Daily Archives: May 5, 2017

Moulsford’s Matron

Image taken from Google

I honestly have to say, when I was at school one of the places I frequented the most at school was the sick bay what with whooping cough, a bad back and then the general clumsyness of falling over. So when I came to Moulsford and found that they have their own matron, I knew I had to go and speak to her about her job. A matrons average working day at Moulsford is between 9.30 and 5.30, so 8 hours. She has her own office which also doubles up as a sick bay and spends all of her time in there. This is unless it is rugby season and we can all imagine how difficult that must be for a matron with loads of boys crashing into each other and vilontly tackling other players. As everyday is different there are no set number of boys she may see, but an average of around 14 was what she was happy to say. I think thats quite a lot for a school of only 350 pupils. Furthermore, the range of things she may see in a day are massive, from sore throats to bumped heads to cuts that need stiches. Moreover, should any child need further medical attention like stiches, it is school policy for the boys to either have their parents come to collect them or alternatively go to the local A+E walk in centre in Wallingford.

Image taken from Google – just some of the things school matrons/nurses have to do day to day

On the whole the chat was really positive and the matron expressed her love for the job and the school. She said that the only thing that makes her job particularly difficult is when boys do not follow the rules and then get hurt in the process. To be honest, there aren’t even that many rules at Moulsford and what rules there are, are simple ones to follow, but “boys will be boys” as they say. The majority of injuries will happen at break and lunch when boys are messing around so the matron will sit in her office during break and lunch just incase she is needed so that everyone knows where she will be in a crisis. I felt that although it is great to have someone there at all times and you know where they are going to be, it was a shame as the majority of other staff members take their break and lunch at the same time in the staff room, so therefore she is unable to interact as much with other members of staff.

Image taken from Google – definitely my motto when I was at school after I had whooping cough!

To my surprise, when I asked how the matrons job differed to that of a matron in a state school, her reply was that most state schools do not have school nurses or matrons. Even my school, which was in the back of beyond, used to have a school nurse, but apparently down here in England, state schools to not deem it nesesary to have a school nurse or matron on site at all times. It is most likely another expense that governements are trying to iradicate in order to save money in these trying times. However, for me, this is a total benefit to private school, especially if you have a child who is ill a lot or with a weak immune system like I had after my bought of whooping cough. I literally picked up everything going in the 18 months after my whooping cough and was often sent home with bugs or colds or coughs, but without the school nurse there to help my mum out with what to do, my mum would have most likely taken me for emergency appointments at the doctors etc. So I can absoloutely see the huge benefits to having matrons or school nurses becuase they can cut down work for teachers and doctors and make everyones life a lot easier.

My last question for the matron was what advice would you give to a trainee teacher like me. She expressed that being first aid trained was helpful for teachers so that they can spot when children are not feeling very well at all or just pretending for a bit of time of their least favourite subjects. Taking childrens temperature can also be really helpful to see if what they are saying matches up with how they might be feeling and for the children who are younger and less able to explain how they are actually feeling, this can give a better indication that they feel unwell. Moreover, we joked that having a spare bucket on hand was always helpful, especially on school trips, but even though we said this as a joke, I think I will always heed her words and make a bucket my new classroom staple. Additionally, the matron also had some words of advice that were not medical. Working as a team, espeically in this environment is vital and your job can be made so so much easier when you get along with everyone. Naturally, not all of us will always get on with everyone, but trying to be a team player and working together for the sake of the children is vital. I am really pleased I was able to speak to the matron about her job and the amount of work she has to do in a day. It has given me a new found respect for school nurses and matrons accross the country.

Image taken from Google – I have a new found respect for what school nurses/matrons have to do!

Boarding Life at Moulsford

Image taken from Google – what is your first impression of parents who choose boarding schools for their children?

Here at Moulsford, boarding is offered for boys Year 5 and up, Monday to Friday, 4 nights a week. It is flexible and boys can choose to stay for 1, 2, 3 or 4 nights in a row if they choose. There is also the opportunity for some boys to actually stay until 8pm if they’re parents work late as “day boarders” and leave when the other boys go to bed. When I was the boys age now, I was reading the st Claire’s, Malory Towers and Naughtiest Girl in the School books by Enid Blyton and daydreaming about going to a boarding school myself. For a time I was even considering giving up the idea teaching all together when I was told I would never get the grades required, so considered becoming a house mother. However, that dream was shattered when I was (falsely) told I needed a nursing degree of some sort, so gave up the idea and fought even harder to get the right grades needed to become a teacher. This week, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with the boys to talk to them about their experience boarding and also discuss the work needed to be put into making the boarders life as comfortable as possible by the house parents.

