Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sponges, boil washes and 50 years of hurt.

I'm sat here at the kitchen table, writing my blog whilst waiting for a boil wash to finish. That in itself is a tad disappointing ...given that I was expecting a 15 minute express cycle!  And yes I've made a mental note to check the settings more carefully in future. One excessively large but wonderful puppy walk in the July sunshine later was so long I half expected to meet Sir Ian Botham or Forrest Gump en route.... and the darn wash is still blasting away.  I've long since resigned myself to it's contents now being a heart sinking grey, which is a considerable shame given it should contain some once lovely pillow cases, a couple of T-shirts and assorted underwear....

It does however neatly sum up how school can feel at the moment....less a sense of impending disappointment. You're not quite sure how things might turn out...Open mornings, Fetes, Year 6 Shows, Leaving Assemblies but you at least know they will take place even if they go on for longer than you'd expected.  Ok...might be time to quietly move on after that less that perfect analogy.

It is however that period in the school year when weekends seem to be the only time when sanity is able to briefly visit my life.  Perhaps the only time I get for selfish breaths, when I can pause in-between the carnage that passes for normality.  As this year builds to its grand finale the pace of events is as relentless as it is varied.  This week was no exception with a demanding but incredibly rewarding week at school and an emotional roller coaster at home.  

My week started with Governor Day on Monday.  An annual event when the school's Governors spend a day in school, visiting the classrooms and working on various tasks and training.  Monday was incredibly useful.  It started with me outlining the various elements of teaching that the school had been working on, Governors then visited the classrooms to witness these improvements for themselves before a really good session on developing our vision.  After lunch we then all worked with a Headteacher from a London school on identifying and developing priorities for the Governing Body over the coming year.

Perhaps the less said about a certain event on Monday evening the better....apart from our utter incompetence and misplaced arrogance as a footballing nation really doesn't shock or surprise me any they say, you can only be hurt when you still care!  In the end I had quite a pleasant chat with a fellow watcher....once an Assistant Head who'd had enough of the thankless demands of teaching and moved into IT a couple of years ago.  I would imagine his decision was a loss to the profession.

Tuesday was Parent's Open Morning and the staff were delighted with the positive reactions from parents who seemed genuinely impressed with what they saw and grateful for the opportunity.  The ongoing positivity of parents is a major motivator for the school leadership and staff team as we continue to work on improving the school and pupil outcomes.  

Clearly a very perceptive young child.. ;-)

I was also presented with this card from our Breakfast & Late Care children to say thank you for their new Table Football game...I think mentioned on a previous Blog and many thanks to Max's dad for his generosity.

Wednesday and Thursday just disappeared into report reading.  It's always lovely to have the opportunity to read and comment of every child's report.  To read about their individual journeys, their hurdles and successors....but my it doesn't half take some time! 

Friday morning, fittingly grey and depressing, brought the desperately sad news that a very close and much loved friend hadn't recovered as had been hoped last weekend.  That deeply sad and heart wrenching moment when you hear the news even though your thoughts and love stay with them as you wish them well. The distraction of pupil progress meetings was sorely welcomed ..not a phrase head teachers often say I can assure you...and before I knew it the school's Summer Fair had arrived. I had again been allocated to go in the stocks.  Great fun although I was slightly concerned by how many of our children seem to have deep seated anger issues over authority figures..!!!

A hour or so in the stocks...

The sun suddenly appeared as the event started and stayed with us throughout the remainder of the afternoon and then on into the evening.  Another fun and successful event thanks to the wonderful work of FOWS and the support of parents and families. The event raised well over £2,000 so a huge thanks to you all for your time and generosity.

Friday evening was lovely and the rest of the weekend a combination of dogs walks and domestic servitude..but at least the sun has shone. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dads, Grizzlies and buses that break down...

That was certainly a week that will stay in the memory wasn't it. 

I'm currently staring at a vase full of beautiful peonies whilst guiltily ruminating my way through a shallow bowl of midget gems.....part of the consignment my daughter gave me as a father's day present last week.  Having reflected on her gesture, it was clearly intended as a compliment to my general level of health and gym trim stomach and as such a licence to graze.....So, just incase you were curious....I will be open and honest....I feel no guilt about this act.  In fact its way north of pleasurable and I have already reached the point where I know I've had too many.

