Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Friend, my friend.

Friend isn't the same term as it used to be socially is it?  Has it been redefined or is it just in the social realm.  Is a Facebook friend the same as a work friend? A Twitter friend the same as a pen friend (who has those any more? Shame) to 'friend' someone for teenagers doesn't mean to subscribe to any of the values of friendship. For some it does, but those aren't the social rules. 

Was it ever any different?  Is social networking just party rules unwritten? With (you'd like to think) less alcohol? But perhaps more. 

I do know that I had few old friends that could support when my husband was ill. Our Macmillan nurse told us that would happen and I didn't believe it.  But she was right.  My Twitter friends got me through. Jan Rush & Banno initially.  Banno turned tears to laughter with his tweet about the macdonalds milkshake machine explosion! Jan was so kind & then sent a pillow.  Charlotte sent me three hearts with the words 'love, hope & luck' they are still in my purse. 

We had some bricks of friends too.  Craig, Martin and Tina.  Online I was supported every day though.  It was almost like tag team. There was always someone there. You people are quite a team. 

The point of this is our friends online are friends, they don't mean less than those we regarded before as friends just because we met on the net. 

I'm really looking forward to Friday. I'm going to see @raliel first thing (who is one of my favourite folk) as I discovered he doesn't have a ukulele & that must be remedied! Then I'm off to the BETT show and will get to Friday hug @betsysalt for real this week! 

Sometimes I see people moaning about teacher Twitter feed.  There's a simple answer to that. Make friends with people who are not teachers too. Think wider. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

We are the media - 540 days for a bereaved family in the UK

In the light of the recent press about the NHS and comments about the politicising of health issues I feel compelled to write this post.  It's about a wonderful girl who was one of my dearest friends, and her mum who is now one of my dearest friends. 

I must explain that I don't have medical reports in front of me. I have been told a lot about them. I haven't sat in hearings. I have heard a lot about them. The final hearing doesn't take place until May. I am not in possession of data and haven't conducted freedom of information requests.  That fact and data post is for someone else to write.  Perhaps several people, perhaps the media.  

But I met these dear friends because of a favourite artist, Amanda Palmer.  One of her great phrases is 'we are the media.'  Now, with blogging and social networking as it is, we truly are.  This is an opportunity, and a responsibility. So my 'media' act in this post is the human story. Obviously from my own camera angle. My intention is to support the family and highlight the pain that they have been through.  Also to expose some details that have shocked me utterly about the current system. 

Back in July 2013 my friend had just had one of the most fun weekends of her adult life. She had spent time with friends, seen one of her favourite rock stars, lived and laughed.  She was doing fabulously and it was brilliant to see. 

Inevitably Monday morning came around, Stella the cat was at Grandma's house following the weekend's frivolity & everybody had to go to work. There was a slight falling out when my friend's mum was too busy at work to fetch the cat from 'G-MA.'  For that reason her mum wasn't surprised not to hear from my friend on the Tuesday. She was a fabulous, sparkling girl but had a passionate personality and sure could sulk if she felt inclined! 

When Wednesday dawned though her mum got a sinking feeling that something was wrong.  She convinced herself it was worry about nothing and went to work.  The nagging feeling continued until, later that day, she could bear it no longer and went over to the flat. When there was no answer she got in through the summer window locks, which she used to nag all the time were not secure enough. On doing so she discovered that her mother's instinct had been correct and that her beautiful, vibrant 23 year old daughter had died.  Her own nursing background suggested probably some time ago. 

She phoned an ambulance, the crew contacted police.  Her daughter was taken to a local hospital for an autopsy.  All dreadful and horrendous, but as we would all expect. What we would not all expect though, and what none of us knew at that point, was that autopsies at that hospital had been outsourced by the NHS to a private company. 

The report came back swiftly, the cause of death recorded as an undiagnosed heart defect.  Even in shock, mother's instinct was there again for my friend's mum. My friend was bipolar and had borderline personality disorder. She was medicated but doing very well.  She was working on a plan to try and rely on less medication.  

She had been medicated from a young age, 17.  She was under several clinics 6 years later and the plan she wanted was proving tough to achieve.  I know that, she told me.  She had asked for rehabilitation to help her become free of prescription medication but that had been refused on the grounds of cost to the tax payer. Little did professionals know then just how much her case would end up costing.  Not just to the tax payer. 

