Educational Elixar

Iddir's Ideas and thoughts on all things Educational !

August 31, 2018
by Sharon Iddir
3 Comments

Are you the best version of you?

Wow!  What a Year that was. 

It has been a long time since I sat down and wrote a blog post but today has left me empowered, positive and passionate and I just had to share. 

I am now in my probationary year of teaching and suffice to say I am soooooooo glad university is now over. 

Don’t misunderstand me with that statement but as a mature student with a family of four… that was a tough four years.  

But…………..

 

Woo hoo! I made it ! 

I am so pleased and grateful that I have landed a wonderful job in a great school that has THE BEST staff team .They are welcoming, funny, sometimes nuts and most importantly of all … supportive. From My mentor right through to the support staff, cleaning team and the Janitor I feel like they are extended family and I actually look forward to going to work.

GUSH GUSH!

This isn’t a post about how wonderful my school is (although it is !!) its a post about how wonderful we all could be and a celebration of a wondrous shared learning experience that has prompted me to write today. 

Today I had the privilege of listening to Andy Vass and he left me inspired.

Inspired to reflect critically on myself and my practice

Inspired to engage in shared learning

Inspired to BLOG !

and inspired to become the best version of me that I possibly can.

Let me tell you about why he has inspired me in these ways.

It wasn’t the fact that nearly all teachers can be classed as clinically insane by psychological definition it was this……

Andy Vass is an education coach and mentor, and today he did what it says on the tin … he coached. Not only a great motivational speaker but actually a highly amusing individual in his deliverance. I certainly laughed heartily today which, unfortunately, I am sure all newbies will agree is rare in the first few weeks of a new term. Particularly  when you are in that heightened state of … plan this , plan that , did I make time for the milk, when is the fire drill, where do I  line up AFTER the fire drill, where do we get the polywallets , which reading group should x be in. All very valid questions and all of which you have the answers to but you are so overwhelmed that you cant quite remember where you put your carefully picked out new set of highlighters never mind retain all that information. This is all very normal. It became very clear that every single person in that room today was experiencing the very same things as each other and you know what … That’s OK!

Whilst the main focus was quite clearly on behaviour management, I was pleasantly surprised that actually the focus wasn’t on managing children’s behaviour it was more a shift on looking at our own behaviour and how that impacts on the children’s behaviour (Yes….SIGH, it really is all our fault)

How many times have you said to a disruptive child to stop portraying an unwanted behaviour?   For example:- ” Johnny, stop talking and pay attention”.

I have said it several times and after today I am slightly embarrassed by it. Knowing what I know now I will never again tell a child to stop doing something… What Andy Vass has given me is a deeper understanding of the importance of the choice of words we use and an appreciation of a positive response but with dignity! ( more on that later!)

Would we appreciate having attention drawn to ourselves when we were doing something we shouldn’t be ? Think about the last time you were being observed and you knew something was going wrong and then the observer stops, stands up and calls across the room  ” Stop that, its not what you are supposed to do!”  It would be humiliating and would elicit one of several responses (for purpose of less words I’m plumping for three)

1:  you have a meltdown and run out the room to curl in a ball in the library corner hoping you will miraculously time travel back in time to sort it …

2: you carry on but internally you are seething and have instantly developed a loathing for that observer akin to the loathing of having to eat that mountain of brussels back on the Christmas of 1988.

3: you take it on the chin and afterwards at the catch up ask for advice.

Take a second to think about that…

Frankly we know one is  highly unlikely to happen and we know that two is the most probable reaction of someone visibly critiquing you in front of the children and three well good for you but you may be in the bottom 1% and may likely be suffering from some form of delusional disconnect.

The point I am trying to make is that as adults we would not accept being shamed publicly,  so why would we do that to children?

 

The notion of “correcting with dignity” really is very simple concept. Often, we react in a situation without really thinking  but we should be responding in a way that does not draw attention away from the learning, not easy when instinct is to react . He discussed why stating to the children what you need them to be doing rather telling them what they should be doing is empowering the children to take ownership of their own behaviours and choices.

CHOICES>>>>> ALL ABOUT THE CHOICES!

Now in regard to being a better version of me … I had my eyes opened today. If I am not willing to take risks and try and better myself how can I teach children what I don’t have myself? Ambition , challenge willingness to change…

 

Be the change for you AND for your children!

 

I am very aware I have blabbered on about change , change, change, but it really does just boil down to that!

A lot of what Andy talked about today can also be found in the  Paul Dix book  ” When the adults change, everything changes” . I would highly recommend getting your hands on a copy along with a copy of Andys latest book , which is a toolkit of strategies to use. This can be found on his website.

So in conclusion I have made a decision…

On Monday I will:-

  • offer to shake each child’s hand as I welcome them into our classroom
  • I will respond with dignity and offer them a chance to change in a safe way
  • I will actively change my own behaviours to be more attuned to the needs of my learners

and I will use positive praise in a non judgemental way to encourage a shift in culture !

