A New Frontier in the Parenting Day to Day

That’s a bold title right there, isn’t it?!

I was quite tempted to title it “True Confessions of a Home Ed Virgin Aged 32 3/4”, but was concerned I may get sued by Sue Townsend’s people.

By that alternative title you’ll gather what we decided to do regards Littlest and his lack of school, not to mention my lack of choice (eg-attendance at shit school or criminal record/massive fine/made out to be a crap mother) of what school he went to.

I got some lovely comments from you guys online, so thank you very much, and I did indeed find out who runs our local council.

Luckily, it was Labour, who are my preferred party anyway and who are clearly after any vote they can get (owing to politics in this country turning into a Democracy version of X Factor).

Bless them, I messaged their Facebook page on a Sunday, not thinking I’d hear for days, if at all. Give them their due, I received a messaged within an hour, saying they’d look into it and suggesting they were as baffled as me.

Down to them, suddenly the Reading Admissions team changed tack. Gone were the threats of court and the “get your kid to our choice or else” conversations. These were replaced with soothing words of consolation and understanding.

I told them though that, politely, he would not be taking a place at the school 9/10 parents we had spoken to would choose not to send  their pet Guinea Pig, let alone their child, and had investigated educating him at home.

No arguments were forthcoming this time, thank the Lord.

So, with my trusty laptop (yet not trusty net connection- bloody TalkTalk, but that’s another post to come soon), I researched Home Ed, the Nation Curriculum, our rights and responsibilities, and anything else I could think of.

The Net is great for newbie home educators, its a vast tank of knowledge waiting to be sourced, both for me as “Mum and Teacher” (as opposed to my usual tag of “Mum and Nurse, Doctor and Consultant”) and for Littlest too. There are hundreds of websites with age and curriculum appropriate material on them for Year 2, and some of these are already known to Littlest as he used them at the old school last year.

Basically, we can set the pace and style, as long as knowledge gets in his noggin. And, unlike other kids, he doesn’t have to share me as a teacher or his source material. If he is unwell, we can do quiet games. If its warm enough we can, as we did on Friday, go on a nature walk. He didn’t even realise he was learning doing that.

It has been a bit scary at times- the first day was a nightmare of him being a cheeky sod and telling me I’m not his teacher, I’m Mummy so he can be a bugger as he’s not at school. But all I did was fire up my net again and ask for advice from those in the know with Home Ed who suggested rather than sitting down and talking at him, to go and do practical number work with sums in the shops instead. He took far more in that way than he did with it on a page.

We have been playing Boggle and Junior Scrabble which are great fun ways to promote spelling and looking at words which will add up to the biggest score. We even made a full Box Trolls costume from old cardboard boxes- not something he would have done at school due to time and material constraints.

Its not going to all be easy, of course, but compared to what we have been through the last few months, its definitely less stress.

Feel free to say hi if you Home Ed too x 🙂

We’re off to do art ourselves.

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….But Then, It Got Even Worse

After the last post, I felt I should update a little.

Finally, after I wrote the post, I got a response from the Diocese about the fact they were, frankly, taking the piss.

You’ll remember from the last post that I felt I’d been constantly misled over when our Appeal Pack had been sent. Well, I was right to feel that way. As, despite telling me for weeks, over and over again,that the paperwork was with those who needed it, they lied. They lied and lied time and again, as, actually, they didn’t send it to the diocese until the 11th September.

I asked the woman I spoke to if she understood that the school had failed in its duty of care and had, deliberately I felt, misled me to think the Diocese was holding the appeal up. She told me, in a patronising way, that it was only a “minor issue” not worthy of concern!

Really!

For her maybe, but for us it was ridiculous. It was a  major concern. And quite rightly so considering the amount of time that elapsed between handing the papers in and them receiving them was over 2 months.

Again, considering all schools appeals should be done and dusted within 30 school days, it was beyond a joke.

I told her that, seeing as they seemed to care little for protocol, I would be forced to seek Legal Advice to ensure Littlest’s educational needs and rights were met.

After hearing more crap, and by this point losing the will to live, I put the phone down. I can’t be bothered to hear people if they clearly have no interest in being fair, and frankly, at this point, it felt like the whole appeal was a farce and a foregone conclusion.

