rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
On the one hand, I've been having some really constructive meetings with teachers and support staff this year, relating to the needs of both children, including one in my lunch hour today. On the other, there's that horrible letter about attendance.

At the start of last week I managed to deliver two Politely Cross letters to school.  One went directly back to the "Pupil Welfare Officer" robustly defending the reasons for Charles's absences. The other went to the head teacher and the chair of governors to point out the strategic problems with sending letters like that (destruction of parental goodwill, and increased attendance of sick children, with all that implies) and asking them to review both the timing and wording of the letters. 

So far I have had a holding response from the head to say she has received and noted our letter, but is very busy right now and wants to give it a proper response.  This week we got a letter to all parents asking us to lobby Justine Greening about changes to school funding, which is probably one of the things the head is busy with.  I'd be a lot more willing to write lobbying letters if I hadn't had that one about attendance though ...

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/675757.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
3 trains booked for the epic nordic holiday
2 stroppy letters regarding school attendance written and ready to print out and drop off in the morning
1 dance school dress rehearsal stewarded today (Nico is on stage for about 4 minutes; I stewarded an entirely different group; my respect for the head of dance school has shot up several magnitudes after watching her organise this)
0 working days lost to migraine, and a new prescription request filed online

Also posted at http://rmc28.dreamwidth.org/673553.html with comment count unavailable comments.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I opened a form letter from my children's school this morning, informing me that "Frederick"'s attendance is at 90%, significantly lower than the government target of 95%. It included this particularly threatening paragraph:

"You should be aware that regular attendance is a legal requirement and the Education Welfare Officer may become involved if there is no significant improvement in Frederick's attendance."

Now, I am absolutely a stroppy middle-class parent, whose response to bureaucratic threats like this is "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough". I am not at all concerned about seeing this off myself.  But that this is the system, that letters like this will be going out to parents without my resources and confidence, that the very first contact to parents on this issue contains implied threats of legal action and bureaucratic interference - that appalls me.

On closer inspection, it is not actually possible for me to "improve" my child's attendance in the remainder of the school year: they've calculated that 90% threshold assuming he has perfect attendance between now and July.  He cannot physically have any better attendance than he does now, the way they've calculated it.  So that threatening paragraph is also setting me up to fail.
ETA: I got that bit wrong - talking it through with my dad, I was getting confused between days-in-school-year and sessions-in-school year.  He's just completed 190 sessions, with an attendance rate of 90%; there's another 190 sessions to go, so if he achieves perfect attendance for the rest of the year, we'll get back up to that target 95%. Which together with the name thing makes me think this is some automated letter generation, because we've hit the halfway point.  It's still heavy-handed but it's not quite as awful as I first thought. /ETA

My child has a 90% attendance record, because I keep my children at home when they are ill, and he has been a bit more ill than usual this past school year.  It's stupid to pressurise parents to send ill children to school.  It doesn't benefit the sick child and it puts the rest of the school community at risk. Any children with lowered immunity will be much more at risk, and will then presumably have even worse attendance records. Lowered immunity is correlated with disability, chronic conditions, and poverty, so this is an access issue as well.

I know this is a system problem: government policy enforced under threat of poor Ofsted results.  I can't fix the system.  But I can try to make my local part better.  So I've got letters to write:
  • specific response about my child's attendance record 
  • letter to headteacher and governors about the wider issues of access, and the way parents are contacted
  • ... and then see what those result in, I suppose
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
In which I discovered that the size 3-4 trousers are still too long, but Nico insisted he would rather wear trousers with the cuffs rolled up than the dark leggings that also meet the school "dress code". Why do I forget that my children are short in the leg for their height?

A frantic online shop later, all the supermarkets start at 3-4, but M&S had some 2-3 school trousers, so they are on their way. (What this says about customer demographics and expected-age-of-first-uniform I leave as an exercise to the reader.)

Anyway, have two pictures (second behind the cut). And if you want to compare, here are the ones I shared of Charles 5 years ago.