Ambitious ?

No I don’t think so. I am capable of these minor adjustments, I am capable of reflecting on my own behaviours and practice and  most importantly I am willing.

From the initial opening to all of us  newbies trying to catch each others fingers the whole day was a hoot! I’m very proud of my honorary status as part of the velocity club!

But guess what…

I was learning…

we were learning…

We were changing.

 

Final Thought
Those of us of a certain age will likely remember our granny saying ” your face will stay like that if the wind changes”  Newsflash everything can change .All you need to do is make your own wind!

Be the best version of you.

March 19, 2017
by Sharon Iddir
0 comments

Failing our children?

I am perplexed.

Perhaps slightly naïve/idealistic in my thinking but I believe the solutions to many “issues” in education can be solved quite simply.

As a mother of two children, with varying degrees of ASN and also as an educator,  the issues surrounding ASN are close to my heart. Having worked in education for a number of years and now as a student undergoing ITE I have seen “the good , the bad and the ugly”. And quite frankly, I agree,  we are not doing enough to support our most vulnerable children.

The new report by Enable (I highly recommend reading)highlights the issues surrounding ASN but in reality the issues  are explicitly linked with education as a whole,  and I believe the solution is one that can be solved if we look at the bigger picture.

98% of the current workforce say that ITE does not provide adequate training to prepare for teaching children with ASN.

Firstly, we have to consider that it is a 98% of respondent’s and not actually 98% of the entire workforce that is represented, so whilst I do believe this is an issue we have to consider that these are representative views. Secondly, from experience, I know that across the 3 years I have spent in ITE we have been given inputs on ASN and we are fortunate enough to have lecturers who do signpost in generic lectures the importance of inclusion. It is also pertinent to highlight here that there is a whole separate degree specifically for ASN and as such how can we be expected to learn all there is to know whilst on a general ITE course.

The issue I have is that ASN pupils need supported. A recent survey by NASWUT highlighted the fact that support staff numbers have declined dramatically over the last decade and  with class sizes increasing and support staff declining ( these are people who are generally far better equipped to support ASN pupils) is it any wonder then that our most vulnerable pupils are suffering?

Be under no illusions however because it is not just the pupils who suffer. Due to cuts in support staff  teachers have additional pressures of workload along with no support for pupils.   All children have the right to an education and we, the teachers, should fulfil that obligation. However, it is no mean feat with a class of 30, no support and a third of your class having varying degrees of ASN!

I would be delighted if Universities offered more inputs on additional support needs but I would also be delighted if there were more inputs on language development, mathematical understanding, social studies… There are several areas that I would love to see explored in more detail but we also have to remember that universities are facing cuts too… with teaching time cut, when exactly are these additional inputs supposed to take place?

A lot of the  learning a teacher develops comes from being on the job and learning alongside the pupils. Each and every child is individual with varying degrees of need and what works once may not work with others. As educators we are also learners and should actively be seeking opportunities for growth throughout our careers.

I remember quite vividly my first job in nursery and  being disappointed with the lack of support for ASN pupils, despite being “taught” that there was a wealth of support available. Waiting lists for Speech and language were over a year and scheduling an educational psychologist was like finding a four leaf clover. There is support available but with cuts across all sectors and not just education its clear to see the domino effect. Its the children who inevitably suffer the biggest disadvantage. So who is to blame? Should there be blame? I don’t believe so.

If we look at the attainment issue in Scotland today and the amount of money poured into the attainment challenge, I believe that that  money could have been better spent looking at the bigger picture in education and not narrowly focussing on just attainment. It is quite simple really to raise attainment children need to have competent good quality teachers offering a wealth of experiences in a contextualised manner… something that CfE is capable of doing if there were the support for teachers.

We know that children from the most deprived areas/ backgrounds are falling behind their peers but can we be sure its because of the deprivation? There is a wealth of information pointing the finger in that direction but recent research has also shown that children who foster a growth mindset show no difference in attainment in relation to socio economic status! However it is not always easy when you have worked a 40+ hour week with no support in place to remember that we too need to have a growth mindset and we also need to have respite. Teaching is not an easy job and with added pressures of having no support and sometimes half the class with degrees of ASN its easy to forget to praise every 5 seconds to your 30 children. Teachers are only human.

The Solution

So the key theme, at the moment in education is raising attainment.

I suggest>

Using the attainment money to employ more support staff and more teachers. (not cutting numbers!)

  • this will reduce stress and lead to (hopefully) staff retention
  • possibly encourage more people into the profession

Reduce class sizes to take account of the needs of ALL learners

  • smaller classes offer opportunity for more targeted support
  • leads to less stress and a happier workforce

Where appropriate, offer split places with a specialist school

  • students benefit from mainstream with the social aspects an important factor
  • intensified support with specialist staff

Bring in more specialist teachers of the arts

  • this will allow for more targeted teaching and richer opportunities for all learners.

