Thursday, 26 November 2015

Life is fragile

Before I got on the train I stood in the sunshine on the train platform in my home town. I have been there hundreds of times before. 

When I get off the train I will be on the train platform in your home town, where you have been hundreds of times before. 

But you'll never be there again. 

I've been in your home town before, but never with you in it.  You were never in my home town.  There wasn't enough time. 

I've spoken to you loads of times when you were at home and so was I.  But we won't again. 

It always feels strange walking along the platform in your home town, knowing the last photo you text me was a selfie from that very platform.  With no knowledge it was the last time you'd be there. Or anywhere in this world. 

Tomorrow I will walk along the platform in my home town again.  If I'm anywhere. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Love and dancing & other stuff

Just heard this on the radio from Tor Miller 

Love it. I'm apparently not of the radio 1 demographic so it was lucky I heard it really. Pure chance, popped to the shop late at night for bananas for son's lunch box & R1 on in the car. 

There's a brilliantly written tragic episode of the Royle family where Cash is just perfect. There isn't anything except love is there? Johnny Cash knew it

Once nanna has died Jim & Barbara cry & wish for one more row. A beautiful moment Beautifully written by Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash. 

What do we do to recover from loss? We breathe in and out. First. We keep doing that, we try. We hurt people close to us. They keep loving us anyway. We keep trying. We manage marginal gains in positivity. (Marginal gains thing nicked from Vic Goddard btw, marginal gains work for everything!) 

We keep going. Life never hurts less but it's wonderful too. I'll keep you safe, you keep me safe xx

I only have one thing to add. Peanut butter jelly. You can approach this how you you want but personally I'm dancing like a nutter to it

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Music for the soul

It was daughter's first year 7 choral concert at Manwoods this evening and it was great.  I absolutely get why it's one of her favourite lessons. I had always expected it to be, she loves music, but Mr Smith is quite something. He used the hour he had with us to not only show what he has managed to do with all (and I mean all) of his new pupils. Whether musically inclined or not. But to share his vision for inclusive music and why the arts are important.  Even Andy Moore was impressed and that isn't easy to achieve. 

No one on that stage felt they couldn't sing, everyone felt they could and they wanted to. They loved it. It was obvious. Mr Smith also spoke to us about the structure and recipe of music and why he loves it. Why we love it and how ingrained in us music is. It was infectious.

Seamless transfer from the musical passion and sheer bravery of Mr Hackett & Mr Atkinson at her previous school, inclusive and beautiful:

I remember when Andy was first ill we had a thing about not using the word cancer. He thought it would scare the kids. About a week after he was diagnosed daughter picked her grandma (his mum) for info. Daughter knew what she was doing in her interrogation as she'd already read it on a charity bag that had come through the door. 'So, Lymphoma is Cancer, right Grandma?'

It turns out you just cannot teach your child to have an enquiring mind & not enquire! Damn! 

The only time she cried when my husband was having chemo was when she woke up & heard me recording this:

She came down because she was a bit intrigued & found me crying having just finished recording it. She was afraid as she thought it was all pointing to us hiding things about Andy's  illness. She thought I was crying because he was going to die. 

It was a really stark example of how true it is that when you try to protect kids from stuff they get more scared. 

I explained that wasn't why I was crying and that actually my friend Gemma had died and it was going to be her funeral the next day. I couldn't go because of the chemo Andy was having and because it was too far away. But everyone had learned her favourite song for it so I had to send my version. 

She knew about Gemma and then there were loads more tears. Her tears were relief though as much as sadness for me losing a friend. Her world was safer. She knew the truth. For me I had been able to join in with saying goodbye to my friend because of music.  I know her parents listened to it and liked it.  Gemma always said she liked my odd little ukulele videos where I've only learned half the words or forgotten the tune half way through. Even when life was on that tough path through illness and grief, music was there. Music is always there.  Pulse, rhythm, silence.

Imogen already knew a lot about music.  Orson's 'Bright Idea' was her first favourite aged 2.  We have a piano and she's had a ukulele for a long time. She plays both but hasn't had lessons. She has a personalised autograph from Amanda Palmer to her as she drew a rather marvellous picture of her when she was 8. She has seen live music. She had a great grounding from her primary school, Warden House. I think this is my favourite. Collaborative concert with other local schools with the brilliant John Holland conducting the children and orchestra:

Daughter's head of music at her new school is inspirational. He is absolutely right about music. Everyone needs the opportunity to know about it and have it in their life. It is the creative outlet for any person, whoever they are. It is not elite, nor is it based in an ability to play an instrument to a high grade or read notation. It affects all of us, in ways some of us don't even realise. Young people can enjoy all types of music, expose them to it. They can also perform and love it. My daughter isn't confident to speak up, most common parents evening comment. But because of the musical education she has had she can sing up. Even in one of the most pressured parts of her end of primary school play as a narrator in Joseph:

Mr Smith gets it. And more! The idea of creativity solving problems. Music being the solution, the energy, the space. The silence. 

Then he got them to sing Bowie. He had me at hello! 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Life after delivery-Útmatató a Léleknek

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: 
“Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” 
- Útmutató a Léleknek

Monday, 5 October 2015


When I came out of assembly on Friday at quarter past three our secretary came to find me looking worried.  She said my daughter had phoned saying she wasn't feeling well and had sounded tearful. My eldest just started secondary school. I only got to drop her off the first day, even then not near the school but at a friend from gymnastics house. She is loving getting the bus and being independent but was ill and wanted me. I had a really important meeting booked after school so I panicked a bit but our team are so sound. Tea would be made, chat would be had. 

