School Days

Blog posts about school, schooling, school uniform, homework, education and being a part of a school community. Also, articles on staring school, preparing for a child starting school and entering Reception class not to mention SATS, residential school trips and preparing for your child for secondary school.

I have a problem with homework No 2

school school work, homework

Is your home also a classroom over the summer holidays?

Last week I published a post about homework and how I was a little concerned about the amount my reception aged daughter, Helen, had been expected to do over the last academic year. As we’re now in the midst of the school holidays, I’m curious to know what other parents think about kids doing some work over the summer break?

Do you think the summer break should be an education free zone? Maybe you swing the other way and have booked a tutor to keep your children busy between now and September? View Post

I have a problem with homework No 1

Homework

Is this scene familiar to anyone?

This is the first of a couple of blog posts I plan to write about homework. In this one, I shall comment on the amount children are expected to complete. It’s the one thing that has troubled me about Helen’s first year at school. View Post

No umbrellas at school!

The problem with telling my daughter she can’t keep her umbrella with her at school is that I end up walking back to the car carrying this…

My first term as a school gate dad

Does this view look familiar to anyone? Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/

Does this view look familiar to anyone? Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/

With the Christmas holidays having begun, my first term as a school gate dad is over. More importantly, it concludes my daughter’s first few months in the school system.

During this time Helen has learned all manner of new skills and developed skills she already had. Helen’s reading and writing have come on massively and her latest trick is to see how high she can count. She claims to have counted to 160 but as I was sat next to her when she attempted this feat I have to say it was, ahem, a little short of that number!

Helen certainly seems to enjoy school and it’s sparked a real desire in her to learn. It’s a joy to watch and a testament to the teaching staff. I have a new-found and very deep respect for the teaching profession. I don’t wish to get political but I find myself a rabid supporter of the National Union of Teachers, awkward for someone that eyes the trade union movement with deep suspicion.

Being the dad at the school gates has had its ups and downs. I think I was shell-shocked during the first few weeks at the beginning of term. Having a child start school was such a huge shift for the entire family. There was so much to remember every day and both my wife and I felt paranoid our daughter might not settle in.

The change to the morning routine was also a major shift to get used to. I have to get both our children up, dressed, fed and out of the house in about one hour fifteen minutes. Somehow or other I manage it and every day I consider it a massive achievement.

I can only speak from personal experience, but the other comment I’d make is how inclusive the school environment is to us dads. All the teaching and support staff have made me feel welcome and never questioned my presence or made a remark that’s out of turn. I can’t necessarily say the same about the informal networks around the school but that’s a different blog post for another time.

I know I can be very quick to point out instances when us dads are treated as second class citizens. It’s something I’ve experienced time and again from nurseries, childminders and healthcare professionals (to name but a few culprits). My experiences of the primary education system have, thus far, been wholly positive. I think that’s an important point to make because it should be highlighted when somebody gets something right.

That’s been my experience, what about you? Did your child start school last September? If so, how have they got on? Dads, does any of the above ring true with you?

Sending dad back to school

My daughter’s recently started school and so have the children of many of our friends. Not surprisingly, conversation with our peers has frequently drifted to the subject of school, the differences between various schools, how our children are getting along and so on.

This intellectual looking male quite possibly wishes to help out at your local school but isn't sure he'd be welcome.

This intellectual looking male quite possibly wishes to help out at your local school but isn’t sure he’d be welcome.

Listening to all these conversations has made me wonder if schools might benefit if there was greater involvement from fathers. The comments I hear from friends generally revolve around what “mums” are doing, meet and greet sessions that have been set up for “mums” and so on.

To state the obvious, men are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to getting involved with school life because the overwhelming majority of them work office hours. They can’t volunteer during the working week and many struggle to do the collection and drop off at either end of the day so meeting the teachers and other parents can be difficult.

That said, the other day I took part in a school ‘clear up’ day. It was held at the weekend and parents were invited to help tidy up the grounds after the summer break. It attracted a large number of committed dads who enthusiastically gave up a few hours to do their bit for the school. All of them seemed to be very happy to be involved.

It got me wondering why more isn’t done to encourage men to get involved in school life? It strikes me there’s a huge amount of goodwill, skills and expertise that remains untapped because men either can’t get involved with their child’s school or won’t because they don’t, as men, feel welcome.

The lack of male involvement on Parent Teacher Association (PTA) committees also baffles me. Men are, without a doubt, partly to blame for their lack of representation on PTAs, but could PTA’s do more to appeal to them?

I’m not a huge fan of segregating the genders, but an occasional dads social evening might prove very popular, yet I’ve never heard of a school or PTA organising one. I have, however, heard of similar events being organised for mums (I should add that’s not a reference to my daughter’s school). If anyone has heard of such an event being organised for dads then please let me know, I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

What do you think, would schools benefit from more involvement from fathers and how involved are dads in your child’s school? Do you think fathers are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting involved in school life? Alternatively, is the lack of involvement from dads their own fault?