Because of this background she had been regularly seen by medical professionals.  She had also been admitted to hospital on several occasions.  Her notes were very detailed. Why would a heart condition never have been diagnosed?  How could it have been missed? Something felt wrong. 

But a report had been done, a cause of death recorded and her body released for  her funeral.  She was buried in August 2013 with many family, friends, and even her favourite rock star paying tribute.

Then the inquest began.  The report began to raise some significant questions.  For example why had it been recorded that her gall bladder was intact and in good condition when she didn't have one?  It had been removed when she was 15 years old.  There were so many questions raised that one of the UK's leading coroners became involved. 

Months of pre inquest meetings and inquest hearings then begun.  The family were plunged into hearings, meetings and reports.  Until early 2014 when the inquest panel made the decision to exhume my friend's remains.  This was because of serious concerns about the accuracy of the autopsy findings and a theory that the recorded cause of death was incorrect. A team of experts came together, including a professional expert flown in from another country. In mid May 2014 my friend's mum, also now a great friend, was in the cemetery at 4am.  It hadn't occurred to me before, but I suppose it is obvious, that any exhumation must be completed in darkness with no public around. She had agonised over whether to go.  An occasion on which I was bereft of advice.  I just promised I'd have my mobile on if she decided to go & wanted to text.  In the end she couldn't bear the idea of her child being exhumed without anyone from the family there.  She made chocolate brownies for the team and along she went.  Grandma went too.  Their strength astounded me. 

More inquest meetings and hearings followed.  Details emerged about careless actions during the autopsy that are heartbreaking.  The reasons that the family were not allowed to see her to say goodbye in the chapel of rest became clear.  There is only so much even the best undertaker can do.  My amazing friend (mum of my amazing friend) and the close family had to listen to details about the remains themselves and the exhumation that were unpleasant and harrowing.  

The official cause of death following the exhumation was recorded as 'poly drug toxicity.' There were many drugs prescribed over six years.  She was on a larger daily dose of zopiclone and morphine than my husband was short term during the worst of his chemotherapy.  She had been on them for three years. Oxycodone had recently been added also.  She was under several professionals and clinics.  No one seemed to support her rehabilitation idea, in the last meeting with her, mum and grandma professionals said it couldn't possibly be funded. 

The date for the final inquest hearing was set for April 29th.  One year, nine months and 14 days since my beautiful friend died.  Finally the family hoped for closure.  The chance to begin to put their lives back together.  Yesterday they found out that the final inquest has now been delayed until May 25th.  

My friend has been inspirationally strong and brave since losing her only child in tragic circumstances.  But facing a wait of almost two years for closure she is understandably finding it incredibly tough. In the past month she has found it difficult to continue to work and has been prescribed medication for anxiety and post traumatic stress.  I'm amazed she managed 16 months of what she's been going through whilst working and carrying on as normal.  I don't think I could have. She remains one of the most upbeat, funny and inspirational people I know. 

Eventually the system will grind to it's conclusion.  It will be reported however it is, I hope humanely. It will perhaps have implications for outsourcing NHS services and checking the quality.  One would hope so.  What won't ever change though is the sheer hell this family have been through over the past 540 days.  

The other thing that won't change is that so many services that we all trust let this family down so dreadfully.  

Sunday, 28 December 2014


My reflection on this year is going to be short, for me, and based on something I've learned about myself.  In the hope it might just help someone else. 

I've read some fabulous Nurture posts and am, as ever, heartened by how many of us love our job. I found many resonated with the deep love and slight sense of being overwhelmed that I feel about our profession.  The other fabulous thing that comes through so many is the joy and laughter that we get to experience with students and colleagues. What a privilege it is to experience the joy and the pain. It's no booth with a telephone and PC. 

I'll call my reflection 'the sponge.' As caring professionals you may just recognise the concepts. 

I used to be a standard car washing sponge. I threw myself at the job and all of the human stuff. I sponged up all of the pools of emotion &  the bits of grit where I dropped on the gravel and I kept on sponging. Rather than taking time to refresh & wring out I'd keep plunging myself back into that bucket. The water got murkier as term went on and invariably a week before the holidays I'd feel ill. I'd limp through the last week heavily and then spend a week or so wrung out. 

A couple of years ago I learned that I couldn't go on doing that as I'd become so poorly my doctor was worried. So I streamlined myself into a bath sponge. I'd make sure I didn't try & mop up too much, especially for others.  I gave myself time, recognised what needed sponging & what didn't and was as kind to myself as I could be. 

