Posted in Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, school closures, Uncategorized

School’s out – Now what?

I’m going to start by quoting one of my very favourite authors, Douglas Adams.

Right now, across the UK, there are hundreds of thousands of households in the same boat.

Me included.

And suddenly we feel responsible for continuing our children’s education for an indeterminate amount of time. Along with all the other responsibilities.

So here’s a five point plan to help.

You are not your child’s school.

Home is their safe space, their sanctuary. Don’t think about setting up at the dining room table with a shit-load of printed out worksheets and keeping them there from 9.00am to 3.00pm. I guarantee you’ll be at each other’s throats by 10.15 (if it lasts that long!)

All our children, however much they are bouncing around in excitement at the thought of no school, are going to be unsettled, anxious, and bewildered by this unprecedented announcement.

You are likely to see behaviour differences, whether that means challenging behaviour, crying, clinging, arguing, over-excitement. Children thrive on routine and we are so far out of normal routine that it can send them slightly loopy. You are the person that they feel comfortable being a pain in the arse to – try and take this as a compliment (however hard that feels!)

Give them time to de-stress. Give them time on electronics (often that is a tool they use to de-stress anyway!) They may sleep more, they may sleep less. They will need the reassurance that you are there for them. A LOT.

Find a routine.

Try and keep to routine bedtimes and getting up times. For The Teen and Tween, this means shifting their hours slightly because both of them feel better getting up a bit later, and going to bed a bit later than we normally do on a school day. But we’ll stick to those times because BOUNDARIES and ROUTINES feel safe. (Yes, they will argue about it. No, I won’t give in. Yes, this will make them feel safe. No, they’ll never admit it.)

Check out any homework packs your child has been given and see if you can sort it into small amounts to be done each day. SMALL being the operative word – unless you have a child that absolutely LOVES worksheets and whatever projects are in there, in which case let them dive right in if that makes them feel good.

Older children may be set work on Google Classrooms, or other online learning (this will probably be for kids in high school). Get them to have a look at what they need to do once a day – I’m the mother of a procrastinator who would worry about what needs to do so much that if she left it a few days the anxiety will make it too stressful to even look at.

Ask for help if any of the work set by the school baffles you and your child! You can always email or message me – on Facebook or on Instagram – I will be happy to help! Or put a shout-out on social media (I’ve seen hundreds of teachers share an offer to help with every single subject!) And Google is your friend too! Try not to get frustrated if you haven’t got a clue how to help them, as this will probably make them frustrated too.

Get outside.

So they can’t meet up with friends or hang around in playgrounds right now, but physical exercise releases those feel-good endorphins. Get outside into a wide open space. You’ll both get exercise, your bodies will make Vitamin D, and it’s great for your mental health too. The National Trust are opening all their parks and grounds FOR FREE right now – a great time to go!

Limit exposure to news.

I’ve started limiting my exposure to watching the daily briefings from the Government. Even that is stressful, but having BBC News on in the background continuously is threatening my mental health. And it’s often worse for our children, who take everything that they hear from adults as COMPLETE FACT – they generally can’t recognise speculation.

Talk to them about it calmly. (Remember, they are looking to YOU to see how to react.) Answer any questions, or try to find out the answers together. Watch Newsround. Brush up on your acting skills if you can and stay upbeat.

Let Shit Go.

For ALL of our kids SOME of the time, and for SOME of our kids ALL of the time, doing set schoolwork will be too stressful. Now’s the chance to do something completely different. Get crafting or making art. Baking or cooking. Decorate a room. Plant seeds or tend a garden. Take photos. Write a journal. Read absolutely anything. Facetime friends and relatives. Learn to sew, knit, crochet. Play games together (yes, I’m including video games in this!) Take naps. Dance. Sing. Play music. Watch a film. Watch make-up and hair tutorials. Coding tutorials are The Teen’s lifeblood, apparently.

All of these things involve LEARNING. (Not that they will notice!)

You could expand this if you wanted – for example, baking could involve maths (measuring the ingredients, working with units of measurement, calculating times in the oven, calculating costs), English (reading the recipe, writing their own version down, following instructions, reading ingredient packaging), gross and fine motor skills (stirring, holding, lifting, pouring) and life skills (washing up. ‘Nuff said.)

I’ll be popping into my Facebook page and Instagram to waffle on LIVE on a regular basis, so please join me over there too!

