Sunday, June 4, 2017

Weighing the pigs....

Many years ago when I worked as a Deputy in Stockwell, London, one of my colleagues was an utterly charming year 2 teacher called Adrian.  Despite being intelligent, witty, thoughtful and possessing a wonderfully cheerful disposition, all essential attributes for a teacher, I always found myself thinking Adrian seemed slightly out of place in that setting.  Looking back I was wrong......Adrian is exactly the type of mildly eccentric character that makes working in an inner city primary school so enjoyable.  I had many a cheery conversation with him as we passed in the corridor leading to the photocopier room.... often initiated by me asking what his day had in store and he'd reply...."weighing the pigs Hugh, weighing the pigs" as he rushed passed carefully balancing a pile of photocopied SATs papers!  He of course was not describing his Year Two children as pigs but passing judgement on the process he found himself embroiled in every year. Namely giving 6/7 year olds practice SATs papers to see what progress they had made.

Thankfully the approach of most schools has moved on since the turn of the century (you have no idea how wonderful it feels to be able to use that phrase in my own writing) although we do find ourselves deep into testing season again. Our Year Six children took their Key Stage Two SATs earlier last term and Year Two's assessment window has also now finished.  It will soon be time for the Year One phonics screening and EYFS end of stage assessments.  Whether or not you agree with the current levels of assessment primary aged children experience we can all agree that the better our children perform in such assessments, the better our school will be judged to be performing.  For that reason, this time of year is vital to the future success of the school and my mind often recalls the charismatic Adrian, frantically preparing himself for another day of testing.  Now is the time for nervous waiting.  The results will soon come back.  I know how hard staff have worked with the children to ensure that they are able to do themselves honest justice and so we count down the days until all is revealed.  The term ended with a fun staff gathering for prosecco and pizza.....a small gesture of gratitude for how incredibly hard they have again worked this term.


I would love to be able to say that my colleagues at the coal face have spent the last week relaxing in the glorious early summer sunshine but in truth I know this will not be the case for so many of them.  May Bank is perhaps the only holiday that most dedicated teachers don't actually look forward to.  It is a week spent either writing school reports, or worrying about writing them or feeling guilty for putting of writing them whilst you sound time with your loved ones.  I on the other hand have managed to have a fairly full week with my family and friends. 

Friday night I popped up to London to take a friend round the Tate Britain to see the Hockney exhibition before it closes.  I have seen it a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.....but got more out of it the second time.  It's often the way as things can sink in and you seem to have the time too notice and appreciate things more.

Saturday brought the nervousness that is Cup Final day to our house.  Gone our those childhood days of getting up early to go round to your mates house to then watch every single TV minute until the cup was lifted... including the road to Wembley, Cup Final it's a Knockout and even breakfast with the wives.  However, much to my delight and utter astonishment my boys rose like salmon to the occasion and shattered the double dreams of Chelsea....savoured in the local with the girls of course!

 On the first Sunday of the holiday I spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the sunshine and dappled shade of Knole Park in Sevenoaks.  I first discovered this charming setting about three years ago and have gone several times.  The house itself would warrant the journey alone, but the true magic of the place is in it's setting, an extensive Deer Park and the fact that it is located just yards from a busy town centre.  It was one of those early summer days of hot sunshine punctuated by the occasional passing cloud that has typified this half-term.

On Monday I went to Welling to visit my oldest brother and our wider family.  It was a day for true celebration as four weeks ago he was on a life support machine and not expected to pull through following a heart attack and suspected brain damage.  On the day my twin and I should have been celebrating our birthdays we were in Kings College Hospital paying what we suspected were our last respects to our big brother.  His recovery has been remarkable and has had a rejuvenating effect on our family.  So yes, a splendid day.  So many happy faces, hugs and genuine affection mixed with visible relief.  He faces a long period of recovery and an uncertain future level of self-determination but at least he is on that journey. 

Tuesday started with a pop into school to catch up on finances with Mel our School Business Manager and then home for dog walks and a visit to the Bay.  We had planned a bbq but forgot the metal tray thingy with the burnt things in had to settle for a stroll along the tide and a fish & chips supper.

