A new year and some thoughts.

It’s been a while since I was here, though quite surprised at how long ago! I was still on maternity leave for one!

My son was 2 in October and has kept me very busy this holiday, with what we think was the Flu. Delightful and no rest for mummy!

My other son is 9.5 and has been a superstar helping me when asked (sometimes even doing it first time, others requiring 10 times!) He’s a Cub Scout and loving it, wont be long before he is a Scout! Thanks to his Akela and to anyone who reads this who volunteers with Scouting/Guiding. You do amazing things for so many young people! I helped out recently to help deliver content for their disability awareness badge. Would be remiss of me not to offer to help there! The kids were great and I think the other volunteers learned something too!

I managed another full year of my photo a day project! I just adore looking back over a year/a few years/a decade and seeing how life has changed.

I’m still singing with BackBeat a cappella, or BBAC for short. This year we made it to the convention stage and did ourselves proud. Hopefully we’ll make it back again there in May to go for it again. I’m also now singing in a Barbershop Quartet, called QuarterBeat. We initially set up to help chorus learn new songs, but actually found out that we sound pretty good together and we enjoy each others’ company. For one reason and another last year was pretty tough going for some, so 2020 is the year of QuarterBeat I hope! Looking forward to getting our first proper coaching session in this year too. Exciting.

My wonderful husband Joe is still keeping fit with his running and occasional games of football. He regularly runs 10k! I am in awe of anyone who can do that. Sadly my body said years ago that running is not for me. We celebrated 13 years married and 17 years together this year! Not bad going!

So that’s personal stuff, but what about professional?

I’m still in the same school. I’m now a long standing member of staff, having started my 15th year there this September! Since I returned from maternity leave I’ve been set new challenges, moved away from my real love of the more complex children and given a class leaning more towards MLD! To say it was a shock to the system would be no lie. In fact I’ll be honest and say that I wrote my letter of resignation at one point! However, I’ve stuck it out and showed that I can put my mind to anything if I have to. I have 8 of the same 12 again this year! I wont lie and say I still miss PMLD massively and I hope to return there very soon, but I’m keeping going. I’m a professional and will always do my best for the children in my care.

My other new challenge since mat leave, is that I am currently part time. I work Monday to Wednesday and have a lovely job share who does Thursday and Friday. We never see each other but we talk a lot! She was on mat leave for most of last year, so it’s good to have her back this time! I think that some people think that part time is easy. It’s not. It’s really not. Learning to share your class with someone is tough. It feels a bit like you’ve been off sick every week! Learning to fit everything I need to in to my work days is tough! I still believe it was the right decision for me and my family though. It has also meant that that big change in class was easier on me!

I think it’s actually, shock horror, made me a better teacher. I feel I now give in 3 days what I used to give in 5. I have more energy and enthusiasm, knowing I’ve only 1/2/3 days to go! We should be embracing part time in schools, not scowling at thinking folks are slacking off! My 2 days at home during the week are full on, believe me! We need to see more leaders being part time. Why should that stop at a certain level of hierarchy? Surely 2 heads looking at the same role from their unique stand point are better than 1?! There are loads of reasons why part time should and can work for those who want or need it within teaching and leadership in schools. We need to embrace it.

I for one am looking for a new challenge, a new school where I can use my knowledge and expertise to make a difference (especially if it involves PMLD/Children with complex needs. Even better if it was part time too!

So yeah, a quick sum up and a few thoughts! All comments welcome!

#parttime #teaching #SEND

A review of 2017 and what do I hope for 2018 #Nurture1718

What a year! Politically the world has gone mad! Brexit, Trump and North Korea to name but 3! 

However, personally it was also a pretty mammoth year.

So what did I think might happen? Well, lets have a look.

I had hoped to keep up with Twitter and ed events but as it happens I have been pretty crap for reasons coming up! I never made it to Northern Rocks due to illness and I can’t remember the last time I joined in an educhat. Ho hum. That’s life. 

However, I have made it on to Twitter every day nearly in order to share something; my photo a day project! I have once again managed a whole year of photos. This is my 6th full year in the 10 since I started! So great to have a tonne of memories to look back on. My family and friends are so used to me taking photos now which leads to many more being taken! If you’ve never had a go, why not make 2018 your year? Here’s a link to my 2017 in photos. 