At this point, I knew we’d fail the appeal. It wasn’t being run for Littlest’s benefit, it wasn’t being run for the benefit of these countless other displaced, educationless kids. It was being run for the school to get their own way, regardless of the consequences.

This was further reinforced when, after finishing the call at midday, I went to pick Mini up from school.

I went from being a part of a “gang” who had invited me out to have a drink later in the week, to being ignored. I sat alone. To be honest, this bothers me not a bit, I’d rather have mates who are true and want to be friends as they like you, not so they can morph you into singing the school’s praises, and not being negative (like when I asked for advice about appeals and was told off and threatened with expulsion from the group). 

As I sat there, one of the lying toad secretaries came out with a letter. Elder had asked to speak to the Head to ask why her staff had misled us over the appeal documents, but had not got a call back. So, when paper was shoved in my hand I thought it was to do with that. I didn’t have my glasses on, so when she asked me to open it (despite it being addressed to both Elder and I) and sign a note to say I had received it, I declined. She kept on at me, but I firmly, but politely, told her I couldn’t read it as I didn’t have my specs! 

It was, suddenly, a date for Friday to have the appeal, at the school. 

So, after being told in the morning they couldn’t hear it sooner, and wouldn’t move it nearer, suddenly they could do both. I couldn’t help thinking it was down to me saying I’d have to take legal advice. 

It also said the Head couldn’t contact Elder as she was in a meeting from 3.15. Funny that, it seemed the misleading continued as she was happily walking round the playground from 3pm until when I left at 3.30.

I checked all the information I could get online, and actually the Oxford Diocese is very up to date with its site, so could see the appeal guidelines in black and white. If we or any party wanted to submit anything else it had to be done before the appeal, not during it. Any new information submitted would render the appeal adjourned.So, we updated our now two month old information, and waited.

On Friday, we went to the school. I had contacted Reading and Wokingham Councils to ask for advice. I was again told by Reading a place “may” be available for Littlest at the school in our catchment, the only one that is and one which I have heard horror story after horror story about. I didn’t leave Kent to find a decent way of life and schooling to end up in the kind of school I’d moved to avoid. So, again, I declined. You’d think as a parent that would be that. Apparently not.

I felt less than confident, to be honest. Elder wasn’t allowed in with me, as we had to bring Littlest. How they expected us not to when he has no school I will never know. 

The school Head argued that, despite it being fine for places now, from next year it wouldn’t be OK. Despite most schools taking in up to 90 pupils for each year group, this school takes 70, under “duress”.

Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. We live in a country bursting at the seams, everyone needs to do their bit to get bums on seats. But not this school. 

They kept arguing a lack of space and how lunch times are a nightmare. They have to eat pack lunches in their classroom (what a shocker. I had to do this at both primary and secondary. So did Elder. And he left school in 1985). They have a field at the back of the school with a gate to it, but this is the councils (who lets them use it when they like). They have to use the church hall for certain things. The church hall that is literally a 1 minute walk from the school. 

They made no mention of the waste of space swimming pool they have sitting there, costing money. Not many normal schools have one, and they manage it. There is several Leisure Centres in Reading, in fact, there’s one a 5 minute coach trip away- far nearer than at their previous school. Where they swam in winter, for the record. 

They didn’t mention the wasted money on iPads. These things are a false economy in schools, they require costly apps, and they break easily. 

Was I allowed to say this though? No.

When I did get the chance to ask questions, one I asked was why they moan so much about  the free school meals initiative for lower school. After all, they were warned about it in advance, and every other school has to deal with it. But it was seen as asking a question relative to Littlest, as I said, surely, they could give parent’s the option of taking children home for lunch, as I would happily do with Littlest. So they didn’t answer it. 

It was at this point that the Head- who isn’t, apparently just Head at this school but at several others (no idea how that works, in fact, it clearly explains the lack of admin skills of the secretaries)- came out and said she had new information.

Now, it states very clearly all parties must see all evidence before the appeal. We hadn’t seen this new information (I still haven’t), and nor had the Chair or other two people on the committee. Nor had the clark. It was just waved in the air by the Head, and she read it in a way to discredit me.

Did they adjourn as per the appeal rules? No they didn’t.

