Saturday, 25 February 2012

Out of Time: All our educational eggs in one basket

Out of Time: All our educational eggs in one basket: Great day at St Paul's CE Junior School yesterday. I was privileged to be invited as a judge for the annual poetry competition and I have to...

All our educational eggs in one basket

Great day at St Paul's CE Junior School yesterday. I was privileged to be invited as a judge for the annual poetry competition and I have to say it was a hard task. The standard was very high and each pupil had done a fantastic job of learning their poem. They all used amazing expression and showed great maturity in standing up in front of an audience and reciting-in some case quite hard and long poems. I really enjoyed myself and I thought the children were brilliant. Take a look on the link to see the prizewinners.

Today we visited Leeds Trinity University to take a look at the journalism course. It was very impressive and I wouldn't mind going myself. It looks very modern, professional and a fantastic opportunity to get a good grounding in the skills required to be a journalist. Naturally, the cost implication is quite significant and it made me reflect on my own university education...which because I went in 1975...was free! In fact many of the politicians who insisted upon student loans, fees and the rest, also received a free education. To say that cost will not prevent young people from accessing uni is a fallacy -the conversation I had with my daughter and boyfriend was discussing how much debt she would exit uni with after 3 years. The consensus was that the idea of a large debt was not attractive-however, to enable her to enter the highly competitive arena of journalism, a degree and NCTJ Diploma would give her an advantage. We talked it through and I believe that while debt is never a good option, in this case it needs to be regarded as an investment in a career. Hopefully, it will pay off -and as the politicians declare-will ensure a higher salary. However, it does not always work out that eldest son-a journalist is still paying off a student loan from 8 years ago-he is fully employed, but on appraisal could be earning a similar wage had he become a manager in a supermarket or similar, without going to uni. My second son who had dreamed of becoming an archaeologist from 9 years old, lived the dream for a time, but earned less than an office worker without 3 years study-he has now gone into industry and is earning double his previous salary. So all this leaves me rather confused and ambivalent. I earned well as a teacher and could see progression in my career and I had trained, gone to University and even progressed to Masters level-yet it did not prevent me from being made redundant last year and has proved very problematic to acquire anything like the remuneration I previously had. 

I believe strongly in education and think anyone with the ability should be able to access this. But I do not believe it is for everyone and it is not always the golden key to riches and security as we are led to believe. Choice is important, but so are options and  believe that other training options and apprenticeships are often undersold and regarded as second best! Yet surely these are the areas we should be building on-lets not put all our educational eggs in the same basket and let's begin to value skills as well as academic performance-we need the craftsmen, engineers, tradesmen and innovators to stimulate our economy-we should be trying to recoup the losses made over the years and become a creative and productive society again. We led the industrial revolution-particularly in this town-Barrow-in-Furness-purpose built by industrialists and innovators; lets do it again and learn from our past mistakes-we have the expertise and the people needing work...or are we all destined to offer our services free of charge on part time work experience schemes? I hope not!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Which way?

Phew! Busy old week so far! Made some lovely friends on Saturday at Blackpool Waterstones and even sold some copies of Out of Time. Sunday-a glorious day for walking...and walk we did! 12.2 miles across field and dale-and muddy puddles good training for Keswick to Barrow walk dystonia teams(please see link to sponsor page-every pound helps).
Been busy ringing schools and book stores to promote wider and wider. So far got another signing in Preston at Waterstones. If you know any schools etc who wish to avail themselves of my services please get in touch. Its very hard all this promotion-and as I've said previously not my natural environment-I am getting better, but I am not keen. Don't mind the social networking etc but its hard to cold call shops and schools.
Got a number of school visits coming up-Lindale Primary for a second day with the younger children this time too. Then Cartmel Priory School, Thwaites School near Millom,Dane Gyhll in Barrow,and Walney Secondary School during World Book Week. The piece de resistance is  Waterstones Barrow on World Book Day-a dress up day....hmmm! ot telling-you will have to come and see me!

I'm excited about the promotional film I am going to be doing with Comely Media soon-take a look at their website-good work! The two main parts are sorted and I can see it will be brilliant! Hopefully getting it on Youtube will bring the book to a wider audience.

Still awaiting Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle's arrival-it is just like a pregnancy! He is due 1st August...4 days before my lovely grandson's 3rd birthday. It will be a special birthday present because I have dedicated it to him and to the children of Dalton S Mary's School-who were responsible for its creation.

We are holding a "friends" of Furness Abbey meeting on 22nd March at the Red Lion pub at 7-30pm. We want to see if we can help to support EH in promoting and expanding visitor numbers. We should take a leaf out of David Gill's book at Dalton Zoo-he seems to know what its all about! If you are interested in joining us feel free..we would love to see you.

