Having not really wanting to return to school after the summer break, both boys seemed to settle back into routine really quickly. I know they love the routine of the school day, even if they don’t particularly enjoy the work they have to do.
D was lucky that although he lost the teacher he was devoted to, the class were moving forward as a unit to their new teacher, so at least he had people around him that he knew, and who knew him! M was with people he knew too, one of them being one of the two girls he has known since birth and the closest thing to friends he has. He has job share teachers, which while I think it can be difficult for him, they have a good reputation for how they work together, and M knows them both, having spent time with them towards the end of the previous school year. Everything seemed to be going well. It was all very positive.
Then things in the wider school community started to happen. It is no secret, that the school my boys attend is bursting at the seams, with the role constantly increasing with the continual building of new houses in our town. A new school has just started being built, but is still about a year and a half away, so things are going to get a lot worse before they start to get better.
On Thursday a letter came home to say the classes were going to have to be reassessed because of additional pupils – just a week in and there was so little room for additional pupils. It would be affecting a few of the classes, including both of my boys. D was instantly in tears about the thought of loosing his best friend – while they don’t tend to be sat together in class, he is the stabilising factor D relies on – in fact, I know days his friend has been off from school, because of the foul mood he will come home in! We tried to explain that nothing was at this point decided, and I am sure the teachers understood the importance of the bond the two of them have. He was really upset. M on the other hand, had his usual attitude, of if I ignore it, it’s not happening and I don’t have to think about it! If it works for him, there is not point him stressing over something he has no control. My thought was that my two additional needs boys, along with other kids that have problems with change, would be looked upon with a little more sympathy than others – I hoped so any way.
As you can probably imagine, the exchanges of Facebook about this were rife. A lot of parents were furious that this was happening, and so close to the beginning of term. There were many conversations going on about the negativity these changes were having on all of our children. While I agree that is the case, I also think that no real work has yet been done in the school year, so it wont create too many problems. The argument for meetings with the school were being put forward, while other people defended the school and what it is doing. It was going around in circles and people were getting more and more irate – including my Hubby! Understandably those who were angry could not see why anyone was defending the school, and those who could not see the problem, were getting annoyed that it was frustrating anyone. I took the attitude, that I wasn’t happy, but there was no point getting too upset until we knew what was going to be happening.
The next day, letters went out to the parents of the children that were being directly affected, and were moving to other classes. I actually think all the children in the years are affected by this, and not just those having to get used to a new class. Having not been up to the school that afternoon because of D’s hospital appointment, I had to rely on other Mums to fill me in. It seems M’s class is staying pretty much as it is, with just a few changes in the P5 side of the composite, so not with his direct peers. D will be staying with his best friend – thank the gods, but his class will become a P4/5 composite. He is devastated at loosing one of his friends to the other class, and actually asked why it was him and not another child that he doesn’t get on with!! On reflection, I actually think this is a good thing for D, not loosing friends during the working day – he’ll still see them at break, but going into a composite class with older kids. D is a clever boy, but he is also very clever at being invisible, but if there are kids about doing maths at a level he is capable of – he often wants to do M’s maths homework, and reading more complicated books, then it might help him to push himself to what he should be capable of.
There is still plenty of unhappy parents though. Most are trying to lay blame at the doors of various people. I think there are a combination of factors that have led to the situation we are in.
This is just my personal opinion on the situation as I see it, I have no direct evidence to back up anything I am saying, other than what I have observed of my local town.
There is no way the teachers can be held responsible for anything. They are doing an amazing job under really hard circumstances. I am sure none of them want to be teaching classes of 33+ children, after all, they can only spread themselves so far and the more children they have the thinner that has to be. I actually feel sorry for D’s teacher, have done her lesson planning for a straight P4 class, suddenly finds herself with a composite class to teach. They must be extremely frustrated by the lack of compassion shown to them for doing a brilliant job under such undesirable circumstances.
The head is of course getting a lot of flack. She is after all the face of education for our children, the front line. She is however restrained by budgetary restrictions. I am sure she would love to be able to throw resources at each and every child, but she has to balance the spreadsheet – the previous head would always throw the budget – metaphorically, at you whenever you had a meeting with her, and it actually became a joke between me and Hubby, as to how quickly she would mention it as a reason my children couldn’t be given the assistance they required. While I understand the anger being shown toward the head, I am not sure that this is the right place for it.
The council is of course a huge focus of anger. The council is the education department, so they are the Heads chain of command. They had not formulated a contingency plan for circumstances such as those we are facing at the moment. I am sure we are not the first town to have had a problem with school over crowding. There was a consultation a while back about rezoning schools, and this would have relieved the pressure short-term, but nothing came of it. The council did give planning permission to developers to build hundreds of new houses. A new school was on the plans, and in fact many people bought their houses on the understanding this would be built imminently. Then the council said we didn’t need a new school, and the money ear marked for it went to build a school at the other end of the county. Then the slanging match started between developers and council about who was to blame for the school not having been built. These are arguments that seem to go around in circles with both sides looking as bad as each other.
The Scottish government have to be partly responsible. Now that is a broad statement! They promised us class sizes of no more than 22 after all. The constant freeze on taxes might look good in election manifestos, but it means there is less and less money available to be spent on the things that really matter, including education. You could take this another step further and say it is the fault of the Westminster government because of their total lack of care and understanding of the average person, and in fact anyone not attending private school.
So, you see, there are so many people to blame. Or, do we really need to apportion blame. The situation is as it is. The new school is being built – at last, so in just over a year many children will be relocated to there. It does mean M will only get half a school year of primary education not in a sardine can, but hopefully it will be enough to equip him for life in secondary education. I am not saying people should not be being held accountable, and lessons must be learned so other children do not suffer in education the way those in our town have. Our children are not thriving as well as they could if they had a better teacher/pupil ratio. That is simple mathematics. The teachers are under ridiculous pressure which can’t be good for their health, and the stress has to burst eventually, which will have further consequences for the children. As parents we have to continue to lobby those that make the decisions for our children as a group, but we also have to remember that being a parent has to be a selfish act as we put the needs of our own above the needs of the many. D, I believe has the potential to be in a better place in the newly mixed class. I hope so anyway. M on the other hand could be in a class of 22 or 44, and without the additional needs hub being opened, his level of care and understanding isn’t changing, but that’s another post!