She stated as fact that she spoke to the admin at our old school who was surprised Littlest wasn’t at school in September. I had told them, and they’d agreed, that there was no way we could carry on from September. She also stated that I had declined a definite place from July at the pit school I didn’t want him to go to. She grinned when she did it and was allowed to make me out to be a liar.

It was basically game over from there- I had known it anyway from the phone call with the Diocese who seemed to not care for rules or Littlest. But this, and the lack of adjournment, sealed it for me.

We phoned our old school, and they denied saying anything that made out they expected him in school, so she lied. No wonder she didn’t hand it in.

I got to make my case. I spoke about how much Littlest has gone through. How when he and Mini are at school together, when things do go wrong with him medically, she keeps calmer than adults do- she’s been brought up around his health needs. How we didn’t plan on moving at short notice, and had looked and looked for affordable property in Maidenhead. But I knew it fell on deaf ears. They questioned me about the crap school in our catchment and I said, yes, I had told Reading that wasn’t the school for Littlest. I told them that Reading had never seen any of Littlest’s medical evidence and have never asked to. I told them that when I contacted the school, before we moved as I was trying to find places for them, they had had a sharp intake of breath and said someone would call me back when I mentioned Littlest’s health needs. No one ever contacted me back. It would be a logistical nightmare to get two children to two different schools every day twice a day. It was alright to assume you can drop them on the side of a busy road, but you physically have to walk them in, wait for them to line up, and then, hope the teacher doesn’t need to speak to you. And what if one has an assembly, a school trip, sports day? What if Littlest is ill? What if its raining? The damp is a bad thing for him. No way will it work.

Oh and to make matters worse, when I said one would have to be late to school and come home early, the Head narrowed her eyes and told me she would not allow this to happen, that the Welfare Education authority would be informed. So, she’d create a problem and then grass me up to make matters worse. What a bitch! 

I knew we’d lost. I knew. 

I tried my best, tried to show Littlest is a special case. They didn’t even conduct the appeal as if he has any special needs. 

I was informed that a decision would take 5 days, but the Clark was very sure I’d hear sooner. 

Well, she would be, considering it took just an hour to email me a fully typed three page document. I can’t prove it but it was pretty clear it was already written and waiting. They fobbed us off. 

Now, I’m told I do have a choice to not send him to the crap school, but if I make this choice, I will be sent to court and tried as a criminal, with people too lazy or non caring to send their child to school. 

What type of choice is that?

The Head even suggested we moved again in the appeal! The only thing other than that was to pay handsomely for Breakfast and Afterschool club for Mini, for what will amount to 20 minutes. They wont pay for this though, I have to, at around £100 a week. All because they refuse to see Littlest has needs and should be with someone who, rightly or wrongly, has become a comforting caring when he becomes unwell at school.

So, readers, what do we do next? I am stumped. I feel like my entire right to make decisions for my son have been revoked. I feel let down by a closed off, secretive system where rules are broken and nothing is done if it is in the interests of their diocese member. I fear that phonecalls and threats from outsiders who know nothing about us, or my son, are sure to come thick and fast. I don’t even want Mini to be at our chosen school now, as clearly my card is marked. I dared question the precious church and precious head. I have been removed from the Facebook Group for trying to sell my ticket to a dance they having for families next week- sorry but I dont fancy it.  

Its cult like. 

And in the middle of all this is a child still sitting, with no work and nothing to do all day but wait for a resolution.

I have contacted our local Labour party, but I don’t see what else I can do- even if I do try and take it to the Ombudsmen, it is still to do with the church, 

And that, that is the crux. You must not question the church. Or face the consequences. 

And Just As Everything Looks to be Going Well, Something Comes and Kicks It In The Nads

I would actually have liked to end that title with “as fucking usual”. But it wouldn’t fit.

So, we’ve been in the new house since the end of May and all is well with it. We have halved our bills (having a boiler that isn’t as old as me clearly helps), we have settled in nicely and we even found a very nice local pub just one street away.

Mini started school. Littlest didn’t. However, considering, we thought, that we put in his appeal on July 8th, it must be coming soon to sort it all out.

Kick in the nads alert.

The law states that, all appeals must be done and dusted, from the parent’s handing the forms in to request one, to the hearing, and the decision, within 30 school days. Which, by our 8th July, should mean it all being sorted by 25th September.

