Tag Archives: #school

Open Options

Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.

So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.

The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and  started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.

For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.

I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.

Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.

As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.

It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.





Decisions, Decisions

Just before the end of term I received an email from school, entitled Year 11 Prom and Yearbook. T started in Year 11 in September. It was December when the email came through. It was asking him to decide before the 17th January whether he wants to attend the Year 11 Prom, which is held towards the end of…….June!

June! A whole six months away. Six months is a long time when you’re fifteen. I asked him when the email arrived and his answer was “er, no thanks, why would I want to go to Prom?!” How do I know that he won’t change his mind in a month, 3 months, 6 months from now? We have to pay a £25 deposit, which is non-refundable. Do I risk writing off £25 if he still decides it’s a no? A lot can change in six months – he may have a girlfriend by then and she may be a tad annoyed if he’s not put his name down for prom. He may become a total party animal that wants to go and strut his stuff (OK that won’t happen – he is the offspring of two perennial wallflowers). I’ve asked him if any of his mates are going to pay the deposit (something I hate doing, as it really bats against the “I don’t care what your friends are allowed to do” mantra that I have used over the years when he insisted that Insert Name Here had been bought a new phone or had been allowed to go to London for the day alone at the age of 13) he mutters that they don’t talk about stuff like that. Sometimes, and only sometimes, girls are easier in this regard. I’m pretty sure when A is in Year 11 it will be ALL she and her friends will talk about for the whole six months after the email arrives.

I’ve stopped asking, but the email is still in my inbox. I can’t file it away under ‘School – T’ until the date has passed and the decision is made – either by default because we haven’t done anything about it, or because by some miracle he has a conversation about it with his mates and he decides one way or another. (I hate emails sitting in my inbox; it’s so untidy.) I really want him to make the right decision. If he decides that he is going to go to college and not Sixth Form it may be the last school event with his friends that he has made over the years. If he doesn’t go will he spend the entire evening wishing he had? He’s not really one for FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and I am probably hugely overthinking this (Who? Me? Never.) But it seems like a big deal. I have seen photos from previous years – girls all lined up in their pretty dresses, hair and make up all done especially for the occasion; the boys in new suits looking uncomfortable (apart from one, there’s always one) – that’s the other thing, if he goes to college he won’t need a suit apart from for Prom; but they all look excited and happy and their exams are all finished and they are going to PARTY.

Decisions, decisions. I think I might just pay the £25. Then I can file the email, stop thinking about it and IF he changes his mind then I can say “well, good job I paid it then” and I will be a HERO. Again.


Limbo time

I always find these few days in the run up to Christmas a bit hard-going. I’m generally sorted gift-wise; the cards (those that I still send) are written and I don’t have much else to think about, EXCEPT:-