In my post last year I talked about singing entering my life again in the form of BackBeat A Cappella.  For 1 reason coming up I haven’t been there as much as I’d hoped but the group and individuals within it are very much part of my life and I look forward to seeing what 2018 brings. Our first competition was a triumph, even if we were robbed of a place or two! We have some exciting songs to learn this year as well as getting ready for convention. 
In my post last year I talked about my new toy, my baritone sax. I love it! I got some fantastic responses from my class with it. Even if a couple took a few sessions to get used to it! More of the same for the 2nd half of next year. 

As for work, I am still at the same school. The right job move never came up. That is still on the horizon so I shall see what the year brings. My first change however will be part time later this year. Excited to see if I can find a better work/life balance. 

I did do my middle leaders course but sadly for the complications below I never managed to do my final presentation so don’t get my certificate 😦 

So how come there were so many things that didn’t happen or were not quite what I had planned? Frankly it is all about family! 2017 saw the creation, baking and arrival of a 2nd son for us! S arrived very speedily in October. It was a rough pregnancy with terrible nausea to begin with, the return of spd and the crutches during 2nd trimester and the diagnosis of gestational diabetes at the start of the 3rd! I can’t thank my family enough for their support during my pregnancy and a special shout out to Jo Paterson, the creator of the website Gestational Diabetes UK. That website and the accompanying facebook group were a total life saver for me.  Not enough is known about gestational diabetes and people assume it is the same as type 1 or 2. It isn’t and the current nhs advice sucks! Please take time to have a quick read on Jo’s page to educate yourself. It could be your wife, daughter, sister or friend who get it. 

I am now in the throws of sleepless nights, breastfeeding on demand and changing nappies. Please don’t ask me “is he good for you?” Because what you mean is, “is he sleeping through the night?”. No. He isn’t and I’d be worried if he was. That’s not natural for a child of his age, especially one who is breastfed! He is good for me in many other ways though. He gives me great eye contact. He recognises my voice as well as that of his dad and brother. He makes the most gorgeous cooing sounds and has started to have a “conversation” in this way. He can briefly track an object or a person too. My friends working with the most profoundly disabled children like I do, will know how amazing all that is and how hard we work on that with our very special learners over much longer time frames than the 10 weeks S has been alive! I can’t wait to see how he grows and develops over the next 12 months. Such an exciting time! 

I plan on making the most of my maternity leave this year. Attend some classes, starting with Baby Sensory, which appears to be very similar to what I do at work! When I return to work in July it will be tbe biggest change in my 16 year career. I am going to be part time! I am sure it will take a little getting used to, sharing a class. But I am hoping that it will provide a better work life balance for me. I am excited about the change.

As for the rest of my family over the last 12 months? Well Joe has done amazingly well with his weight loss and fitness. He ha fully embraced the Man v Fat ethos and is slimmer now than I have ever known him over the last 15 and a bit years! If you have a male relative or friend who wants a kick start to their weight loss have a look at Man V Fat Football. It’s a great idea. Joe is so dedicated to the cause that he got up at 4 something one morning to appear on BBC Breakfast, playing football live on the show! It’s great to see him feeling so confident in himself and looking fantastic. He’s also made friends along the way.

2017 saw B complete infants and move up in to the juniors! He loves learning and is full of knowledge, especially when it comes to maths and science but he does find the writing hard going. He continues to play football after school with WFA which he adores, playing even in the wettest and coldest weather. He also continues to make steady progress in his swimming. He finished stage 3 early in 2017 and is 85% of the way to achieving stage 4, though what is left is pretty tricky stuff!

We continue to spend a lot of our weekend with family and friends. It’s what makes us happy! In the summer we combined our family holiday with spending time with friends. As I had both gestational diabetes and severe spd at the time I couldn’t get out of our lodge much. So having my friend Claire there was fab. Our boys are only a few days apart and get on so well together. They would go out with the dads and I had some company! The Liverpool lot continue to feature heavily in our lives. A great group of friends and the kids all get on so well. I am lucky to have some great friends and I see no reason for that to stop. It just gets a bit trickier for us all to get together and all fit in a photo together! 