Yes, that was a bit pesky but it’s those blasted school days they state. The whole, entire August did not count down to the holidays. But, that was fine. It would be sorted out sharpish after that.

The thing is, I don’t really get the school days and how the holidays has such an impact. Its not the school that deals with the appeal. Its the council, or in our case, Diocese, as the school we feel is best for Littlest, and where Mini already goes, is Voluntary Aided. So, its not for the council to step in.

But the diocese is part of the church, right? And, I may not be a church goer save for weddings and christenings, but I’m pretty sure they don’t also naff off during the summer holidays.

Except, the school admins decided, for reasons only known to themselves, to not send anything, at all. Not our appeal request, not our supporting evidence, nothing.

When they sent an acknowledgement on receipt, it took them 2 weeks. At which point, I gave them a polite call and asked when we would get an appeal date. I was told, by someone who really sounded like they didn’t like being questioned about matters of a secretarial nature, (standard school/GP secretary behavior in my experience), that the date would be forwarded in the future as “its the school holidays in a week”. Yes, but I asked, has the paperwork we gave in several weeks back been forwarded to the relevant people. You know, so as to not hold it up after their summer jollies?  I was told it had. So that was fine then.

On the first week back, I popped in and spoke to the same lady in person who looked really like she wanted me to piss off for asking about the appeal. I was told she’d phone later.

Not wanting to piss her off further, though not quite understanding how a polite and simple question could have pissed her off in the first place, I went home, and sat by the phone.

No phone call came.

Now, I don’t like being fobbed off. Especially when I have a 6 year old, wanting to go to school, upset because his sister has gone off in her uniform. I felt, school days or no school days, we had waited long enough.

So, me being me, and not being that bothered about pissing anyone off (you might have noticed that readers?) I went in again.

To be told she had sent the paperwork that afternoon and was waiting to hear back.

Hold the freaking phone, people.

Those following will notice the deliberate cock up there. The paperwork, which I was told in July had already been sent, had now, suddenly not been sent until the 3rd September.

I was told I should hear by Friday.

Except, I still didn’t.

So I went in again. I spoke to someone else this time. I would have preferred to phone, except despite there being 3 secretaries in that office, no one seems ever to answer a phone.

Lo and behold, I was told- you guessed it, she was sending the statements that day, so I should hear soon.

Again, hold the freaking phone.

So, this paperwork has now been sent on or around  the 8th July, the 3rd September and now the 5th September. That is one busy set of paperwork. No wonder they can’t answer a phone eh?

This Secretary, not a dragon like the other one, even told me about the 30 day rule and agreed it was all taking far too long.

We finally got a date yesterday for the appeal hearing.

Is it prompt?

Is it bollocks.

Its for the 8th October, in Oxford (2 hours away by train).

39 SCHOOL DAYS AFTER THE HANDING IN OF THE PAPERWORK.

That, that, is against the fucking law of appeals.

You can’t bring the kids, so how they expect me to not just get all the way to Oxford, for 3 hours, at 2.30pm with one child with no school at all, and one child who will need picking up from the school at 3.20, I have no idea. Perhaps I should lock them in the shed for the afternoon?

The report from the Governors is laughable.

They still expect us to stump up what would be £300 a week to travel to school by taxi and train 5 days a week twice a day, to Maidenhead. And how I’m meant to also get Mini to school is anyone’s guess. They make no mention of Littlest’s illness, which I find bloody rude considering the amount of Consultant letters I sent with the appeal.

All they care about is that there wont be room for him down to the uptake of free school meals. How very dare we ask for one extra child to sit and have an education- I’ll bring him home for lunch if it offends them that much.

We have no end in sight to this, no school for Littlest at all. What the hell are we meant to do? I have no doubt this appeal is a total waste of time on our part, they simply aren’t interested. They go on about catchment, but we live 0.2 miles from the school, and there is only one school in the entire part of Earley we  live in that falls under the catchment. And there’s no space there either. The ridiculous thing is they mention this 0.2 miles in their evidence as if that’s a long way- the last house in their catchment at the furthest point from the school is 7.3 miles!

They also say they have too many in classes already, but the national accepted top amount for schools is 30. Not one of the three classes at the school in Year 2 has more than 25.