This past year I've noticed something though. I get a lot out of being the sponge. I want to sponge things up for others. I like to feel needed, it makes me feel like I'm somewhere doing something.  Making things less hard, less sad. I like to do that in my personal life and at work. I want to help as well and to make a difference.  The difference last year though was that I had someone very close to me ill and my friend died. I'm close to her mum and she's become a good friend.  I am close enough to both of them for them to be really honest about how help from others feels, knowing I wouldn't be hurt. 

By the way at least if you are a sponge your help is offered.  When things get really bad there is often no one there. Even close friends can find it impossible to be around because of how the circumstances make them feel.  That's important to interject at this point! 

This year I realised I need to think a bit more before I offer help. Not about me but about the other person.  As in plan to be helpful rather than just sponge. 

I've learned that helping is listening quietly, or just being there.  Not loads of advice about what to do. A cheery word or a laugh, a funny memory.  Not a deluge of how sad and unfair life can be. Empathy is helpful, but not if it only reminds me of a story about myself!  If it's something I've never been through I have learned that 'I can't imagine' is a lot more helpful than 'I understand.'

Very unhelpful phrases include 'you need to' 'what are you going to do about' 'it'll feel better in time' and 'other people that have been through this say'

It is also untrue that a positive attitude heals an unwell mind or body.  Reassurance that it's normal and ok not to feel ok when things are terrible is much more helpful than assurances that attempts to look on the bright side will make things better.  

This year I'm going to be a bumper pack of makeup sponges. Helping to even the surface, wipe up errors and improve the general outlook as much as I can.  Throwing away the used up sponge & whipping a fresh one out of the bag as needed. 

Sponging up loads and then wringing yourself out isn't healthy or helpful for you or anyone else.  I hope the lessons I learned this year about what is helpful help others too.  I also hope I continue to learn in 2015.  

Thank you to my main 2 sources, I'm sure you know who you are!  Also thank you all of you that are around for me. Always appreciated. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Ofsted AKA I'm going slightly mad, it's finally happened...

Last night I had a dream that I was going to get the Ofsted call today.  We're not really due, but I don't think we get to pace it or call it like that any more. 

I was teaching the infant class which I proceeded to do but by playtime (half ten in people time) I couldn't be doing with it. Jumpy & convinced the call was coming. I covered the class with fab TA. No problem for class as she covers PPA. I was convinced I had 2 hours tops to the call.

I had thought through (at 5am after the dream) a full plan for how we explain that KS2 can't watch the nativity but how I would fight for KS1 still performing it. 

I churned out data sheet after data sheet, highlighted, tweaked, revised SEF (again) at half 11 chair of Govs came in. Planned meeting with business manager to monitor asset register. 

I called him into my office & explained my premonition & showed him my work so far. He commended the work, said he was glad it was almost the holidays & reminded me that he regularly counsels at citizens advice...

At five to twelve office manager went out to get coffee as we had run out. I hadn't drunk it all btw, honest. I sat between 12 and 12.45 ready for the call, utterly convinced it would come. It didn't. 

We're not really due an inspection yet. I think I've been reading too many scare stories. I did update my folders big time today though so that will give me more time with family at Christmas. It's an odd half life waiting for Ofsted though & I'm not looking forward to that descending again next year. 

As far away from the madness as possible I shall remain.  But it seems to be seeping into my subconscious :/ 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Gender and School Leadership

The article below was published in the Times Educational Supplement recently.  You may have to copy & paste the link into your browser if you would like to read it. It caught my attention as it was front page & carried the headline 'Why your gender could be holding you back.' I wouldn't categorise myself as a feminist, I try not to categorise myself at all actually, but this has long been a subject close to my heart. What I liked the most about it was that it looked at gender and not 'females in leadership.'  Gender and social perceptions affect men and women in education. 


Those of you who have followed me on Twitter for a long time, patient souls, may remember I was part of a piece for the politics show a couple of years ago. It was about our attempts in primary to attract young men to teaching positions and how they often fail. It explored with a range of people, including young male teachers, what is causing this and why it's a problem. We need male role models at primary level and they are particularly under represented at key stage one and in the early years. I have still never managed to attract a man and, all jokes from my staff about that comment aside, it is a pity that our children (not just the boys) miss out on a positive male role model. 