We are very lucky to spend a lot of time with our parents. I love seeing B and now S’s relationship develop. Many happy memories together. I hope for plenty more of this in 2018. We’re off back to the Yorkshire Coast for our family holiday this year. I can’t wait! 

So although 2017 was not quite what I had planned on the whole, it’s been amazing! Roll on 2018! 

Pre-writing and early writing

There has been quite a focus on handwriting following the lovely Nancy Gedge’s videos on the TES. Many discussions have followed. I rarely work woth those actually writing these days but I do a lot of work on the skills needed before this developmental and physical leap. When I started in Special Ed I spent a LOT of time with OTs and Physios in class working alongside them with the pupils to create individual plans for their needs. Often this would include pre-writing skills. I thought I knew a lot. I didn’t, though some things I did know were and still are useful. However over the last 12 years NHS budgets have been cut and cut again and its so rare to see the OTs in school let.alone in class and the physios so busy they have no time to book regular slots in class. 

Thankfully I have a good memory (although currently being 36 weeks pregnant is testing it at times!) and doing activities over the yeats has led to plenty of knowledge stored up. 

I decided to add a couple of basics and some classroom ideas on here as Nancy said I should get on my blog! She was right. It’s 9 months since I blogged! So here we go in no particular order other than the order they pop out of my pregnancy fuelled brain!

1) Position, position, position! 

This may sound obvious but if you want someone to write or use their upper limbs effectively, they must be positioned well. I work a lot with children with very limited movement, many of them using wheelchairs. I spend a LOT of time ensuring they are in a good, comfortable working position. Think about sitting on that horrid waiting room chair or trying to sleep in that hotel bed where the matress is well past needing replacement. It’s uncomfortable, it’s distracting and it’s just not nice! Oh and you can move, lots of the kids I work with can’t! Well the same is true for children without physical difficulties. How often do you see them swinging their legs because they don’t reach the floor or the table is too high so you can barely see their eyes. All it takes is either the correct size table or chair or some kind of footrest/cushion to ensure a comfortable position! It’s all about stabilising the core of your body. Try it! See how your writing changes when you are not able to plant your feet flat on the floor and work on a table of incorrect height. The same thing applies to your office if you have one! 

2) Big movements first, small movements later! 

Children generally (obvious exceptions where a physical difficulty prevents independent gross motor movements) need to work on the big movements and get these right before you see refinement in small movements. Small children should be given LOTS of opportunities to do gross motor movements such as those reserved usually for PE only. Good early years provision should be able to provide these opportunities, especially outside. Ribbons, pom poms, strips of newspaper, sand and water play, play dough, mark making in glitter, sand, flour, anything in large trays, large paintbrushes and water on the wall, mega blocks/duplo etc are all great for getting that coordination built up. Working towards the midline and then crossing the midline are also important at these early stages. You or I will simply reach with our domiment hand to get something we want, children often reach with the nearest even if the likelyhood is they will drop if. Sometimes children need to work on these skills that we just aqquire. Don’t jump to a child using a tiny paint brush, crayon or pencil if they are no good with bigger movements. It’s often futile! 

3) A few tips for lefties

Ok so this is quite specific but it is a subject very close to my heart. I am a lefty and so is my son. Often teachers really don’t think that us lefties need any extra help. They would be wrong! So here are my top tips for helping them. 

