Life as a student 1991 v 2019

Uni cards then and now. There will be 25 years between graduations!

In September 1991, at just 18, I left home to study for my BA in European Studies, French and Politics and finished my university studies in June 1996, having completed a PGCE. I was happy to leave my student years, I had genuinely enjoyed my studies and was looking forward to a career (and a salary) and new adventures. At the time, I had no plans to return to study, maybe an adult ed course in a creative or practical subject, but nothing academic.

Fast forward a couple of decades(!) and I began to seriously consider further study. I’ve found my niche in special education having worked in a ASC specialist school for the past 15 years. I’m now a member of the SLT and often in meetings which require an in-depth knowledge of the legal framework of SEN. I also lead on key areas in the school too and whilst I read around my subject I felt I needed something a little more. As a SEN parent I was keen to have more knowledge for my own personal battles too! So as from September I have been studying for the National Award for Sencos, a masters level course. I’m very lucky that my school is paying for the course so my focus is solely on the academic demands.

Even this early into the course I can see the difference between my experiences of being a student in the different centuries (omg I feel ancient after that sentence)

We all need our peers to bounce off ideas, discuss set texts etc.. As an 18 year old this was in the ‘cafe’ area of my Uni after lectures and seminars, we would drink 10p cups of coffee from a vending machine in horrible plastic brown cups around bench tables. Now we have exceptional catering on our taught days, freshly brewed coffees and teas, posh biscuits and a 2 course lunch, but it’s still a great opportunity to discuss our lectures. As we’re all based around a large geographical area we keep in contact digitally away from our taught days. We’re all connected through a What’s App group and are using it to check in and work together..

1991 me would have been blown away by the 2019 technology. We didn’t have mobile phones, the internet or our own PCs in ’91 although these would gradually appear in my 5 years of study. In 1991 I was reading books and paper or micro fiche journals and hand writing my assignments. One of my biggest worries about my new course was how the internet would impact on my studies, how do you reference a web page etc.. However these fears have been allayed and it all seems a little simpler than I remember. In fact the whole process seems more relaxed, sensible referencing guidelines and the beauty of word processing and an iCloud where I can access my work at any time on any device! I also don’t need to ever visit the university library. As we’re a distance course all our set texts are digital downloads and we can access all journals online too. I find it difficult to comprehend and a little sad that I will do a masters course without ever entering a library. Whilst I’m too much of a stationery fan to give up my notebook and pen, the digital learning platform accessed through my iPad complements the lectures and all the presentations and resources are there for me to read as the talk is done.

I was so lucky to have done my degree with no fees and the final days of a maintenance grant and feel equally grateful that this course is being financed by work. This is the biggest change in my student experiences, as most students are paying fees, there appears to be more of a corporate feel to studies and the expectation that you are paying for a high quality experience. This is also the saddest change as I believe that this new financial burden will stop some of our brightest students from poorer backgrounds attending university.

Despite the changes the structure is just the same, lectures, reading, research and lots of writing assignments. Life may change around us but academia continues as it always has and it does remain a privilege to be able to study and learn about my specialism.


Reading …

On a cold and wet Saturday afternoon I was enjoying one of my happy moments, snuggled up and reading. In the Times magazine, I came across this article on David Bowie and his favourite books. The images impacted me far more than the text, how wonderful to see a celebrity reading, in fact anyone simply being pictured with a book and enjoying the pleasure of reading. It made me reflect on a recent trip with Little Man’s class to the local library as a parent helper. Our library is the hub of a community and so much more than a place to borrow books. There are many activities for all ages in the community on offer and it’s the ideal place to spend time, there is no other place where you can visit for free and be welcomed so warmly. However during our visit, the librarians who knew most of the children not simply by name but by favourite genre too asked if anyone had never been to a library before and for two of the seventeen children it was their first visit. I was genuinely shocked but the teacher and librarians quickly and sympathetically arranged a school account and the children were shown around and allowed to take a book home. I just felt sad that these two boys had never had the joy of being in a library.