First day of school

Read more... )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
0.5 days of the new school year, before Charles was sent home with a stomach bug.
36 more hours before he can go back (fingers-crossed he seems to be over it now).
12 hours today before my own stomach settled enough to eat something resembling a meal.
1 OU assignment submitted, 6 days before the deadline.
5.5 days to go until the exam in the other module.
1 day before the websites for the next two modules open. 
14 days before Nico also starts school.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Nico has been accepted by the same school as Charles.  It's what we were expecting, but there's a difference between "very likely" and "formally confirmed".  Now I can move on with a bunch of medium-term planning.  First step, finding out if there's room in the afterschool club for him.

Once we get past the initial reception settling-in phase, our weekday logistics will be a lot less complicated for the next two years.  But in about a year's time I have to start evaluating secondary schools, eek.

(If you want to know how the schools application process works, it's all here: http://www4.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/info/20059/schools_and_learning/363/applying_for_a_school_place/4)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I think we started the school year with 6 each of trousers, polo shirts, jumpers.
We end it with: 5 trousers (1 with a tiny hole in the knee), 3 polo shirts, 1 jumper.

I think this is the worst yet for losing things.   At least the jumpers were all cheap ones? (Because I left restocking to the last minute last summer and my preferred supplier had sold out of everything - trying not to do that this year, but maybe I should just go cheap anyway if this is the rate of attrition.)

Also C is still apparently in the same school uniform size as last year.  What are the odds of him doing a growth spurt at the start of next term?
rmc28: (wonderfrown)
This week I have been to "Christmas songs" featuring Charles's year group at primary school, and "Nativity Play" featuring what seemed to be the entire enrolment of Nico's nursery.  The two events have left me filled with
a) delight in the enthusiasm and creativity of children and the teachers and childcarers
b) increasingly homicidal rage towards other parents/carers who keep standing up and blocking my view of a)

Being British, I expressed b) by folding my arms and frowning slightly at their backs while internally vowing to turn up at least 15 minutes early next year so I can sit in the first couple of rows.

I'm having a similarly split attitude towards Christmas in general: where my family and friends are concerned I've been enjoying the planning and the choosing of gifts and the social events and the getting ready, but as far as people in general are concerned I basically cannot wait for the point where I get to go home on Christmas Eve and shut the door on the outside world for at least a couple of days.

I think my lurking misanthropy stems from being deeply tired: work is busiest from August through to November, so I have just started to catch up on things-not-instantly-urgent.  I am struggling failing to keep up with my study schedule, and the children are both being clingy and demanding in different infuriating, entirely understandable, age-appropriate ways.  A week off work isn't going to fix any of this, but it will help. 

Charles is very excited about Christmas, and Nico is just old enough to start appreciating that something special is happening - he was rapt and delighted by the decorations C & T put up yesterday.  I have bought both children far too many presents (which need wrapping, argh) and am very much looking forward to watching their reactions when they get to open them.
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (libdem)
Nico & I were away from home from Friday afternoon to Wednesday night, attending LibDem conference in Glasgow.  I took yesterday off, with the intention of resting up a bit, and maybe actually blogging / emailing / otherwise following up all the ideas that Conference invariably leaves me with. 

Instead I had to go to the GP in the morning for a mildly embarrassing medical complaint (*) and to school in the afternoon for a conference with C's teacher.  I did at least rest a bit too, and create my new icon from a photo taken of me speaking on Saturday.

Today I worked my usual half-Friday.  Almost my whole department is moving offices over the weekend and the old office was organised chaos as last minute packing-up got done.  Along with a few others, I got my desk set up in the new building and confirmed I have phone and network there, and will be able to work on Monday. 

That was pretty much all I managed, apart from the last "helpdesk hug" in the old building (scrum was too unfriendly for the manager who'd read about Agile and set them up) and goodbye to one of my team who is off on maternity leave.  We were supposed to have food and "a few words" from the boss at noon.  The food didn't arrive until nearly 1, about the same time as Tony did with Nico.  Nico charmed a number of my colleagues, the boss said his stuff, we all ate as much as we could and I brought a doggy bag home.