Wednesday I managed to dodge the showers and catch up with an old friend for a round of golf.  Lovely company and the old swing didn't let me down too badly.  Actually I was rather pleased with my performance in a typical non-competitive, non-bragging male way :)

Thursday we visited Hever Castle on another hot day.  We have made a conscious decision this holiday to try to take Yinka with us everywhere....except for on the golf course......naturellement.  She was really well behaved and definitely added to the ambiance in that chewing, lead pulling, face licking way that dogs do!  

Friday was again busy....returning to Welling to do some gardening for my brother on his allotment in the sun.  It ended with a very giggly BBQ on the Bay at dusk with Chloe, her bestie and our occasionally faithful hound.....great fun. 

Saturday started with the usual run throughout the fields with the hairy alligator....some lovely wild flowers on view.....

I then spent the day with a friend who showed me an amazing field of if plucked from Provence...and we had a lovely afternoon and evening chatting and laughing. 

I drove home to the horrors of London Bridge on the radio and woke this morning to the details.  It's a desperately sad time for society but London, just like Manchester and other great european cities before it, has risen to the challenge, dusted itself down, vowed to not be bowed and carried on being the wonderful, exciting, diverse and tolerant place we all love.  I couldn't imagine letting such acts change my life for one moment.  The last few weeks have only reaffirmed my resolve to enjoy life, celebrate life and as the saying goes......learn to dance in the rain.  

Today itself has been a return to dog walks and domestic duties....I hope you have all enjoyed your week as much as I have.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A sad goodbye....

I've felt like the habitual chancer so far this winter; displaying the deftness of a pickpocket at a scuba club in having avoided a cold of any description.  I've watched colleague after colleague succumb to her seasonal charm and smiled as she failed to work her inevitable magic....and then I fell.  I first noticed something awry at the O2 on Wednesday...confused by my inability to work out why I had a headache, I put it down to the long day.  As is the way with all teacher ailments she held back her venom until Friday afternoon and then hit me with the all subtlety of a wheel clamp.  

Consequently it's been a slow weekend.  Beyond domestic duties and a couple of freezing but fun dog walks yesterday, I've stayed close to the fire, the kettle and paracetamol.  It's allowed me time to reflect on some memorable events...some inspiring and some truly sad. 

Towards the end of last week a surge of excitement and anticipation swept through the school as many of us secretly wished for a heavy snowfall and the chance to play in a magical white kingdom.  The snow came but it wasn't heavy and so instead we endured a few of cold days of anticlimax.  I haven't been able to build a proper snowman for the last three/four winters.....and my daughter even brought over her snow boots and clothing hoping to get snowed in. 

A wintery evening didn't exactly 'train on' to use horse racing parlance....

Well it's certainly been cold enough these last few days if there is any moisture in the atmosphere....but somehow I fear the snow doesn't plan to visit.

This week started with Year 5 visiting the Natural History Museum in London as part of their dinosaurs topic.  It's a wonderful venue for a school trip, bursting with exciting displays and a day that will stay in a child's school memory bang for eternity.  How could you not help but be moved by this of my favourite London views!

We also had our beehive arrive.  The hive has a camera fitted inside so that we can all watch the bees as they go about their busy lives, making honey and pollinating plants.  The bees themselves will arrive in a few weeks once Wainscott has warmed up.  We will also have the bird box camera on again, which too has a live camera link into the school.  

School itself was a mixture of meetings and our latest cycle of learning audits.  This is when the school's leadership team visit the different teachers to see how well the teaching and learning is developing.  

Last week we visited a couple of Year 3 and Year 1 classes.

And the highlight.....well that was the Young Voices Concert at the O2 on Wednesday.  The choir have worked so hard with Miss Dillon to prepare for the event and their efforts paid off.  They all experienced something very special....

How many of us can say we have sung at the 02, in a choir that was 7,500 strong? 

Well they all can!  They sang every song with gusto, showed incredible stamina over such a long and demanding day/evening, behaved wonderfully and still showed up for school on Thursday.  