Offer more CPD opportunities using inset days

Offer Students undergoing ITE the opportunity to take an extra module specifically on ASN OR

Offer ITE degrees with a specialism in ASN.

In doing the above we ensure that quality experiences are had by ALL children and I believe that this would greatly improve the attainment of all children.

In Summary it boils down to money and the most appropriate way to spend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 21, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
0 comments

All is not well …

Perhaps I am in the midst of a mid life crisis but I cant help but feel that lately I have found myself questioning what it is that I am doing !

Firstly, if you are a follower of my blog posts you will know that I have strong opinions on several aspects of education and partcularly strong opinions on where education is headed (or should be headed).

My opinions have been formed through the years from my own experiences of going through an education system that no longer exists to working within the fairly infantile Curriculum for Excellence and latterly as a learner within that same curriculum and I have to admit … I don’t like it.

I have far too many questions that are unanswered.

What is it for ? I mean this as a learner and as a mother of children. Are we doing enough for the learners, myself being one of them ? Is it still all too vague? Are we just shying away from the real issues that need addressed? What are these issues ? What do we want from our education system? Do we want the highest performing children and young people or do we want happy learners that are actively engaged and willing to risk take for the benefit of autonomy? OR do we want both?

Is it true then that you can have your cake and eat it ?

CfE on the surface and in theory can deliver  but not whilst we are hung up on QIs and E’s and O’s and the constant need to assess (and record) the performance of the learners. A recent article in TESS addressed  issues of too much emphasis on assessment , marking and planning causing teachers to leave the profession. Now if its too much for the teachers , how do the children feel?  Previous posts have touched on a few of the above!

A fairly recent publication on CFE that serves to better define what we should and shouldn’t be doing in the deliverance of it but on a fairly cynical note… I know from experience how heavily we relied on the Developing , consolidating and secure aspects of each level in terms of tracking children’s progress, yet now we are no longer to use these internal “stages” .

That being said I would be happy to accept this decision if an alternative had been offered.

Paying lip service to a curriculum that is in essence and in my opinion failing at what it set out to do is simply not good enough. Its not good enough for those trying to deliver it and it is certainly not good enough for the students learning within it !

We have a system that could work and work very well to the advantage of our children yet we are not utilising this to its full capacity. No amount of policy documents or papers or conferences will change that. Words do not make change happen. Action and a willingness to embrace new possibilities are the drivers for making these changes.

October 8, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
3 Comments

Education ?

This post is really in response to a comment left on my previous blog post Comenius to John Swinney and all that in between.(thanks Richard, glad someone reads them !)  It really got me thinking about the deeper meaning behind education and I feel it is right to respond with my own opinions on the matter.

Firstly , what is education?

Well there are definitions to be found across the world and of course, once again , one persons perception of what education is can vastly differ from another’s.

In my own opinion education is whatever we do to ensure the survival of our species, we educate to survive to learn to adapt…

Now that in itself can be a blog post all on its own because what do we need to survive? (so profound for a Saturday ) But really in essence we need to learn to adapt to the ever changing landscape which means that teachers in charge of “educating” should be teaching skills for life and work ( funnily enough there is a document of just that name! also another about developing the young workforce!)

What really had me thinking was how do we measure whether or not education is “performing” or “right ” for our children. And who makes these decisions and why?

On reflections there are really no real answers to these questions.

I may hazard a guess on my own understanding that decisions are made on what education should be and how we will measure by governments that are looking to, and rightly so, ensure we have future generations capable of tackling jobs that do not even exist right now, which in turn will ensure economic security of our country and at a very base level future existence and sustainability.

Our very own unique curriculum has undergone several changes as governments look to the future in deciding what our young people need to learn in order to be  “responsible citizens, successful learners, confident individuals and effective contributors”( to do what exactly ?)

Yet the underlying theories of how children learn and learn best have been around for centuries.

The truth is we wont ever know, despite pisa scores ,how well we are performing because at the heart is bureaucratic nonsense and the egotistical need to be “the best” and quite frankly dropping pass rates in order to achieve better scores (which I know happens) and teaching purely for the test is not a transparent and good way of determining achievements. This merely sets learners up for failure in future where perhaps a leap to university level learning comes as a huge shock… no longer spoon fed and expected to be autonomous in their own learning. Not able to ask or even explore the big Questions… challenge and push for change?

Even when we look at University learning , what is it we expect? is it education ?

Well I could argue yes it is because education is explicitly linked to learning and we all know that we learn or we would never be awarded a degree. But on the other hand I could argue that University is merely training for work. I will leave that for you , the reader, to ponder.