Many people that I know, have the opinion that boarding schools are for children who’s parents are too busy to look after them or for children with disciplinary concerns. Now I am here and experiencing the boarding side to private schooling, I see that it simply isn’t the case. I did ask the boys why they were here and received many replies such as “because I enjoy it”, “because its great practice before I go to a full boarding private school” and “because we can use the schools facilities”. The schools facilities are incredible and the boys could truly want for little more each night. The majority of the boys parents live little more than 15 minutes away from the school as well, so if they needed anything or felt home sick they are only a phone call away which is so handy for the boys, the families and the school. Moreover, the boarding¬†facilities not only include activities areas, kitchen spaces, comfortable living areas but also a sick bay run by the matron each night between 5-10pm and after that the boarding parents, who also live in a flat on site. This is rarely used according to the boarding parents, but they are glad they have somewhere that the boys can go should they feel unwell or unable to sleep.

The routine is structured enough that the boys always have free time, dinner, extra prep, free time and then hot chocolate and reading before bed. However, their free time is their free time and the boys change into their home clothes and choose to do whatever they want. The boarding parents put on daily activities for the boys in both sets of free time, however there is not obligation to participate, although encouraged. In the run up to exams and if the boys have a test the next day, like any pupil from a state school, the boys will sometimes choose to revise for that subject rather that to spend time doing activities. There are two communal areas with sofas, TV’s, kitchen area and games tables as well as their own rooms and the school grounds which they can use. The boarding parents like to take the boys down to the sports hall to run around and play active games with the schools equipment and often even join in with their games. No other state schools that I know of run after school sessions where the children can literally do as they please, it is usually a structured activities program, so I quite liked seeing what the boys got up to in their free time after school.

Tuesday nights evening activity was actually run by me. I took irn bru and shortbread for the boys and I did a short talk on Scotland and taught them some words in Gaelic. I wasn’t expecting much as it was only a very short 15 minute talk with some questions at the end so I was really surprised when the boys loved my talk and even asked me to go back. I was quite delighted to say the least that I had successfully run an activity for 35 boys where they all had taken part and enjoyed it. Not in a million years did I think I would have even 10 boys show up to my talk, let alone all of them! I truly thought there would be a certain knack to getting them engaged in participating but after speaking to the boarding master, he said himself that the boys usually choose to go to the boarding house and take part in any activity going, so getting them engaged isn’t as tough as I’d originally thought. This is definitely a difference to what I am used to in state schools. Regularly, there is a battle between teachers and pupils for engagement in activities – even the fun ones – so I would definitely be interested to see what kind of reaction my talk would get in a state school.

Before I left the boarders I was just able to spend some free time down in the games hall with them playing football, wall climbing, playing tennis and talking to them all about boarding life. The boys bed times are staggered by year group and as they each go off they get their hot chocolate as they get ready for bed. Once ready, the boarding prefects go and listen to the younger boarders read, and are often rewarded with a stash of sweeties hidden away in the boarding masters cupboard (I absolutely didn’t have any *cough cough*). So once all the boys were away to bed, that was my evening with the boarders over. Once I would be leaving, the boarding parents would do their usual rounds of checking bedrooms for chatterboxes and any suspicious behaviour before going into their flat and most likely doing marking or lesson prepping themselves for the next day. I asked the boarding parents why they chose to become boarding parents and they said because they loved the school, the pastoral side to education and because it is great stepping stone to go on to greater things in education. They didn’t mention their degrees and especially didn’t mention they had a nursing degree. Further research since then has confirmed that in fact no boarding school dictates that a nursing degree is essential to being given a job as a house parent and only matrons require this on certain applications.

