. Pupils also brush up their ICT and develop their team work, personal and study skills. Pupils from a local secondary school give up their own precious free time to mentor the younger pupils.

 At the event I attended, I handed out certificates and prizes to children from four local primary schools. The kids who attended the study centre after school were supported by their very proud parents. The venue is a world famous centre for sporting excellence and is more than generous with their time and support too. They provide food and drink for the event, a representative speaker and free use of their amazing facilities. They organise for famous players to speak to pupils and provide prizes and support to the programme.

 It’s the second time I’ve presented prizes at this event and I always feel so impressed by what the pupils and their leaders have achieved.  In my speech I acknowledged their hard work and gently reminded the families in attendance that with government cuts biting deeply, we should take advantage of the excellent services we currently enjoy.

 While we hear about the major cuts in the national media, it’s the smaller cuts to children’s services that I think will really harm the chances of state school educated children. And when people describe public sector workers as feckless, lazy and parasitic, perhaps they’d like to see the committed, passionate and energetic staff members that I work with.  Not all of us push papers around.

 So this is where we are:

 Playing for Success: funding ended.

 School Sports Partnership: funded ended.

 National Healthy Schools Programme: funding ended.

 Extended services: funding ended.

 Primary and secondary strategies: funding ended

Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year?

Happy Christmas? Bah humbug.

Christmas in the public sector is a rather joyless affair this year. No one is in the mood for high jinks and parties and seasonal spirit is definitely absent.

A public sector celebration is very different to private sector dos anyway. It wouldn’t be right or ethical to spend tax payers’ money on celebrations and parties so we pay our own way and that means that cost has to be fair so the least well-paid can afford to join in. For the last few years we’ve had lunch in the local Italian trattoria that does a lunchtime special. The trouble with lunchtime is that everyone eventually slinks back to the office to do some work and no one drinks. Whoo hoo.

And don’t even think of suggesting that we have lunch in the canteen. After Gravygate we won’t be going back there.

It’s also a tradition in the office where I work that instead of handing out cards to each other we make an amusing e-card that we send to all our colleagues across the council and make a donation to a chosen charity. We usually photograph ourselves doing something amusing and Christmassy and it gets us in the festive spirit. 

Go away, I'm working.

We didn’t feel very inspired this year but took our festive photos this morning gathered around the Christmas tree downstairs in the reception area (we don’t have even the merest sniff of tinsel in our office) and in an oblique reference to the fact that our room is so bloody cold we have penguins tapping on windows asking to be let in, we wrapped up in coats, scarves and hats.

I tried pulling my scarf up over my face in a small act of rebellion but apparently this made me look like a student protester so was not allowed. Hmph.

In a desperate attempt to inject a bit of sprit I invited everyone over to my house for mince pies next but it turns out that they’re washing their socks or something.

Oh well.

Anyone doing anything festive at work this year or have you given up in the name of austerity?

*******update*******

I’ve just seen the finished e card. It’s very nice and you can see about 1mm of my face if you squint hard. I’ll have to tell recipients that I was actually there in my last ever local authority Christmas card. Sigh.

PSHE- the forgotten subject?

In the comments on my post about student demonstrations, ‘Citizen CW’ drew my attention to the website of the Campaign for Real Education so I dropped by and had a look. As an educator who is passionate about excellent learning in the state system I was horrified. I haven’t read such fantasy since Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the CRE have attacked PSHE in particular.

 PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) is the forgotten subject of the national curriculum. It’s non-statutory so schools don’t have to teach it but I’ve yet to meet a school that doesn’t have PSHE on the curriculum even though there aren’t any qualifications in it and in these legaue table-driven times that’s saying something. Where it’s taught well, students are engaged and interested and learn the knowledge, skills and attitudes that support them in life.

 The previous government wanted PSHE to be a statutory subject area in schools but they waited until 2009 to bring in a bill and this was lost at wash-up at the beginning of this year.