In conclusion, and purely my own opinion I strongly believe that we need to rip it right back at every level of “education” and remember that the research shows people, in general, learn more when something is engaging,fun and set in contexts that are familiar with the right amount of challenge. We need to, as educators, remember that we too have much to learn , from theories , from each other and ultimately from the learners themselves. We will always as a profession face challenges and change but if we are to succeed for the sake of our children then we all need to be asking the hard questions, challenging our own beliefs and values and exploring the notion that there may be a better way but what we absolutely must do is make a stand and fight for what we believe in!

 

 

 

October 7, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
2 Comments

Comenius to John Swinney and all that in between!

Having had a break from blogging for quite a few months, mainly due to time constraints and most certainly not for the lack of things to blog about. I felt that now would be a good time to restart.

There are so many issues within education that have had me really questioning the way education is heading and all of which have resulted in several conversations with colleagues, professionals and students. All of these dialogues have had me questioning and challenging my own view of education and the expectations that I hold for our future generations.

As a mother of four young children, with one transitioning to high school next year, I worry.

I worry about their future.

I worry about them achieving.

I worry that they are not getting the very best out of the education system that we, as a country, adhere to.

Recently I attended the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow where I was fortunate enough to listen to John Swinney delivering a keynote speech in which he talked about creating a “world class education system” . The beginnings of his speech emphasised how passionate he is and also that despite strengths there were also challenges within education and how important to engage with pupils, parents, staff and wider stakeholders. Next on the agenda was what is at the core of Curriculum for Excellence, the values. These values of  ‘Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity’ originated from the engraving of the Scottish parliaments mace which in turn were words chosen by the silversmith who made the item ! I remember a lecture I attended where we discussed values and surprisingly all 60+ students had differing perceptions of what should have or should not have been on said mace. My point is not to criticise the words or the core curriculum values but merely to point out that individual perceptions vary and it is very much Mr Swinneys view that these words are exactly what CfE is about . (A very interesting blog post about the mace and the inscription can be accessed here.)

At this point I was engrossed in what was being said but my mind was working overtime… On one hand I thought wow this man is passionate and on the other more cynical hand I was thinking …we have known all this for years so why are we still talking about the changes that need to be made?

Not wishing to dwell on Mr Swinney for too long I will leave with the comment that part of the reasons my more cynical side was so annoyed was that much of his speech was not new concepts or ideas they were things that many educators have been discussing for years and the fact that CfE was described as being strong heckled me. ( It has to be noted that on paper and in theory it is a good curriculum with the potential to be great for our learners but unfortunately that ugly snake named perception has changed the way in which many view it.)

Moving on I also attended the Early Years Scotland conference again in Glasgow where a very passionate keynote was given by Professor Ferre Laevers who is the Director of the Research Centre for Experiential Education in Leuven Belgium. Unfortunately there is no link available for that particular speech just yet but there is a very interesting one at this link about encouraging deep learning which in essence was what he discussed at the EYS conference. Again I was engrossed, amazed and excited. he talked about imagination and the importance that it has in a child’s learning. he also talked about the LOI syndrome (lack of imagination syndrome) so often found in management… this certainly made the 330 delegates in attendance giggle and I am sure there were also a few groans.

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Prof Laevers shared his knowledge of the education system in Belgium and demonstrated the links to our own curriculum and yes I could see the links , I could see where he was coming from and I liked it!

However, despite the fact that again I had just listened to a wonderfully impassioned talk I found myself once again feeling quite frustrated.

Why?

Well quite simply very much like Mr Swinneys speech the concepts are not new.

If we rewind right back to the 16th century and take a look at the theory that Comenius outlined of education he:

  • Supported the idea of universal education.
  • Understood and stressed the importance of the early years.
  • Emphasised hands-on experiences
  • advocated the value of active learning
  • Saw the importance of parental engagement in their child/ren learning
  • Believed that educators should work in line with a childrens natural development

All sounding familiar ?

…what about John Locke, Jean Jaques Rousseau, Johann Pestalozzi, Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori,Tina Bruce… I could go on but what is it that all these people have in common?

They all advocated for child led, developmentally appropriate , active engagement and play.

yes very much like what our own curriculum is designed to be but why is it not happening in practice ?

Why is there a disparity across Scotland in the type of education that is being delivered and most of all WHY are we still talking about the same changes that need to be made centuries later despite having a curriculum that is designed to be exactly what all these wonderful people have been talking about for years.

As with everything there will always be challenges and tweeks to be made and, not wishing to be a negative Nellie, I will end with a slide from Professor Laevers speech which I believe encompasses all I hope to convey in this post.  14516356_1303674276373886_1605803281168753955_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 12, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
0 comments

Connections in a seven year olds mind>ADHD to Politics.