Last Sunday ended with a visit to see my Father, for obvious reasons. I delivered my borderline inappropriate card and my far more mainstream present.   

Dad wearing his splendid new hat...wonder who gave him that???

We then kidnapped mum and disappeared down to the Bay for a couple of hours, catching the low tide.

beach flowers

Monday was perhaps most memorable for the unveiling of our latest addition....

It has been standing patiently, awaiting it's moment for a couple of weeks now and was ready to greet the school as it arrived on Monday morning....

You would be amazed how many visitors when asked what they thought of the bear answered "What bear?" despite having just passed it in our entrance lobby!!  It may eventually form part of a reading forest...well that was the original intention but it will for now stay in the foyer as part of a North American Geography display.

The rest of Monday has faded gently from memory except for dinner.  I've not been that active in the kitchen lately..a combination of work patterns and life but I returned to old ways in some style (he says with his usual modestly..) cooking one of those belting curries that could bring down light aircraft!

It has been a busy week for visits too.  Year 5 have led the way, joining Year 6 for a Seatbelt Challenge on Monday, and followed that up with visits to The Olympic Park in Stratford on Wednesday and then to a Science based 'Steamfest' at Mid-Kent College on amazing week of experiences and we saved on the cleaning!  Year 4 visited Upnor Castle ear 1 had perhaps the most eventful trip...but we'll come onto that!

Thursday was the most seismic day....both at school and elsewhere.  Clearly it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment any further...not least because I'm bound to disagree with around half of you either way! I voted before I left for school and was one of the first through the door...along with my occasionally faithful hound Yinka.

Once at school, I spent the morning doing an audit of Year 3.  If you are able to join out open morning then please do.  Not only will you get the chance to see what learning looks like in a modern Primary school but also the incredible progress the staff have made in transforming the learning environments here at Wainscott.  Here is the door into Year 3 for example...a wonderful creation ...don't you just want to enter and learn...

The children spent the afternoon in a drumming workshop with Jeff Rich, the drummer for Status Quo for several years.  We weren't quite sure what to expect....well beyond stone washed jeans and long blow dried hair.  It would be fair to that whilst Jeff is a ridiculously talented drummer he has lost the capacity to look like Rick Parfitt.....not that I'm judging that a human failure by any means!!

This guy is genuinely called Wayne Scott...he was meant to visit...

A fabulous afternoon's enjoyment, impeccably behaved children who throughly enjoyed the experience and by the end we had every child up performing percussion...a great  event for child, staff and parents alike.

Many of you will have noted a lack of reference to the football....and given the inept showing by our boys perhaps apt as they perhaps don't warrant it ...blogs are meant to be interesting, engaging, enjoyable....which I think is all the justification you need from me.

So onto Friday.....and Year 1.  Well by all accounts they had a wonderful day in London.  Fabulous weather and they enjoyed it immensely.  Sadly the coach they went on turned out to be about as useful as the one in our playground...breaking down on the way home.  The children were excellent and their parents so very understanding and supportive and all ended well....if somewhat later than we'd anticipated!  Once again our staff displayed the professionalism and care that we have for long appreciated...thank you.  

Saturday started with a lovely walk through the fields accompanied by the fearless hound.  I wish I could instil in every one of our children the same sense of confidence when they approach learning as this puppy adopts when facing other dogs.  She invariably charges excitedly towards them before switching on her fast developing feminine guile.  She impressively fakes subservience thereby lowering their guard before socially engulfing them.  Its seems to work for her...last week she had the audacity to playfully whack a Great Dane on the muzzle once he was under her spell and each day she finds more willing prey.  I'm perpetually amazed that no dog has as yet felt the need to gently put her in her place, explain the food chain to her.  Clearly they are far too polite in the village...perhaps one day they'll summon the courage to temper her sanguine demeanour...but I hope not.

Saturday afternoon I went to London to meet a friend for a few hours.  We met in Soho and so managed to catch part of the Gay Pride Parade ..a spectacular and energetic event that charms London annually and speaks volumes for her personality.  

But the highlight of the weekend was undoubtably coming home to hear wonderful news from someone I'd been very worried about....amazing how just a few words can transform your world.....sunshine on a rainy day indeed. 

Sunday was about dog walks, domestic chores, school work, dog walks, domestic chores, school work.....Groundhog Sunday indeed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Chakra realignment....logs, dogs and midget gems....