  1. The Food Shopping. I hate food shopping. The rest of the year I order our weekly food shop online – unless we are being even more careful money-wise and then we alternate with an Aldi shop fortnightly – because I hate supermarkets. I hate pushing a trolley around, not knowing how much it is all going to come to, having to unload it all, pack it all, unpack it all. I still have to unpack the delivered shopping but not having had the trauma of actually going to the supermarket makes this slightly less arduous. However, ever since the year when we had snow right before Christmas and my online shop couldn’t be delivered, leaving me massively in the lurch, I have erred on the side of caution and taken the decision to GO TO THE SUPERMARKET. I order a turkey from our local Sainsbury’s and as I have to go and pick that up I get the rest of the stuff, that couldn’t be bought in advance, at the same time. And, because I always tell myself it will be hell on earth, it is sometimes almost bearable.
  2. Keeping everyone safe. In the run up to Christmas, much like before any other big event (birthdays, holidays), I worry about people even more than normal. I worry that they will be ill and not be able to enjoy the event. I worry that someone will be hurt. I don’t like anyone going anywhere too far away and won’t really relax until everyone has finished work/school, are safely home. I particularly dislike anyone having to go anywhere on Christmas Eve. School finished last Friday. This is good, except of course I can’t keep the kids locked up in the house until Christmas Day. In fact, T is up in London today. Bloody London. I know, I know, we MUST NOT let threats of terrorism stop us living our lives and London is probably one of the safest places to be, with the increased police presence, etc, etc. He is visiting the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and New Scotland Yard with his cadets group so it’s an amazing experience and opportunity for him. But, I will not really be happy until he is home later. I love the Find Friends app as I can check in at points during the day and know where he is. Not in a paranoid, stalker-ish way, just interested to see where he is. A has gone over to her bestie’s house for a few hours and a mooch around the shops. I do the same with her – I like to know she is where she is supposed to be. Not every minute, just every now and then. It makes me feel reassured.
  3. Baking. A likes to make Christmas Biscuits, and last year we bought a mould that you can bake a series of increasingly bigger sponge cakes in to make a tree so she wants to make that again this year, and then there is the Christmas Cake itself to decorate. I have to make sure we have all the correct ingredients – see Food Shopping.
  4. Wishing I wasn’t working. As soon as the kids have finished school, even if Christmas Day is a matter of days later, I always wish I wasn’t working. There is so much I would like to do. I would like to go to the cinema, visit my Nan, go for a walk. I can only do these things when I have finished work and because I generally use all my holiday entitlement during the rest of the year, I rarely keep any for Christmas. Because I can (and do) work from home, it seems a waste of days to take them as holiday between Christmas and New Year. But I always forget about the run up to Christmas, these few limbo days when it would be nice to be able to do stuff. But, I am working and so they will have to be squeezed into my Friday and snatched hours that will need to be made up later. I really need to get to grips with this in the New Year. No, I’m not suggesting a resolution, just something to sort out.
  5. Hoping that it doesn’t snow. This pretty much goes hand in hand with number 2. If we get snow it will stop people visiting, make life harder, make things unsettled and plans will go awry. I don’t like plans going awry, but I especially don’t like it at Christmas.
  6. Hoping I haven’t forgotten anything. See Food Shopping, Baking.
  7. Wishing it was Christmas Eve tomorrow. I love Christmas Eve, probably more than the day itself. I love getting the presents out and putting them under the tree, filling stockings – yes we still have stockings hung on bedroom door handles to be filled overnight ready to open on our bed on Christmas morning. I love being at home, all cosy and safe and thinking about Christmas Day. We normally try and go out for a walk and a drink at the pub, sometimes with my brother and his family. As much as I would love to go to Midnight Mass (I don’t go to church unless for weddings or funerals but I love the idea of Midnight Mass) like every other year I will get home from our walk and not want to leave the house again. Maybe this year. But I doubt it.
  8. Watching Christmas Films. When the kids were small I loved watching Christmas Films with them. The Polar Express is my absolute favourite. I have to confess to not having seen many of the old classics. I have never seen Miracle on 34th(?) Street (I don’t even know for sure which street it is!) and last year was the first time that I watched It’s A Wonderful Life. But, I love Polar Express and Elf and Nativity. I love Love, Actually but that’s not one for small kids (or even teenagers really – Martin Freeman in the porn film bit – awkward). Unfortunately, as the kids have got older their tolerance of Christmas Films has waned and I find myself longing for the days when they were small again just so I can watch without feeling a bit daft.

Hopefully, the next few days will fly by – if today is anything to go by, they won’t – and it will soon be the magical time. And then in a blink of an eye it will all be over! So much planning, thought and effort for such a short time. But it’s worth it.



A has got a bad cough and cold. When she was really little she suffered from coughs A LOT. She wasn’t unwell apart from the cough, but it would keep her (and consequently us) awake all night and leave her feeling really poorly. Luckily, as she got a bit older the frequency went from every few months to a couple of times a year to almost never. My kids are rarely unwell (amazing really, as I was told so often by various ‘helpful’ people that I was harming their immune systems by bottle feeding them) so when they are it is a bit of a strange time.

