Category Archives: School

ShareAware from the NSPCC

Around a year ago, I wrote about choosing to give my then 8 year old an iPod Touch – it’s since become the most popular post on the blog by far, particularly in the run up to Christmas when I guess many parents were facing this same dilemma. And in fact we were facing it all over again ourselves – my girl in the middle (age seven) is now the very proud owner of her own iPod also.

Until recently, I’ve been fairly confident in my ability to police tactfully supervise the use of internet enabled devices – I tend to be pootling about nearby when the kids are online; I have set the devices up to only access age appropriate apps and content; and Google and Youtube are also set to safe search to give another layer of security. Realistically I know that I won’t be able to maintain this level of supervision as the kids get older, a point driven home when my eldest came home from school last term and informed me he’d need to borrow my laptop to log on to the gaming/social networking site he’d signed up for on the class computer earlier that day.

I’d never heard of the site in question, though after some research I’m cautiously ok with it under fairly strict conditions. However the experience served to highlight a couple of things to me – firstly that despite considering myself social media savvy, I am actually completely out of date as far as being aware of what’s popular with kids and teenagers; secondly although I can and do supervise his online access at home, I can’t expect that he will have an equivalent level of supervision elsewhere, even at school.

Given that I can’t wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from the world for, like, EVER (sob), AND that I seem to be horribly out of date (and there was me thinking I was all down with da kidz – I mean I’m on Instagram and everything!!) I was really pleased when the NSPCC contacted me about their new #shareaware campaign. It’s aimed at parents with children ages 8-12, to help them support their kids to use the internet safely; it includes a parents guide which offers general, sensible and realistic advice for parents, and there’s a section on ‘Talking Tips’ which I found particularly useful for suggesting ways to open conversations about staying safe online.

#Shareaware also addresses the biggest problem that we face as adults – staying up to date with the vast number of apps, games and sites that young people use to communicate with each other. There’s a brilliant guide called Netaware where you can search by name, by popularity, and even by the colour of an icon – and once you have identified the app you want to know more about, there is a wealth of detailed information available, including:

  • how young people use the app, and why they like it
  • how easy or otherwise it is to find/change privacy settings
  • how likely it is that a child will come across inappropriate content
  • safety advice for parents and children using the app
  • Other similar or related apps.

I’ve seen various other online guides for parents, and none have been as comprehensive and user friendly as Netaware; and the great thing is that the content on the site is being continuously reviewed so that as quick as these pesky new apps get popular, us dinosaur parents will be able to get with the programme! And let’s face it, the internet isn’t going anywhere, so getting with the programme is the best chance we have of making sure our kids enjoy the digital age for everything that’s brilliant about it, rather than get caught up in a situation they can’t handle.

If your kids are online in any shape or form, I’d highly recommend a browse through Netaware, as well as the other #shareaware resources from the NSPCC – and I’d love to hear what you think about this, or other parent friendly tools for safe online use, below!

Homework – epic fail

When the Husband and I were mulling over whether to have a third child (which in itself was irrelevant as I was, unbeknownst to me, already up the duff) we talked about all the pros and cons of extending our family from two kids to three. Of all the things we talked about – the fact that we’d need a bigger car and eventually another bedroom for example – not once did one of us turn to the other and say ‘You know, it would mean three sets of homework’. If one of us had, we may well have run screaming for the hills (and then back again when we realised it was too late anyway…)

I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, I remember when my youngest started primary and we went to the welcome evening, where the school homework policy was introduced. I nodded along in agreement as the headmaster described the home learning assignments as an opportunity for parents to be involved in their kids’ school lives, and I also remember looking forward *hollow laugh* to the fun times I’d have with my precious firstborn, doing homework assignments together with just the right amount of maternal guidance, delivered in a non-helicopter fashion of course.

Yeah, RIGHT. Needless to say this is not how it works. In real life, the whole homework experience varies from manageable to meltdown, depending on the child, the topic, how far through the term (and therefore how knackered) they are, and various other factors that I haven’t figured out but for all I know could have something to do with the phases of the moon.

