Category Archives: Uncategorized

Consent

I thought it would be a good idea to write a quick blog post about something that happened today, just to make it absolutely clear to readers where I stand on the issue of consent.

I write a lot about my son, who has Down’s syndrome. I use his name and his image. I am, I think, quite careful about both the stories I tell, remembering always to bear in mind his dignity and the images I use; as he grows up and is more and more aware of my life as a writer and his role in it, I make sure to ask him if it is OK, or use an old or connected image.

I occasionally write about my younger children. I never mention their names, and I do not use their images in order to protect their anonymity.

Using the image and stories of a disabled young person are issues that are hedged about with issues of consent; it is important to both protect their dignity and to ensure that they are safe. There are many stories I do not tell and images I do not share in order to do this.

Today, an influential and widely read teacher-blogger linked to my blog and quoted me extensively, in order to make a point in an argument he was having with some other commentators about the use of synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading. I’m not going to link to it here.

This is OK. If he wants to characterise me in an unattractive/negative light, frankly, I think that says more about him than it does about me.

Unfortunately, what he also did was to mention my son, by name, in his blog. He did not ask my permission, or my son’s, to do this. This is not OK.

My son, by virtue of being a disabled young person is automatically a vulnerable young person. As teachers, we have been on enough safeguarding courses to know that we do not put vulnerable people in harm’s way. We don’t do it in our real lives, and we don’t do it in our virtual lives.

If you, as a reader of my blog, want to quote me, even out of context and even if you are attempting to paint me in a negative light, I might not like it but I am an adult and I can stick up for myself.

You do not have my permission to publish material about my son that identifies him, or use his image without his or my consent.

My material has been published on other websites, in print and in mainstream media. My son’s image and stories have been used in these contexts with our consent. If you wish to use them, you may ask, but you may not automatically get our consent.

Asking for consent is important, and is not negotiable. If you make the mistake and overstep the mark, I expect you to take the material down and issue an apology.

I have not checked, but I believe the influential teacher blogger when he tells me
that he has taken down material that identifies my son. He is a teacher, and he knows that keeping young people safe is important and part of our duties as teachers. I have not had an apology.

*addition

This is different to linking to my blog using pingback, which is entirely acceptable and to be expected. It is the writing about my son, and the use of his name, which, linked to mine, could identify him and put him in danger, without my or his consent, that I object to.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Peeled

The thin, veined membrane
Trembles as the
Tough, outer shell peels away.
Perfumed oil spurts
High into
Still air.
Droplets catch light,
Fill the room with fragrance
Until they fall,
Dampening hungry fingers that
Scratch,
Seeking and removing the sticky sinewed string and
Soft velvet cushion
Of bitter, protective pith.
Naked, juicy flesh waits
For sharp teeth.

 

 

Ofsted: Correction

I hate getting things wrong. Not backing up my claims with evidence and veering off into polemic was a regular criticism during my student days.

Yesterday, I veered off into such a polemic, and I would like to publicly state a couple of things I got wrong. I’d like to issue a public apology for the error.

If, like me, you are unsure what a commentary is, and its purpose, I looked it up and you can find the definition here: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/commentary

  • There was a jot of admission of Ofsted’s responsibility for the narrowing of the school curriculum, with particular reference to ‘low attaining children’.

Here it is:

“Earlier this year, I commissioned a research programme to broaden our understanding of how curriculums are implemented in our schools, particularly the national curriculum as a key government policy. This was one of the main research priorities of my first year as Chief Inspector. One of the aims of this work was to challenge ourselves, as well as schools, about whether Ofsted has always recognised what is best in curriculum design, development and implementation. If we have not, I wanted to know whether inspection has played a role in bending the curriculum out of shape.”

I think 95 words out of 3,361 counts as a jot. (Definition here: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/jot )

Admitting when you get things wrong and making amends is important, I think.

You can find my original post here: https://notsoordinarydiary.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/school-accountability-and-the-entitlement-to-a-broad-and-balanced-curriculum

It also appears in TES here: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/ofsted-needs-take-responsibility-narrow-dry-curriculum-puts-our

A Letter of Thanks

It is my pleasure to publish this letter of thanks to a teacher, and a special school, who has made all the difference to not only a young man, but his father too.  Special education has its critics, but, like this writer, it has changed all of our lives for the better. To be included, it’s more than the mainstream. It’s being part of the school community, whatever shape that school takes, too.

Dear Mrs K,

I just wanted to say thanks for all of the work you’ve done with my son in GCSE History over the last two years.

I’ve helped him a fair bit with his revision over the last few months. Every single day I’ve come away amazed with the depth of his understanding – not just his recall of facts, but the abstract concepts and beliefs that lie behind them too. There’s been loads of times when he’s been teaching me or reminding me about particular topics – it’s been good for him, to be the teacher for once!

Best of all, I think he’s really enjoyed his History revision – there are plenty of reasons why History is a very challenging subject for him, but it’s definitely become one of his favourites. So thank you for helping him!

But I also wanted to say thank you for what you have done for me too – that might sound a bit odd, so let me explain…

I did history at university – a BA, and also a master’s in Cold War international history. I still love the subject even now. Before kids came along, I didn’t have too many expectations about how my kids would turn out, but one thing that I was really looking forward to was talking to them about history as they were growing up.