I’m not a great nurse. I used to dread when they were small and there was talk in the playground of this bug or that doing the rounds. I used to brace myself. I’m not unsympathetic – I can do good hugs and wiping of brows. I can provide hot drinks and hot water bottles and chicken soup. I can do this for a day or two. It was worse when they were really small as I had that logistical nightmare of ‘the school run with a poorly child’ where the non-poorly one didn’t want to go with a neighbour and the poorly one didn’t want to be left in the car for a few seconds while the non-poorly one was whizzed into the playground. And they always seemed to be ill when something was planned. A bit like snowfall, an ill child is always, well, ill-timed. My 40th birthday is a case in point. Unusually, it was during school time – all 39 previous birthdays had always fallen during half term, but someone decided her Diamond Jubilee was more important than my birthday and half term got moved to a week later in the year of my 40th – so both kids were due to be in school. A developed one of her bad coughs the day before, so my planned indulgent day with K went a bit awry. Thanks to kind and helpful G&G we still managed breakfast out and she was well enough for a meal out in the evening, but it’s still one of those occasions that will be marked with a “Poor A was poorly that day” memory. Like when we had snow the day we’d planned to go to Ikea to get a new wardrobe and we had to wait another month to get chance to go again. I don’t hold grudges against poorly children but I really detest the white cold stuff.

I think as both the kids and I have got older I have, maybe, become a bit more patient. Whether the ‘big break’ last year has any bearing on this, I don’t know, but I think it did teach me that you can’t plan for illnesses/accidents and that you have to take each day at a time.

A is a great patient. She’s not very demanding. She’s happy to lay in bed and read and watch YouTube or, as she said yesterday, “just lay in bed and watch CBeebies because when you’re ill you feel little again”. She did have a mini-meltdown yesterday evening thinking she would never feel well ever again and her sides hurt from coughing and she was just so tired from not sleeping. Last night she slept so well that when I had my usual 4am awake time, I lay worrying, convinced that she had taken too many paracetamol.

What I worry about a lot when the kids are poorly is that K will catch it. I don’t really mind if I get it, I’m a bit of a soldier really and like to pride myself on not wallowing in it. But unlike the kids, he is NOT a good patient. He will be well enough to go to work – of course! – but the minute he gets home he will take himself off to bed and wallow. Am I being harsh? Probably a bit, but he does epitomise the cliche of the man with ‘man-flu’. He was brought up to take Lemsips and Hot Toddies when he was ill and it’s a hard habit to break. I am of the school of thought that you should take a couple of paracetamol and stays at home in the warm and ride it out. And don’t get me started on people that say they have flu when they have a head cold. If you’re not laying in bed sweating and shivering with achy limbs and a high fever that lasts for days/a week then you have a head cold.  A head cold is not flu. Consequently, K is ‘encouraged’ to get his annual flu jab as early as possible. At least that’s one thing ruled out.

A is feeling a bit better today. I can tell this because she is starting to be irritating and her eyes are starting to get their sparkle back. My dad always used to say to my brother and I that he could tell we were feeling better after a bout of being poorly when we started arguing or winding each other up. Arguing over the remote control? “Oh, I can see you’re feeling better.” My kids are no different. And this is when my patience will start to waver.

She’s just asked when am I getting her lunch, and do I have any cake in the cupboard? I reckon she could be headed back to school tomorrow……





Christmas, poppies and fireworks – in that order

I’ve had a busy day today but because it’s Friday it’s been a good busy.

I’ve been out to the shops with Mrs F and I’ve added to my stash of Christmas presents for the children’s stockings (and one for K’s). I LOVE buying stocking presents almost more than the other presents. Stocking presents are small and fun and lovely to buy – harder for T, dead easy for A and not too bad for K. I like squirrelling them away (after I’ve written them in my Xmas book – anyone who knows me should not be in any way surprised at this) and imagining peoples faces when they open them. A good mornings work.

This evening I’ve accompanied Mrs Lovely to the kids old school in our village to man the Poppy stall at the annual firework night. Mrs Lovely did it singlehanded last year as no one was able to assist but this year I had the pleasure of joining her. And it was a pleasure. Seeing young children, older children, parents and grandparents donating for poppies, wristbands and other merchandise was brilliant. And as an added bonus I got to spend the two hours with Mrs Lovely. She’s great company and we always laugh a lot. We even had chance to see the firework display. I love fireworks but really only at organised displays – they scare me when done in back gardens! The display was brilliant! For a small village school it’s always a great show and this year was the best yet.