Undoubtably the saddest moment was our assembly on Friday.   As many of you may have read in this week's newsletter, the school has lost a well loved friend with the passing of Mr Tony Cox, one of our volunteer readers.  Mr Tony, as many of the children affectionately called him, came in every week to hear children read.  An utterly delightful, polite and caring man.  He epitomised the phrase 'manners maketh man' and he quickly became part of the Wainscott family.  Always friendly, always there for the children; despite his worsening condition that meant he struggled to even walk into school from the car park.  We intend for representatives from the school to attend his funeral and we will also be creating a lasting memorial to Tony in the school and will cherish his memory. Our thoughts, blessings and love go to his family at this sad time.  God bless you Tony and thank you for gracing our lives with your kindness and charm.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My family Christmas...

So a brief resume of my own festive experience then....

Before Christmas I went up to Nottinghamshire, where my twin brother lives to catch up with him and his family.  

We visited Newark where I saw a great idea in a church.... charity Christmas trees....perhaps something for us to consider next year?

We had great fun over the weekend but chose to leave Yinka with a delightfully naive colleague and her family.  I can only imagine the carnage she doubt adding to their woe as one child went down with the sickness bug that seemed to sweep through certain classes.  I suspect that they won't offer again.

The village where we live, has a lovely tradition at Christmas of every house putting a tree up outside, on their street facing wall.  It creates a lovely festive atmosphere and sight as you walk or drive through it.

I had a wonderfully relaxing, family Christmas.   

Early morning runs with Yinka through the fields, 

family filled days, 

The daily struggle to find things to eat....

and evening walks through the orchards.  

We spent Christmas day round at my parents 

Yinka even let wore a Christmas jumper....

and we all went for the obligatory Boxing day walk on the Bay. 

After Christmas we popped up to London so Chloe could catch the sales and I could visit an art exhibition at the Royal Academy.  We even had time for lunch with some dinosaurs in Piccadilly. 

We visited Carnaby Street....Chloe loved the place and I told her stories of my frequent visits there as teenager.

And for New Year's Eve we visited old friends in London and had an enjoyable evening of chatting, great hospitality and karaoke!

So that was December was it.....

Ok, so I guess I have a little bit of blogging to catch bear with me as I whizz through Christmas at Wainscott.

Well we should start with one of the sweetest moments....this is what one of our Reception children thinks I look like....I wish.  

Elsewhere in my life, Yinka, who somehow managed to get to 8 months before her first visit to her dog stylist.  I'm not convinced that her previous look wasn't cuter, but I will let you decide.....



My daughter Chloe had a lovely run up to Christmas, visiting EuroDisney with a bestie....and yes I did get the obligatory fridge magnet!

The weeks leading up to Christmas are always, and should always, be a magical time in a primary school....and I hope it felt so for everyone here at Wainscott.  The staff put in an incredible effort to make sure that the children enjoyed their festive experience and were very touched by the incredibly generous gifts of cards and presents that so many of you gave.  We really don't expect it, which makes your thoughtfulness so very touching....thank you.

So what of Christmas then I hear you ask?  

 Infant Nativities....

Well it was every bit as fab as we'd hoped.  The children were their adorable selves throughout every Nativity, Carol Concert, Church Service et al.  They rose to the occasions, as they always do....singing their hearts out and remembering every line.  Those bath times spent listening to your loved ones practising, giving supportive nods and words paid off. 

It was also wonderful to see every event so well supported by parents, grandparents, siblings and friends.  We recognise how tricky it can be for some of you to get the time off work and it makes such a difference to the children to see a family face waving through the crowd.  

EYFS Nativity

We also had an amazing Christmas tree again.....thanks to the children's homemade decorations.  

Her are just a few of the amazing designs the children made.  If you haven't yet had your child's decoration sent home then please contact your class teacher......something for your tree next year I hope.

We also put on various fun, festive events to reinforce the message of Christmas with the children.

All staff reading a different Christmas story to the children.... this guy read a belter!

A pop-up Art exhibition....



Our Junior Carol Concert

With some very brave children who showed what hard work and practice can produce...

No one there will ever forget the hauntingly beautiful flute playing...

Junior and Infant Christingle Services...

Staff all dressing up as Elves to serve the children's Christmas lunch...

Even this guy again...

And to finish a real Community Church Service

Even Yinka got a mention somehow...

And a very amusing Carol Service where even the staff got in on the act... 

And we even had time to fit in the staff Christmas lunch.....sadly only fruit juice to wash it down.