Euro Elections ’19

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So another Thursday in May and another election, I’m sure for turnout and efficiency it would be far easier to have just one polling day.  It seems that turnout is expected to be low today; at our polling station there were half the number of tellers, boxes and booths from the local elections a few weeks ago, where the turnout was around 42%.

Personally, I think that this is going to be the biggest protest vote election ever and I don’t believe that the results will reflect what would happen in a general election.  Today angry people are making their vote, others disillusioned with politics are trying a different approach and many are not voting, through apathy or disgust at the current political situation.  Whilst I never reveal my vote, I’m one of those trying a different approach today, with Proportional Representation in place for European elections, my vote does count.  PR is a voting system I would like to see in British elections as it would remove the power from the two main political parties and offer a platform to many more.  We have to develop a more consensus approach to policy making on key issues such as Europe, the environment, social care, the NHS etc.. and our current system does not encourage this, there are too strong party lines.

With the results not due ’til Sunday night, there’s no late night election viewing for me tonight, just a wait for Sunday and the results.  We’re only one country in the European elections so for all the fascination in our results it won’t have a huge impact on the make up of the parliament, 73 seats of the 751 contested are for British MEPS.  However the results will arguably have more of an impact on our domestic politics and for a political geek like me more opportunities to question and ponder our political system.

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The little things… Cards and a Watermelon 🍉

In my last post, I did write how I dislike the SATS and the impact on our children.  However this week, Little Miss has sat the tests and its been my job to be her chief cheerleader and support (along with Mr S of course) On Monday morning, we gave her the ‘You Got This’ card and everyday she has opened her lunch box to a new little card from me, just a few words to let her know I have been thinking of her.  She’s collected them all and clipped them together in her bag, so I think they’ve been appreciated.

SATS week has been a pretty good week for Little Miss the Year 6 were invited into school early for breakfast and all took up the offer, so they’ve had sustenance, good company and a positive vibe to start the day.  Apart from the time in the tests, they have also enjoyed a lot of time outside in the sunshine playing and had a treat day on Friday, where they were all spoilt by their lovely teachers.  My memories of the final weeks of primary school were sunny afternoons on the school field and practising for the end of year show and I remember it as being one of my happiest school times.  I hope she gets to enjoy similar now.  Its strange that even with another half term left the SATS week seems like the beginning of the end of primary school.

On Thursday, I was excited that the SATS were over and expected Little Miss to be too, I had planned for us to go into town after school for a little treat.  However, she was exhausted after the week of tests and despite my offer of cake at one of the little cafes, an ice cream sundae or similar, all she asked for was a slice of watermelon!  This is not quite as easy when you live in a small town with none of the big supermarkets.  The best I could find was prepacked watermelon slices for the afternoon and on Friday I went to the weekly market before work to buy a watermelon.  Something as simple as a fresh watermelon has made her so happy.  I shared a photo with my  mum of her holding the watermelon with the biggest smile on her face, life is about the simple things.

I think we’re all relieved and happy that the SATS are now over, there’s no homework this weekend, simply two days to relax and enjoy.  I was really proud to receive the message from Little Miss’ teacher amd knowing that she has done her ‘absolute best’ is all that matters to me.

SATS Testing, another brick in the wall.

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Tomorrow, Year 6 children will be sitting formal SATS, 4 days of literacy and numeracy tests.  My daughter will be among them and having experienced this school year with her, I am against this formal testing.  My daughter is bright and talented in many areas, will the SATS measure this, no, but they will tell me if she can use the past progressive tense correctly, recognise a subordinating conjunction, calculate, do algebra and that really useful skill, use Roman numerals correctly ( As a parent I’ve used Google a lot this year for homework.) These aren’t the academic skills I want to know that my child can do, I want to know that she can read and understand, have a good range of vocabulary and do key sums and reasoning to help develop the numeracy skills we need in life.  How much of this year’s work will be ‘forgotten’ over the next few years as its been rote taught for tests and not for skills.   This year we should also be developing social and emotional skills to ensure the wellbeing of our children.

I feel the creative spark has gone this year, I like a little project for homework, yet every week its just been pages and pages of online practice.  On Bank Holiday Monday, when I was out with the children at the park, a message pinged through on DoJo (another pet hate) with a message congratulating those currently working online and the number of sums completed by the class on the day on a particular app.  It was a bank holiday and there was pressure to log on, it seemed so wrong.  How are we going to develop a love and interest for learning when we are boring our children with the content of the curriculum, we need a curriculum for our digital world, with practical activities and investigations, not formal testing.

Whilst the focus has been on the SATS at the school, with lots of homework, parent workshops, catch up clubs etc.. The staff are trying to be positive and supportive in these last few days, the children all received the letter above and have all been encouraged to relax and rest this weekend and do something fun. Little Man has been on cub camp this weekend, so Little Miss has had quality time with us, meeting up with her grandparents and enjoying a beach walk and ice cream this afternoon.  There are also great school plans for next week with special breakfast clubs, treats etc.. during the week.

When the results are published, I won’t be sharing my child’s results with others (despite some school mums’ ‘interest’)   I’ve always felt strongly about this as I have an academically able child and one with significant learning needs, I don’t want either to be judged on academic performance, they are both so much more than a number or grade.  I also know that the results have very little use in the future, yes secondary schools receive them but ours do their own testing for the subjects where there are ability groupings in the first half term of Year 7.  It does ask the question of why do we do SATS?

I can only hope that after this year’s heavy academic focus, in these final weeks of primary school, the formal curriculum is put aside and the children can spend their time being creative, sporty and arty, cherishing the last few weeks of primary school before the grand adventure of secondary school.

Voting ..

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Today where I live there were elections for both our town and new county councils, a busy day at the booth where I had to choose 8 candidates! Politics is my guilty pleasure, I studied it at uni and follow it closely.  For me its not about a political party but the processes, culture etc.. Despite this keen interest, I am exasperated about the current political system and do wonder if we are at the time in history where our party political system will implode.

I always vote in every election and say a quiet thanks to the suffragettes every time. Although, I live in an area where one party holds every seat and there is never any competition, I still gamely go along and make my choice. 

Today, for the first time ever,  I paused at the booth and wondered why am I doing this, I don’t feel represented.  In fairness, the town council was a fairly easy choice, I know a lot of candidates and despite party politics they are all good people trying hard to improve our town. 

I struggled with the next layer of government, our new council.  We pay one of the highest council taxes and yet I genuinely struggle to see how it is spent to improve services in our small town. All schools have deficit budgets and our library, with its opening hours cut, is always under the threat of closure, despite it being the hub of our town and housing so many additional services.  I don’t have direct experience of services for the elderly but I am sure it is a similar state too as there are always local campaigns for all services. I despair at some of the decisions made around education and key services and do feel other towns in the county benefit more than others. Ironically the most common council employee in our town is not for services but teams of traffic wardens raising revenue which is not reinvested in our town. The wardens are legendary in their ticketing and not just for obvious violations but really obscure ones you didn’t even know were illegal!

I’ve lost confidence in regional politics how do these people represent me and provide the best services to our population? And this is just at a local area, I’m not confident in our national political system either. I’m an ordinary citizen and yet feel unrepresented. I can’t help but feel that is how extreme political parties develop, preying on the politically vulnerable and isolated, polarising opinion, turning people against each other and I am fearful that this is how our country may become. We need to become more focused on solutions, serving all members of our communities and respecting differences so that when we do vote we are confident that our voice is heard.