Funny how people can enter your life and become important just as quickly as others once so important depart, leaving behind memories and a gap that others eventually fill. 

School's are much the same.  Children and their families can make such an impact on a school during their time with you and then suddenly they've gone, moved on to the next chapter in their journey and no longer casting the shadow they once did.

Even in my brief time here at Wainscott I have seen this social phenomena happen.  Last year's Year 6 cohort had their time, their moment in the spotlight, their rites of passage before departing stage left last July....and now beyond the occasional appearance in the playtime to collect a sibling have become a memory, an anecdote occasionally told, an achievement looked back or a character fondly missed.  

That time is fast approaching again and its an emotional roller coaster (trying saying that phrase in a Geordie accent!!) for many concerned, especially the children and their families.  The Year 6 Show (Hairspray) slowly grows in profile, like a car alarm on a nearby street. Initially just a background noise that then grows in your consciousness until eventually it is all you can hear... dominating your thoughts and deeds.  

Our current cohort have been an amazing group of children.  A wonderful blend of characters, personalities, rich in charm, talent and challenge.....and perhaps most wonderfully for me, the funniest group of children I've met...or certainly on a par with a particular class I taught as a younger man in Brixton many years ago.  One of those groups you really wish had graced your life for longer.

So what of my week then I hear you ask.........

Well last weekend ended damply for us all.....and prophetically given the torrents that brought Friday to a close.  

Sunday...intended as a day of Jubilee celebrations in my village... was rather an anti-climatic wash out and summed up how parts of the nation were feeling no doubt after a late equaliser by Russia the night before.

We at least showed our faces on the Village field before beating a hasty retreat to nearby Sandwich, where their French Weekend was still in full flow.  

We had tea and amazing cakes in a recently opened Bakery/Cafe opposite the church....  heartily recommended and the family that run it are delightful.  So charming and chatty.

Monday was Monday...with a Governor's meeting in the evening to boot.  

Tuesday featured pigs and councillors..... It started with me delivering the display pigs that I had promised to Year 1 if the teachers took the Three Little Pigs as their topic for last term......any excuse to get a couple of pigs in school I hear you sigh.

We think the wolf might have got one sadly....

I then met a couple of very supportive local Councillors.  They are keen for the school to run a history project, not dissimilar to our WW1 event which so impressed them last year, to mark the 350 year anniversary of a Dutch naval invasion of Medway.  It's really quite an interesting tale, one the children should enjoy investigating and I'm sure we can have a go to some degree.

Wednesday heralded one of those glorious days that very aptly sums up why my job is so enjoyable...the completely unpredictable variety.

It started with me helping a parent, Chris Hatch unload a van full of logs for our wildlife area. We have used them to create an outdoor seating area in one of the clearings.  It meant I could wear shorts to work for once....before having one of my 3 showers that day!

One man and his logs....

And no I haven't got a tan....I was just a tad jiggered at the time

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friends and days that give you perspective......

So another working week disappears into memory and day break brings the relative calm of family time.  Yinka is in her basket....still complaining that we left her new acquaintances splashing merrily in the brook and the little one still out riding.  The pile of school reports I brought home continues to cough intermittently in my direction...clearly impatient for my attention.  They can cough all they like from across the kitchen as the gentle call of the blog has won again.  Surely that's why some greater being created Social distract mere mortals like me from the efficiencies others enjoy....

It was Geography Week so the children spent it investigating countries from around the globe...Infants having a street party and meeting 'The Queen'...well Mrs Callaway and a splendid mask!...

another class skyping Mrs Froudist's mum in Australia for a recipe they then prepared.  The children seem to have really enjoyed themselves and our amazing staff again surpassed themselves with their creativity, energy and commitment.

Friday saw our choir welcoming Hilltop children, who joined them for a rehearsal for their upcoming concert. It was a lovely antidote to a frustrating day.  It started with me not spotting the mobile camera van on a bridge whilst driving less than serenely into work.  A frustrating morning was improved by spending time with the children and popping into Miss May's leaving assembly to mark her break for maternity leave.  So lovely to see someone so happy, positive and excited about her future and radiating happiness....if only everyone who touched our lives could have such attributes.  

On a personal level it's been fairly quiet week but ended with two lovely evenings..both made by a visit to the sea.

Yesterday after school I went to the gym for my now daily attempt to resist father time.  It was rudely interrupted by the news that my car had rolled down a hill and into a metal post.  Sadly the post won.