Work tomorrow-with my lovely TA students. We are progressing well with the new course and hope to be able to run some new ones very soon via Cumbria Adult Learning.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Out of Time: rebirth, reading and reaching the masses

Out of Time: rebirth, reading and reaching the masses: Funny old day motivation whatsoever and that worries me. I finally shook off the sloth at 7 when we had a quarterly meeting of Fu...

rebirth, reading and reaching the masses

Funny old day motivation whatsoever and that worries me. I finally shook off the sloth at 7 when we had a quarterly meeting of Furness and South Lakes group of the Dystonia Society. A new member came and a few of the old stalwarts...but we are struggling I guess, we have lost members and few younger ones arrive, but we still need to plod on. It will be 15 years in May since our very first event-coincidentally a Tea Party! So we have decided to celebrate by holding another one in awareness week on 19th May...why don't you join us-details to follow soon. We need prizes and publicity-we will be selling tickets and would like to make this a signature event for the year. Later on we are holding an awareness day where sufferers and public alike can join with us to learn more about this horrible

Tomorrow will be an interesting one-I am meeting at Abbey Mill Cafe with Iain McNichol the history man and Comely Media to arrange some filmic publicity of a high quality-if you don't believe me-take a look at the website. On Saturday I will be signing books at Blackpool Waterstones-this is the furthest afield that have gone and hopefully heralds an extension to the reach of my book. Please come and see me if you are in the vicinity.

Next week back to the "infinite variety" that has become my career-Time Investigators, Explorers clubs for Y6 kids, Teaching Assistant's courses, governor duties, meetings and a visit to Leeds Uni with Freya. Writing...haven't done a lot this week despite trying very hard-probably get more done in the impossibly bust weeks ahead!

News on the new book-Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle should be out by 1st August-hopefully sooner! More later ...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Out of Time: Weird synchronicity

Out of Time: Weird synchronicity: Productive day today at Barrow Library Archives with help from Mike and Glenn. Researching for Raven's Hoard and not for the first time had ...

Weird synchronicity

Productive day today at Barrow Library Archives with help from Mike and Glenn. Researching for Raven's Hoard and not for the first time had a spooky moment. It happened before whilst researching the last book-I would have an idea, research it and then find that my made up idea fitted very closely to the reality. Happened again today...without giving too much away, a certain item I am including in the book led me to a report which outlined the story I wanted to tell. However, it got weirder...the choice of my title was random-or so I thought -but there it was a MASSIVE link to the name in the very location I have chosen. Next I found a date which was an actual time frame for an event...and I had selected-without prior knowledge a date just 8 days later! And all this because I selected one particular half remembered discovery in the locality! So am  psychic? Or is it that there are no original thoughts and ideas? Either way its a bit spooky! But the other thing it demonstrates is that this area, much maligned and ignored in the recognised historical record really does have an amazing past and the more I delve, the more fascinating items I come across. This may well keep me going for many books to this space!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Dystonia...where are we now?

We..the other half and I had a very productive day today at a Dystonia Society Groups meeting. Sounds dull and routine, but actually it was very good because we were able to meet other group organisers and listen to their experiences of running  support group. I was surprised that in that particular room we were the longest serving...15 years later this year! Where did that time go? It got me thinking about the dreadful time when Harry (the other half) was first starting with dystonia, in 1994-we had no clue what was wrong with him and as his symptoms got worse and he visited a string of doctors, each providing a different diagnosis and treatment-and all wrong may I add. He started off with his neck turning to the left, just a little involuntary pull to one side. As weeks went on it became more pronounced and he took to physically pushing his head back into place, it started to look odd, as though his head was in the wrong place and tempers became frayed, patience thin and it was affecting every area of life. You might think that out of  8 doctors one might be able to diagnose-but no! Harry's actual diagosis came from my aunt who was a Daily Mail reader-but thank goodness she was!An article described Harry's condition exactly-and gave it a name-dystonia! We were then armed with this information and took it to our GP who had just returned to the surgery after a long illness-he confirmed that it seemed to be the correct diagnosis-but admitted he had never heard of it or seen it before. We were duly packed off to a neurologist at Preston and after 3 long years we finally had a name and a treatment..but most of all-hope.We had contacted the Dystonia Society who were mentioned in the cutting and they were amazing-supporting us through the initial diagnosis, providing information and guiding us through questions we didn't like to ask the doctor-like "will our children get it?" So grateful and elated were we that we organised a "Teaa-Partaay" for dystonia awareness week and made a grand £415.00. Our friends chipped in and we started the germ of the group we have today.
15 years on  and we are still here. How far has the society come? Absolutely miles! They have developed from a rather exclusive little patient group, started in someone's living room in London to a relevant, modern and pro-active charity group who are still supporting those unfortunate to find themselves with this horrible condition. Still small...yes only 3000 paid up members, but serving an estimated 70000 sufferers countrywide. Effective? Yes-support system second to none, no waste or massive infrastructure, information, help line, advocacy service and much Una said today-we are like a little family. Do we need to do more-of course-it still takes 3-4 years to get a diagnosis, treatment is patchy and the condition is hard to recognise and benefits people have trouble thinking out of the box about it because it presents in many forms and is often intermittent or unpredictable. Do we need help-you bet we do! We need cash-to keep on going. We need be taken seriously. We need a higher profile becuase if the public don't know what it is we can't rely on their support. We need volunteers and supporters at group level and elsewhere.Take a look at the website, come to our Awareness Day on 16 June in Barrow in Furness, sponsor our team walkers for Keswick to Barrow Walk, donate a pound, join the society for the price of a good book, tell one person about dystonia, take a leaflet to your GP (they still don't know what it is) join the facebook group-The Dystonia Society UK, follow them @The Dystonia Society UK. But above all remember the name and pass it on!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Education, education...what?

