Playing On Swings and Roundabouts

Just a quick post from my tablet, as I am down the park with the kids on the Jets Unit. (One of the lads took this picture of me sat on the swings.) I was on the roundabout earlier and the slide! Who say’s Kyle McLaughlin doesn’t know how to have fun in the sun! (and Yeah, I am wearing my kilt if you wanted to know hehe)

Fun in the sun, down the park

Tonight, Sam and I, Kyrlo, Billy, some of the care staff and a few boys from the Jets Unit are camping out in the garden, behind J Block. It should be fun and because the weather is so good; it should get the boys some fresh air. We have already put the tents up and later we are having a BBQ and then lighting a camp fire. (Sam has done a risk assessment so it should be fine, plus we have a fire extinguisher on standby!) It’s currently 68F outside and we are making the most of the hot weather while we can.

Beware of Asian Giant Hornets!

We have had dealings with Giant Asian Hornets today, after we discovered a large nest on the side of C Block. It was out of sight of windows, but after a Pupil got stung this morning, it meant Sam had his drone out, trying to find the location of the nest. The Pupil was treated at the scene for Anyphlaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal; if not treated quickly. I am on the “Response Team”, which deals with First Aid Emergencies and was 1st in the scene. In my “Grab and Run Bag”, I have Epi-Pens, which are automatic adrenaline injectors. The Pupil was taken to hospital and has now returned safely to school this evening. It could of been alot worse, if he had of been out of sight of staff.

If you are stung or someone you know is stuck and suffer from a severe allergic reation, act quickly, as a severe allergic reaction can quickly kill! Here is what to do:

  • Remain calm
  • Loosen clothing from around the neck
  • Ask someone to call an ambulance (dial 999 or 112) and state the patient is having an Anapylaxic reaction
  • If the casualty has a Epi Pen, use it: Release the cap, form a fist around the epi-pen, push the epi-pen through the casualty’s thigh, until it clicks
  • Hold the Epi-Pen in place for 10 seconds
  • If the patient stops breathing, begin CPR at once.
  • If the Epi-Pen has no effect, repeat if the casualty has another Epi-Pen
  • If you have access to Oxygen, give oyxgen at 100%
  • Roll the casualty into the recovery position and monitor until help arrives

After this incident, Karen and Sam decided to call a “Wet Break” at lunchtime, to make sure no one else got stung. With Hornets buzzing about C Block, all windows in C Block remained closed. Sam immediately got a professional out, to deal with the nest, which has now been destroyed.

So beware of the little blighters, they can be nasty and even deadly when they attack!

End Of Year Summer Spectacular!

The programme for the End of Year Show has been released and Sam and I think it is going to beat last year’s show!

  • Karen (our Head Teacher) is performing “Love Shine a Light” by Katrina and the Waves
  • Year 9 are performing “Let it Swing” by Bobbysocks and have learnt to sing it in Norwegian!
  • Sam and I are performing “Take me To Your Heaven” by Charlotte Neilson
  • Year 3 performing “Puppet on a String” by Sandie Shaw and dressed up as various puppets
  • Year 6 are performing “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz
  • Year 5 are performing “Oooh Are Just a Little Bit” by Gina G, (dressed as Cheerleaders!)
  • The Care Staff sing Waterloo by ABBA
  • Some of the Teaching Staff are singing Fly On The Wings of Love by The Olson Brothers

~ Interval ~ (Refreshments and Raffle)

The 2nd half is mixed talent, with the following acts:

  • Year 10 performing the Country Roads Scene from Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Merlin’s Last Stand) featuring our Head playing Poppy Adams! Sam is playing his own arrangement of Country Roads \ The theme to Kingsmen and I will be playing my Bagpipes during the 1st part of Country Roads. (In my Kilt and Sporran of course, but then for those of you who follow our blog will know; I wear a Kilt to work and it is rare to see me in trousers!)
  • Some of the Year 8 Lads will be doing Magic
  • Year 4, 5 & 7 Clowing Around (They don’t know it yet, but it will involve some of the teachers getting flanned and Karan doesn’t know she’s going to get gunged too! That will be really funny!)
  • Reception and Year 2 perform The YMCA by The Village People (calling themselves the “Village Kids”
  • Year 5, 6 and 8 lads wil be doing BMX and Skateboard Stunts on stage
  • Various from Years 3 – Year 10s doing an Aikido demonstration
  • Some of the older boys from the Acorns Unit reenact the scene from Little Britain “Dennis Waterman – sing da theme tuneeeeeeeeee!” with Sam a member of care staff, (who looks sorta like the real Dennis Waterman) sing “I could be so good for you,” which of course is the theme to Minder. “Oi! I don’t insist on singing da theme tune!”


  • The Care Staff and some of the boarders from Jets and Oaks perform Juke Box Jive by The Rubetttes
  • Myself and some of the Care Staff (and some of the boarders from Squirrels and Birds) perform Is This the way to Amerello (in the style of Peter K. (Various shots of the coridoors and parts of the school will be projected onto a green screen on the stage)
  • Sam and Karen sing Sometimes When We Touch by Newton, with the kids cycling on to stage, cartwheeling onto stage, the kids and staff joining in in various costumes) including a vicar, Neapolitan, clowns and much more!