A recent car journey with my seven year old son had me revisiting and marveling at the way in which young children’s minds work.

To set the context, Riyad my son, has issues at school with social boundaries and has recently been diagnosed with ADHD. Riyad expresses his frustrations with outbursts of anger. He feels that everyone is blaming him and as such this results in a 0-60 outburst. It was because of one of these outbursts that I found myself discussing a myriad of subjects on the way to visit his grandad in hospital.

Having received an email from school that day I thought I would take the opportunity in the car to speak with Riyad and remind him to do his breathing exercises (a strategy suggested by CAMHS) so that he could better control himself in class. During the discussion he went slightly off topic and started telling me about the different types of ADHD. (Now whether his diagnosis, which he was present at, made him think that his behaviour was acceptable I do not know but I did reiterate that having ADHD does not mean that you have an excuse to misbehave.)  In his words he described “silly ADHD” and “angry ADHD”.  Riyad’s reasoning behind labeling them is as follows:

SILLY ADHD : Is when you do silly stuff like John* and want to make people laugh because you don’t want to do work or it’s too hard. AND when you want to annoy people.

ANGRY ADHD : is when you get angry at stuff and people blame you.

“I have angry ADHD…” stated Riyad

Clearly there is no angry or silly ADHD but in order for Riyad to rationalise he used the knowledge of John’s* behaviours in class and his own behaviours to come up with a label of best fit. Facinating stuff.

Riyad then randomly asked ” why do rich people not buy poor people houses?” to which I really had no clear answer. He then stated ” well when I am a famous footballer and have hundreds of money I am going to buy lots of houses and stuff for poor people…” I thought this was a lovely idea and steered the conversation back to the fact that if he wanted to be a footballer he would have to stick in at school and try his best to do as the teacher asked. I explained the importance of education ( as a good mum ) and he seemed to ponder over this for a while. This then led to him to ask “well why do ‘they‘ not give them stuff”. ‘They‘ I ascertained was the government. We then went on to discuss the role of the government and what Riyad thought they did.His explanation turned out to be pretty good.

“The government is supposed to look after the people and make sure everyone is ok” 

I thought this was quite a good description for a seven year old ! He then asked who gets to be in government which then led to the whole discussion on politicians and voting, different parties and the promises they make in manifesto’s . We discussed a few promises that were made and a few that were being made so as to give a bit of meaning. Riyad appeared to be taking all this information in and was quite for a few minutes.

Then it came…

” Well how come they don’t get in trouble for not doing as they are told then? cos if they did things like they said everyone would have a house and not be poor then.”

Ah the innocence of childhood.

This is how a half hour car journey with a seven year old made me revisit the way in which young children make connections, relating them to personal experience and developing their own understanding!

When I could not give him an answer, or rather an answer that he was satisfied with, he simply replied ” I think I will ask my teacher then.”

What a heavy burden teachers have when their students expect them to have all the answers !

*John’s name has been changed.

 

 

 

February 12, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
2 Comments

Trials and tribulations of a mature student .

Recently there has been a lot of services offering advice on campus, anti social behaviour , rent advice, Dundee energy efficiency services to name but a few. As a mature student I really had no need for these services but I see the value in having them there to offer advice to the younger students who may just be starting their journey into independence.

Now this blog is a little insight into some of the “issues” that a mature student may face.

Let me begin with a little anecdote.

Yesterday after a rather enjoyable and interactive lecture on working with parents, there was an hour break before the next lecture so myself and a few fellow students made our way to the union to relax and enjoy a coffee. On entering the union we were met with a host of aforementioned agencies offering advice and freebies. Now I like a freebie as much as the next person and there were particularly nice jute bags! The two Bens and I stopped to chat with the anti social behaviour team (they had really nice trolley coins and led torches!) and it was during this chit chat that the women giving us information innocently asked…” So… is this your son then ?”

03-surprised          ARGHHHHHHH !

I politely replied that he was actually a fellow student and that we were studying on the same course. Of course she was suitably apologetic and being as good natured as I am had a slight giggle and assured her that it was an easy mistake to make seeing as how, technically, I could actually be his mother!

Whether I looked particularly tired or haggered yesterday is a question I have since reflected upon and have decided that perhaps I may try a new make up look and invest in some anti wrinkle cream! I believe that these are quite good…anti wrinkle

There are, of course,several advantages to being a mature student and I will touch on these at the end,  meantime let me address some of the more problematic points.

