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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

This is a guest post from Harry Cheetham, son of blogger Tracey Cheetham. We so rarely get to hear children’s voices outside of patronising “kids say the funniest things” programmes and articles so I thought Wild Rumpus could provide a place where children could speak without being ridiculed or patronised.

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My Mum asked me to watch Prime Minister’s Questions with her this week. We both had swine flu and were lying in her bed watching TV.  When she saw it was time for PMQs she wanted to put it on but I didn’t.  She asked me if I would watch it with her so she could put what I thought about it on Twitter, she likes Twitter and talks to people on there every day. 

It was funny to see the men shouting at each other. They were rude and kept shouting when someone else was talking. I would get into trouble at school for that.  I didn’t understand what they were on about much and my Mum had to tell me. I asked her lots of questions. She wrote them on Twitter for people on the Internet to read and told me what she thought and what people said.

I want to watch it again but I am at school when it’s on.

This is a transcript of Harry’s comments/questions:

He needs to stick his hair down (Jamie Reed) #harrypmqs #pmqs

I was just told to be quiet, so Harry can hear what’s going on! #harrypmqs #pmqs

How does the Speaker choose who speaks? If he’s got a list, what if someone else comes up with a good idea? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Why do they always shout? #harrypmqs #pmqs

It’s a bit rude isn’t it? #harrypmqs #pmqs

What’s point in all those ppl being there if only a few get to talk? [To hear answers] Why so they can go & tell their wives? #harrypmqs #pmqs

They might be being careful what they say because the cameras are there. #harrypmqs #pmqs

I bet they all go home & tell their kids not to be rude! #harrypmqs #pmqs

Say please!!! #harrypmqs #pmqs

[You’re sounding like the manners Police!] Well, they’re being rude, shouting! [This is quite good] *That* is good? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Why do they move onto another subject before the question has been answered? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Does he just answer the questions or does he actually do what they ask as well? #harrypmqs #pmqs

Is that where tax goes – to paying them? #harrypmqs #pmqs

I hope Tracey was able to answer Harry’s questions; I know I would not have been able to answer all of them.

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I just wanted to share a couple of links. The first is a truly amazing and inspiring piece of writing about Parenting in Freedom, and the second is to do with home education in England. It gives a very good overview of the current crisis in home education in England, and I thought people here might like to read it, to see what all the fuss is about in case they’re not already aware. I am planning a post about the current issues but until I manage to get that done, Elective Home Education in the UK, a brief history? is a very good place to start.

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I could write about SureStart and get all political, discuss the problems I have with Every Child Matters and the DCSF, and Ofsted (the body that inspects SureStart). I could write at length of how it really doesn’t resonate with the values I have for my own child, and how I even find some things they say more than a little sinister.

But instead, I’ll say just two things. Firstly, this is how SureStart describes what it is all about:

It is the cornerstone of the Government’s drive to tackle child poverty and social exclusion working with parents-to-be, parents, carers and children to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children so that they can flourish at home and when they get to school.

I could go through that with a fine tooth-comb and pick out the things that makes me wary of it. But instead, I’ll say just one thing: where’s the “happy”? Because it takes a good dose of happy to “flourish”, whether at home or “when” (and shouldn’t that be “if”?) a child goes to school.

However, despite this, I did take my child to my local SureStart children’s centre on a few occasions. In fact, I even volunteered for them for a short while (and that is another story). But this is why I finally stopped going:

SureStart runs lots of “themed” play sessions. Unlike traditional “Parent and Toddler” groups, which tend to function more on a “benign neglect” basis, SureStart play sessions tend to be a lot more hands-on, and every available moment is spent with the parent interacting with their child, one on one.

(In fact, it’s the reason our local SureStart doesn’t have adult chairs; it forces parents to sit on the floor. Chairs are available for parents with disabilities, but they have to be requested. A breastfeeding “comfy” chair, costing £500, was purchased by our local SureStart, but it’s only of use for those with young, small babies, as the arms are so high that it’s uncomfortable for feeding an older baby or a toddler. But still, it ticks a box.)

One of the sessions they run is called Musical Mayhem. Now, I like mayhem. I like music, too. So I took my toddler, then about eighteen months of age. We started off sat cross-legged on the floor, and the Play Leader got a box full of percussion instruments out. Each child was to walk to the centre of the circle and pick an instrument. B picked a small drum. Then the Play Leader put on a CD of children’s nursery rhymes and themes from well-known kids’ TV shows, and all the children that were able, played along; those that weren’t, their parent did.

So far, so good; not very “mayhem” to my mind, but everyone was enjoying themselves.

And then, the session ended, after about fifteen minutes. The children were to return their instruments to the centre of the room for the next session to start, which was to be dancing to the same CD, singing along. However, my child, and another little boy who looked slightly older, did not want to return their instruments.

They were enjoying playing them and making noise. It was a lot of fun, and they were happy. I realise SureStart doesn’t do “happy” in its mission statement, but it was enough for me.

They went off together into the corner of the room. At eighteen months of age, I’d not have expected interaction like this; it’s the age of “parallel play” after all. But here he was, actually interacting with another child. They swapped instruments. Yes, at just eighteen months of age, my child was learning, by himself, to share, to an extent. SureStart might not care about “happy”, but they do talk about “social development”, or so I thought.

They played with each with the other’s instrument, and then their own again, raising a rumpus and dancing around. “Physical development”, much?

And of course, they learned about the different instruments; the shape of them; they learned that a drum makes a “bang” sound, that it is made from a kind of stretched skin; but that a triangle makes a “chime” sound and is made from metal. “Intellectual development”, at all?

But the Play Leader didn’t see that. She saw two naughty little boys who weren’t obeying the rules. At first, she was like the long-suffering school teacher; “come on boys,” with a smile, hand held out; “it’s time to sing and dance now!”

But when they didn’t listen, she looked at me, and the other little boy’s mother, and made it clear with a glare we had to take the instruments off them.

I thought of how much more they could have learned if they’d been allowed to play along while the others sang and danced. They might even have played for the others, to assist them with their singing and dancing. Think how the “intellectual, physical and social development” boxes could have been ticked and those particular Key Performance Indicators met, for SureStart! But for me, even more than that, think how happy my child, and his new friend, might have been!

But instead, I had to soothe my crying toddler while taking the musical instrument from him. He was upset for the rest of the session, and didn’t join n the singing and dancing. His “physical, social and intellectual” development was nowhere to be seen for the rest of the session. Eventually I walked out with him because he clearly wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve not been back since, either.

See, here’s the deal. SureStart’s aims? Problematic, to say the least. But more than that; without happiness, none of it will ever happen. Certainly not for every child. And I thought Every Child Matters?

 

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