I honestly had never thought about becoming a house parent or working with boarding houses since the time I thought maybe it could be a career opportunity when I was around 10. However, I can honestly, from the bottom of my heart say that Moulsford has changed my mind about boarding and I might even be as bold as to say that becoming a boarding parent is something that I am really interested in as a career move. They are so close knit here at Mouslford (staff and boys) and I honestly get a strong family vibe from them, as though they are all here for a common reason and just want to enjoy what time they have at the school. It takes something massive and life changing to change my mind about becoming a teacher and I think the boarding staff at Moulsford would be proud to know they have had that lasting impact on me. I am so so looking forward to visiting them again before my time here at Moulsford will be up.

Image of the boarding school itself

 

Maintaining Moulsford

I want to learn about schools from all aspects from the kitchen to the classroom

We all know the above statement is one of my three goals whilst here on placement and today I had the delight of meeting one of the groundsmen and taking 5 minutes out of his day to ask him some questions about his job. He is extremely busy working from 7-4, starting his days off with bus duty and thereafter ensuring that all the grounds are safe for the children and staff. Moulsford is situated in the most gorgeous location with the school backing onto the thames which they can utilise and having acres of land for the boys to play sports on. The groundsmen himself has 4 other groundsmen that he works with but with the amount of ground they have to cover is massive with anything that the school owns being part of what they have to look after. Furthermore, this means that not only do they have the school and sports fields to look after, but also staff accommodation and more recently the Moulsford recreation ground.

The groundsmen I spoke to this afternoon spoke really highly and positively of the staff, saying his job was made much easier when the staff were appreciative of the amount of work the need to do in a day. When I asked if the children were as supportive of their job role throughout a school he responded with the common answer that most members of staff do when I ask this question – that the children are grateful but don’t know how lucky they are. I can second this. My first week here especially, but still 5 weeks into placement I am in awe of the beauty of the grounds and the amount that there are for the boys and staff to utilise. They are so lucky compared to what I had growing up, but when you say this to them, they don’t really seem to take you seriously. Moreover, they are just children and this could be down to the simple fact that they have never known anything else and never attended any other schools, so I am confident that one day they will look back and be appreciative of what they had.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that here in England, in state schools groundsmen are really unheard of. Most schools in England have a caretaker or janitor but when it comes to grass cutting etc., they have people from their local council come in and take care of all that for them. Here at Moulsford, with 5 groundsmen, nearly everything is done by them and there is little else done by other people coming into the school. Furthermore, from the point of view of safeguarding, this is far easier than having people you don’t know coming in and out of the school all the time to do minor jobs. Naturally, with all job roles within Moulsford, communication is absolutely vital and is something that makes the groundsmens job a lot easier when done and a lot more difficult when not. When they know something, most of the time they can get on it right away and fix the problem, but as with everything, when you don’t actually have anyone communicate with you, everything becomes a lot more complicated.

I have come to Moulsford at the best time and as I am sat writing this am overlooking the grounds in glorious sunshine. Summer is the easiest time of year for the groundsmen to work in as their job relies on good weather to get outside as much as they can. As well as this, the groundsmen from what I have seen go around on transport which I can only describe as being similar to quadbikes. Naturally, when they are doing bus duty in the mornings they take the school minibuses and the school matron also expressed how incredibly helpful the groundsmen are if children need to be taken to hospital or home when ill. Overall, the groundsmen other that this, do not have a lot of contact with the children at the school directly, but with a school so small favours are always being done and this particular groundsmen is a keen photographer. Moreover, you can see that although in their job they do not directly come into contact with the pupils, they work in a school and they can never get away from that.

To end this post, the piece of advice I was given by the groundsmen as a trainee teacher was too not expect much spare time when I qualify and to try to look after the grounds as much as possible when I am a teacher myself to make their job a little easier. Although, I think I would always do it, this just means making sure that the children are constantly respectful of the grounds and appreciative to members of staff for what they do. I don’t expect anyone to fully appreciate from these pictures how much effort goes into keeping Moulsford the incredibly beautiful school that it is. I understand that with the lack of private schools in Scotland, the likelihood of me ever working in the private sector for education is slim, even though it is absolutely a dream of mine now, but if I was to be lucky enough to work in this environment again, I will certainly respect the work that the groundsmen put into these schools. I will definitely be looking at these gorgeous grounds in a whole new light after speaking to the groundsmen here at Moulsford.

** I have kindly been given permission to use these photos by Moulsford staff in this post.