  • Being mistaken for a students parent>> I have covered this above!
  • Trying to put my own experience and prejudices aside> This is an issue that I am finding particularly difficult at the moment and particularly during the Interagency working inputs. (This of course could be argued as being valuable in terms of criticality)It is really important to be reflective and open to other ideas and opinions and this is an area that is always developing.
  • Joining in on “what did you get up to at the weekend chats” >>My weekends are generally rather boring, every Saturday involves ferrying two of my boys to their respective football matches and afterwards there is normally a fundraising event for one of them so that takes care of Saturday and Sunday is … well… it’s ironing day ! All particularly boring and pales in comparison to my fellow students accounts of which club/party/event they attended. which leads me to the next point.
  • Juggling family/work and study>> This is really no mean feat, between extra curricular activities for my children, picking up supply work and managing the house(luckily my husband is quite supportive and has managed to get a handle on the workings of the washing machine!) and of course the charity work that I am involved in make this a particular challenge. Study is actually classed as a luxury and I make full use of my local library along with the library on campus. I am so grateful that their is remote access to journals and an abundance of ebooks, this enables me to work from home.
  •  Finding common interests>> I suppose the only common interest that I have is really the course, although I do believe there are several societies that are aimed at the more mature student.

This leads me to my last point…

  • Not living on campus> (This of course could be applied to anyone not living on campus) I generally have to get home to the children and various other commitments that I have. Not living on campus means not being fully integrated into the life of the University and as such can lead to feelings of exclusion. It also makes it particularly difficult to meet up ,at mutually convenient times, with fellow students as is the case in interagency working.(although I don’t personally have much of an issue with this, I still feel it is a valid point to be made.)

The advantages of being a mature student,however, means that I can draw on my own life experiences and of course work experience. As such I can draw upon my network of colleagues and friends for advice and professional development. Having had those experiences I feel puts me in a position that I do not necessarily need to integrate into the full “University experience”. For me, my aim is to obtain my degree and work to provide for my children along with making a difference to the lives of all children that pass through my classroom doors. I hope that my own children aspire to attend university and see me as a role model, although I would hope that they would follow the more traditional route and continue in education rather than the route that I personally took.

graduation Below is a particularly interesting article that covers this subject more and there are further links to further reading.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/10478366/University-as-a-mature-student-top-tips.html

 

 

 

February 10, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
1 Comment

GIRFEC (and my views)

As part of the module Interagency Working I was asked, as part of a tutor directed task, to write a brief essay (250 words) describing GIRFEC and outline advantages and disadvantages of interagency working.

For those people that know me personally and professionally ‘brief’ is not a word that is generally in my vocabulary , particularly when it comes to areas of interest for me.  Consider this statement as my apology for the following post !

Having worked within education and particularly during my role in under three provision and being involved with a charity for the last six years, I have the added advantage over some of my fellow students of having been involved first hand in interagency working. This however,I am not ashamed to admit, has somewhat influenced my current views on GIRFEC and indeed of interagency working as a whole. In my aim to remain professional and give an unbiased reflection I have refrained from using my own experiences and opinions in the main body of the post. I do however give my views at the end of the post! (as if I could resist!)

So …

GIRFEC is a national government programme that aims to improve outcomes for the children and young people of Scotland. At the heart of GIRFEC is the wellbeing of the children as can be seen by the wellbeing wheel and the indicators pertaining to that (Scottish Government, 2015) The framework sets out a cohesive and standard approach to be followed by all agencies and services working with children, thus providing a coordinated approach with emphasis on early intervention. The importance of working collaboratively with families and the children and young people is also core.
The framework was developed in response to a review of the Children’s Hearing System (Scottish Executive, 2004). The consultation package entitled ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ was distributed amongst various agencies that were involved in children’s services. Some of these agencies included: community groups; voluntary organisations; business organisations and local authorities. The pack was also sent to all serving members of the children’s panel and an online version was available for any other interested parties.
As a result of the report the need for a more coordinated approach from all services/agencies involved which focused on the importance of keeping the child at the centre was identified and subsequently the framework was developed.
In 2006 the Scottish Government issued the implementation plan for GIRFEC and proposed a three prong approach of:
• Practice Change
• Legislation
• Removing barriers ( Scottish Government, 2006, p4)
As part of ‘practice change’ the pathfinder projects were launched. One such project was the Highland pathways, much debate arose during this time with opposition to the named person. This has since escalated and a movement, No to named person, has been started (NOTNP,2014)
With regards to legislation, section four of The Children and young Peoples Scotland Act (2014) (Scottish Government, 2014) is wholly concerned with the role of the named person. The Government was slammed in an article by the Telegraph stating that this is seen as “…state snooping…” and as being  “… a big brother world…” (The Telegraph, 2015)
There are pros and cons working within the framework and through consultation with friends and colleagues it has become apparent that the major obstacle in implementing this framework, and implementing it effectively, comes down to time. A health visitor from Fife suggested that whilst the framework in theory is good the problems which arise are:
• getting everyone involved with a particular child to a scheduled meeting
• that each agency or service has their own agenda.
This view was reiterated by a colleague who works as an Educational Home Visitor and also by a head teacher of a school in Fife in her capacity as named person.
The benefits of this framework should serve to better benefit the child and families, with a team around the child, all working to the same goal of making sure the child or young person has everything in place in order to improve their outcomes in a positive way.

