Friday, 11 July 2014

“Tobias are you reading me, it's mummy - over. Tobias?...Tobias...?!”

I'm going to talk about those new child tracker wrist bands. They are actually going to become 'a thing' apparently.
They can be purchased by any over anxious parent, desperate to keep track of their child's movements, any time soon.
For those of you who have not heard about them as yet, the idea is it is a wrist band type set up which your child wears, that allows you as the parent to call them up using a regular phone. If the child does not respond by answering the call within the space of a few rings, the wrist band will click in to allow the parent to hear whatever is going on in the vicinity of the wrist band down their phone line.
The idea would be, if the parent could hear their child was in trouble it could be all systems go to rescue them.
My chief concern is these tracking devises could generate more harm than good when it comes to the emotional and mental well being of not only the child but the parent. I think if you as an adult and child combo find yourselves in the situation where you are allowing, for example, your young child, to go out and play with their friends, but beforehand you are insisting they put on their wrist band tracker devise to ensure their safety, you are planting a very worrying and ultimately damaging seed in both parties minds'.
If I had my way, my children would grow up in an Enid Blyton world where butterflies flew overhead and the greatest harm they ever came to was tooth decay as a result of one too many ginger beers. But whilst I appreciate I am never going to fully get my wish of bringing up the Famous Five – or in my case the 'terrific two' – I feel as a society we could go too far, and are going too far, in the direction of planting seeds of fear and doubt and general paranoia in the minds of children about the outside world and the people in it, which wouldn't have been there in the first place if we hadn't brought it up.
There is a huge difference in my opinion between educating children about keeping safe and scaring the lives out of them.

I think these kind of devises are far more about pandering to the fears of parents than anything else. Believe me I'd quite happily wrap my children in cotton wool and keep them within my sight at all times until they were 27 but the fact is as soon as we give birth to our children we have entered into a quite terrifying world of constant worry about what could befall our little ones and it becomes a matter of tempering and dealing with these concerns within ourselves, rather than clamping a wrist band onto our child's wrist and hoping that will solve everything.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

It's simple – no baby, no parky

My gripe today has to be over people who park in parent and baby spaces when they have no right to.
These hallowed spaces come with many benefits including extra width to make it actually humanly possible to get a wriggling child out of a car seat and into a shopping trolley and they are near enough to trolley parks and the store itself to save little legs and to ensure little ones are in view when I dash to get said trolley.
I used to be rather intimidated about using these spaces. They seemed to be available only to those in the secret mother and baby club. How do you get in I wondered, do you need a special password, do you have to wave your child's birth certificate on entry? It was only when I had to tackle the shops single handed with not one, but two, children in tow I braved those spaces and haven't looked back since.
It appears others do not hold the same kind of trepidation
Only today I visited the supermarket to find all these spaces taken. It was when walking into the store that I saw a single man unloading his shopping into a four by four parked in one of these bays. The only sign of any other life form in the car was a suit hanging up from the hanger at the back.
Then a few weeks ago there was incident of all incidents when a traffic warden cornered another man who had also parked in one of these all too convenient spots with no child present. The man decided the best course of action was to pretend he was all but deaf and could not hear the traffic warden and when this failed, he complained of a bad leg instead. The fury on his face as he drove off showed he knew exactly what his crime was.

There is also the tale of the car that parked in a parent and child space when it shouldn't, that ended up ploughing down into a ditch because the learner driver behind the wheel put the car into first gear rather than reverse. They were rumbled when they were rescued from the ditch and there was no child present in the car. A bit a karma at work perhaps. Those who transgress the rules of the parent and baby parking space club, be warned.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

State school pupils lack moral compass...