So it’s going to be a great show, with just over a month to go! The show is always a great fundraiser and great fun! I know I enjoy getting to be silly and let my hair down at the end of term, when for one night, the rules get chucked out the window and everyone has a great time!

End of the year is always a very exciting time, but also makes me feel sad, because the older pupils leave and over the years, I have built some great friendships with them, watched them grow up and progress through the school. Some have been a little cheeky or have had hiccups, but I am proud to say I have been there to help and support them over the years. I will miss them when they leave and hope that the boys who leave, keep in touch.

A Fathers Day I will never forget! :)

I am working today, which may come as a surprise to you; because usually I don’t work on a Sunday.  I had arranged to work today, because for the kids I work with, always find Fathers Day a really hard day to cope with. My shift started as normal at half 6 with Handover. (For those of you who don’t know what Handover is, it is where the previous shift, update colleges coming on duty, with the events of the previous shift. IE: If one of the kids was unwell etc) After Handover, we went to wake the kids up. For this, we normally knock on their bedroom door, then go in, open the curtains and gently nudge the sleeping boy, to wake him up. One of the boys on my unit wasn’t too well when I woke him up and was quite warm. So I told him to stay in bed and I will come back in a few minutes, with a thermometer and take his temperature. (This is done in the ear)

Once I had woken up the remaining boys, I went back to our poorly boarder and took his temperature. He was warm, so I decided to give him Calpol and leave him in bed, with 30 minute obs. My next job was drugs round, which is a job that takes around half a hour to complete. Most of the boys shower ion the morning, so I was able to collar them coming to or from the bathrooms and give them their meds. By the time I finished meds, I was now late for breakfast. (That is nothing new, I am always late for Breakfast!) I always eat breakfast with the kids and on weekends, a member of Care Staff makes a cooked breakfast for the boys. (Sausage, Bacon, fried Egg, cooked Mushrooms, cooked Tomatoes etc) there is also cereals, yogurts, toast etc available too) Plus we also have a large metal pot of tea and coffee and fruit juice available.

One of the boys suddenly got up and left the room, before I could say anything. He came back in with a carrier bag and put it at the side of my cup and saucer. I opened the bag and was shocked about the contents. The boys had filled the bag with cards and there was also a box set of smellies. (Deodorant, shower gel and shaving gel) One of the boys went behind the side board and bought out a big photo frame, which had a photo of the boys, the staff and I, sat on the sofa in the unit lounge. The boys had clubbed together and had the phoro enlarged and put in a frame for me.

I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say. The kids had never done anything like this for me before and I was totally flabbergasted! Of course, I thanked the kids emencely for the kindness they had shown me. One of the boys, who I had helped on Friday night, (after more or less being rejected by his family for coming out as gay.) I stayed with him all night, as he was clearly in crisis and needed my support to get him through it – and he did get through it and was OK) said:

To us boarders, Kyle is the next nearest thing we have to a dad. He’s always there for us and knows what to say to help us, what ever it is we are going through.

Each of them got a hug from me and were thanks individually and as a group. After breakfast, the boys signed out for activities. I stayed on the unit as usual and got some paperwork done and kept nipping in and out looking after our poorly boarder. I also took him the games console and TV on a trolley, which we keep in the Play Specialist’s cupboard, for when boarders are poorly or  when kids have family visit. There is a games console in the communal lounge too.

After Lunch, (which on a Sunday, the Caterers do a Roast) the boys went to rehearsals for the school show, which is at the end of term. It meant I could see our kids, as they had come in with Sam. I also got the cards and gifts from our boys as well. (I got more smellies, a iTunes Gift Card and a car cleaning set for my Morris Minor. (Yes I know sad! I like my car tho) Now back on the unit and buried in paperwork, while the kids rehearse, I have managed to tell you why this has been the nicest Father’s day yet! The boarder who was unwell this morning, is feeling a bit better and is still on the unit, but is now well enough to of got dressed and is sitting in the lounge on the other games console. (Kids who are unwell are usually looked after on their unit, unless they are very poorly, which is when they are transferred to Sick Bay upstairs.)

In Case Of Emergency….

Some of the kids we foster are placed with us for their own safety, often by the Courts. So, when it comes to keeping our little ones safe,  Sam and I don’t take chances. If you visit our house in the stunning County Durham countryside, the 1st thing you will see is the large iron electric gates. The gates are there to help keep the kids in and outer people out. It sounds harsh, but when one of our kids is under a protection order by the court, Sam and I have a “duty of care” to protect the kids. The house isn’t a prison and the kids do go out and about in the community, but under supervision.