What a week for the educators of this country! A new Ofsted re-grading-specially designed to root out the "non-outstanding" teachers in schools..and to once again drive morale so low it hots rock bottom! I'm all for standards and people getting the push if they don't do a good know like the bankers? Ok that was a bad example...but having worked in  schools for over 20 years and having viewed many brilliant teachers, a lot of good ones and the odd rogue bad teacher, would just like to defend my colleagues. They have to be everything to everyone: teacher, educational psychologist, youth worker, child minder, safeguarding expert, social worker, family liaison officer, administrator, behaviour specialist, confidante, leader, planner, policeman, first aider, in loco parentis, examiner, marker, artist, designer, display expert, PE specialist.....and on and on! But when do you ever hear-"My God! They do a difficult job under difficult circumstances, don't they work hard?" -never! No you're more likely to hear "they only work part time" "what about the holidays" "there's no discipline in the classroom" "don't you tell my kid to...." 
To be honest when my teaching career came to an abrupt and impromptu end in March last year I was devastated. I wasn't ready to go, had a lot left to give, enjoyed my work, did a "good" job and had reached the point after 20 years where I was comfortably remunerated with a reasonable pension to look forward to (yes-originally at 60-but 67 would be fine). However, Mr Gove in his wisdom (or possibly his cups) decided to trash every educational initiative that the previous government had put in place. After all there was a recession and suddenly all the specific needs and children which these initiatives supported would obviously evaporate because they weren't important anyway. Ooops! But that wasn't the case and now they have noticed the massive deficit in provision and the pupils who are disaffected and not obviously the answer is: "Bash the teachers" using a sleeker and meaner Ofsted model! Wlll it work? No. Will everyone get GCSEs A-C grade -No! Will getting rid of NVQs and vocational training improve employment No! When will government realise that changing education constantly, unpicking what the last lot put in place and not taking into account the fact that even with the best teaching/schools everywhere SOME children will be unable to hit those magical heights of academia-for many reasons-often social and economic but sometimes due to actual can take a horse to water but you can' make him drink! But whatever government is in charge, whatever their political remit for education the whipping boy is always the poor old teacher and whatever we do it will never be good enough!
Sorry its a bit political-but its a tragedy the way education is used as a pawn to make governments look good! By the way just read Michael Rosen's blog on this-he is far more eloquent than I...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Out of Time: this week I have mostly been....

Out of Time: this week I have mostly been....: reading...finishing my newly downloaded Great Expectations-with original illustrations (had to give up on Grandad's or...

this week I have mostly been....

reading...finishing my newly downloaded Great Expectations-with original illustrations (had to give up on Grandad's originals...print far too small to read-he gave me a full set for passing my 11 plus!Happy Days!) Then got engrossed in Joffre White's Frog-a brilliant fantasy for older kids-loving it and able to appreciate it now I've a bit more time free(who am I kidding?) Next up...How to make your social networking count and help marketing! Not such a scintillating read-and I do seem to be on the right track-no clue as how to go "viral" or at least "viralish" but keep plugging away I guess!

Taking bookings for schools and arranging signings-next up is Blackpool Waterstones I hope at half term. Barrow Waterstones have kindly invited me to work with them during World Book Week-can't wait! Trying to go further afield-but Cumbria always my priority-special rates for our schools, no travel expenses charged-hope to get about a bit in spring and summer. Hopefully, going to Italy to a school near Vas where they used the book as a summer project.
Still looking for kind people to follow, like or otherwise interact with the various social network sites I now have a presence on...oh and reviews would be acceptable too! Looking forward to Wednesday at St Paul's CE Junior School, Barrow-a lovely author day    planned, lots of new activities-can't wait! Then half term when I am putting aside at least 3 full days where I will write-UNINTERRUPTED! That's the problem when you have a butterfly brain-it flutters everywhere but where it should be!

Going to Manchester to the Dystonia Groups meeting-be nice to see everyone again and get up to speed with whats going on. We are still in need of awareness because although dystonia is the 2nd most common movement disorder it hasn't the profile it deserves such as Parkinsons or MS has-yet there are as many sufferers. Our 5 teams for dystonia in the Keswick to Barrow walk are training hard and we will look forward to fundraising and awareness success again this year! I am attempting my 7th walk this year and am looking forward to day-which is inspirational as well as painful...all 40 miles of it! But nothing compares to seeing the Lakes at dawn and walking through the hills to Barrow. If you would like to sponsor me-no matter how little please use the link above!Thank you Find out more about dystonia below-
Will let you know on the progress of Guy the Grumpy Gargoyle and the Furness Abbey Friends this space!