  • Position. As well as the stuff I said above, once they do get to writing, consideration really needs to be given to where the lefties in your class sit! Noone wants to spend time bashing arms with the pupil to their left as their elbows stick out! Simple problem easily solved! Furthermore with regards to position, paper position is important. It should be tilted slightly clockwise so that it is at an angle and the point of the paper is central rather than to their left (hope that makes sense!). This allows them to see what they have written already more clearly. Remember, unlike right-handers they can’t see anything other than what they are writing!  This is why you sometimes see people with that horrible hooked position like Barak Obama uses. Eugh. Horrid and will lead to pain and difficulties in some cases. A lefty’s pencil grip should look the mirror image of a right handed one! 
  • Grip. Moving on from what I said above. The lefty grip should not be any different from a right one. However they may find it difficult to copy the mirror. Pop the pencil in your left hand if you are helping. Moulded grip pencils can help too. Ot reminds them when their fingers should be and stops the temptation to hook their hand or hold the pencil too high up. 
  • Joining up. Ok I’ll admit I HATE that kids in primary school are being forced by the government to use cursive writing. It’s bloody hard and noone cares once they get to secondary so why can’t they just develop beautiful printed handwriting? Being a lefty makes it even harder. You can’t see what you just wrote as the rest of your hand covers it. Also, we are pulling the pencil not letting it flow as happens when you are right handed and writing left to right. We’d be fine if we were writing right to left! Many of the joins taught are not natural at all for lefties. Consider this if a child is struggling. It might be something as small as letting them cross their ts the other way to the way in the scheme you are teaching. 

I think I’ll stop there for now. Any comments or thoughts welcome on here or come and find me on Twitter! 

2017- Looking forward

Having looked back on my hopes for 2016, the next logical step is to set some new hopes for 2017! 

So seeing as most people who read this post will have done so by clicking a link on Twitter, I’ll start with that. I love Twitter! So many interesting people on there. I met some of those for the first time this year like the lovely ladies Nancy and Lynn who I met at Primary Rocks in Manchester amongst others. A good chat with the Orrsome Rachel Orr was another highlight of a great day. I am looking forward to going again this year and maybe meeting some more folk and catching up with others again. I will also be attending Northern Rocks in Leeds again in June. It will be my 3rd time and it is always so interesting. This year I got to meet the very interesting and inspiring Jarlath. I have chatted with him a fair bit, and that day was no exception. I have his book still to read, I really should get on with that when I get time! I also finally got to meet the lovely Sue Cowley whom I first “met” many MANY years ago as a trainee teacher when she was researching one of her books! 

So, I plan on still using Twitter to keep up with what is going on in the world of education. Special Ed can be quite isolating so it’s great to keep in touch with othere in special as well as Primary and Secondary colleagues. Lots of debate happens, usually I’m watching but step in if I am passionate about something. 

Many people on there have been great friends and given great support such as all the lovely ladies I share my photos with and the lovely Mary, Claire and Betsy who have given me great wisdom. 

More of the same from me I think with regards to Twitter. 

My singing has taken to the front towards the end of this year as I mentioned in my review of last year. BackBeat A Cappella is my new performing outlet and I am super excited about where this is going. I have made some great friends and learn something each week. We did a small performance in our last rehearsal in December and it reminded me that there is nothing like performing! It’s fabulous me time too and has nothing to do with teacher me, mummy me or wife me. It is about me, Nichola! 

I am also going to enjoy my new instrument! Tomorrow I’m off to buy a baritone sax! I am super excited about this. I used to play one as a teenager but it wasn’t mine and I had to return it to Kirklees music service when I left the group. I can’t wait to see how my class respond to this new sound! I already use my clarinet in class so it will be an interesting contrast! 

I look forward to seeing how B gets on this year. He is growing so quickly. It doesn’t seem two minutes since we announced I was pregnant (7 years ago today we told folk outside family and close friends infact) yet here he is 1/3 of the way through Year 2. I am sure he will have plenty of learning challenges but I will be there to support him all the way. I am sure this year will also involve the losing of teeth and growing even taller! He continues to make slow and steady progress in his swimming lessons so we shall see how this year goes. 

I hope to continue to see my family. Joe and B during the week and going with them to see my parents and inlaws at the weekends and school holidays. I love the relationship B has with his grandparents and I want that to continue to grow as well as the 3 of us doing things together (when we have holidays at the same time!) August we have a trip down south booked and I am really looking forward to that, especially our own personal hot tub! 

Professionally I hope that this year is the year of change. I look out for the right job, be that a move sideways or slightly upwards. I want to stay in Special Ed but I am ready to move on. I will finish my middle leadership course and continue to work hard on my project for that.l which will continue long beyond my course. It might be the year Ofsted pops along to visit us. It will be the 4th time at that school and many more than that as a trainee and teacher! Interesting to see how the process changes year on year and how what they look for changes too! 
So to sum up? Progress and change and being brave I think sums things up. 

