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Part Timer

Oh dear. I’ve done it again. I’ve read something in the newspaper and it has made me cross. It seems that Our Great Educational Leaders have come up with the solution to the teacher retention crisis. Go part time! This is it, experienced ladies, this is the solution to our employment woes! Use a sort of part time teacher dating site to find your perfect partner and wit woo! Retention crisis solved!

Because working part time is the solution, isn’t it? It’s got nothing to do with class sizes at all, has it? Nothing to do with marking 30-odd sets of books for each subject every day, just to keep on top of it all and do the right thing by your class, has it? Nothing to do with full timetables and learning all those names or working full tilt all day every day and not enough time to drink any water or go to the loo or lunchtime meetings or running clubs or anything else that must be squeezed, somehow, into the working day.

And it’s got nothing to do with the increasing complexity of the children who are served in mainstream schools at all, no no no. Nothing to do with the filling up of special schools and the spill-over to mainstream that nobody trained you for or told you what your legal responsibilities were. Nothing to do with increasing demands on schools and teachers to fill in the gaps where social care should be and a lack of time to support them when they do. Let’s not talk about the impact of incidents, whatever they might be, on teaching staff held accountable for the outcome of lessons, not rescue. Nooooo. Going part time’ll sort it out.

And while we are at it, working part time, that’s the solution to planning good lessons, isn’t it? Especially if we provide some model lessons (what, QCA? Oh, nobody looks at THAT any more, after a while everyone got bored and it was dry as the dust on the shelf where it was stored in its fancy set of coloured folders). Oh, no one looks at planning any more (do they? Do they?), but, you know, with the new focus on curriculum, we could all do with a bit more thinking space, couldn’t we?

Of course, for those with young families, working part time will make those child care problems easier to sort out, won’t it? It’ll only be two or three days that a person has to find care from 6am to 6pm, and, instead of planning and marking til late at night and allowing it to gobble up Saturday or Sunday, part timers can take a bit of pressure off and catch up on their days off! Hurrah! More time for everyone!

Don’t tell anyone about the impact working part time has on pensions though. We’d rather not that everyone thought about that. 67 is yeeeeeears away (and with any luck they’ll die before they can collect much of it). It’s not worth them thinking about at this stage, not experienced teachers, no no. They should be concentrating on their young families. Then we can concentrate on all the pension savings we are going to make while they are off at toddler group or coffee mornings or something. No one looks that far into the future anyway. And definitely look the other way when part timers question whether or not they will get that pay rise, that movement up the scale, especially with performance related pay on the bargaining table. Definitely don’t talk about that, especially if they work in SEN.

And let’s not look at house prices, or working miles away from where you live or the lack of affordable decent childcare or any of the pressures of modern life where you have to be all things to everybody and do it all with a smile on your lipsticked face. (I believe these might be called structural issues.) There’s nothing we can do about those, especially when we have Brexit to sort out.

Let’s not do any of those things. After we figured out that we can’t afford all those teaching assistants any more, let’s relieve the pressure by going part time. Yay.


And let’s not look at the impact of Ofsted on everyone’s lives. Let’s DEFINITELY not do that.



I am the paper that wraps,
Cut, folded, held together with
Stretched to conceal secrets.

A one- sided decoration adorned with ribbon and glitter,
I am the paper torn.



Cast aside.

I wait.
Smoothed, I turn the tawdry, the useless, the silly and the desired
Into promises.

How Helping Helps

It’s interesting, if you can detach yourself a little bit, to consider how the notion of having to be helped is somehow shaming. I have felt this myself (you can read a post about accepting help here and a post about what this means for concepts of manhood here), so I can relate to it; knowing with your head that there is nothing to be feared in having to be helped every so often is very different to the experience of it.

However, like anxiety, which is constantly painted in negative terms, there are reasons why being in need, being in need of help, which admittedly, in itself is not very nice, doesn’t have to be seen as an automatically Bad Thing or a Sign of Failure. There is more to ‘help’ than meets the eye.

  • To be a helper is empowering; for children, for example, to help the teacher makes someone important.
  • To be helped, or to ask for help, means that you have reached out, and made a connection with someone else.
  • To help means stepping into an adult role; one where you take on responsibility and decision making.
  • To be helped is to recognise that we aren’t perfect, we have an understanding of our limitations (this is good for not getting too puffed up with unrealistic pride or, even more bluntly, too up ourselves).
  • To help someone else – or a lot of someone elses – is to make a contribution.
  • To be helped means that you courageously give the gift of trust.
  • To help is to notice someone other than yourself.
  • To be helped is to need someone other than yourself.

When I look at this list – and I have stopped here to avoid the danger of merely repeating myself – I can’t quite understand why it should be so shameful. Yes, there is a cost to giving help, to aid; for me, it is a price worth paying.

