A little inspiration

At the end of this month my job finishes and it’s been a long hard slog in redundancy limbo for the last few months so a little inspiration at this point goes a long way.  I haven’t posted as often as I should but that’s mainly because –and how’s this for irony- I’ve been exceptionally busy at work. It may be because people have suddenly woken up to the fact that the free support and advice they’ve enjoyed for years is finally going but I’d also like to think it’s because they need and want my services too.

CV: It’s hard to get excited about writing a CV but I’ve been inspired by the support I had at a one to one CV writing session. One of the perks of redundancy is being able to access loads of training and support. This session was funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and I came away with lots of ideas.

Photos: Another colleague whose job is going has turned his hand to portrait photography and offered me a free session. I now have some swanky photos to go on my new marketing materials and website. And facebook. It took about twenty frames for me to stop looking like a startled meerkat but he got some great pictures in the end. In some he even managed to make me look attractive. Hoorah!

My new business partner: I’m going into business with my colleague. It’s part of that big fat portfolio career I promised myself a while back. We’ve sorted out our logo, planned our business cards and opened a business bank account. NB: we were messed around by banks offering deals on business accounts so we went to the nearest bank, walked in and asked to see the small business manager. We had to wait for a while and passed the time discussing whether the title ‘small business adviser’ was misleading and whether it should really be ‘adviser for small businesses’ but as it turned out, the small business adviser was actually quite small so we let them off.

World Book night : My business partner was one of the lucky few chosen to give out books on World Book Night on Friday so we picked those up on the way to the bank. After our appointment we rushed up to Trafalgar Square to take part in the launch. It was like a music gig but with books. When Philip Pullman came on stage people actually screamed and jumped up and down. It’s inspirational that people can still get that excited about books. I came away with Nigel Slater’s Toast.

Work: I’ve also run some new training and meetings. I can now add these activities to my list of things I can offer in my new life and I still get inspired and excited by my line of work. I promised myself at the beginning of the year that it was time to stop being miserable and look to the positive in 2011. It’s March, I’m days away from redundancy and I’m still here and still smiling.

Bring it on!

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Spending cuts: how much do they know?

I’m running a series of briefings for teachers about the future of our services and what they need to be doing right now. We were about to launch a really exciting new phase of projects in school but of course, this has now been changed and we’re still waiting to see what the replacement will look like.

Sprinkle liberally

 I planned to talk about these changes and link them to the wider picture in education by talking about the white paper. I had an emergency PowerPoint on the white paper courtesy if the DfE but I thought the teachers would know what was in it and I’d only need to chat briefly about it.

 Wrong.

 ‘So who’s read the white paper then,’ I asked cheerily.

 Silence.

 ‘Who knows the things in the white paper that will affect your day to day working life?’

 A tumbleweed rolled by.

 So I spent more time than I intended on informing the group about the white paper and how it will affect their schools: changes in behaviour management, a greater focus on bullying and synthetic phonics (luckily the two are not inter-related), exclusions, academies and free schools. Their head teachers are probably well-informed but sometimes the infromation doesn’t always filter down to the class teachers.

 The other aspect of the changes they weren’t entirely aware of were the cuts in local authority staff. My lot know that my post has been deleted but I don’t think they yet realise the implications of this. When they need me they pick up the phone and ask or drop me e-mail and I help to the best of my abilities. It’s my job.

 A head teacher phoned me this morning and explained that some of her parents were very anxious about a certain policy the school had just redeveloped and how she wasn’t sure what to do.

 ‘Would you like me to come and run a workshop for your parents?’ I said.

 ‘You’ve just sprinkled magic fairy dust over my day!’ she replied.

 I think this means she was pleased. And it solves everyone’s problems: the parents are reassured and informed, the staff can get back to teaching and I’ve got the knowledge at my fingertips to run sessions like these.

 It will be interesting to see how schools react when they don’t have the support of staff  whose job it is to translate government policy, share their expertise with schools and be there for them. Sometimes just for a chat and a bit of support and maybe to sprinkle a little fairy dust on someone’s day.

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.

My big fat portfolio career part two

I’ve just spent the last two days on a course run by FPM called How To Be a Consultant and it did what it said on the tin. On day one we found out about what being a consultant means in terms of a career choice, what sort of work is out there and what our individual USP might be. I think I know my USP (no sniggering at the back)  but it’s another skill putting that down on paper. On day two we did work around being self-employed, tax, VAT and finances. All tricky stuff but we were an attentive audience becuase we’d never had to fill in a tax return.

 Unlike many courses I go on that are a three line whip this really did answer my questions and more importantly, posed further questions that I need to answer for myself. Best of all there were some really interesting people there and it was a good opportunity for networking.

 So I think a new self-employed career might just work. 

 But I won’t delete the Traffic order Maker application form yet.

Just in case.   

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