A leading independent school official has slammed all state school pupils for lacking moral compass.
This is simply an outrageous sweeping statement. It is impossible to label any kind of group of this magnitude in a 'one size fits all manner' and certainly not in a way which is offensive to all those good, kind, hard-working children whose only crime is their parents cannot afford to fork out loads of cash to send them to a private school.
There are of course some facts which have to be put out there such as the reality that independent schools have far fewer pupils to a class so teachers can focus more on the individual children and they are not so result driven so again can engage more with the children rather than constantly worry about league tables.
There is also the reality that state schools will include the most deprived of children, the most ill bred and unfortunate and so when talking about state school pupils we are including these people in their number.
However this is where any kind of defence for state school pupils lacking a moral compass ends.
First and foremost I do not like this idea that schools are responsible for how children behave. As far as I am concerned it should be down to parents to send their children off to school with a very clear idea of right from wrong. Of course, when groups of children get together there is an element of pack mentality and others being led astray by those who are not well supported at home and this is when the school needs to step in and add some discipline, but it is certainly not a teacher's role to sculpt a child into what they should be. I resent the idea that a teacher would have such control over either of my children. I feel full responsibility for this.
I also see no evidence that privately educated people are more upstanding citizens than state educated people. In fact there are good and bad amongst both sectors.
A moral compass is to me something far deeper than whether a person is well behaved. It has far more to do with that inner conscience which does not necessarily dictate whether we behave badly or not but how we feel about behaving badly after the event, which in the long term will make us better people.

This comes from having a decent background, being brought up with good values and having respect for ourselves, our surroundings and all those around us. To say all state school pupils lack these things straight across the board - well it lacks a morality in itself.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Have some respect, don't call me 'Miss'...

My gripe today would be people looking for sexism, even misogyny, where it simply does not exist.
A female academic, a Professor somebody, is calling for the terms 'Sir' and 'Miss' to be banned in the classroom in favour of pupils using teacher's first names instead.
The thinking behind this is the terms Sir and Miss suggest a huge imbalance of importance, and thus respect, between the sexes.
Traditionally the term Sir harks back to brave men being knighted for their wondrous deeds whilst Miss is a nod to the Victorian schoolroom where female teachers would certainly never be called Mrs, because they were no longer employable once married.
Now, of course looking at that evidence there is a problem with the disparity between those two little words. I had never thought about it in this light before, and yes, it does concern me that yet again men are being favoured and in a way which has perhaps slipped under the radar in today's society where we continually argue we have come so far and men and women are essentially equal and so on.
However, and this is a huge however, this female professor is suggesting that the use of Sir or Miss by the school children is affecting the level of respect they have for their male and female teachers and yet I would argue that those very pupils have absolutely no idea the connotations of the words with which they refer to, or address, their teachers. I had certainly never thought about it until now and I really doubt many other adults have done so. We have all managed to get to this point in life without feeling we were somehow demeaning our female teachers by calling them Miss and I'm sure many other generations will manage as well.
When it comes to teachers, they create their own respect. We know there are those teachers that pupils are more inclined to behave and work hard for over others and this is by no means something which can be divided straight down the middle between the two sexes, and even if it was, it would still be nothing to do with the use of Sir or Miss, even subconsciously.
As for calling teachers by their first names instead – well if we are talking about gaining respect here, that really is one very quick way to lose it with the use of one word.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Let's make more home births possible

The NHS are pushing for more mums-to-be to have a home birth.
Under new draft guidelines women who already have one or more children would be encouraged to have their second, third or fourth children at home. First time mums would still be referred to hospital.
The concern is the NHS are trying to make this the new status quo in a bid to save cash, as a home birth is a third cheaper than a hospital birth, rather than it being more beneficial from a care point of view.
OK. Well I have two children. The first was born at hospital and the second at home so I can surely give a qualified opinion on this. I should state it was not the plan to have the second baby at home. The paramedics only just made it in time to assist with his delivery.
However, first and foremost I would say, the fact my little boy was born at home has set up a theme for the first 14 months of his life so far, one of incredibly relaxed and joyful parenting and an equally relaxed and loving little boy – factors which I will go as far as to say I almost entirely attribute to the atmosphere into which he was born.
Of course, thinking back, we were incredibly lucky. It didn't register at the time the risk me and my little boy could have been under should anything have gone wrong. I think in amongst the throws of labour (sorry) there was a thought of, well at least I get out of going to hospital now, because I really detest the sterile hospital environment.
The only thing I cannot comment on is how I would have felt had I planned to have a home birth and there had been that period of anticipation and perhaps concern between that decision being made and the event actually happening.
What I would say is, from my experience, home births are unequivocally preferable to hospital births and I would encourage any mother thinking about giving birth at home to certainly research more into it. At present, from my experience, talk with the midwife is all about which hospital you would like to give birth in and if you want to give birth at home it is you as the mum-to-be who has to bring it up.
The common line you hear from people is they do not want to risk anything going wrong whilst they are giving birth and so that is why they opt for a hospital. I think if the NHS are pushing for more home births then there needs to be far more transparent information out there about the extent of these 'risks' and whether there really should be this massive preference for hospital births or is the reality that more mums could be safely delivering their babies at home?
Because I can tell you, there is something very magical and special about bringing a baby into the world in your home environment and if there could just be a little bit more information available about how advisable and safe it could be, then that would be a great thing.

