23 May 2011

High ideals

Due to an incident that I am not going to detail just yet, I was carrying out some research and landed here

I would be interested in hearing from other people who think this is mighty fine window dressing but does not actually bear any relevance to reality in Walsall, in the hope that maybe we can put something together before making more formal approaches to the relevant authorities.

For those not wishing to click the link, the page is from Walsall Council's website regarding children and young people and it says:

Our Vision

We believe that all Children and Young People in Walsall have the right to be healthy, happy and safe, to be loved, valued and respected and to have high aspirations for a successful future.


We respect all children, young people and their families – by listening carefully to their views and acting on them wherever possible.

We are open and trustworthy – by making decisions transparently and involving others and we do what we say we will.

We believe in the potential of all children – by doing all we can to support their development and talents.

We are caring and responsible – by acting as good corporate parents and going the ‘extra mile’ in our supportive approaches to all children.

We will protect vulnerable children and young people – by taking firm urgent action when needed, sharing information and not tolerating oppressive behaviour.

We engage with children and young people, helping to empower them through supporting their aspirationsand giving them responsibility.

We celebrate and support cultural diversity and children’s sense of identity.

7 May 2011

From the Top of the New Art Gallery - no overall control

I was must have been feeling mighty brave this afternoon as I went out onto the fourth floor terrace at the top of the New Art Gallery in Walsall and took a few shots of the town from my itsy camera. My legs were wobbling when I returned inside!

The new residential canal side development, now nearing completion

Over the town, the famous BOAK chimney (grade 2 listed) and a faint outline of the Black Country towards Rowley and Dudley

Railway line, tax office, red light area...yes there is one there just ask the staff in the tax office.

BOAK again

St Matthews Church

Towards the new college

Mike Bird's monument aka Tesco built where the old college used to be and the new college in the background

Tameway Tower and the flats of the Chuckery

St Matthews again

Town Hall Tower...couldn't spot the peregrine falcons today

It all still looks the same as it did on Thursday before the Tories lost control of the council. I hear a rainbow coalition has been proposed...if we get one, can we have a truth and reconciliation commission too?

6 May 2011

What is Year 6 for?

Or more aptly who is Year 6 for? It's certainly not for the children who happen to be in that school year.

SATS (taking place at a primary school near you this week) the thorn in the flesh of teachers and pupils alike and as a parent of a Year 6 child, me too. From the SATS those horrible league tables are drawn up and published and for certain parents, those tables are all that matters when selecting a school for their children. The schools are judged on the results and the individual teachers are judged on those results. Heaven help the teacher who has more than one child with special educational needs and a needs assessment in their class. The pressure must be be unbelievable. So my ramblings are not a direct criticism of any teacher because I happen to think that the majority do an incredible job within the strait jacket that is the national curriculum and annual SATS. No, my ramblings are more against why we have allowed these tests to become the be all and end all of primary education.

It doesn't matter how you look at it the SATS results are artificial. By the end of Year 5 the child of average intelligence will have learned all they need to know in order to attain the level required in the tests they will sit in the following year. There is however a substantial minority of children who have not taken everything on board and need further coaching and there is a small minority that even with the best will in the world, will never ever attain the targets.

So what happens in Year 6? All children are subjected to a year long 'revision' campaign, going over what has been learned over and over again to the point of total boredom, distraction and switch off. There are only a finite number of ways you can teach the same thing again but in a slightly different manner. Then there are the practice papers ad nauseum. There is now a substantial back catalogue of previous years tests to 'practice' upon and all this does is teach a child how to pass this particular set of tests. And that is the crux, SATS results are manufactured, the children are taught how to get the right result. They actually learn nothing apart from a rigid criteria that is set for so called assessing their progress.

What a sham and what a pity. Instead of pursuing subjects and topics that would interest and engage and educate, the majority are not challenged to use their brains, which then get lazy and switch off. No wonder there is problem with some young people changing from reasonably interested in learning at Year 5 to monsters who do anything they can to disrupt and distract and not learn during Year 7.

The sooner all SATS are abolished along with league tables, the better. Maybe then we could concentrate on actually educating our youngsters instead of teaching them how to pass tests in a mind numbingly boring robotic way.

Nurturing a Sense of Pride - part 2

I've received some criticism from unexpected quarters over last nights post so I would like to clarify a few things about my vision!

I have two main rants; firstly schools do not appear to take advantage of what resources are available in their locality, meaning that parents are continuously being asked to fork out for expensive trips to far flung corners of the country, meaning children suffer over long and arduous journeys when there really is no need. So the local schools and teachers need educating about what the locality (and by that yes I do mean Walsall but also the wider central Midlands which is blessed with incredible resources) and you cannot do that without Serco who will not do anything without pressure from the local council.

Secondly we cannot leave everything to a certain type of parent. Educate the youngsters and to a certain extent you can re-educate the whole family. Introduce a child to something that they enjoy and then sit back and wait for pester power to kick in.

My vision isn't just about taking young people out on nature walks! If that was all that my own school days had offered me on out of school activities then even I would have got fed up! It's more integrating what has to be taught through the curriculum with what is available locally. There are environmental, geographical, geological and historical aspects as well as the personal development side and citizenship. The point I was trying to make is that if our young people are introduced to the wealth that surrounds them, they start to care for it and by doing that we make our local society a better place to live.

I could go into greater detail because I have really thought about this but I will not bore you all to death but I will attempt to take this vision of mine a little further.