 

Not quite 250 words but how can we cover such a contentious issue in so little words? This framework can not be squeezed into so little words because it encompasses so much. The named person , the lead professional, the potential of many agencies and servicies that could be involved with one child and their family? Not to mention the reluctance of some parents to accept the framework.

I personally think that the framework has the potential to be just what is needed to ensure that vulnerable children do not slip through the net but it is also important to understand the reluctance by parents to accept this. Some parents feel threatened and this is reflected in the growing number of support for the ‘Say No to the Named Person ” campaign.

We also , as professionals, have to be aware of the other professionals involved in the life of a child and be sympathetic towards the constraints of working times and the limitations that this can have on working collaboratively.

Perhaps the wording of the documentation is misleading and perhaps this was not explained very well to parents. I however have the advantage of being able to see the benefits from an educational standpoint but as a parent I can empathise with the views of other parents.

The problem in my opinion, like so many other policies or frameworks, is that in theory they appear to be great but the reality is that sometimes in practice it does not work. This has been reflected in the conversations that I have have had with several agencies and service providers and of course from my own experiences.  So I guess the next question would have to be …How can we address this?

There is no easy solution and like everything else, not only within education, the answer is that it will take time.

As a nation we are not blessed with patience and there is a culture of blame. We are too quick to pass judgment and as such the buck is passed. Girfec serves to, not apportion blame but to ensure that everyone is working together in order for there to be no blame to place … all children should be safe.

After all  “Its everyones job to make sure I am alright” (Scottish Executive, No Date)

References
The Telegraph (2015) SNP ministers ridiculed over attempts to explain ‘named person’ policy
Available at : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/SNP/11684732/SNP-ministers-ridiculed-over-attempts-to-explain-named-person-policy.html
(Accessed: 5/2/16)
NOTNP (2014) Available at: http://no2np.org/blog/page/17/?hp
(Accessed: 5/2/2016)

Scottish Executive (No Date) Its everyone’s job to make sure I’m alright : report on the child protection audit and review           Available at : http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/47007/0023992.pdf    (Accessed: 10/2/2016)

Scottish Executive (2004) GETTING IT RIGHT FOR EVERY CHILD: A REPORT ON THE RESPONSES TO THE CONSULTATION ON THE REVIEW OF THE CHILDREN’S HEARINGS SYSTEM
Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2004/10/20021/44105
(Accessed: 2/2/2016)
Scottish Government (2006) Getting it Right for Every Child, Implementation Plan.
Available: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/131460/0031397.pdf
(Accessed: 3/2/2016)
Scottish Government (2014) Children and Young People (Scotland) act
Available: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2014/8/contents/enacted
(Accessed: 5/2/2016)
Scottish Government (2015) Wellbeing
Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/gettingitright/well-being
(Accessed: 2/2/2016)

January 28, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
0 comments

Could a new start age for school be a dream or a potential reality?

As a passionate early years officer and a mother I find this extremely interesting and I am 100% in agreement that the starting age for our children should indeed be later than four or five years old.

I have been interested in the Upstart movement for quite some time now and have been following how the movement is gaining momentum.

My own daughter is due to start school this year and she will be five years and four months old by the time she goes in august. Whenever your child starts school it will always be an emotional time for us as parents but more so for the child themselves. I have caught myself saying ” oh you will be a big girl going to school after summer, wont that be exciting” but the reality of it is …. no it wont. Perhaps the first few days of things being new might be ok but when the realisation that she is expected to sit at a desk and “work” then i do believe there may be tears.

Safia is writing her name and enjoys markmaking, she also has a love of books which all my children have but is that enough to warrant what is being asked of our youngest learners.

The research clearly shows that children benefit greatly from play based activities and the freedom to explore. As I have said in previous blog posts children make no distinction between play and work but as adults we do, and this is wrong. When children are playing they are learning , they are building the connections in their brains and making sense of the world around them. As adults we learn better when something is engaging , interesting and ultimately fun. Why should we assume that children are different?

There is ample research available here that shows that a later start for our children would be beneficial. So why is this not been introduced?

The simplest explanation is in the history of our education system.

If we look at The primary memorandum (1965) this clearly states that the curriculum should be based upon the development of the child and play is heavily stated , particularly for children aged 5. Two years later the Plowden report reiterated the basics of the primary memorandum and yet decades later we are still discussing the benefits of play and the need for it in our children’s lives.

Education IS and WILL remain highly politically motivated.

This can be seen in documents such as developing the young workforce. Even the title of this document to me is ambiguous.

