Great (No Fantastic) News!

Yes, I am still alive for those of you who are wondering. I have just been very very busy at school and been knackered most nights, so I apologize for the lack of posts.

Earlier today, Toby’s Social Worker went to see him at school with the news that they may have found him a family willing to adopt him. (without saying who) He wasn’t very happy about this, as he feels settled with us and said that he did not want to be adopted.  However, his Social Worker had also been and seen myself and Kyle about this and we have said we would be more than happy to adopt Toby.  (Btw, we have also been approved to adopt him, which makes things easier too)

So, Sam and I borrowed a meeting room and had a word with him at Break Time. I have never seen him speechless before and then he started to cry with happiness. Social Services have said his adoption will take some time to complete, but it worth it. Our whole family behind us and I know we can make a difference to Toby’s life, as he has been  so ill for most of his life, due to kidney failure, (which lead to a transplant being needed) and other bits and bobs.

So Kyle and I are pleased to introduce Toby, who will be the newest of the Smith’s, once the adoption is finalized. Once again, Kyle and I are parents once again!

Meet Toby, the 9yo boy we are adopting

Once I finish work at 5, I am going home, getting changed and then I am taking the whole clan, (Smith and non Smith family) out for a celebratory meal. I have booked a table at TGI Friday’s in Newcastle! (Mum and her husband Steve are driving us there, so it means Kyle and I can have a drink… I think I need one after such a busy day like today!) Thankfully Steve has a People Carrier, which we often borrow, as it is large enough to get the whole family, plus Toby’s wheelchair in.

Thankfully, Kyle was also able to swap shifts, so he can come and celebrate. It means he has to do a waking night shift tomorrow night though, but he doesn’t mind that and actually enjoys working nights, as they are usually quite quiet!

Finally, I nipped to Argos this afternoon and I have got Toby a chain with the Hogwarts logo on the pendant. I then nipped to the Jeweler down the road and had a engraved on it. I know he’s going to love it and I will be giving it to him when we are at dinner. I had engraved on it:

To Toby, this is a fresh start in life for you and we will be behind you 100%. We love you very much Toby Smith, from your new Parents, Kyle and Sam. x

We Are Rated Outstanding AGAIN!

BAN_SCH001Our Boarding Provision has been rated outstanding for the FIFTH YEAR RUNNING!! The inspectors were very impressed with our Boarding Provison and said that the boarding pupils have positive experiences. They are thriving and developing valuable life skills as a direct result of their attendance at this school. Th They all identified that their relationships with the boarding staff, and with each other, are ‘one of the best things’.

The Care Staff, known as House Parents, were inspected as genuinely caring and nurturing, which has a significant impact on the boarders. This offers them stability and emotional security. The boarders had told the inspectors that nothing was too much trouble and staff would always make time to listen and support young people in our care.

The inspectors found that we provide extensive pastoral support ensures that the boarders have several options where they can seek guidance and advice. This includes counselling, interdependent visitors, access to mental health support etc. The inspectors also said that primary health and well-being needs of boarders are met. They visited Sick Bay and spoke to patients and staff. Care in Sick Bay was found to be more than adequate, with  provision for inpatient care and also the day unit for pupils who cannot learn in a traditional classroom, due to health problems \ disabilities.

The Kids told the inspectors that they feel safe. They are confident that they would tell  a member of staff if they were worried about any issues. All the boarding staff have received level 1 safeguarding training, and the Head of Care (Kyle) is a designated safeguarding lead. The boarders re very respectful of the boarding staff and each other. The school educates all the pupils about the risks that they may encounter, and how to get help. This empowers the boarders to be aware and self-reliant. reduce the likelihood of behavioral issues or unwanted behavior. On top of this, the school has self defnce classes, taught by Sam. This is not to teach them to fight, but to use self defense, (Aikido) in the situation where they are in danger and have no choice but to defend themselves. As a school, we teach our kids to run from danger and to find an adult for help. This could be  in a nearby shop, a library or a public building. They are also taught the best weapon to use is their voice and to use it, by continuously  shouting HELP! loudly.

The inspectors were very impressed with the activities provided. One inspector really enjoyed the PAT Session. (Pets as Therapies, when Sox visits.) The inspectors said that the structured sessions and free time, allows the kids to have time for free play, as well as joining in on several planned activities every day.

Environmental health and safety and fire safety was inspected as very good. The school ensures that regular health and safety checks are carried out and that all utilities are regularly checked and serviced. The boarders also know what to do in an emergency, should they not be able to find a member of staff. Staff recruitment is thorough, which protects the boarders students from having access to unsuitable adults. Each Unit has enough staff to cover each shift, meaning that adequate supervision is provided.

