Sunday, 25 May 2014

Get Gove reading? Get him OUT!!!

Well I was planning a nice positive post today until I read about Gove's "brave new world" of literature! So out with the fluffy and in with the bloody battleaxe! And he has irritated my already painful shingles-I loathe this man-he is the anti-Christ...(allegedly!)

Channel 4 News posted a blog on Gove's prospective unveiling of the new literature curriculum and I could not believe what I read. Tough classics such as Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", Miller's "The Crucible" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mocking Bird" are to be removed...mainly because "Gove doesn't like them" and because they are American!

Deep breaths while I hyperventilate! I want to scream... I want to shout... I want to rip his head off! What sort of decision making process is that? He doesn't like them? So what? So now education is to be designed to suit the negative, retro-grade and narrow viewpoint of just one man? Surely some civil servant or Junior Minister should be quietly tapping him on the shoulder and saying-"Gove, No! This is out of order!" Does nobody in the education department have a say? Do none of the academics who are involved in curriculum design have the guts to say no? How can a country's curriculum be designed around the whim of one man?

Apart from anything the reason these texts were included in the first place was because they taught life lessons and asked the right questions, giving young people the chance to understand and make decisions about some difficult concepts. I read "To Kill a Mocking Bird" at 14 and it hooked me immediately. This was then followed up by the excellent Gregory Peck film which opened up the idea that human beings can act in many different ways toward each other. The polarisation of the good and bad characters exemplifies what is still wrong in society and the story being told simplistically by the little girl Scout emphasises those themes. Its an amazing book and it opened my eyes to man's inhumanity to man, real danger, bigotry, prejudice, tolerance, fairness and justice. It can still do the same today and if read at  a young age cannot fail to promote empathy and the development of a sense of equality and fairness. To remove such texts because they are "American" is blatantly bigoted in itself.

To return the literature curriculum to mostly British and pre war is to limit and censor! It make literature a sterile subject with nothing current and new emerging! I love the classics and believe pupils should be given a taster, but they are not the whole "story" surely writing is constantly changing and developing  and we should celebrate and embrace all types of genres and authors?

I notice there has already been a retraction and fudging of the facts as written in the Telegraph article! Well I will wait to see the reality-there is usually no smoke without fire in Gove's case...and I still insist and demand somebody in the Department gets hold of him by his scrawny neck and give him a good talking to!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Three Years on

Just realised that its three years since the governmental axe fell on Playing for Success and therefore since I became redundant because Cumbria County Council no longer wanted to support it. Neither the government or the County Council examined the real viability or efficacy of the scheme-despite new research proving it was successful and effective for a wide range of children who needed an extra push. Even schools registered evidence of improvement in these children-but in these times of "austerity", politically based cut backs and an every man for himself attitude-these findings were brushed aside-oddly Mr Gove and co didn't recognise the was such a Labour initiative after all and the fact that it had run successfully for 13 years and there were already 162 centres UK wide was again deemed irrelevant.

Storytellers Project-a poetry walk

I was passionate about the job-as were my colleagues, we literally mourned the loss of this amazing project. Nobody could help-all expressed sorrow and dismay from teachers, pupils, parents to the football club we lived in and the local MP. So we moved on... a bit.

Two of us tried to continue with the help of Barrow AFC- but the sustainability and the funding was not there and we ended up with a half life. This had to be terminated, but we all gave our best but it just didn't work-nobody wanted to- or could pay...and as much as I was committed to the ethos-oddly I needed paying for work done! So my colleague and I went freelance. We run a small education business New Horizons Education Ltd  which has gained a good reputation for running small projects and training Teaching Assistants-but is limited in range.
Reading at Chipping Storytelling Festival

The day following redundancy my first book was published. This has been an exciting roller coaster ride-a total innocent in terms of understanding either publishing or book selling I went in blind! I have learnt much and now at book number 4 I am more aware of the pit falls and have isolated my deficits-marketing being one. I have discovered that as a 50 something woman I have the same self-esteem issues as the children I helped via PFS! Strange- because out of my comfort zone I am just as vulnerable as they were. I am about to publish number 3 in the Out of Time series and realise the necessary things I have to do. I have been advised to sing my own praises-something I have never been comfortable with-but apparently nobody will believe in me if I don't myself! Its not that I don't believe in me-but I find it a bit crass and rude to mention it out loud! A bit... American? A bit boastful? Well here goes...lets bite the bullet-
I am a popular (yes you are... at least Cumbria wide) author (yes-you do write and have published books-so that's an author isn't it?) and I write really good books that people love and enjoy (no bad reviews (good reviews), constant sales over 3 years, "fans" adult and children alike, a good following, a publisher who believes in me...So, now to the next stage-onward and upward...

Do you want to buy a book? or

Briefing FAF volunteers before the Medieval Fair at Furness Abbey

Evaluating the last three years-some good some bad-done things I would never have done while still in full employment, met lots of new and interesting people, visited amazing schools and children, I drive the work, I follow many personal interests and have developed fantastic partnerships-although not from an employment stance- I am working in heritage(alongside and with English Heritage) for a place I'm passionate about- Furness Abbey and Barrow in Furness which is rewarding. Ok its not so financially secure, but its never dull, I'm always busy, but I have flexibility so can follow my dreams, spend time helping with grandchildren, and can learn so much more and try new things. So although I'm not keen on the "self-employed" idea-on balance-the experience is exciting if terrifying- a bit like a roller coaster ride. Well everyone should be scared at least once a day!
 Having fun at the abbey with grandsons

Oh and don't forget DYSTONIA-a charity I've worked voluntarily for over 16 years... about to do the 9th Keswick to Barrow Walk for dystonia... and its going to rain...but on the bright side you can STILL sponsor me for the 40 miles of sheer hell that it will be in torrential Lakeland rain