So in order to avoid the whole weekend being overshadowed by my chirpy suggestions to look at the homework page, followed by slightly less chirpy requests, followed by (possibly barked) orders to AT LEAST MAKE A START followed by everyone in a panic on Monday night and me imploding with the effort of not saying ‘I told you so’ through gritted teeth, I came up with a Plan. And it seemed like a good one, on the surface….

Yes, dear reader. I decided that I could in fact manage three kids doing their homework in one sitting, all together around the table. Oh how marvellous! The big ones could help the littlest, and they could all speak in Welsh to each other, and I would be on hand benevolently dishing out pencils and suggestions (again, totes non-helicopter).

I told the Husband. He raised his eyebrows.

‘Well, how difficult can it be?’ I demanded. ‘If their teachers can manage thirty of the critters from 9 till 3.30pm, surely I can manage three for an hour? And my own three to boot??’

It started well, to be honest. For about five and a half minutes, all was peaceful. Then someone stole someone’s pencil. Then the good rubber went missing. Why it was any better than the sixty three other rubbers we have on the house I don’t know, but there you go. Then the youngest got bored of his drawing of our house and decided to help the eldest by ‘writing’ on his pristine new homework book. In the meantime, my girl in the middle asked me if I had any ideas for her class rep election speech (part of her homework assignment) and then proceeded to yell at me when I suggested a couple of things because now I had suggested them, she couldn’t use them, because her homework had to be All Her Own Work and now I had used up her good ideas by saying them first and WAAAAAH. My eldest, who had the same homework, announced it was pointless because he didn’t want to stand as the class rep anyway, so he wasn’t going to bother doing it, then my youngest had a paddy because in Reception there are no such things as class reps and he wanted to be one, and tore up his drawing of a house because it wasn’t PROPER homework like his big brother and sister had. And then cried. While I’m desperately drawing the outline of another house for him to colour in (ok, I helicoptered a bit there) the eldest was leaning over the shoulder of the middlest and nicking her hard won ideas for his homework, for which he got himself a kick in the shins, which apparently is ok because the Famous Five kick each other under the table all the time, Mum, but *shocked face* no, OF COURSE I wouldn’t do it at school, because that kind of behaviour isn’t allowed there (go figure). And all this to the soundtrack of the Husband sniggering to himself in the next room, occasionally calling out words of ‘encouragement’ while regretfully turning down the requests for help because he was snowed under with work. Or the Grand Prix.

Meanwhile I’m trying out classroom management techniques gleaned from the primary schools I visit. Clapping my hands? Fail. Standing and waiting quietly till the noise has died down? Fail. Splitting up troublesome children? I’ve only got one table. Fail. Talk in a progressively quieter voice so they’d have to quieten down to listen to me? Fail. Use unrelentingly positive language with NO SWEARS? Fail, but irrelevant since none of them were listening to a flipping word that came out of my mouth. Threaten to phone the headmaster? YAY, that worked! Guiltily remember a pep talk at the welcome evening about how parents should absolutely not do such a thing. Oh. Fail, then. In fact, epic fail all round…

So. There you have it. My addiction to Educating the East End is officially cured, as is my secret daydreaming every time I see a Teach First advert. And if anyone has any suggestions for surviving the next nine months of weekly homeworks (short of ditching the Husband and marrying a primary school teacher) then please get in touch – you’ll find me hiding under the table with the gin!

Homework Epic Fail

I’ve linked up this post with Sam’s ‘The Truth About’ linky at And Then The Fun Began – head over there for me more posts that tell the truth and nothing but the truth about the joys of parenting!

And then the fun began...

5 things parents want to say to primary schools

Earlier in the week, The Guardian ran an article entitled ’10 things teachers want to say to parents but can’t’. While I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with any of the points raised, it did set me to wondering what would parents want to say to schools, but feel they can’t. So I did a shout out on social media – and was surprised by the uniformity of response….it seems that our issues as parents are the same from Cardiff to Carnoustie and beyond. So here’s the five things that, from my very scientific survey, parents want to say to primary school staff.

What seems obvious to you, is probably not to us! 