I have not been able to identify the creator of this cartoon, if you are able to help please comment below

As a parent I am always looking of ways of encouraging and promoting reading. Mr S reads to Little Man every night at bedtime whilst Little Miss reads to me. We do the summer reading challenge annually, Tommy the elf always brings a Christmas book to be read in the run up to Christmas and for Little Man who struggles to read we listen to stories too. I believe that we have to be the example and I try to read rather than be seen on my mobile or iPad in front of the children. I enjoy reading on all mediums and my Kindle is always in my bag for a cheeky 10 minute read whilst on taxi duty or sitting in the park. I feel that in this online world we should all step away and immerse ourselves in a literary world. We should all be a bit more David Bowie!

My Week of Little Sparkles ✨ …


This was a tough parenting week. After so much effort in trying to get Little Man into a special school we got the official response that whilst they did think he was suitable (yeah, a win) there were no spaces in the Year 7 starting in 2020. We’ve now begun the process of appealing, writing letters to get additional support etc. Every time he needs additional help, an EHCP or a move to a special school it is such a battle with bureaucracy and funding. Also this week Little Miss has been experiencing friendship difficulties which are pretty heartbreaking to see. However, even worse has been the behaviour of parents who are unable to take a balanced view of events and have made the situation even more difficult. Fortunately after this tough week where work has been madly busy too, we ended with a lovely weekend and a very poignant reminder of how important family is.

In writing this I realised that our sparkles are mostly from the weekend. It was a tough week, although I was impressed by the children’s new dentist, so funny and friendly, he even helped Little Miss with her English homework! She also has a new hair cut, the hairdresser totally got her and gave her a rock chick bob which she aces.

1. With Me Now podcast

I love WMN and with a long drive to Uni on Friday I got to listen to it in peace and quiet. OMG this episode had all the feels, tears of laughter and sadness. It also featured contributions from two bloggers whose running blogs I have read for years and have inspired me via the net.

2. A big Christmas tree 🎄

Our Uni course is taught in a 18th century Mansion House, it is a very grand venue, rather different from my undergraduate days! When I arrived on Friday I was greeted by one of the biggest indoor trees I’ve seen. The photo doesn’t really show the true perspective of the tree, it’s huge. The Christmas craft markets and parties started at the house this weekend so I think this was why I thought I’d fast forwarded a month when I arrived.

3. parkrun mud.

Wow, this was the muddiest ( and slowest) parkrun we’ve done so far. We embraced the conditions making it also one of the best!

4. A naming ceremony.

This was my first naming ceremony and it was for my friend’s miracle baby twins. It was such a joyful and happy event. I was so impressed by the ethos and style of the ceremony. The celebrant was fantastic and explained the parents choice for the ceremony and that the value they placed on faith was important but they wanted their children to make their own choices. The ceremony featured aspects of a christening, the lighting of candles, god parents and the audience promising to guide and support the children. However the most beautiful part was the parents promise which they had written to their children, this was emotional and tissues were needed.

After the ceremony, we all enjoyed an afternoon party and it was just perfect. My friend had organised a rainbow theme and the decoration was unbelievable, a totally instagram ‘able flower rainbow wall of colours (and yes we’ve lots of photos of us all standing in front ), a big rainbow of balloons, balloon decorations on each table, the babies initials filled with balloons. Totally stunning. The children loved the party there was a face painter, balloon modeller, magician, doughnut stall , pick n mix stall etc… This entertainment allowed the adults to relax and chat and enjoy the wonderful food and drink available to us. It was such a special and unexpectedly emotional afternoon and one which reminded us all of the importance of family.

I have a final sparkle, not very exciting but one which made me happy. I worked my day off this week and missed my cleaning day. This morning we all worked together to deep clean the house and its lovely tonight to have such a spotless and organised house. I’m one of those people who gets excited by neatly folded colour coordinated towels in my bathroom cupboard! Christmas entertaining starts next week so I now feel I’m in a good place to start.