(*) Nico has oral thrush and so I have nipple thrush, which is making breastfeeding almost impossibly painful.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We went to school for this event, to meet C's new teacher, and the other teachers in year 2, and to be given a quick introduction to the new set of expectations of children this year.  We also went to a presentation about the school's approach to reading and what they want parents to do to support it - this was mainly reassuring as we seem to be doing the right things already.

I was really pleased to note that C's teacher spoke about preparations for PE - removing earrings if possible and taping over irremovable ones (e.g. ones in the first six weeks after piercing), what clothes to wear, tying long hair back etc - without using any gender-specific language.  The school dress code similarly has no gender distinction.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Everybody was out of quarantine by Monday morning, and if we all had to be ill, at least it was over the bank holiday where we could get away with being lazy taking the time to rest and fully recover.

I briefly had inbox zero, but it hasn't lasted.

I got the mark back for the assignment that I fought so hard with to submit last Tuesday.  I had resigned myself to a mediocre mark and was wondering if I ought to think about replanning my choice of remaining modules.  But it turns out I did significantly better than expected, and from a quick read, got some really helpful feedback as to what I thought I was getting wrong.    Now, if only I can do as well in the exam ....

I have a post-it-note pile countdown, which is proving very helpful for keeping up a steady-ish flow of studying little and often most days.  42 days to my exam now.

School restarts in the middle of next week.  I've just remembered that I was going to get more uniform for Charles.  Luckily we did shoe shopping a few weeks ago, and his tops are all fine, and he'll be ok with slightly draughty ankles in the existing trousers if delivery on longer ones takes a while.  His bookbag is a disaster though, and I should have ordered that at the start of the holidays.


2013-07-04 22:53
rmc28: (destructive)
A segment from this week's school newsletter, bolding added by me:

Road Safety on Richmond Road

I have had a letter from the Richmond Road Residents Association expressing concerns about the possible danger of young children using scooters, cycles and running on the pavement particularly.
  • as cars are coming out of driveways
  • at the junction of Nursery walk and Richmond road
  • at the Seaby’s Yard development
The Residents Association are also hoping to arrange for additional warning signs warning motorists of the danger of young children and cyclists.

Yeah, because what's DANGEROUS here isn't the people driving cars too fast and too carelessly in a residential street, or the lack of visibility caused by people parking their cars nose to tail all along said residential street.  What's DANGEROUS is YOUNG CHILDREN using the pavement to move quickly and independently on their way to school.  We can't have that.

(Yes, I should write a proper formal letter of complaint about this appalling view of relative danger, uncritically passed along by the headteacher.  It keeps degenerating into swearwords and green ink. Maybe tomorrow.)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Things I've done this week while trying to distract myself from obsessing about going into labour:
  • Took Charles swimming in the school pool - this is thanks to nice parents who have passed the resuscitation course and are opening it for a minimal cost after school twice a week.  It is small and shallow and when I next take him I may not bother going in, as he can basically manage just fine in it without me.
  • Cambridge Geek Night which I went to for the first time and really enjoyed.  The first talk, by Greg Law on setting up a software company, had me grabbing to make notes within a few minutes, and led to some interesting conversation in the break.  The second talk, by Lucy Chambers on the Data Journalism Handbook, provoked more questions, and definitely exposed a split in opinion of the attendees between those who wanted to see more journalists understand data/stats/science and those who wanted to see more scientists/geeks get good at journalism and storytelling.    And then lots and lots of interesting conversation with other attendees until I started falling over tired.  The next CGN is Tuesday 21st August, with [twitter.com profile] julianhuppert and [twitter.com profile] markgfh, a combination which I shall certainly be keen to see.
  • Started the Udacity statistics course, which really ought to be pushed at journalists everywhere, along with the Data Journalism Handbook.  Udacity itself looks interesting - currently it's mostly computer science with a bit of physics and the statistics course, so really I ought to know the subject matter already, but I like the concept.
  • Learned some French on DuoLingo - this was recommended to me by [twitter.com profile] catherine237 and it's social-media-gamification applied to language learning.  There are short lessons within which one gains "skill points" and as these build up one goes up levels.  It's in beta, expansion by invite only, and I have two invitations left.  Languages covered are French, German & Spanish for English speakers, and English for Spanish speakers.
  • VBAC class at the hospital with Tony, which mostly covered stuff we knew, but gave us some new valuable nuggets of information.  My favourite thing is the handout of a truly useful checklist of questions to ask when presented with a proposed intervention which I think could be usefully generalised across most medical interactions.  Of the five mothers there, I was the only one who had had a full labour last-time, and I found it annoyingly hard to verbalise what contractions are like and how pushing feels when asked.
  • Avengers Assemble at the cinema with Keith (4th time for me, 2nd for him) and yes I'm still enjoying it.
  • Midwife checkup: routine, everything continues normal & healthy, blood pressure fine, passenger head down and back to front of my bump, i.e. ideal position to start labour.  I probably won't see a midwife at the surgery again: I have an antenatal clinic appointment next week and by the middle of the following week I should have given birth.
  • Walk/leaflet delivery/pub lunch/gossip with [personal profile] pseudomonas which was jolly nice and got me out of the house and gently exercising as I should.
  • School summer fete which was heaving and incredibly hot and sunny.  We got cake for my birthday and I successfully restricted Charles to a very few small toys.  I spent probably too much money on bouncy castle sessions for him, but it's an entertaining way of giving money to the school. We also saw a display of tap and ballet dance from the dance school he's started at this half-term, learning Streetdance and apparently loving it.  He was pretty fascinated by the display, but he's already internalised the "ballet is for girls" message, *sigh*. 
  • Turned 35 but didn't plan any celebration as I wasn't sure what I'd be doing.  Vague hopes of a double birthday were not realised.  I think we'll have a birthday-and-baby party sometime next month.  [livejournal.com profile] fanf got me a large box of chocolates, which was just what I wanted.
  • Talked to a landscape gardener about how to rescue our front garden from weeds and our back garden from hen-inflicted devastation and end up with something we have half a chance of maintaining nicely.  A quote will come sometime next week.