When our first child starts school for the first time, we need a bit of hand holding. Yes, US. And no, before you roll your eyes, I’m not talking about emotional support for clingy parents.  I’m talking about the practicalities.

How do we pay for school dinners?  How much are they? If we don’t send an unspecified amount in to an unspecified person on the first day of term, will our child be fed? What are we supposed to put in the school bags that we’ve bought? Should they come home every day? What about the sports kit that’s at home labelled and ready – what days should they bring this in? Are they supposed to tell us? All this seems obvious and trivial to you, because your school works like clockwork, just like always has done. But it’s not obvious to us. And when you’re navigating the whole starting school thing, with the inevitable changes in childcare arrangements, working patterns and yes, just a little bit of sadness, being told such practicalities without having to go on an epic voyage of discovery would really, really help.

Inset Days

Some schools publish a list of their inset days for the year at the beginning of September. That’s absolutely brilliant, because it means that we can book time off work, or book extra childcare, or even plan a term-time treat at somewhere like Legoland that would be packed out during the holidays. Perfect. Of course, the other end of the spectrum is the dog eared letter that your child might or might not remember to bring home from school telling you that there’s an Inset day booked in a couple of weeks time. Cue scrabbling to negotiate time off work, which might not be possible; trying to book extra childcare – too late; begging family and friends for just one more favour, and the whole thing becomes a nightmare.

Please stop recoiling in horror when we ask how our child is doing in relation to the rest of the class

It’s like this. If you tell us that our child is at stage 4, or level 6, that means nothing to us. Nothing at all. If you tell us ‘your child is achieving at the level I expect him to’ – that also means nothing, because we don’t know what you expect. If you tell us ‘your child can do x, y and z’, well we probably already know that, but what we don’t know is whether that means he or she is doing ok or not.

To make sense of any of this, we need some context, and the easiest way for us to get that is to enquire how our child is doing in relation to his or her classmates.  Most of us ask that question not because we want to argue with your assessment, nor because we want to hothouse our child to the top of the class. We just want to try and get an understanding of what your levels and grades and achieving appropriately actually means.


A common gripe, this, ranging from ‘my school hasn’t updated its website since the days of Dial.Pipex’ to ‘browsing my school’s website is akin to wandering blindfold through a jungle, in the dark, with both legs tied together’

As parents, we want a simple, easy to navigate website which has practical information to make our dealings with the school easier. Dates, times, how to speak to someone, how to pay for school dinners. A calendar populated with meaningful information (as opposed to cryptic references to events that may or may not be relevant to our child). Homework pages with clear instructions. What we need to do if our child is sick. A who’s who page that actually tells us who’s who – a photo gallery of staff members taken from their own school days gives the kids a laugh, but is absolutely useless for a parent trying to figure out who does what.


Most of us remember homework to be about reading, spellings, times tables. Now, it’s still about those things – but also some bonus extras!’Create a 3D artwork on the theme of Happiness’ (WHAT?) or ‘Build a functioning four wheeled vehicle out of whatever is in the recycling bin’ (er, empty wine bottles?) or ‘Go shopping for the ingredients for a delicious and nutritious meal – fair trade and organic, obvs, and preferably locally grown, and then design a recipe and help cook it and take photos of everyone enjoying it through gritted teeth at midnight on Sunday night’

We know the thinking behind this. Homework is supposed to be a fun and family activity where you can enjoy taking an active part in your child’s education. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But – NEWSFLASH – we hardly see our kids these days. We’re running around like headless chickens trying to make ends meet, trying to manage different childcare arrangements for different kids, trying not to feel guilty because they are having another ‘early night’ so we can keep on top of work. When the weekend comes and we finally get to spend some precious time with our kids, we’d like to do something that they – and we – enjoy. So before you blithely ask parents and children to ‘Have fun researching building materials and then creating a scale model of the Taj Mahal with actual real live miniature tourists wandering around and be as creative as you like *smiley face*’ please stop and think a minute about what that ‘fun and creative’ experience really means for the average family. Because in reality it’s just another chore to be squeezed into the tiny little window of time we have to enjoy each other.

So there you have it. The top five things that parents want to say to primary school staff, but can’t. Comments welcome, as always!