Employers Training to recognise Domestic Abuse

From Aldridge Village Business Partnership and a wonderful idea open to all employers in Walsall:

Employers train to recognise domestic abuse
POLICE in Walsall are supporting a new training scheme set up by Walsall's Domestic Violence Forum, aimed at employers across the borough.

A number of one-day training courses, the first of their kind, will be held at venues across Walsall during May and June and anyone who runs a business is encouraged to book a place.

Employers will learn about safeguarding their business and their staff. Professional speakers will give guidance on creating a domestic abuse workplace policy and they will gain awareness in identifying victims of abuse.

Three dates and venues have been confirmed, with capacity for 20 delegates: 19th May, 20th July – St John's Church, Bloxwich and 17th June at Holiday Inn Express, Walsall.

Sheri Rogers, the Co-ordinator of Walsall's domestic violence forum, said: "Research informs that domestic abuse costs the economy over £2.7 billion every year.

This course has been designed to highlight domestic abuse and allow companies to put strategies in place to help their business and their staff.

The Home Office state that at least 1 in 4 women will suffer domestic abuse at some time in their life and a great many of those will be in employment.

The work place could be the only the time they are away from their abusers and is an opportune time for them to ask for help.Employers may be dealing with really vulnerable people, who may have been so conditioned; they feel they have to guard every action and what they say. They may take a lot of time off to hide the abuse and it may affect their productivity at work.

The one day programme will give employers valuable guidance in how they can help and identify victims.We can give them advice on how they can put measures in place to safeguard their staff and their business.By putting simple measures in place, such as helping with financial advice or being approachable, can help the victim.

If they have left their abuser, the work place may still be the only constant in their life. This may place them and their colleagues at risk of serious harm within the workplace.

I believe that once employers are aware of what domestic abuse is and how it affects their staff, they will be better equipped to deal with it."

Sergeant Trudy Runham, from Bloxwich police station, said: "I believe that this is a very valuable course that every employer should consider attending.

This is an important educational course to help with our continued campaign to tackle domestic abuse. The course will give people a real insight into what a victim's life is like.

It will also give the delegates valuable information of who they can contact if they want further advice, with the police being one of those agencies they can turn to.

Hopefully this course will allow further early intervention and could potentially save lives."

To book a place on the course you can contact Walsall Domestic Violence Forum by calling Tina on 01922 406767. You can email rogerss@walsall.gov.uk or alternatively visit the websitewww.wdvf.co.uk

If you are a victim of domestic violence and would like further advice you can contact Stepping Stones confidential help-line on 0800 389 5790 or call Walsall police on 0345 113 5000.

Stroke Awareness Day

From Aldridge Village Partnership:

The Rotary Club of Aldridge is organising a Stroke Awareness Day on Saturday May 14th (10am to 4pm) at the Methodist Church in Anchor Road, Aldridge.
Trainee nurses will be on hand to check blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight/height for BMI and to offer dietary advice. The event is free so please take advantage of this excellent opportunity to get checked out!

5 May 2011

Nurturing a Sense of Pride

Eighteen months ago I had to sit and suffer a patronising meeting for parents at my daughter's school, they attempting to justify the decision to visit a farm in Devon for the Year 6 Venture Week. One of the comments suffered was 'we go for walks and one afternoon we identified 45 different types of plants'. My thought, unvoiced at that moment was if you went for a walk down the lanes towards Stonnall or along the canal and around Park Lime Pits you could probably identify just as many plants and it wouldn't cost me over £300.

We are all guilty of not appreciating what is on our own doorsteps. Twenty years in London and I never did get why Londoners do not appreciate the wonderful city that they live in. Back here in Walsall it's a little more difficult to get worked up about what the Borough has to offer but one thing is does offer in abundance is green space, parks and a little bit of countryside, yet so many of our young people know so little about it and what it can offer them or if they do know about it they have no appreciation or pride and treat it accordingly.

Walking around The Dingle, Cuckoo's Nook and Hayhead Wood or along the Beacon Way as often as I do, I know exactly where I am going, which is fortunate because many of the way-markers and public footpath signs have either been torn down, broken or vandalised to such an extent as to be unreadable. Without casting aspersions in the wrong direction I should imagine that much of this has been caused by the feral, let out unsupervised to drink and smoke and to vandalise their own doorsteps.

So why is there no programme between Walsall MBC and Serco providers of our Education Service in Walsall to introduce all the young people of the borough to the green spaces and wildlife on their doorsteps? Goodness knows our schools spend enough time and parents money visiting other green spaces far and wide but appear to spend no time at all discovering the abundance of flora, fauna and even beauty in their own locality. It saddens me that my daughter is the only child in her class to truly know the delights of these local places, the only one to run wild in the woods leaping on and off logs, getting muddy and wet and discovering that wildlife isn't just for far flung so called real countryside.

If a child is introduced to such things whilst at primary school with the programme extending well into secondary school then a sense of belonging is gained, inclusion is attained and it is less likely that those young people will then go on to vandalise because with a sense of pride comes ownership and if you know that the places around you belong to you and those who live in your neighbourhood, you're less likely to abuse.

It does work. I described how it can and did work in my last blog. Goodness knows there is enough scope within the national curriculum for something really exciting and innovative to be launched here in Walsall that would in the long term benefit the whole community and would also save money! And yes I would willingly volunteer time and trouble because I have the vision but not the capabilities on my own. Instead they're going to close my local youth club.......