Otherwise, what else would we be but helpless? To be without help, would be a tragedy.

Who are Children in Need?

I have yet another criticism to add to my catalogue of bugbears when it comes to Children in Need, it seems. Because Children in Need are in the news, and, instead of the reality, which is:

Under Section 17 Children Act 1989, a child will be considered in need if:

10) For the purposes of this Part a child shall be taken to be in need if—

(a)he is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or to have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority under this Part;

(b)his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services; or

(c)he is disabled,

and “family”, in relation to such a child, includes any person who has parental responsibility for the child and any other person with whom he has been living.

(11) For the purposes of this Part, a child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed; and in this Part—

Instead, we have visions of Pudsey and Blushes and telethons and auctions and cycling challenges for celebrities. It’s annoying. It muddies the water in the public mind which, as well as being annoying, is deeply unhelpful.

Mind you, that’s not the end of it. On Friday, I met with social workers in a personal capacity, to be informed that my son is now designated a Child in Need. This is true. He is disabled, and he has needs that mean the local authority must make (and indeed, have been making for some years) additional provision for him. For him, it is simple…but somehow it’s as if it is stigmatised; problematized.

Instead of being a statement of fact, it feels like a judgement. An administrative category has become a category.

So let me make something clear. Everyone needs a helping hand, once in a while. And that’s OK.

Things I wish my teacher knew

Who knew that this year, World Down’s Syndrome Day would be such a social media success? To date, the 50 mums video has had 18 million views! If you haven’t seen it yet, please click the link above and share; it’s a powerful piece of advocacy for both mothers and their children.

I haven’t had much time to think about World Down’s Syndrome Day (21st March, three copies of the 21st chromosome, geddit?), other than joining in with the sharing, but luckily for me, I have come great friends who are always willing to share with me some of their ideas on how we can build on the awareness that has been raised, of love and hope, and how, together, we might ensure a brighter future for our children.

A while back, a young teacher called Johnny inspired me when he shared a great lesson he’d done with his class: ‘I wish my teacher knew’. Often it’s the quiet children who hide unplumbed depths of feeling, sometimes it’s the louder ones who put the barriers between you. His lesson showed that there were lots of things that his class wished he knew about them – and the same is true for the children with Down’s syndrome, who, thanks to communication challenges, especially when young, need their parents to advocate for them, to help their teachers to see the things they wished you knew.

Hayley and I have put together a short post, detailing the things we’d love you to know about our children (please follow he link to her fantastic TED Talk.) You can find detailed support and guidance on the learning profile for Down’s syndrome (remembering OF COURSE that every child is an individual and that that 21st chromosome, while obeying some generalities, is expressed in the individual very differently) here.

Natty: I have lots to say. Please listen carefully.

Natty: I behave differently at home

Hayley: in Natty’s case much better, but in some cases children melt down when at home after a day of ‘keeping it all in’.

Nancy: I’d add that Sam is the same.

Natty and Sam: My behaviour is a way of communicating.

Nancy: Sometimes it can mean that health is about to take a turn for the worse. Please, please, please let parents know if you notice any changes in behaviour. When you find it hard to communicate, the adults need to pull together to figure out what is wrong.

Nancy: Strengths are not what we measure in schools.

Hayley: Natty has exceeded all of our expectations; her strengths lie in her ability to swim, dance, bake cakes, make others smile and fart on cue.

Nancy, Hayley, Natty and Sam: It only takes small reasonable adjustments to make children with Down’s syndrome feel included in all areas of school life.

Natty and Sam: We want to be included in all areas of school life

Natty: I don’t want to be glued to a PA. My friends should be other pupils, not an adult.

Hayley: I want to hear about her friendships, not the TA/PA.

Sam: I am very happy when someone else does everything for me.

Nancy: I get very cross when someone else does everything for Sam.

Natty: I want to be independent as I can. Please help me to achieve that.

Sam: I love being the class mascot.

Nancy and Hayley: Being the class mascot or pet isn’t what is best for our children in the short and long term. Treat them like the others; be firm with me and have high – but realistic – expectations.

Natty: Don’t laugh when I am naughty.

Hayley : She’s a great actor and adept at distracting you from the task at hand. Don’t be fooled by crocodile tears, cute turns of phrase and silly dance routines mid-way through maths.

Natty: Ask me to help others, do  classroom chores and have responsibilities.

Sam: Helping others makes me feel grown up. I want to be grown up.

Sam: I want to have and choose my own friends.

Nancy: He’s a friendly and trusting person. He needs adults around him who can show other young people how to be friends with him – don’t take his choices away.

Hayley and Nancy: Please listen to parents. They know their children best.