My fortnight of Little Sparkles ✨ November 15th 2019


So here we are in November, the wettest , dreariest of months, although thankfully we have the anticipation of the twinkly lights of December. It’s been a fortnight of ordinary but a friend and I whom I met for a coffee recently both decided that ordinary is sometimes a wonderful and comforting feeling.

Time for some little sparkles …

1. A new play park. The play park at our parkrun country park has now been opened and looks great. I love the eco feel to it and there are beautiful animal wood carvings on the structure. Unfortunately the weather was pretty yucky after our parkrun so we came home to dry out and warm up. We’ll be back soon to explore.

2. New nails. Well not quite as these are my real nails, no extensions here but I finally booked in and had my nails done 💅🏼 at a nail bar. I like the colour as I’m not a pink nails type of girl and wanted something more seasonal. I’m so impressed how well they’ve lasted, I’ll be back for more.

3. An art homework. We’re settling into homework routines and this week I think I may have enjoyed Little Miss’ homework more than her. It was a collage of an environment linked to a previous homework. Little Miss needed to recreate a summer meadow and we flicked through magazines for suitable images. Whilst the work is hers and I’ve not done any of the creative task, it was nice to flick through magazines and been reminded of those lovely summer days

4. Bobble Hats. I love a bobble hat in winter and have many variations, grey, pink and purple are among my favourites. What better way to disguise a bad hair day with a bright happy hat.

5. Festive hot chocolates. We love in a town with no coffee chains, yep these towns do exist and we all love our independent coffee shops. However a trip to big town for a little Christmas browsing meant we could try the new Costa festive hot chocolates. I had gingerbread and Little Miss Black Forest hot chocolate. Both were delicious and just the right thing for a crisp November afternoon.

6. Reading a book. After being poorly at half term I have tried to make time to relax at the end of the day. This month I have read every evening in bed and it’s definitely helped me to wind down. The book The last anniversary is by one of my new favourite writers Liane Moriarty and an excellent read. It features family relationships, a little bit of a whodunnit and romance.

Remembrance Sunday 2019

After the beautiful community project to commemorate the centenary of the end if World War 1 in 2018, I wondered if this would be a quieter Remembrance Sunday. In fact the service at the War memorial was very busy with possibly even more people than last year.

Our Remembrance took a personal turn this year as we ended up researching and adopting a local soldier. Little Man represented his school at the schools’ service on the Friday preceding, where the local children present art and readings in memory of the fallen. After the church service they parade to the war memorial and plant crosses in the garden of remembrance ready for Sunday. When he came home Little Man told us all that his cross was for Henry Churchill. This triggered research on the internet and we were able to find out that Henry Churchill was a 35 year old soldier in WW1 from a small hamlet near us. We found out where he was buried in France and the inscription on his grave chosen by his sister.

On Remembrance Sunday Little Man was again at the service and parade this time as a cub. It’s a big parade with veterans in old military vehicles, a military band, uniformed groups, dignitaries etc following on foot. The parade streets are lined by the public, showing respectful silence until the last group whom are the serving soldiers from the nearby military base, these are greeted with polite applause. Unusually our town’s service is always in the afternoon with the silence around 4pm as dusk starts to fall. It is very atmospheric as the memorial is on a hill by the seafront and the only sound are the waves lapping the beach.

As I stood in silence I did pray for all our war dead, however a very special prayer went to Henry Churchill and those brave pilots from my Gramps’ 609 Squadron. We do remember and I have faith that we always will.

A fortnight of Little Sparkles ✨

The autumn half term holiday is one of my favourites of the school year. It’s a much needed rest after the busy start to the academic year, the weather is normally good enough for outdoor adventures and in our family we have two birthdays, Halloween and fireworks night in this period too. Although my children only have one week’s holiday, I get two weeks and it’s my time to get prepared, sort out life admin and catch up with friends. Unfortunately this year in my first week, I had my worst migraine for years and was bed ridden for a few days, I missed an 80s party 😟 and we had to delay our trip to Bristol by a day. Although a little shorter than expected we all had wonderful time in the West Country.