We were pretty shocked when we first found out that our son was disabled. We were told he would always have deep problems communicating and learning, and it might sound a bit strange, but one of the things that made me deeply, deeply sad when we first got his diagnosis was the prospect of losing the things I hoped I’d do with him. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever be able to share & communicate a love of history with the tiny boy on my lap who would have so much trouble communicating.

The feeling got worse as we went through the school system, as professional after professional told us what outcomes we should realistically expect for a child like him. And they didn’t include GCSE History. Or GCSEs of any kind, for that matter.

You have to learn and unlearn loads bringing up a child with special needs, but one of the most pleasurable things I’ve had to unlearn over the last few years has been this – despite all his immense difficulties communicating, he gets it.

He understands so much about history. He grasps details about things I thought he’d never be able to understand. Even with his disordered language, he can explain things, he can point out strengths and weaknesses of evidence in a way that I never thought he’d be able to do. And he loves it – he loves talking about history and arguing about it with me and his brother.

I can’t really get it across very well, but it makes my soul sing when I see him like this. I know how hard the written and spoken word is for him. I know how hard he has had to work to get on top of this subject, and yet he manages it, and he enjoys it too. It’s something I never dreamed would be possible.

All of this is down to the work you and your colleagues have done for him. I know he appreciates it greatly – but me, I’ll never be able to repay you all.

I hope he’ll do well at GCSE, and I know how much you’ve done to help him get a good grade. But I wanted to get across that we value what you’ve done for him in a way that goes beyond any exam grade.

Doing history GCSE has given my son knowledge and skills that will help him through life – but it’s been more than a curriculum for us as a family. It’s brought us closer, given us ways of sharing things we love, of communicating against the odds.

This school is a wonderful, life-changing place – a special school in every sense of that phrase. I think sometimes though, something that gets forgotten is the positive effect that the school has on the whole family.

My son is a better person for going to this school – but we as a family are also all better for it. The things you do here help our family to flourish and grow closer – and we’ll never, ever forget it. Thank you so much.

Anyway, I’ve gone on for ages now, so I’ll stop there. Hope you have a great summer, and see you next term 😊

 

Strictly Come Elections

Sam and I watched Prime Ministers Questions yesterday while we were eating our lunch (or rather, I watched it, and Sam tolerated my watching it while he scoffed a hot dog; thankfully, the other two were out, playing with friends, so I was released from the bonds of ‘boring’). I haven’t watched it for a while, and I don’t suppose he ever has, him being at school on Wednesday lunchtimes, and I was curious to see how it would go, all things considered.

I find it fascinating, I have to admit. On the one hand, there are the showtime set pieces, where opposing leaders insult and try to catch each other out, and on the other, there are questions about bin collection, dog mess and charity walkers on stilts, in aid of the learning disabled. For a national stage, it is disarmingly parochial.

Yesterday, there was quite a lot of shouting (but no paper waving that I noticed, and not much laughter, despite the rather forced comedy of Mr MC Speaker), and Sam waited politely for the applause to stop, and the action, in the form of questions, to start.

I had thought that he was more interested in the application of his tomato ketchup and wasn’t really watching, until, that is, a certain woman stood up to speak and called the Prime Minister a liar. At first, I thought it was the school-marmly way she did it (clearly, she has had a lot of experience, either in the giving or the receiving of tellings off) that caught his interest, until he sat up straight, eyes a-twinkle (he has very twinkly eyes, especially when he is amused), pointed at the screen and exclaimed, ‘Ed Balls! Ed Balls from Strictly!’

I have to admit that I never thought that fan-dom of Strictly Come Dancing would mark the beginning of my son’s political education, but there you go. Unlike me, a child of the Spitting Image generation, who bewails the fact that nobody is recognisable any more, thanks to the loss of political satire via the medium of puppets, he recognised a politician thanks to her connection with a different world entirely.

Sometimes I wonder what he takes in, when we sit around the tea table, discussing events of the day. A is beginning to join in; his sense of fairness adding to a growing sense of social justice. L rolls her eyes and declares, ‘boring’, although I know, through her concern for her friends, that she is not immune to the concept, either. But Sam; he remains my dark horse, as he keeps his counsel, and concentrates on dinner (or tea).

But he reminded me of something important yesterday, as we chuckled together over Yvette Cooper and her smiling, rolling eyes at the nation cheering, spangled antics of her over enthusiastic husband last autumn. He reminded me that I needed to carry on challenging lazy assumptions, because his life, and his future, matters.

He reminds me to ask you to ask your local candidates what they will do to support disabled people and whether they have read the UN disability convention.

He reminds me to ask you to ask your local candidates what they think of segregation in schools on the grounds of academic ability, and its flip side, inclusion.

His presence, and mine, reminds me to ask you to ask your local candidates what they will do to protect our National Health Services – because without a shadow of a doubt, illness or disability, learning or otherwise, can, and will happen to us all.

Becuase, in the end, bad things do indeed happen to good people; our frailty is part of who we are as humans. And our descision is how we respond to that.

Together? Or alone?