My lovelies, this is going to be hard, but you are utterly awesome and you – and your Superstars – will get through this. Sending ALL of my love at this time.

Posted in bullying, Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, Uncategorized

What to do if your child is being bullied

It is utterly gut-wrenching to discover that your child has been targeted by a bully. You can feel completely helpless – and incredibly angry. It’s pretty much the one thing that can make the mildest mannered parent turn in to a raging bull. It’s extremely tempting to storm into school all guns blazing and yelling blue murder.

I know, I’ve been there at times with both The Teen and The Tween!

But we all know that angry confrontation is unlikely to solve the problem – so here is my guide to dealing with bullying in (and out) of school.

Listen, Listen, Listen!

Let your child talk. However tempting it is to jump in with possible solutions, they may have been bottling this up for a while and getting it all out into the open can be a great relief. Ask them if they have any ideas of how you can help. Ask them if they are happy for you to help – sometimes children feel that getting you involved will make the situation worse. Stay calm!

Gather evidence

Keep a diary of any incidents. Write down everything that your child tells you about the incident. If your child is being bullied on social media – take screen shots (messages may be deleted by the sender in certain apps, and in others, like SnapChat, they disappear after a certain amount of time). Take down names of both the perpetrators and any witnesses.

Check your school’s anti-bullying policy

Every state school in the UK is legally obliged to have a policy regarding bullying – check what your school promises to do. You can always refer to this when doing the next step…

Talk to your child’s teacher

Keep as calm as possible, and present the evidence that you’ve collected. Ask if they are aware of the situation – if so, what actions have been taken so far? If not – what actions will be taken by the school to adress the issue?

Follow up the meeting by an email or message!

Many schools have a messaging app now, like ClassTing, Bloomz, ParentSquare etc to enable you to direct message your child’s teacher. If not, an email to the school’s email address for the attention of the teacher is also good. Message your child’s teacher summarising what has been discussed and what actions were agreed – it is helpful to have a record of all contact with the school in case the situation isn’t resolved, and needs to be escalated. Keep a printed copy if possible!

Head up the pay scale!

If things are not resolved and your child is still experiencing bullying, request a meeting with the Head Teacher and the DSL – Designated Safeguarding Lead. All schools MUST have a DSL as part of their Safeguarding policy. As before, take all the evidence you have gathered and any written communication that you have sent to or received from the class teacher. Remember that schools have what is called a Duty of Care to make sure your child has safe access to learning – and bullying makes this access to education UNSAFE.

Again, follow up any meetings with an email or message summarising the meeting and what actions have been agreed on.

If your child has been targeted because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or disability, the Equality Act 2010 means that people cannot treat your child in a way that violates their dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment – this is considered discrimination under the act. This is extremely serious – bring this up in any meetings if any hate-speech with regards to these issues has been aimed at your child.

Still not sorted? Contact the Chair of Governers

At this point, it’s time to contact the Chair of Governers. The school will have the name and contact details of all the governers, and you can write to them (again, this is where your evidence and records of all meetings and contact with the school is useful) and insist on an investigation. Make sure you give a time frame as to when you wish to hear back from them.

If all else fails…

Contact your local education authority.

You can make a formal complaint about the school through your local education authority.

If your child is continuing to experience physical assaults and threats, contact the police and report it.

I hope that helps! If you have any advice you’d like to add, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, or (as always!) you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, or join our lovely Supporting Superstar Students Facebook group for LOADS of hints, tips, resources and advice about navigating those Key Stage Two years!

Posted in Key Stage 2 Support

Are you a Superstar Student Supporter?

Are you a parent or carer of a child in, or going in to Year 3 to 6? Are you a terrific teaching assistant (TA stands for Totally Awesome, by the way!) working in Key Stage 2?

Then you’re a Superstar Student Supporter!

All our kids deserve to get the best education support possible to help them achieve their potential throughout their school career. And that’s not easy in the age of austerity, government cuts, local authority shortfalls, larger class sizes, poorly supported SEN integration, more rigorous curriculums and over-worked teachers.

I’ve created the Supporting Superstar Students group over on Facebook to give everyone who lives with, loves, supports or works with Key Stage 2 children a safe place to access unique resources, get news and views, connect with other like-minded people and learn more about what our kids are being taught in Key Stage 2.

Come on over and join us!

www.facebook.com/groups/supportingsuperstarstudents