I am however a firm believer in Karma and true to form the Ying Yang of life worked it's magic and my faith in the beauty of humanity was again restored by two 14 year olds and puppy of 14 weeks. I'd promised the girls we would take Yinka to the Bay and have a bbq on the beach.

We lit the bbq and then spent a happy half hour playing with Yinka on the low tide.  

It was one of those wonderful evenings that should fill every childhood.  Messing about on the beach with an utterly charming puppy......giggles and wet wellies   

We then sat on the shingle and had a simple but divine beach bbq of sausages, shish kebab on sticks, fizzy drinks and profiteroles rolls for dessert....well that was what we managed to grab from the supermarket on our way....but it felt pretty divine give or take some toasted marshmallows...

Right ......enough.....time for a cheeky farmers market for bread, flowers and other supplies...enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Floods, cereal and tests...

Another eventful week here at Planet Wainscott.  This is very much the business part of the school year with staff in several year groups anxiously awaiting the results of children's National tests and external moderation of their achievements. 

Our Early Years staff had their judgements moderated yesterday and we were all delighted that they were commended for their accuracy and evidence.  We have the Year One phonics screening taking place next week and on the 23rd, Year Two SATs moderation and finally, Year Six SATs moderation on the 27th.  Consequently we have lots of staff making their final checks and counting down the days, so to speak. 

Being the utterly charming human being that I am, I have only asked for their termly newsletters and half the pupils draft reports.....and not in anyway related to the imminent start of any sporting event ....mmmm.

This week also saw the launch of our new Extended School facility......and before you all rapidly survey the school site looking for mini-Shard or any such glamorous structure, we have sited our Breakfast and Late Care in the classroom adjacent to the school dining hall! A huge thank you to our amazing staff Extended School staff who have made the first week such a success. 

We will continue to develop this feature, with resources and activities, based on the children's wishes and with the aim of making it a place where the children can relax and socialise after school, very much as if they were round a friend's house. .  If parents have any unwanted games or working equipment that they could donate then please get in touch.

But enough of need to hear tall tales of floods and puppy walks and see pictures of a certain cute canine.....

Perhaps the most fantastic event of the week was the flooding in my village caused by the heavy downpour and flash flooding on Tuesday afternoon.

Chloe returned to find the kitchen under water and Yinka cowering above the rising tide by the fridge. 

The water had literally come under the door.  I spent the next hour cleaning up before the rain came again.  Thankfully a friend had in the meantime dropped off sandbags which, in combination with a hour of frantic scooping out of rain water, prevented any further flooding or damage. 

A day with the heating left on then returned our world to normal...although we have left the sand bags in situ for now.

Last night I returned, after again sampling the rigours and delights of the gym, to find my daughter in the garden presenting a passable impression of a child revising.  It would undoubtedly have been a more passable impression had it not been for the presence of her bestie Lucy and the obligatory youtube feed on her phone.  However you have to trust your children so I left with a gentle smirk and our indigenous alligator to explore the fields and have our daily duel of the lead. 

We met some splendid cows....

and a quintessential English meadow, in resplendent bloom...

On my return the girls....well my daughter and her pal Lucy, who we seem to have kindly adopted...wanted to have Fish & Chips by the sea instead of wait for me to cook.

We arrived at Deal around dusk and ate our dinner on a bench staring out to sea whilst having one of those delightfully giggly chats that should regularly invade your day......

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hi Ho..Hi Ho....

As the term break draws to it's inevitable close and school beckons, a new means of calibrating my week looms ever closer.  Rather than my staple diet of how many late meetings, gym visits, school lunches sampled and holiday requests declined (sorry) it is that dreaded time of year for head many reports have I read, edited and signed! Whilst I have complete sympathy for my colleagues who spent vast chunks of their break generating them, I now have nearly 350 to read, check, suggest amendments and sign.....and whilst my aim isn't to whip up a tsunami of empathetic pity, please just bear this in mind if I appear somewhat mentally dishevelled over the coming fortnight!

I have been into school twice this week and both times met colleagues busily preparing their environments and learning for next time.  The school is blessed with some very dedicated staff and whilst I do encourage staff to take their breaks I also appreciate their commitment to the cause and their efforts to keep moving the school forward.  