I am hosting #SLTchat this Sunday (30th) at 8pm.  The topic is gender and leadership and @TeacherToolkit wants me to explore females in leadership from a primary perspective.  I am really conscious that this is quite a hot topic and can easily become emotive. For example I have taken a maternity leave as a Headteacher and returned full time. It was a very difficult and stressful time and my wellbeing wasn't looked after as I would have ensured a member of staff's would be.  But Sunday is about taking a measured approach to the topic.  There may be people taking part who are going through some real difficulties that they feel are related to gender, or to being a female leader. 

The questions and scenarios are based on female leadership in primary schools. They were very difficult to come up with as I wanted to aim for quality debate. I want the topics to be engaging but I don't want it to end up with people exchanging stereotypical comments.  I can't hold my hand up and say I've never engaged in a Twitter argument but I've seen some really unpleasant ones and I feel it's an energy drain.  Weekends are for filling your energy pot back up in our profession! 

Please get involved on Sunday, follow the #SLTchat hashtag as I try to keep on top of the feed. I have hosted before and it's a pretty intense half hour! Please do tweet me at @MooreLynne1 with any thoughts you have. 

At primary level certainly, there are more female teachers than male but males tend to go into leadership roles sooner.  There are also loads of fabulous, outstanding female leaders.  What are the real issues facing female leaders and what, if anything, could be done to help? 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tie your boots to the kitchen floor-on sticking with it and working hard

It's no secret I love innovation.  Sometimes a little too much.  Change for me is exciting and interesting, I have a personality people warm to the surface of.  I had one of those 'meteoric ascents' to headship. Other people's words. I was dizzy from the ascent myself. I became a headteacher at 32, my 4th school. I'd been deputy of the 2 previous schools and taught at another one before that. My headteacher in school 2 said 'what you need to do is tie your boots to the kitchen floor for a bit my friend' I think that's lyrics to some folk song.  Wise man. Still in touch. 

As a new head sitting in the staffroom I particularly remember a few conversations.  This is one.  An experienced and outstanding colleague (who's still there & v valued) said 'oh I remember this deputy in one school I worked in that had a swift rise to the top. She sent a memo to us all one day about children swearing & we laughed our heads off as she'd written FOWL language' much chuckling & sideways glances at which lightening here replies 'what did the kids say? Ducking hell?'  No one laughs. Bit of tumbleweed blows by...

Anyway I tied my boots to the kitchen floor on this one.  I have stayed and learned in this school.  I've listened properly.  Put proper work in. Kept folders, asked for help, admitted when I messed things up, took control when they wanted me to.  Learned how to tell our story so they all really know how good our school is and we don't have HMI in every 6 months.  Showed them that if anyone visits they get sent over to ask what they think. I'm no me without them.  I'm no hero leader. 

I just needed to work a bit harder.  I find the people stuff & the behaviour stuff really doable, I won't say easy as it takes an emotional toll, but doable. I got promoted up & up in tough schools just because of that and teaching well.  I'm not doing that down of course but as a head I needed to learn the craft of school improvement. 

I've been headteacher of Worth Primary School in Kent for seven years now. I'm not done learning and never will be.  I am surrounded by colleagues, children, parents, governors and families that teach me more every day.  I am now able to be the consistent leader I've always wanted to be. Just up to me to step up every day.  It's took me five years to be good though. Induction to this job is woeful.  My advice is use the money (if there still is any) for personal coaching.  I have a couple of recommendations, do ask!  Lots of heads in this county don't last past their second year.  Lots of deputies don't aspire to be heads. If that's you and you're reading this please get in touch. 

It's such the best job though. I went out last night, relatively rare! At one point I hadn't seen my friend for a while. Found him outside chatting to a group of people. I start chatting too then realise I taught one of them age 4!  It was my ex pupil that realised, who is now 20. Said in front of all mates how much had loved it in my class. Then took me aside later and thanked me for how much I'd supported self, mum & sibling when their dad left when in my class. Even rang mum with me there to tell her was with me! I heard my ex pupil repeat back 'yeah, she's still Head at Worth' that mum followed my career then. Says it all. 


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Dapper Laughs-dictionary definition smart, charming & hilarious. Turns out not.

