Working ‘Supermums’…

I recently read an article in ‘The Times’ about the strain on professional working mums. I am a working mum, with a working husband and have had to manage two daughters as we both try to balance work and family life.

Firstly, I want to move away from the stigma of it simply being about women. I know of single fathers who have had the same struggle. This isn’t about gender, this is about the pressure of unworkable working conditions. But history shows us that it has always been the case. Family is never a consideration when you go for a job, in fact certain questions about family life, pregnancy, capacity to commute to work, and many others are topics we don’t have any obligation to share. We keep it quiet and sort it out later.

Management expectations are also grumbled about but hardly ever challenged. I have just completed my first year in senior leadership. The only way I have managed it has been through a combination of working in partnership with my husband, calling my mum for support (a 2 hour drive away) or negotiating with my place of work to leave early and make up time later. My line manager has been amazing, totally understanding and shown me trust which means I have been able to successfully juggle everything. The only difficulty I have encountered is with the primary school who have very stringent rules on collection of children.

We all live in an environment where we try to keep our personal life from our professional life. This has happened for years. My grandparents worked, my mum got herself to and from school and then started work as soon as she could.

My mum worked in a variety of occupations, the main criteria being whether they could fit around school pick up and drop off. Some did, some didn’t. All paid her just enough to manage each week, which is a different issue for another day. Later, as we grew older, she would work later hours. We had to learn independence. We had to remember to put the oven on at the right time so we could all sit down as a family and have dinner together. We learned to cook.

Suggesting that there is a ‘Correct’ way that supermums can manage is a fallacy. It is also not restricted to any particular segment of the work force. CEO’s, office workers, support staff, admins, carers, emergency service personnel; in fact any role in any strata of society faces the same issue. The only difference is how we all manage our families. Can we afford childcare, a nanny, the very limited and restrictive school out of hours wrap around care or do we rely on family and friends? Or do our children grow up relying on themselves because there is no capacity for a safety net of support for them?

I repeat, this isn’t a discussion on the role of the working ‘supermums’, this is a discussion about how work-life balance is really a work-life juggle. There is no one right way or answer. The only way forward is to get all working parties together to address the time bomb of work and family conflict.


Zero tolerance for zero wasters

How many bins do you have? Are you passionate about separating your plastic from your paper? Do you remember having to check tins and cans with a magnet just to check which could be recycled?

When I was younger, I had grandparents who visibly shuddered if we left food on our plate. Now, we seem to live in a country which is permanently in rebellion of living within the means of the community.

I remember when I was a child, I collected used tin foil and plastic bottle tops to be donated to various charities and thought I was doing well. Time moved on. Then, a month ago, I stumbled upon a Facebook group proudly entitled ‘Zero waste’.

This intrigued me, especially as I’d recently seen a mini documentary about a young lady in Australia who had a jam jar as her dustbin and hadn’t yet filled it with rubbish she couldn’t recycle. The lifestyle appealed to me. Treading gently through this world so your footsteps are light, makes me feel warm and a good custodian. I joined the group, hoping to pick up tips and encouragement. It reminded me of my grandparents, who never threw away old things. No, they mended and ‘repurposed’ whatever they had.

I knew one lady local to me had done a polite British protest at her local supermarket; unwrapping all unnecessary packaging and explaining that she didn’t want shops to double wrap chickens which came already wrapped in waterproof plastic. She argued that produce could be sold loose, with people having the choice of whether they needed to use light, flimsy sandwich style bags filled with carrots or to bring their own crocheted ‘string bags’.

I thought I’d join in. Dutifully, I went along to my supermarket, chose loose produce and felt rather pleased with myself. But I came to the white cabbage. Shrink wrapped, I can only assume to hold all the leaves together. It then struck me that I could make my own protest. The store would begin to find polite people everywhere unwrapping their unwanted plastic. It would cause the executive to have to rethink policy. Sir David Attenborough would be proud.

I told my newly found Facebook group what I’d done…and was met by a mixture of confusion, personal insults and a thumb sketch on how to best tackle direct action. Apparently I had done exactly the wrong thing. I was as brainless and stupid as the cabbage I had freed.

My error, when you boil it all down, was in assuming the people in these groups would applaude effort and intention. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had caused more work for the poorly paid store assistants, I had simply transferred my plastic problem from one place to another and I was an embarrassment to the entire movement. As you can imagine, I felt as if I had bitten off more than I could chew, it’s always difficult to hold your ground with a bunch of fanatics – whatever their beliefs. However, I have learned a powerful lesson. Never joke with Zero-wasters, waste is not a matter to take lightly. And above all, look for farmers markets where you can be sure that the cabbages will be free from Shrink wrap plastic…It will save a huge amount of misunderstanding. I have reverted to the sanctuary of music memes and cat puns, having left the Zero Wasters to continue their journey without me.

Decluttering fear

I have an office! Well, an office for the person in charge of cohorts.  If I didn’t do the role I suppose my office would be passed to someone else.

I need to fill my office with all the ‘stuff’ I need to get on with the job. My folders go in first. Then I my display…EAL, SEND…you get the idea. Then I stand back. What else do I need? A plant? The pc winks at me as I lean on the empty filing cabinet. What do I need in there?

I have a classroom, an intervention room, a room that will become the library when I sort all the books out. Last year I did Drama in the hall…I knew how to empire build. I spread out over the entire west wing of the 1st floor.

But now a small office space defeats me. I’ve been used to so much space. I mentioned to a much younger colleague that I have resources in folders that I have collected over the 23 years I’ve been teaching. I believe some of the booklets are older than my colleague! I have now faced the fact that some of these need to be chucked out. With OFSTED on the way I need to present an orderly front. It’s like when visitors are at the gate and your mum tells you to run upstairs with the ironing that was draped on the sofa…

So, a new office decluttering opportunity.

But I’m still scared that I’m going to throw stuff that is part of my teaching identity.  Just like when I had to convert the 3 1/2 inch floppy disks or transfer the acetates I’d carefully written about Macbeth in 1998.

At least I can keep the plant. 


Happy New year. I’m getting ready for my first parkrun of the year, with my marathon training a little slower because of illness.

So many things happened last year; positive and negative. Many of my friends are looking to this year hoping it will be better. One friend has given great advice that I would like to share:

‘If you don’t hear good news, make good news.’

This will be my goal, this year probably can’t take care of itself so it’s up to us to make that good news for ourselves and each other.

Happy New Year everyone.

Headteachers Launch Their Own Green Paper #HTRTAGP

Reblogging this as it needs so much coverage. Well worth a read…


Concerns that recent Government papers on education fail to address key issues facing schools has led to a group of Headteachers producing their own policy paper.  The Alternative Green Paper, Scho…

Source: Headteachers Launch Their Own Green Paper #HTRTAGP

A-Z of NQT induction

A useful insight into supporting NQTs…many thanks for this Lisa

Over the Rainbow - Lisa Pettifer

This September, our NQTs are arriving full of trepidation, yes, but also full of up-to-date subject knowledge, recent experience of other settings and a new, but possibly fragile, commitment to teaching— let’s make sure our school provision and induction arrangements value these new starters and their qualities.

Time and again we hear of widely varying NQT experiences, from those who have joined departments or schools with active and effective support protocols and CPD practices, to those who have been treated neglectfully by the people or systems around them. What can we do to make sure we don’t throw away all the potential NQTs offer?

The A – Z of NQT induction

A address issues as they arise – a little guidance and advice, offered regularly from the sidelines, is more likely to be accepted as a normal and constructive part of the relationship between NQT and team leader, than a…

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