What are we trying to do to our children ? From the moment they start nursery all the way through ‘schooling’ we are shaping and moulding our children in order to boost the countries economy! Yes of course we need the children to have skills in order to develop their career options but does that really need to start ‘developing’ at age 3? I think not …

Just looking at this quote from Developing the young Workforce – Career Education standards (2015) reflects my point that education appears solely for political and economical gains.

“A focus on preparing all young people for employment should form a core element of the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence with appropriate resource dedicated to achieve this. In particular local authorities, SDS and employer representative organisations should work together to develop a more comprehensive standard for careers guidance which would reflect the involvement of employers and their role and input.” (Education Working for All,2014, p. 22)

And of course this Quote from Building the Curriculum 4

“Curriculum for Excellence is designed to transform education in
Scotland, leading to better outcomes for all children and young
people. It does this by providing them with the knowledge, skills
and attributes they need to thrive in a modern society and
economy laying the foundation for the development of skills
throughout an individual’s life. Providing individuals with skills helps
each individual to fulfill their social and intellectual potential and
benefits the wider Scottish economy.” (Building the Curriculum 4,2009, p. 4)

 

On a final note  and perhaps a lighter note, My son, aged 10 came home from school this week with a leaflet developed by the National Parent Forum of Scotland entitled Career Education: a world of possibilities.

cfe skills

Now I am not ashamed to admit that I had a little giggle to myself , particularly due to the last sentence… ” Now I know how useful it is to be able to cut with scissors” I highly doubt that this 3 year old child who is happily cutting away at bits of paper is thinking of becoming a fashion designer.! I think perhaps the real learning going on is the development of fine motor skills rather than the development of a potential career!

And on that note and to reiterate my feelings …

Just let the children play !

 

January 28, 2016
by Sharon Iddir
0 comments

Science fun !

A wee post about crystal growing and the learning that can come from that !

Another area that I am not so comfortable with but have thrown myself wholeheartedly into finding out as much as I can and what better way that with my children ! ( Hey, If it was good enough for Piaget)

Zinedine’s santa list consisted of a science kit called ‘Glow in the dark science’ and a ‘Crystal growing kit’ ,amongst other things, but I was pleased to see that he was asking for potentially quite educational toys. Secretly I was pretty excited too, not just for the educational element I may add, but more so for the fact that we would get to mix potions and do experiments!

We decided last week to commence with the crystals and boy did we have fun…

The kit contained several bags of grainy looking ‘stuff’ and several mixing pots and sticks. We had to sort through the grainy bags to find the first one which happened to be …Monomonium phosphate. Which would, according to the instructions enable us to grow Golden  Citrine…

Cue much excitement.

So as a good role model ( and not wanting to miss the important teaching point of being properly prepared) Zinedine was instructed to don the safety goggles ! We had a wee chat as to why this was important and we got started. The instructions stated that we were to pour the grains into an observation disc and examine the properties of the grains.

We had a look and talked about the shape, colour and size of the grains and hypothesized as to what might happen when we mixed the grains with the water. (maths and science all in one … two birds with one stone here!) Zinedine used words like small, spiky, hard, like sand and Safia (my four year old daughter) chipped in with sparkly and pretty! moving on we were to remove 1/8th of the grains and return them to the bag they came from and then measure 68ml of water into a saucepan ready for heating. (more maths, Fractions and measure. ) After the water had been boiled we were to mix with the remaining grains until dissolved.

science experiments 2

Once dissolved we placed two base rocks in the cooled liquid and sprinkled over the remaining 1/8th of the grains. We recorded the information on the chart including room temperature.

Now it was a waiting game. According to the instructions the crystals would start to form within a few hours.

We continued with a few more in the hope of making Rama Quartz, Aquamarine blue and Pink quartz. Each time examining , hypothesizing, measuring , mixing and observing.

Here are the results thus far, one week later :

 

Golden Citrine

Golden Citrine

crystal red

Pink Quartz

crystal white

Rama Quartz

 

 

crstal blue

Aquamarine Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A far cry from the picture on the box :

crystal box

Although intended as a fun way to spend time with the children with  learning not the objective, we all learned a few things from our little experiments. I personally realised that without maths we could not have successfully completed our experiment as we needed to use our skills of measure and without that knowledge the science element could not have happened. This was the realisation of what a symbiotic relationship meant in terms of math and science! One cannot exist without the other. The children developed scientific vocabulary and drew upon their existing knowledge to come up with ways to describe what the grains were like. Although the crystals did not turn out as expected we chatted about what we thought could have been the problem. some of those ideas were:

  • the water was too hot
  • the room was too hot
  • the room was too cold
  • there was too much water
  • not enough crystals
  • rocks too small

Although we appear to have some crystals forming the children and I were left feeling a little underwhelmed. We now plan, after discussions,  on dissolving the crystals again, using less water and using larger base rocks.

Perhaps round two will see us having the crystals that appear on the box.

Time will tell

 

 

 

 

 

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