The Dapper Laughs story has caught my interest.  I watched Newsnight as Nicky Morgan was on and I was interested to see what she had to say.  Thought she did ok actually, I'd even concede well. Especially when answering questions about Cameron & Imperial measurements!  Anyway one of the stories was about Dapper Laughs. A character I'd never heard of before this weekend.  A friend mentioned him. Apparently a character created by a comedian, same sort of idea as Ali G, Borat or Keith Lemon.  Here's the story & the video at the bottom of this article is the one Newsnight used:

This article in it's very title begins to hint at the complications. Poor Holly Willoughby is suddenly getting a mention for something that's nothing to do with her?  I'll come back to that. 

Initially I watched the video on Newsnight and thought 'This is the opposite of condoning rape.'  However at the end it can be interpreted that it encourages laughing about rape. I started thinking about how fair it is if a proportion of your 'fans' decide to interpret your work as condoning rape.  Then I started to think is laughing about rape ok?  That has a simple answer. It isn't. 

It's a widely held perception that Bernard Manning's work was sexist. People found him funny, they went to clubs to see him and quoted his jokes.  It was the 1970's and there was little recourse in the media. There was no Sali Hughes to comment on Newsnight as she'd have been stuck in the photocopier room or getting a promotion on the condition she kept her mouth shut. Did Bernard Manning intend to demean women? I don't know I've never asked him but his manner suggests he did. Did Dapper Laughs? I'm not sure he did.  His comments suggest that was never his intention.  However he has demeaned women, whether or not it was his intention. But did the people he was working for demean women & encourage that? 

Back to Holly, quite happy to be regularly referred to as 'Willoughbooby'
on Celebrity Juice.  Which has never been questioned let alone cancelled despite some quite explicit content at times.  Anyone who has seen it and asks themselves honestly whether some of the activities on the show could be seen to demean women would probably answer yes. Her husband was one of the TV execs who saw pound signs when he encountered Daniel O'Reilly.  Daniel was presumably surrounded by execs telling him to keep doing what he was doing.  Maybe even to ramp it up a bit.  Then they pulled the plug and took a huge step back. I imagine Daniel is reeling.

It gets big quick here on Twitter.  Daniel 'O Reilly suddenly found that he had thousands of followers. Of course this was a massive compliment and thrill for this young man. In his mind was what he was doing and saying worse than Keith Lemon or Frankie Boyle?  His followers supported him against anyone raising a question about whether it was ok.  Some probably recognised that Daniel O' Reilly wasn't trying to condone rape.  However a proportion clearly didn't. 

Thousands of our young people are Dapper Laughs fans.  This intervention by the media (AKA grown ups!) will make him more popular with them.  Whether they understand his work is the key thing here. When Harry Enfield did 'women know your limits' we were in different times.  We got the irony.  It wasn't about sex either. We also didn't, as teenagers, have access to online porn as young people do today.  Some strongly feel that Enfield's work also demeaned women. I know my mother in law does.  As a professional women during a time women weren't expected to return to work after having children she suffered some scathing comments when she did. She feels Enfield belittled her struggle.  Maybe that wasn't his intention. But that's how she feels, and I bet she wasn't the only one. 

Is the fact that hundreds of fans see Dapper Laughs as their excuse for finding rape, violence and mysoginy funny his fault?  Surely he has to take some blame as the words came out of his mouth.  It can't be undone. Is it his fault alone though or do TV execs share the blame?  Are we missing the fact that the fans themselves have responsibility for their actions and words and therefore should bear the brunt of the blame?  Did the parents of young fans teach them to respect women?  Does the media model respect for women?

Is it even all about blame? How do we teach our children to cope with this over sexualised society? Until we start dealing with the notion of how much our children know and have access to this is going to keep cropping up. 

Daniel 'O Reilly appeared on Newsnight in person the day after the story broke to answer questions and shoulder the blame. He did shoulder the blame and didn't try to justify what had happened.  He appeared visibly upset, guilty and shaken by the media storm he is within.  He said that he feels it's unlikely he'll return to comedy and even spoke about his family's disappointment in him.  It was brave of him to do and I might have felt sorry for him, but I feel sorrier for victims of rape. 

Let's hope this whole dreadful episode teaches at least a few people about actions and consequences.  As I said in a recent blog post I wrote for @teachertoolkit our young people are making some terrible decisions that they can't take back.  Particularly online. 

I also can't help but be a little incredulous that the line the media decides not to cross when demeaning women is laughing about rape.