Reader, I leave you baffled, pissed off, and on the point of kicking off royally. I asked for advice on the previously very friendly school Facebook network and got properly told off for daring to even mention the school in a negative light (I didn’t. I just said it was upsetting him not to be going anywhere at all).

As usual, there is always a fly in the ointment. I’m starting to think I’m fucking cursed.

#PRRequest, @BuyItYourself and Round 257 in PRs Shooting Themselves in the Foot with Bloggers

Its that time of the year again when a PR thinks they are oh so smart and writes an insightful post to their company blog about how awful bloggers are who review and how we always misuse the #PRRequest Hashtag.

So far, so standard.

However, and although it can’t be proved but probably will come out as these things tend to  suddenly a twitter feed (mentioned in aforementioned blog post, funny that) has popped up asking PRs and other (wankier) bloggers to send in tweets and names of bloggers who they then affectively “name and shame” on this feed. It also, curiously, does lots to promote the post about how evil bloggers are who review. That makes up most of its feed actually. As I say, curiously so.

See, this could have worked OK. I’m no great fan of the blatant misuse of the #PRRequest hashtag myself. When it was first used it was a great way for emerging bloggers  to set out that we were here and if you want to get in touch, then do so. It was a waving flag of “PR Friendly” to the brands hungry to snap us and our expertise (and cheap advertising) up.

However, to me, this is cyber bullying hidden behind a right on satire and statement on us much maligned bloggers.

What really grates with me is that they happily name and shame the blogger (or blagger apparently) involved, yet they don’t have the balls at their disposal to use their actual name. Hence, to me, this is the PR firms way of slagging us off without shooting itself in the foot and losing our precious free advertising.

Its worth noting that the post’s author is actually someone who has approached me (along with other colleagues) to write for them and to review Easter products with The Brats. Its also widely seen as double standards that the Boss of this PR firm is constantly seen using the hashtag to plead for Bloggers to write for free.

If they are so keen to make the world of blogging a better place, why hide behind an alias? You all know what I feel about anonymous people slagging others off.

Its already upset one lovely blogger and that one is quite enough.

What annoys me the most is on the day this all kicks off, and gives bullying bloggers and others the chance to throw cyber barbs on this site without being exposed for it (and thus letting the wimpish trolls that they are who are too weak to actually do it directly have the perfect outlet), we have several bloggers being driven slowly mental by an SEO who has sent bundles of emails over and over, driving bloggers potty over the last week.

Have these bloggers set up an anonymous Twitter feed and named and shamed this SEO? No.

When we get treated as little more than free advertising, do we go to twitter and anonymously slate them? No.

I for one hope this dies on its yawnsome arse soon. And if it is the same PR firm responsible, then there are frankly better ways to promote yourself than biting the hand that graciously drops the washing, the ironing, the cooking and everything else to write you a post.

And apologies all round we hope.

Is It Just Me: Who Thinks the Brit Bunch of Jihadi Fighters Should Be Refused Entry to the Country?

You remember, dear readers,  those poor little mites who felt this country which has, and let’s not forget, offered them homes, security, education and jobs (what wicked, terrible folk we are here) was not worth bothering with and who, stupidly thought running over to incite racial hatred abroad was OK?

Well, apparently they have, en masse, thought it was a very silly mistake to do this. And now, humorously enough, they want to be let back in to this formerly terrible, wicked country to resume their cushy lives, no questions asked.

They are no doubt crying into their rifles to go back to a life of cars, westernised clothes and Mcdonalds. 

So, the question we now have to scratch our chins over is- shall we let them back?

There are two ways of looking at this.

No one made them go over there. No one forced them, guns in backs, and made them go over to the dark side and, as I previously mentioned, to a country that probably they have never been to and has not seen their family in for several generations. Unlike those who they have no doubt stuck a gun in the back of in Iraq and made convert to a religion they don’t believe in. 

They are criminals. Pure and simple. Whether they never actually shot anyone, they endorsed it. They join in. So, sorry they are guilty by association- as are any of those who have sent money to the cause and continued to live in the rest of the world.

Do we really want to invite- UK national or not- a bunch of criminals into this country? 

Well, no, no we don’t actually.