I’m knackered now, sitting with a G&T. A happy day.


Planning, Being Human and Revision

Good news! We have finally been granted Planning Permission. So all we need to do now is choose a builder (we’ve whittled it down to two – it’s difficult because they are both really nice, both have quoted around the same price and both are available when we want to get started) and get booked into their diary ready to start in the New Year. Exciting times ahead. Also ones full of dust and noise and horrendous disruption but…..it will all be worth it. I see this fast becoming my new mantra. (I don’t have a current mantra but it may catch on.)


Last week A was asked to write an essay on What Makes Us Human by her PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics for those, like me, who aren’t familiar) teacher. She asked me to read it over and give her feedback. I’m always a bit on edge when anyone asks me to do this. I am more likely to pick up on spelling errors (I’m not so hot on grammar) and typos so I’m better suited to proof-reading than critiquing. I was pretty impressed; I went a bit misty. She’s 12 years old. She never fails to surprise me – some of the points she made were pretty mature. I quote: “Being human means we mess up from time to time. How can you be human if you don’t make some mistakes? Nobody is perfect. ALL of us have flaws.” (I’m a bit disappointed that she doesn’t think I’m perfect but she’s wrong). She’s not great at taking constructive criticism (one of her flaws, but she get’s it from her mother – OK, I admit, I’m not perfect) so I had to be careful with my wording: she needed to work on some of her ideas a bit more but other than that I told her how mature a lot of her thoughts are and that she should be proud of her work, as she had clearly spent some time thinking about it. Oh, and that it made me a bit misty eyed. She liked that bit.


Last night, K, T and I attended an info evening at school ahead of the mock GCSE exams starting in November. I thought the intention was to give us ideas on how to help our child through this process and the proper exams in the Summer. I thought we would be talked through strategies, given useful websites, suggested revision guides to buy, etc. We were to some extent but it was really just the core subject heads telling us how difficult the exams were going to be, how much pressure was going to be on the students and (in the case of one teacher) way too much detail on what the exam was going to cover. If I was finding it all a bit daunting, I can’t imagine what the students were thinking. The only positive note came from the head of Maths, and coincidentally T’s teacher, who said that, after hearing his colleagues speak, he felt quite relieved that he taught maths as it was pretty easy to revise for! Top man. He was upbeat and honest – if you want to revise, you need to do some maths. Just do some maths: pick the topics you struggle with and practice – twenty minutes a day. Great.

The funny thing for me was K. He hated school; he gets a bit antsy when we have to attend anything like this – he can’t sit still; he just can’t wait to get away. Last night I felt like I was sitting next to two 15 year old boys. T’s leg was jiggling away and he was looking at his feet for most of the talks. K was “busy” looking at the handout and whispering silly comments to me, when one of the speakers said anything daft. I nearly choked on my Polo when one of the teachers said that the students “need to get on the game”. I think he meant get their heads in the game but it came out wrong, I met another mum’s eye and we both nearly had to gag ourselves to stop from laughing. There’s always a highlight to these evenings.


Stress, Social and Smooth

Stress. The kids went back to school nearly two weeks ago. Last Monday, T had a mini-meltdown. When I say meltdown, he was mildly stressed out. T doesn’t do meltdowns. He does calm and laid back so when he gets stressed it is unusual but not insurmountable. He doesn’t have to tell me when something is worrying him, it is obvious – he goes quiet and in turn becomes argumentative. And anyway, I just know. Before I had kids, I didn’t really believe the whole “mum spidey senses” thing but it is actually a Thing. Anyway, we had a chat after the argument and he admitted he was feeling a bit pressured by the whole GCSE thing and the pressure to do well. We had spoken at length during the summer about how much effort he has been giving so far and how it is not enough to just do the bare minimum. The failed RE GCSE seemed to spur him on, but have I created a monster? Have I made too much of it and now he is stressing out? Anyway, we talked a bit more and it transpired that the homework app wasn’t working (see, technology is NOT always a good thing – what was wrong with writing things down into a homework diary?) and he didn’t want to get behind with his homework………….because he wanted to watch the Apple Conference live the following evening. I don’t need to worry, he clearly still has his priorities in a different place.