Sandwich was an utter nightmare! For those not local it's the town made famous by Linekar & the crisp sandwich ads! A bus had crashed into the train bridge & some roads were closed. When I got to Imogen she was with an ex pupil of ours who couldn't get a bus so I took her home too. 

When I got back to school my appointment had been waiting but had been having a cup of tea with a fab member of staff.  It was a meeting where one of the life blood members of teaching assistant staff was giving me her retirement letter because of poor health.  This amazing person decided that it is unfair on our children that they lack due provision because of budgeting for sick pay.  So didn't take the sick pay, the full pay she could take for several months.  Has resigned after four weeks because she knows our budget as a small school cannot afford anything else. 


There were tears. Hers, the class teacher's mine. We told her just how much she meant to us and our school family. I walked past her Spurs pencil case last week when I taught in that class & it made me feel so sad. We've had some great football banter over the years. 


Then I came home & caught up on Internet things and noticed what was going on with Andrew. 

I, as I'm sure many did, first conversed with Andrew Old with respect for his anonymity.  There was some profligate disrespect for his chosen anonymity which I always felt reflected poorly on those that engaged in it. 

I have disagreed with Andrew at times. He has strong views. But I have always found him fair when engaged in a fair debate. We might not always have come out agreeing over the years but I've never engaged other forum users in disagreeing with him. I've always thought that's a bit sad. 

In any argument there is a sting.  An essence you don't like. But a grain of truth that is essential to consider. Some people are great at articulating the sting! I'm married to one of those people. You either think about that grain, once you get over the pain of the sting, and apply that to practice. Or you don't. You complain about the sting. 

Complaining about the sting is easy. Changing things in response is hard. But important. We're not in education for us. 


Andrew has literally put his money where his mouth is and resigned his job.  Because it compromised his integrity. 


Who of you genuinely keep the line? Who, if they are honest, moves the line of integrity back and forward to suit? Sometimes themselves but often necessity. 

I have a lot of admiration for Andrew and am lucky enough to have met him and know what kind of person he is. 


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Fraud police-special ops

I have been reflecting on the blog post I wrote yesterday and I just want to add a little more. 

I thought quite hard first thing this morning, in the space between sleep and starting the day, about why I felt so stressed before my IA visit. I know the reason. It's not just the ever present fraud police but an extra special unit of fraud police that is specially deployed by our minds when we have been having a tough time in our lives and perceive ourselves, often rightly and understandably so, to be 'not up to speed.'

From Easter 2013 to February 2015 I was 'not up to speed.'  I was mostly physically present at school.  I was signed off for a week following a period of time nursing my husband around the clock between chemotherapy cycles, looking after two young children and running our school. A dear colleague persuaded me to go to the doctor and my doctor were fairly forceful about the fact I needed to rest.  Later on I was signed off for a week once he was well enough to go back to work and my body gave up and caught shingles. I then had to have an operation about six months later, nothing to with any of that but had to be signed off for a two week recovery period. 

4 weeks off in two years isn't usual but under the circumstances was quite minimal.  But that was only my physical time off. There were many days where I sat at my desk and felt I didn't know where to start or what to do. There were occasions where I needed to immediately challenge people and didn't, couldn't.   It is so fortunate that a year ago I got a 'you're so good' letter based on small cohort data rather than a 'you're so RI' letter. 

So now I feel worried about my 'you're so RI' letter because I feel guilty and am over reflecting that perhaps I let things slide. But nothing physically slid in terms of school improvement. We have lots of evidence of that.  As we do of how fabulous the provision is.  If I'm inviting an inspector back for day two it will be to push for outstanding not defend RI. 

Once life recovered I needed to recover. I did, and then it was fine again.  I am really worried that our children are losing headteachers who haven't perhaps had the support I have.  I have a wise improvement adviser as I mentioned yesterday, it is no coincidence that under his and his colleague's leadership Dover district is almost top in all indicators in our large county. Coming in above some very affluent areas despite huge challenges. 

I have great colleagues, our team have supported me to the nth degree. Headteacher colleagues also. And you on Twitter. Those of you who phoned, emailed, visited, nagged me to visit you and sent me cards and messages won't ever be forgotten. If it takes a village to raise a child then it took a Twitter village to raise a headteacher! 

I'm encouraged by the National support school and National Leader of Education program but other than that I don't see enough support being offered to heads. Everyone talks about it being a lonely job at times but support mechanisms are in no way reliable or consistent in my opinion. Life doesn't give you a plan or choice about what happens to you.  Our children deserve better than to suddenly lose a head who actually would be fine if supported properly.  The knock on can also be teachers not being supported properly when life happens as some humans attack when they feel vulnerable in order to defend.  It's a mess and it must be a waste of money. 

Anyway, those were my follow up thoughts! 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Blown away balloon

Blown away balloon.  Where are you from?
A birthday party, engagement celebration or leaving do?
Did you sneak out of the vibrant celebrating room through an open window into the air, or were you tethered outside. Tied too loose, or too tight. 
Did you escape quietly, unnoticed, during the revelry?  Or wait until all slept and softly creep away?
Blown away balloon, orange with a bright yellow string.  Bright against this morning's blue sky.  Are you floating upward aimless or making your way with purpose?
Up, up into the sky.  Toward the hand of someone who would have been at the party, but had to be somewhere else.