Longer school days? Are you shitting me?!

It’s all very well the government proposing changes to the school days and terms etc but have they actually even considered the people that this actually has an effect on? Namely the children, teachers and parents?

We already impress a very direct and institutional type of learning here in the U.K. One that only really caters for a certain type of child that can bear sitting down for long periods of time and who can embrace the type of schooling system we have here. For those of us who desperately struggle to get our children to cope with the six hours they do currently, this is simply a no go.

My child spends enough time in isolation during the school week as it is because he can’t cope with the type of learning and learning environment that currently exists. And because he doesn’t tick enough boxes is unable to receive the help that might allow him to thrive. I’d love to be able to have him schooled in a free school here (think Steiner or Montessori) but I don’t have thousands of pounds to pay for it. Or in a country where there is less emphasis on academic achievement but the child’s own talents are recognised and nurtured. We may as well just place him in a windowless room and tell him that he won’t make anything of his life because he doesn’t ‘fit’.

From an early age the majority of U.K. children are forced to attend an education that pushes from the word go. They are told what to wear and what not to wear. They are told to play nicely, to sit still, to conform. As they get older, the more they want to express themselves the more they are stilted. “Not that hairband Amy, faaaar too distracting”, “Henna?!” (On the hand), “What if everybody wants to start painting their faces with henna? Just imagine the chaos!” (Yes, these words were actually uttered from the headteacher in my daughter’s high school).

No hair dye or piercings other than ear lobes and god forbid if you even dare to wear socks in a colour other than black! Girls must have their hair up, it’s a health and safety issue and no, you may not play outside when it is snowing in case someone gets hurt.

I, for one, am sick of this type of pedantic, suppressive system and now they are waffling about extending school days and shortening holidays with no regard to what the children actually want or would benefit from? And why? Because there is a fear that not enough children will progress with the grades that are needed to fulfil a competent workforce in a few year’s time? I bet Lord Fucking Farqhar’s son or daughter won’t have these issues? Again, these measures will most probably punish the poorest families who are already struggling with childcare costs and children who are already at the mercy of a society and system that doesn’t work for them as it is.

Give the children a summer of love. Give them some joy and help those affected by job losses by giving discounted (fuck it! Maybe even free!) opportunities to visit places they can’t afford – theme parks/animal sanctuaries/swimming pools/train travel to the coast. Let the people know that they haven’t been forgotten. That those in their ivory towers do actually give a shit.

Then ask the teachers how they think they need to structure their days. How they need support in helping the children who need it most.

Humph. What was going to be a very short Facebook rant turned into a long WordPress rant… can you tell I’m in a shitty mood today?

Clipped Wings

It’s just before 3am and LO has woken me up complaining he needs a cuddle from his dad. I pack him back off to bed unhappily (he has form) and then, wide awake now, I turn to check my phone. It’s in the boy’s room, by the MO’s bed. I had given it to him last night to listen to a mindfulness meditation in another attempt to try and calm his ever-increasingly bad behaviour down. As I look at the phone, I see an email from his teacher that arrived later in the night, after he had fallen asleep. We correspond regularly to try and keep on top of the issues that he has at school and at home. What I read, feels like the worst one yet; he spent another morning out of his yr 5 class and was with yr 3 instead. She is worried about how this is affecting him academically; I agree but equally I understand that this ‘low level’ behaviour has a ripple effect on other children’s learning and let’s face it, it’s downright wearing.

At home, we deal with the manipulation, the anger, the tantrums. Equally, there is humour, compassion and affection. I watch him flit from emotion to emotion like a butterfly, unable to land for long before being tempted elsewhere. Like a motor he is propelled by his thoughts and his ego, what can he do to impress next and if that fails, who can he mentally destroy? He somehow sets us all up, himself included; maybe a request to do something he knows he can’t do so that when he is declined, he over-reacts, a ready-made vent for his anger and emotions to pour out of; unrepressed steam from an engine. It’s like having a car that constantly overheats, you live in fear of being stuck in traffic on a hot day; eyes straining to see if there are tiny tell-tale wisps of steam creeping up from the radiator over the bonnet. A bottle of water lying in the passenger footwell, just waiting to refill the arid void but knowing that it’s always a bit too late. Everything is a bit too late.

I worry about his future. I worry about our future. How is he going to get through the teenage years? Will he get his school qualifications if he can’t even sit still during a class or is constantly moving to a different one? Will he get expelled? Will he make college? Will he hurt someone? Will he go to jail? What, to some, may seem extreme fears, for a mother who has watched, like a car crash, their child struggle with regulating their behaviour since they were two and a half, these fears seem real. He slips through the system like a piece of mercury. He hasn’t hurt himself or anyone else so CAMHS won’t touch him and he doesn’t ‘qualify’ for NHS help because he isn’t severe enough. Even friends and other parents of his school friends don’t completely understand what it is like to live with him because he is so highly functioning; so utterly charming and clever. Only those closest to us can see the cracks that show when he is denied. When his speech gets so bad that his voice becomes shrill as he forces his words to get out. I feel like inside this locked cocoon is this child desperate to break free of his shackles but unable to find the key. His wings are clipped.

We have strategies (which fail) and we have plans (which we hope won’t fail). I hope to get him on an intensive stammer course in London this Summer and I am waiting for another CAMHS referral to be refused but will push on regardless and we have other appointments in the pipeline, some NHS, some private.

In the meantime we shall continue to tell him we love him and we shall continue to ground him when he is mean. And until he can break out of his cocoon, I’ll continue trying to make his butterfly house the best it can be so that when he is ready, it is has all the nourishment he needs.