It’s just a shame this is all being put forward under the cloud of the NHS wanting to save money because unfortunately there is probably a lot of truth in that.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Gary Barlow OBE

So the big question today is, should Gary Barlow be stripped of his OBE after being found guilty of tax avoidance?
It turns out the singer songwriter and Take That member invested money in a tax avoidance style scheme and as a result of being rumbled, now owes 20 million pound in tax, along with fellow band members Mark Owen and Howard Donald.
For me the short answer is, no, he shouldn't be stripped of his OBE. The fact he has been found guilty of tax avoidance does not take away from all the good he has done. It in no way belittles his leading role in climbing Kilimanjaro along with many other celebrities to help thousands of children here and abroad. It doesn't take away from his huge input towards both the Queen's Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic Games. It doesn't take away from the huge talent that he is at song writing.
Of course you expect recipients of OBEs to be upstanding members of the community. You wouldn't allow someone guilty of a criminal offence to hold onto such a badge of honour and indeed they are not able to – and we must remember, tax avoidance is not a criminal offence.
The means are in place for many a millionaire, celebrity or even major organisation to find ways to invest their money in order to avoid paying a huge tax bill and indeed they do. It doesn't make it right but I don't think Gary Barlow should be made the scapegoat for all of them.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Young people apathetic to voting – Russell Brand's fault?

In the wake of the stark revelation that 60 per cent of first time voters will not use their vote at the next general election, there has been some debate about whether comedian Russell Brand is to blame.
This refers to some months ago when he spoke on Newsnight saying that people should not bother voting because there was no one worth voting for.
In a rather tongue in cheek way I would like to initially question whether any young people of the ilk who are not planning to vote would be watching Mr Brand being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman in the first place. I do however recognise that his comments were then posted and pasted in numerous other places following the interview including Twitter, which young people are undoubtedly engaged in.
I believe that Russell Brand was wrong to say young people should not vote in order to, in his words, spark a revolution, for the very fact that as we can see, less than half young people are voting at the moment anyway. A revolution cannot consist of young people continuing on with their usual business on voting day and not visiting a polling station, because most of those non-voting young people would be unaware they were taking part in a revolution in the first place.
I think there are two far greater issues than Russell Brand here. The first is that politicians are completely unreachable and completely unrelatable to the majority of young people. No attempt, as far as I can see, is being made by anyone in power, to try and reach out to young potential voters and clearly lay out why they should vote for them or to communicate in a way that young people are going to embrace, such as the ever present social media.
Secondly, young people on the whole are looking up to the wrong kind of role models today – the likes of the Towies and the Victoria Beckhams, the Cheryl Coles who are far removed from the political scene and so certainly do not inspire young people who look up to them to vote. Indeed, young person and celebrity operate in complete oblivion to anything to do with politics and elections.
Go back just a couple of generations and people would not have dreamed of wasting a vote. They realised just how privileged they were to even have the ability to do so. Young people today are not even aware that in some countries people are still unable to vote, and many a young 'feminist' will bounce around in their bedroom singing along to Lily Allen lyrics but are not aware of the brave fight the suffragettes put up to give women the vote.
A duel move of going back to good old fashioned values and understandings about voting, coupled with the whole political scene moving with the times needs to take place for more young people to put their cross in that box, and meanwhile Russell Brand can stop being intentionally provocative because it will only make it worse.