1. Old friends

Whilst in Bristol I arranged to meet my old mentor, friend and all round gorgeous person for a catch up. We go back a long, long way (30 years!) as she was originally my French teacher at secondary school, we then kept in touch as I studied French at university and then I returned to my old secondary school as a French teacher in her department. She is one of life’s kindest and shiny people and just a pleasure to be around. I felt uplifted to be in her company and to catch up on all the news about her family, and shared friends and colleagues.

2. Seven Worlds, One Planet

There are not many programmes which can entertain and educate 3 generations at the same time, but the start of Seven Worlds, One Planet by David Attenborough on Sunday had us all transfixed and in awe of the filmography. The series started with Antarctica , cue penguins, sharks and seals. It really focused on climate change and as well as being inspiring there was a strong message to us all of our responsibilities to our planet.

3. Ice Skating ⛸

We moved from Bristol to Weston Super Mare when Mr S returned home for work. The highlight of our stay at my parents was ice skating at the iconic Tropicana. When I was a child the Tropicana was the place to go in WSM, a fun swimming pool with a huge pineapple 🍍 slide that could be easily seen along the prom. It’s had various guises since and is now a pop up ice rink for the winter season. It has been created beautifully and has amazing Christmas models decorating the area and a cafe with a real alpine lodge feel. I imagine it would feel rather magical as a Christmas venue later in the season. The rink is large and sparkly and the children and I all had lots of fun on the ice. We were joined for the day by my cousin who unfortunately was in a cast so unable to skate but a real cheerleader for us all. It’s always lovely to see her, again such a kind and gentle person.

4. Birthday tables.

I do like to celebrate a birthday and as I was at my mum’s the night before hers, I decorated the kitchen ready to surprise her on her birthday morning. I love these balloons, they’re not helium, you just blow up with a straw. Little Miss’ similar balloons from early summer are still inflated and are decorating her room! We went to a lovely, stylish cafe for a birthday breakfast, the children loved their pancake stacks and the avocado on toast was delicious. I think breakfast is an underrated meal to go out for, it was a delightful, relaxed way to start a special day.

5. Halloween

Our Halloween was a quiet celebration this year, we had just returned home so hadn’t done all the prep we normally do and the awful weather meant there were very few people trick or treating. We decorated the house, ( I love my new ghost lights, a bargain buy in a summer sale) did a spooky nature walk, dressed up and did some pumpkin carving on the day. Whilst it felt right this year given our holiday plans, I did miss my spooky baking. What’s a Halloween without a ghost or bat biscuit!

6. More birthday celebrations.

On Friday we organised a family day to celebrate Mr S’ birthday. It is tomorrow but with England in the rugby world cup final, he’ll be cheering them on, so today seemed a better day for us all. As the weather is so poor again, we went to the cinema to see our family favourite Shaun the Sheep in Farmegeddon and then out for a meal. The film was cleverly done and played to both a child and adult audience with lots of nice touches.

#19for2019 No.19 Carve a Pumpkin 🎃

Whilst this is my number 19 on my list, it’s not my last done as many of my 19 are works in progress. This was a quick win too, unlike my annual 12k daily steps average quest this was a simple hour long task, I was just waiting for the correct date, October 31st, Halloween.

For the last few years since the children have been able to carve their pumpkins independently, I’ve missed the fun, so I decided to do my own this year. I chose a simple idea, a design themed on day of the dead 💀. Normally we have a few days build up to Halloween with decorations and spooky activities planned during half term, however as we were away all the activities were done for October 31st. We decorated in the morning, did a haunted walk in the nature reserve in the afternoon and carved the pumpkins in the evening. I do like the anticipation and build up to special events but given our busy week it was the perfect scenario for this week.

I enjoyed carving the pumpkin, listening to some spooky music and being a little creative. It’s another #19for2019 ticked off but definitely one to keep up in future years.