Also, they have broken a trust, a trust which suggests that you behave in a civilised fashion. I’m not suggesting for one moment that anyone, from any religion, doesn’t have the right to a say in how the country is. But baring arms and setting off to join terrorist organisations is a whole new ball game. A game changer if you will.

We only have limited intelligence into these terror cells. We can only speculate on what they’ve been told to do when they do, eventually, come home.

How do we know that for every 3 who genuinely are pissing their pants and crying for their Mummies, there are 4 who have been told to act like they’ve had a change of heart, get back in, and then start the same type of crap here?

We just don’t know, and in light of the horrific scenes of 7/11, 9/11 and Lee Rigby’s cruel, and public murder, its a risk I feel is just not worth taking.

Yes, there will be those who argue that they are young, foolish, they have been brainwashed and were born here, so they have to return.

Then in that case, they should be stripped of their passports, and those who do go around Brainwashing impressionable idiots people need to be dealt with accordingly.

It just feels like this country needs to stop being the rest of the worlds doormat frankly. We put up with so much crap that we shoudln’t have to put up with. Our government is letting us down.

There are good and bad in all races and religions, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to the point where an 82 year old Gran is beheaded in her garden and the Police have to straight away reassure us its a nutter and not a terrorist (although there’s a seriously thin line between the two if you ask me), then the whole laws on how we deal with behaviour like this needs updating.

I am sick of living in a culture of fear, and I doubt I’m the only one.

So, its time to lobby our Politicians to stop pussy footing around and get some balls. No, we don’t want you back, simple. 

If nothing else it will deter other idiots from going and joining them.

That Naked Photo Scandal….NSFW

I am going to begin by saying that I may use words to describe lady areas which some may find offensive. In fact, I am almost only writing this post to see how many names I can use for lady parts. Slightly.

That naked lady photo shocker.

Was it really that big of a shock these days?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a woman’s right to parade her muff onto photographic equipment if she so chooses.  I am all up on the Sisterhood, so to speak.

However, its a camera phone.

It connects to the world wide web. Which is not the safest way of protecting images of your lady garden is it?

You can’t even upload innocuous pictures of a day out on a blog without some bugger nicking them.

The very idea of letting happy snaps of my sacred clam wing their way hither and dither onto the insecure web fills me with abject horror, and I’m not a celebrity.

Whilst it is of course horrifying for most of the names on the list who were hacked (I mean some like a certain Kardashian probably have their Momager on it to rake in cash from the sale of said snaps), what on earth were they thinking?

Surely, if you must take pics of your tits  for your own, or someone else’s, amusement, the humble old Polaroid, though old school and basic, is bang on for the money (shot)?

As for giving out photos to your latest paramour, surely a very dangerous exercise for a budding or indeed already famous lady?

Vanessa Hudgens has already been hit, along with various others (when the Spice Girls first launched earworms on the radio way back in 96, you couldn’t open a paper for weeks without an ex of Geri’s and his artfully shot pics of her sans clothing) before and after her. So why on earth do none of these girls learn to keep private parts, well, private?

What with the new buzz in the media being all about Porn Shaming exes, famous or otherwise, its not exactly a new phenomenon for some smarmy ex to grab those previously “for your eyes only” photos and make them public. And I should know, as when I was 17, I was daft enough to lay with a bra and jeans on for my at the time fiancee. Except as soon as we broke up acrimoniously months later,  and with me forgetting all about the- albeit not very racy pictures- he decided the best way to hit me was to upload them online.

At the time I was shocked, but it wasn’t long before I found the whole thing funny- some of the images on the site were utterly terrible, I was a sprightly size 8 teen and thankfully had nothing more on show than my (much missed nowadays) flat tummy. I didn’t even have boobs then. It was so tame. I would be very surprised if anyone got their rocks off to me.

Now, with camera phones, there is not a chance, even if I was still in possession of my size 8, no boobs, flat tummy that I would let anyone, including Elder, take those kind of images of me.

Like one of those dodgy name of loved one tattoos that come to be a mistake when you break up, to selling off your cds when you move in to together and combining collections, anything that can be a pain in your arse ( literally) on breaking up, even if you feel its the one, the love of your life, its a bad idea.

So, next time you think about getting a camera out and posing as nature intended, put on some clothes, put down the phone, and leave the cloud to dog shaming pics of the canine variety.

And don’t end up a statistic of the modern world.