A Review of #Nurture1516

Wow, I kind of forgotten I had written this. I’ve been a bit rubbish with the posts in recent months. Work has felt especially busy this term so I haven’t written anything for months! Sorry!

Anyway, lets look back at what  I said this time last year. I split things in to 5 sections so lets see how many have positive things to say about them.

  1. Photo a Day. Well I have mostly managed this. I stopped uploading them in mid November (can you tell when work got really hectic?) but I have still taken them and may at some point get around to uploading them! I love how taking photos makes you look at life a little differently, and it gives you great memories to look back on. 2017 marks 10 years since I started first doing a photo a day project so it will be good to carry on with that next year!
  2. Performance. I said I wanted to get performing again this year, after the enjoyment of my dancing show. Well, it’s not dancing but I have found a new creative outlet! I am now a proud member of BackBeat A Cappella, a ladies chorus. I started alongside 2016-12-15-21-17-45lots of other ladies with this new group back in September. We have come such a long way in such a short space of time and I am excited to see where we go from here. I have already made some great friends as part of this which is lovely.
  3. Family. I think I’ve done ok here. My son and husband still know what I look like, though at times it’s been hard work making sure I get all my work done at times and still see them. We still visit my parents and my inlaws frequently and I love spending time with them. Me, Joe and B went to London for our 10th wedding anniversary and had an absolute blast! We walked for miles and miles (a marathon in 3 days!) and saw lots of the sights, B seeing them for the first time. More of the same next year I hope!
  4. Cooking and Baking! Well my love is still the sweet stuff, my baked lemon cheesecake went down well at the BackBeat Christmas get together and my pavlova has gone down well a few times this year. I have also been a bit more creative with savoury stuff as my husband has joined Slimming World and is doing really well. He’s lost over 2 stone since September and I am super proud of him. I even made Slimming World friendly Pavolvas in the run up to Christmas for him to take to a  taster session! I’m a good wife 😉
  5. Work. Well I said I wanted to move and I still feel like that, as I am still in the same place. A few interviews done, and no negative feedback means that the right job just hasn’t come up yet. I keep my eyes open for the next opportunity and continue to learn from those around me at work, on Twitter and I have self-funded a middle leadership course this year to develop my own knowledge. I still adore working in Special, especially working with those at the lowest levels of development.

So, in reflection, it’s been a pretty good year! Lots to work on for next year I think.

The Rochford Review-Final Report

Cherryl pretty much sums up my thoughts on things here.


The long awaited Rochford Review chaired by Diane Rochford  has finally been published. For those who don’t know this is the expert review of statutory assessment for pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests.

In December 2015 there had been some interim recommendations from the expert group regarding children with special educational needs and those with the most severe and complex needs who have their outcomes reported using the P scales. For these children there was to be no change, P Scales  although aligned with the old national curriculum would continue and schools would do their best to adapt for 2015-16. Extra pre-key stage standards containing ‘pupil can’ statements were introduced for reporting for those children who had not yet completed the whole programme of study but had reached the chronological age that requires a statutory assessment outcome to be reported. The Interim Pre-Key Stage standards were…

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Teaching is not a one-person job. 

​My last blog about what I do all day got lots of comments and there were a few comments about working with others so I decided to go with this as my next post. I decided to do it now before I start back and things get hectic! 

One of the hardest things about being a teacher is the number of different adults you have to work with during any given day, week, term, year. In a special school this is a crucial part of my job and one of the things you learn very little, if anything about at university. 

On a day to day basis I work with usually 2,3 or sometimes 4 teaching assistants. They are my support mechanism and vital to the smooth running of my classroom. When I first started work in my current job, I was given an amazing team of 3 very experienced TAs who had decades of knowledge and experience and here was me, in my 4th year of teaching with no experience in a special school. To say it was daunting would be an understatement! For anyone new to teaching or to special, it is ok to feel like that! 