 We didn’t have PSHE when I was at school because it was expected that our parents would teach us the stuff we needed but the world has changed immeasurably since then. PSHE is essential in order for all students to be well informed on all aspects of health including learning about sex, relationships, drugs, alcohol, money, food, bullying and mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Problems we simply didn’t experience a few years ago are now part of our children’s lives and need to be tackled via PSHE: cyber bullying and online safety is a massive issue for young people and sexual bullying is on the increase. Knife crime and hate crime are daily occurrences in all children’s lives and not just those living on sink estates in cities.

 Good PSHE gives children the skills to deal with these issues and offers them the space and time to reflect on their own attitudes and learn skills to cope. It shows them how to access support and help if these are not available at home and gives young people the tools to be safe and healthy in all aspects of their lives. 

Sadly, where PSHE is taught badly it’s a waste of everyone’s time and this is why teachers- particularly those in secondary schools who are not PSHE trained- need support, networking and training. Try teaching a class of teens about contraception if you’ve not had the training or answer questions about how harmful the latest legal and illegal drugs are.

 But the CrE have their own ideas and these are absolutely not grounded in fact. It describes Sex and Relationships Education (SRE, the word ‘relationships’ is absolutely key), an integral part of PSHE as being ‘value free.’ The most recent government guidance on SRE is from 2000 and clearly states that SRE should include these attitudes and values:

learning the importance of values and individual conscience and moral considerations;

learning the value of family life, marriage, and stable and loving relationships for the nurture of children;

learning the value of respect, love and care;

exploring, considering and understanding moral dilemmas; and developing critical thinking as part of decision-making.

Not so ‘value-free’ after all.

It also calls SRE ‘a disaster’ as teenage pregnancy rates have remained stable (nationally) despite SRE being taught in schools. Good SRE is one factor in teenage pregnancy but only one. There are many more factors including social housing and deprivation. Where I work we have reduced teenage pregnancy significantly through a huge joint operation and partnership working but it’s an uphill struggle. Blaming schools and one subject area in particular for teenage pregnancy is way too simplistic. We may as well say that every sixteen year old should be a Maths genius because they’ve been taught it at school since they were five years old.

The CRE also mistakenly lump together PSHE and Citizenship and call it ‘PSHCE.’ This is incorrect. Citizenship is a separate subject and has been statutory since 2002. They also state that PSHE is a ‘secular alternative to Religious Education.’ Again, incorrect. RE is a different subject again and PSHE does not replace RE and never will and there is certainly no campaign among teachers to see that this happens.

In a section on advice to parents the website states that, ‘although all schools may need to pay lip-service to PSHCE, the better ones will give it little time or credence,’ and when it comes to SRE, ‘good primary heads will almost certainly decide they have more important priorities.’ This it rubbish. I work with excellent head teachers and superb schools and the best teach PSHE as both a discrete and integral part of the school day. All teach SRE well and communicate effectively with parents and carers about children’s learning. I haven’t even begun to explore how good PSHE raises school attainment and grades.

It’s difficult enough being a parent without campaign groups like this adding fuel to the fire and it’s bloody hard growing up as a child in the 21st century. PSHE teaches children about the real world in a supportive and age-appropriate climate and enables them to be considerate and emotionally intelligent adults and I for one can’t see anything wrong with that.

Further reading:

Sex and Relationship Education Guidance. DfEE, 2000.

The MacDonald independent review into PSHE, DfE 2009.

PSHE Association- the subject association for teachers of PSHE.

Student power!

Today MPs will vote on whether to raise university tuition fees and Nick Clegg and his fellow lib dems are expected to vote in favour despite being vocal in their election campaign against this (did you see Sarah Teather being chased down the street by a Sky news reporter?). Students have not taken this lying down. They have been on marches and demonstrations for the last few weeks and another is planned for today. There are sit-ins and protests and banner-waving across the country from university students and school pupils.