Perhaps the highlight was Friday, witnessing the enthusiasm of our Extended School staff in preparing the facility ready for Monday.  We are pretty much where we wanted to be, save for a delay by our contractors in fitting the electronic rear gate.  This will now happen next week, so for now all children will need to be dropped off in the mornings at our main reception and collected from their. We have now sourced most of the furniture and equipment we need.  We managed to negotiate some great deals...A huge thank you to Choices who gave us a very generous discount for two corner sofas at £300 each and Mrs Lowery, our Finance Manager then negotiated a further discount with PC world for a fridge freezer, microwave and toaster...meaning more to spend on the funs things for the children.  

Mrs Lowery...incidently still curious as to how she lost the Grattons contract!

The rest of the equipment we will get once we have asked the children what they would like (in terms of toys, games, equipment etc) and further furniture etc once we have a clearer idea of long-term numbers and the way the set up will work.  So yes, all ready for Monday's launch.

Next term is going to be very exciting and probably quite emotional for those children and parents saying goodbye to the Wainscott, some after many years connected with the school.  

On a personal level I have had a fairly quiet week.  As mentioned, the occasional visit to school to fight the bush fire otherwise known as workload and paperwork.  The rest has been spent mainly with Chloe and Yinka.  Yesterday saw a gentle visit to London for the afternoon, taking in the South Bank, Borough Market & Covent Garden.  This morning I had a delightful walk throughout the fields with the miniature alligator.  It began with our growingly familiar duel over her lead.  Firstly in actually getting it on her and then in getting her to walk with it on.  We must present quite an amusing sight to striding purposefully along.....a pause.....and then a very stubborn ball of black fluff being dragged along against her will.  She's tiny still but very much the wilful terrier/spaniel.  

We start puppy training classes in a couple of weeks but I think I need to catch up with my friend Jane, who used to train police dogs, for a spot of advice.  

Once in the fields Yinka walks to heal and follows me closely like a faithful shadow.  

We met a lovely couple out walking their lab and greyhound puppy, saw the most beautiful field of wild flowers 

where upon Yinka managed to get stung by a bee.  Thankfully she quickly recovered and is now fast asleep on her back in her basket.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It must be a Bank's raining

Sadly predictable weather here in Kent.....this time last year I was soaking up sunshine and smiles on idyllic Greek it's rain, cold and wind.  But cold fronts don't have to last forever, so perhaps the sun will shine again?

With the exception of the weather I had quite a busy, fun weekend.  After a understandably gentle beginning on Saturday, I took the rapidly growing Yinka for her morning ablutions and then cooked a mildly impressive full English for the two 14 year old sloths who on my return had emerged from hibernation.  Whilst Yinka hasn't quite grasped the concept of a lead and just sits there quizzically staring back a me ..almost indignant that I want her to walk through the village.... once in the fields she gambols around in curious delight at her new world.  We are beginning to pass familiar faces and rather like the regular train commuter are on grunting terms with a couple of spaniels and a shitzu...or is that their owners?

We then visited Deal...which I know we do quite often but it's a charming place.  A 'de rigour' market that is full of interesting stalls and fresh flowers, a bakery that sells the most delicious range of savouries, our favourite pet shop (and now we have a reason to go in!!)...and always the front, the pier and a coffee/foodie cafe that hits the spot...provided we have the time.  Which we didn't!

Sunday morning followed the now gentle but predictable weekend format of the guy who said we couldn't manage a dog proving that he can whilst the one who said she would...not! 

In the afternoon l was charmed into visiting Canterbury by my teenage daughter.  Cue the obligatory visit to Top Shop et al but I survived relatively unscathed and they do have free wifi.  In the evening we went to a friend's 40th Birthday Party in one of the local pubs. Chloe caught up with a few of her friends and I realised that I really need to get out more often into the village and not let work consume me when I get home.  

Monday lunchtime a long time friend Spiros came down from London for an afternoon of golf and an evening catching up,  Actually given the windy weather and the almost embarrassingly heavy defeat I inflicted on him it was more like manslaughter but he's a long time buddy and we had a fun evening catching up over a glass or two of lemonade.  Infact the highlight was sending him risqué texts that his car read out loud to us....difficult to do it justice here but it had us crying with laughter on our way back from the golf.  

And today......well spent working, entertaining Yinka and watching the rain...but then it is half-term so what do you expect.

Here's hoping that the sun shines again.......