I knew I was the teacher and I knew where I wanted to go with most things but I knew I had to turn to them, to learn from them and let them guide me as we worked together to make a blooming good class team. All 3 had big personalities and they didn’t always agree with each other or me! Working through these challenges was tricky but something I knew I needed to perfect. I needed to find their strengths and use them wisely. Thankfully we had an Outstanding year and I went on to work with one of those TAs another twice in the next 4 years. I am thrilled to be working with her again this coming year too, in what I believe will be her final year before retirement. 

Anyway, this day to day stuff is sometimes tough. There are times when I have to do things that have made me feel uncomfortable. When things aren’t to my liking with their work or how they are approaching something or I may notice something dangerous e.g. not following correct moving and handling procedures. Building up a toolkit of ideas and strategies on how to deal with all these issues varies from situation to situation and person to person. For some an informal word or casually pointing something out is all you need. For others, a more structured and formal approach is needed. It’s a real balancing act. 

When in a PMLD class team you often have to deal with difficult medical situations on top of all the learning and physical work from seizures to aspiration or maybe a gastrostomy button coming out! Each child brings their own challenges and together as a class can bring changing combinations of problems. When these serious issues arise, then you really do look to your team to come together. I wont mention any specific situations here but lets just say there have often been staff working together in a crisis situation and then we have shared tears together afterwards. This is just crucial that you can come together in crisis but also come together to deal with the aftermath of it too. I am thankful to all those TAs (and other teachers in some cases) who have helped me and the children in my care in this type of senario.

Teaching assistants have so much to give. Their ideas, their passion, their ability to work in tough situations are all things I admire about so many of the people I have worked with. Thank you to all those who I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from.

On a less frequent basis I work with therapy staff. This includes physios, speech and language therapists (SALTs) and Occupational Therapists (OTs). Their funding has been cut so dramatically since I started working in special. We would see a physiotherapist nearly every day in a class like mine and an OT once a week at least, the same for SALT. Sadly this is not the case anymore and we in class have to take on more of the work that they would have done with us in years gone by. Now I see their role kind of like a consultancy! I can call on them for their superior knowledge and we can build sessions and programmes together based on the needs of the individuals and sometimes they provide training for me and the TAs and then we put their work in to practice. I have a good relationship with all those I work with and we use a mix of emails, face to face meetings and papers to keep in contact and make sure we are creating a whole curriculum appropriate for the children and giving them the best chance of being in a good state for learning with regards to their positioning, physical well-being and giving them the best chance of communicating with us. It is also about safety. I do a lot of work with our clinical lead SALT on the children’s dysphagia. Many of the children are unable to eat orally, and those that do have massive feeding difficulties. Getting things right with these issues is crucial for their health and well-being as well as allowing them chances for communication.

There is lots more to be said about the therapy aspect of my job. I do a lot but too much to go in to now. Another post methinks! 

I also work with staff from the sensory impairment team. Most usually for children with a Visual Impairment, but sometimes a HI. They will observe the children in class and work with them within class and also on a 1:1 basis. They will then provide suggestions and support for the pupils that we as a class team implement. 

As you can imagine I also see a  lot of our school nurse and less frequently the community nursing team and paediatricians. Liaising with these can be so important.

Alongside health I also deal with social workers. This might be children and families who struggling and need some extra help or it might be for children in care. Meetings with these people and a good relationship with them is important too! They see the bigger picture, often seeing the children in their home environment which may tell you something you didn’t know. 

What I haven’t mentioned yet are other teachers within school! Working with them on joint projects, sharing ideas, supporting them in difficult times or being a critical friend is just as important as everything above. They are my first port of call when I am stuck with where to go with a child’s learning, a problem with a TA or anything really. A professional who understands where you are is so valuable. Don’t forget to use your colleagues! 

Finally I am briefly going to mention parents. The reason for the brevity is that this is clearly something that deserves a blog post all of its own! I just want to say that you should never forget what a valuable resource they are. At times they find life difficult and have a lot to overcome. At times they are inspiring, at times they are difficult but ultimately working on that relationship between me and the parents of the children in my class is a key part of working with other adults on a day to day basis.