 Yesterday it felt like I couldn’t listen to the radio or the TV news without a conservative student with an accent that could cut glass defending this decision. One young chap on the BBC news sputtered that some students didn’t even fully understand what they were protesting about. I don’t doubt it. I hazard a guess that many of the young people on marches don’t have a full understanding of the situation but what they do understand is that things are Not Fair and they’re going to do what teenagers do best and rebel.  

 Yes, there have been some idiots breaking stuff, graffiti-ing stuff and making a nuisance of themselves and they really haven’t done their cause any favours but the majority are there for what they believe to be a righteous cause. 

 It’s good to see teenagers involved in something that isn’t just vodka-flavoured and the girls who held hands around the police van to stop people attacking it were a joy to see. Proper Citizenship in action rather than a worksheet in a classroom.

 It will be interesting to see what happens later today.

 What do readers of this blog think about revolting students?

The new free market economy

On Friday I went to the London meeting of a professional network group. Several of us were there for the first time, having been invited by the stalwarts in the hope of getting us to join. The main purpose of the group is to support freelance consultants and to provide networking opportunities for those not affiliated with a particular local authority.

 Until now, I and my colleagues in other boroughs have had networking and training events provided by Government office for London (GOL). Sadly GOL is now dim and distant memory so we need to make more effort ourselves to stay in the loop.

 It struck me though that the market in my particular area of expertise is going to be changing pretty rapidly. Currently there is a small group of freelance consultants who are well known in London. They are the people that are called when extra help is needed and we all know them very well. But soon more of us will be swelling the ranks of that small group and schools and local authorities will have more choice. Will they choose the old guard or the new young (ish) things?

 These freelancers rely very much on word of mouth, their good reputations and the existing networks of contacts in LAs. They don’t need to do much in the way of marketing and very few of them have a website. We politely respect each other’s geographical boundaries and areas of expertise and wouldn’t dream of treading on each other’s toes.

 Until now.

 Soon there will be no boundaries and every piece of work going will be up for grabs. There won’t be that reliable network of support. I’ll be able to stray beyond the boundaries of my three local authorities. Perhaps I’ll seek work beyond London. I know I’ll definitely be setting up a spiffy-looking website and will be using social media to attract work. The old guard had better pull up their socks.

 But it still feels a little Machiavellian. I’ll have to grow another layer of skin before March but then the world will be mine, all mine. Mwah ha ha.

 Maybe.

Sport for sport’s sake

I’m still taking in the news that we’ve lost our bid to host the 2018 world cup. I won’t mention all my personal thoughts about this here but they may involve words like ‘robbed,’ ‘Russian mafia,’ and ‘no infrastructure.’ Just saying.

 Meanwhile, the school sports argument has reached fever pitch. I wrote about the cuts to funding to the very successful School Sports Partnership (SSP)a couple of weeks ago, just before it hit the headlines. Since then, quite rightly, many people have argued about the damaging effect that cuts to grass-roots sport will have.

 Just last week the prime minister dismissed the SSP as a ‘complete failure.’ I don’t know who his adviser was on that but I hope s/he has been demoted to counting paper clips. Since then there has been a significant u-turn to the extent that there have been reassurances that school sport will continue to be supported by the government.  We know this is a u-turn because Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the government’s position is, ‘not a u turn.’ (try googling the words ‘school sport’ and ‘u turn’ and see what you get.

 I know the SSP very well and have always been a fan. I work closely with the partnership development managers and primary link teachers. More importantly I see for myself the difference in schools: the excellent facilities, the wide range of sports on offer and the number of students engaging in competition. The SSP has also focused on specific groups in the last few years like tricky teenage girls, for example, or the kids they call ‘semi sporty.’ I think I would have been a ‘semi sporty’ when I was at school: loads of enthusiasm but not much skill. And for those who are very sporty, there are gifted and talented programmes and links to county-level sport.

 So well done to those sixty head teachers who wrote a letter to the Observer (I’m pleased to see they include some of the schools I work with) and well done to all these sports fans and personalities who’ve spoken up for the SSP.

 Power to the people and I look forward to seeing what happens next. We can make a difference.

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