As you walk up the drive, we can see you; thanks to the CCTV cameras, which record what’s going on on the driveway and in the garden, 24 hours a day. Our only camera inside the house, is above the front door. The outer front door is opened from 6am – 10pm and then the building is protected by a reinforced and is half glass. The glass has wire in it, so even if the toughened safety glass did get broken, there is no way anyone can get their hand in and open the door from the inside. The front door is also controlled via an intercom and we can see who is at the door, before we press door release, to let the person in. The kids are not allowed to answer the door and they are also not allowed their own keys. (One of us is always at home. Either myself or Sam, or Linda or Jenny.) In the event of a power cut, we can also lock the security door manually with a key. In the event of us needing to evacuate, there is a button which will release the locking mechanism and allow us to open the door. The side door by the garage is locked by a key and the garage door via a button by the door. However, the key is accessible, via a red box with a glass panel. You break the glass panel to get the key.

If there is an emergency, we have a system in place, where we use a keyword to signal an emergencies, where there is a threat to the kids safety.  We use a word that the kids often use when playing Pirates. The phrase is Battle Stations, but with the prefix emergency. So in an emergency, we use “Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!, I repeat: Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!

This is activated by using our internal telephone system. By all the outside doors, is a telephone. In an emergency, you would pick up the phone and dial 66. Once you hear the double bleep, speak clearly and slowly and state: “Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!, I repeat: Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations! Once activated, hang up the phone.

When you dial 66, it activates PA (Public Address)  mode on the phone system. All phones can accommodate, even if the line on a phone is in use. (The person on the phone will hear the announcement through their handset, but the caller will not hear it. We also have car speakers mounted in the ceilings in the corridors upstairs and there are speakers  underneath the awnings at the back. Regardless where you are, (inside or out) you will hear the warning. On the wall by each phone, is a card with all the extensions for the house and how to activate emergency protocol.

So what happens when Emergency Protocol is activated?

First, lets create a scenario. Lets say one of the boys relatives has just breached the conditions of their bail and just climbed the walls to the garden. One of the boys spots this and knows he needs to activate the emergency protocol and runs into the house, locks the door and activates the protocol.

We will know which phone the protocol has been activated from, as the phone will announce it’s extension number after the phone is hung up. For instance: Extension 5934 (kitchen) One of the adults will go to the location the call came from and find out what is happening. In this case, we need to move the boys to safety. Normally, the safest place in the house is the Cellar. So we tell the kids go go down to the cellar. For Toby, Sam or I carry him down the stairs. If we are not at home, he is bumped down the stairs using an Evac Chair.

We close all the downstairs doors (and there is a good reason for this that I will explain in a minute) and press the red panic button by the door to the cellar. This sends a silent alarm signal to ADT, who call the Police. Once we are all down in the Cellar, we lock and bolt the door. We have 4 heavy duty steel bolts for this. (One is a kick bolt, which bolts into the concrete floor, one is a bolt that bolts into the top of the door frame and 2 bolts, which bolt horizontally into the door frame.

Now, I mentioned about the downstairs doors and there is a good reason for this. My very clever Hubby Sam, built a system, which allows us to track an intruder if they are in the house. On the wall to the cellar, is a panel with several red lights. Each light is a room downstairs, once it is switched on. When an intruder opens a door, a red light for that room lights up. If they go into a room and shut the the door once having a look, the light switches off. This is achieved by door contacts on each door, which breaks the circuit when the door is opened and completes the circuit when the door is shut. The doors have auto-closers, so it is quite easy to keep tabs on an intruder. From the cellar, we can use the phone to call the Police and update them on the situation. Of course, if they try the cellar door, they will not be able to get down there. The 4 steel bolts and the locks, prevent them from opening the door. Being a solid fire door, it is also not possible to kick it in. On top of this, there is a door at the bottom of the stairs too, for security. From the cellar, we can see the police approaching and can open the electric gates and release the front door, so they can tackle an intruder.

A bit elaborate you may be thinking… But in this line of work, we take security that little more seriously. We have a duty from the court to keep the kids safe from anyone who could seriously harm them. We have never had to use this protocol for real (and we hope we never will have to) but it is there, should we ever need to do so. The whole house is alarmed, we have CCTV and the Police know this property as on the vulnerable list, so if we need the police in an Emergency, we get priority.  We have been praised by Social Services and the police, regarding our extra security arrangements.

Like I said before, the house is not a prison, it is a normal house, full of normal people, who live normal lives.

I know that these arrangements mean that the kids can sleep soundly, knowing that no one can get to them and if they did, we will take immediate action. They also know that downstairs is alarmed at night, so if anyone got in; the alarm will go off. (It is very very loud!) In the event that they need a drink during the night, a jug of orange squash and plastic cups are always put on a table, by the door that leads downstairs. (After we go to bed, the kids are not allowed downstairs. The table the jug and glasses on it, also has a lamp, so the kids can see where they are going. However, we also do the occasional drill, just to make sure that the kids and adults know what to do in an emergency.

If an intruder was silly enough to sound the fire alarm, we have a repeater panel in the cellar, so we can see where the alarm has been activated (our system is addressable, so it shows us where the alarm has been activated and which device. IE: Smoke Detector, Break Glass etc)

So that’s a incite into how we keep the boys safe from people getting into the house or the garden and what we do, should we encounter an emergency.

Time for bed! I am taking Toby to his outpatients Appointment at 8.45am!