Social. On Saturday night, A went to a friend’s birthday party. I am finding it increasingly hard to keep up with her social life and the way it is organised. There’s no invites any more. Parents don’t contact parents any more. Your child gets a text (or Whatsapp message, or Instagram DM, or Snapchat PM….etc) invite from their friend and they ask you if they can go. You say yes or no and if in the affirmative the details get passed to you as and when your child gets them. You don’t have to text a parent or call a parent to say that your child can attend and “hi” I’m J, A’s mum”. None of that. On this particular occasion I had not met the girl whose party it was, or her parents. I just knew she lived in “the big house on the corner of the road that goes down to the school”. She was being dropped off by another friend’s step-dad (again all organised child-to-child but at least we know the friend in question and have met the mum and step-dad) and we were picking them up later. I had an address and a time and the knowledge that they were going to watch a movie at the house and then dinner out at a local pizza place. That was all. Now, I don’t know how you feel reading this, but I felt a little lacking in my parental duties. However, knowing that I could see her whereabouts on my lovely app, I felt slightly less nervous than I could have done. And I knew two of the other girls she was going to be with who are both pretty sensible. She was being dropped off and picked up. Nothing to worry about. And there wasn’t, it was all fine, she had a lovely time; they were even left unsupervised in the restaurant while the birthday girl’s parents went to the chip shop (it’s classier than it sounds) and so she felt very grown up (which I suppose she is becoming). I went to pick her up at the designated time with K as chauffeur. The idea of the “big house on the corner” made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person made me slightly nervous. Meeting a new person who lives in a VERY big house…you get the idea. I was nervous. Especially having had ZERO contact with her previously. She was perfectly nice, they had all “been fine” and so after collecting all their belongings (why do girls have so much stuff?) we left. I have no idea what the mum’s name was. We made small talk while they were getting their stuff but other than that she has 2 older children and one younger one and that her house is MASSIVE I know nothing more than that. It’s not a problem, it just feels weird. Up til now, I have pretty much known the parents of A’s friends, because I have seen them at school and probably chatted to them in the playground. I haven’t had to worry about this stuff with T, he still hangs around with the same mates he had in nursery. He has other friends, new friends from secondary school, but boys don’t really do the whole “tea” at each others houses thing. Or parties really. Well, T doesn’t anyway. It’s a whole new world and one I am finding hard to adjust to. We have a “new friend” coming for “tea” tomorrow and another one for a sleepover on Saturday night (I have met her before so it will be fine) – I might need therapy by Sunday.

So, that just leaves Smooth. I have not been sleeping brilliantly for a few weeks. When I say not brilliantly, I mean I can get to sleep no problem (in fact probably too easily, i.e. in front of the TV most evenings) but I have started waking up around 4am again. I don’t know why but it is annoying. What is even more annoying is that when I am lying there awake all I can think of is a bloody song that I can’t get out of my head. Not always the same song, but normally one that I don’t even like. I have realised that it is probably down to listening to Radio 2 all day.  It’s not their fault but they do play the same records over and over again – their playlist is pretty limited – and it can get a bit repetitive, and one of the songs will get stuck in my noddle and at 4am it decides to start blasting out. So, I have decided on a change of station. I started out this morning with Classic FM – no lyrics, no catchy tunes, was my thinking. After ten minutes I couldn’t take any more. I need lyrics. I need a catchy tune. I scrolled through the list and Smooth caught my eye – billed as “your relaxing music mix” I though it worth a go. Ooh I like it. So far not one repeat of a song. Nothing current, I grant you – I’m not in danger of being Down With The Kids – but nothing repetitive that could get stuck in my head, not so far anyway. Some old classics, actually only old classics; DJ’s whose voices are not too annoying, so far; a few adverts, could get annoying; but mainly just easy listening background noise with a few “oh I LOVE this one”s thrown in. Let’s see what happens tonight.