rmc28: (charles2011)
This morning's conversation, sometime before 8am:

C: "A big boy at school told me his friend asked a doctor to cut off his penis so he could be a girl."
R: "Yes, that happens sometimes, when someone is very unhappy with their boy-body."
C: "I don't want anyone to cut off my penis."
R: "That's ok, doctors don't do that unless you are really really sure that's what you want."
C: [moves on to different subject]

I'm well aware of the enormous gaps I'm skating over there, but Charles is not quite five, and seemed satisfied with the answers. The oldest the "big boy" can be is eleven.

This is why age-appropriate sex-education in schools is a good thing, and it can't ignore homosexuality or transition. Children will talk about such topics anyway, and I'd rather they did so armed with facts rather than prejudice.

He's only been at school 2 weeks.
rmc28: (charles2011)
Swishing umbrella

The umbrella is not part of the uniform, but did you see the weather today? There are two more photos under the cut.
he's nearly five already )

Also today I completed the work for week 1 of my 12-week OU module, D172. So far I'm really enjoying it, both the content and the activity of studying.

I'm currently being a bit old-school and making handwritten notes in nice ringbound notebooks with funky erasable pens, but I'm almost certainly going to transfer the notes into Scrivener for putting together the TMAs. From the small amount of noodling I've done with it so far, Scrivener is massive overkill for this module. On the other hand, that makes this module a useful introductory project for Scrivener. The 30-day free trial is very nice, especially being 30 days of use, not 30 wall-clock days. I should be able to complete the module before I have to decide whether I want to buy it.

I am trying to get ahead of schedule on D172 as a) LibDem conference is in less than 2 weeks, and will eat up most of a week, and b) my next course overlaps with this one by 4 weeks and I'd like not to overlap the study if I can avoid it. If I get through all the weeks as fast as this one it won't be a problem, but contingency is my friend.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I just paid the last nursery invoice for Charles and cancelled their direct debit. He starts school full-time on Monday week, with two half-day sessions next week. We bought All The Uniform the weekend before last, trekking around ASDA, John Lewis & M&S to get it all. He's looking forward to it, I think.

Tomorrow I start my first OU course (D172, Contemporary Wales). I'm pretty excited about it: got my study book, got my timetable, got some pretty new notebooks and pens, got my learning head on.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

September 2017

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