I got to thank the kids and the staff, we would not of been rated outstanding if it wasn’t for them! I am proud of the kids and staff, together we work together to provide a safe and happy home for the boys we care for! 🙂

A difficult Time

We’ve been looking after a Pupil in Sick Bay, who has got Cancer. I cannot name the Pupil or what sort of Cancer he has had, but he has been receiving Chemo on Sick Bay for the last few months and has been really poorly.

We got the news on Monday that the cancer has spread and that this Young Person may only live until February next year.  I went with this young person to see the Pediatric  Oncologist. I will admit I did get upset myself and so did he. It is a hard subject to get your head around and can be very distressing.

Thoughts then turned to his Palliative Care and his options. He made it quite clear to me and the doctor, that he wanted to spend his final days at school, with his friends around him. I thought this was a very brave statement to make for a 13 year old. Of course, this is not a problem and he will be cared for in Sick Bay, the same as any other pupil would. (Remember, lots of our kids live on site 24 \ 7 all year round)

I’d already spoken to his  Mum while I left him in the play room for a few minutes. I needed a cigarette and I think, with the bad news, you cannot blame me. I arranged for his mum to come and see me at school and we could then talk things through and make a proper plan for his care.

When we got back to school and I had taken him back to Sick Bay, I popped down to the hall and spoke to Karen and explained what was going on. She let me break the news to the school and I said that support will be given to pupils, if they need to talk about this delicate subject and that as a school, we need to be behind this young person and be there for him. I have not openly spoken in Assembly before and I think the kids and staff were shocked to hear the news. I encouraged the kids to visit him in Sick bay, during break, lunch and after school and to help keep his spirits up.

After Assembly, I met with his mum on Sick Bay, who had arrived before I had come back. I said that in the circumstances, I will allow open visiting, so she can come and see her son when she wants to and for as long as needed. If there’s a problem with this, she was told to get someone to bleep me. Dr Darak also has said that she will do anything she can to help and can be bleeped too, if needed.

The pupil in question then asked me to do something I didn’t think he would do. He’s been stuck in Sick Bay for a few months now and  hasn’t really left the unit, apart from Hospital Appointments. He’s been cared for by our Nurses and  Health Care Assistants, under the care of our in house GPs.

He had asked to go outside for break time with the other kids, which was not a problem, as we put him in a wheelchair and I took him outside. I was shocked when I wheeled him out, with his drip on the back of his chair, wrapped up in blankets. The kids and staff on the playground stopped what they were doing and actually applauded the lad. I thought this was so special, as it showed the school was behind him and actually made me feel emotional myself.

He has received lots of visitors, from staff and pupils. However, we are mindful that his mum will want to spend time with him too, so we did ask visitors to come back, if he is with his mum.  However, she said it is important that he has his friends around him and does not mind him having friends come to see him.

Karen, myself and Sam visit as much as we can. I spare a couple of hours during the work day and after work to see him. I have bought him in the spare Xbox from home and a TV, so he can play on that when he gets board.  I also arranged for Rosemary (who is one of our Counselors) to go up and see him, to provide him and his mum emotional support. I talk with him, reassure him and hold his hand. It’s hard for me to be upset, as we are suppose to be professional, but I cannot hold it back. I’ll admit I’ve cried with him and I’ve cried walking out of Sick Bay. I am getting support myself from the school counselling service and have been told it’s OK to cry and to be upset. I hate the kids to see me cry and I have only shown emotions to the kids a few times.

The months ahead will be tough, but with the school behind him, he knows that he is not alone and that he’s getting the best care possible. This has hit the staff and the kids hard and is the 1st time we have ever had this situation.

I am going back up to see him in a minute, but I know you, the bloggers who follow Sam and I on this blog, also send your best wishes and lots of love to a family, who have been knocked back by terrible terrible news, which sadly won’t have a happy ending. 😦

Trouble At The Beginning Of Term

So, term is back in swing and the new boarders have arrived and are into their 1st week at school. However, this evening, 2 boys have landed themselves in big trouble for breaking school rules and vandalism.

It started on Monday, when I was on the Jets Unit, which I am House Parent for. On the 1st afternoon of the school year, I do a getting to know you session, where I go through the rules of the units, who the staff are, the structure etc. On one of these items I go through is smoking and that it is not allowed on school premises. We offer pupils help for pupils to stop smoking and we can give out patches as needed. We also ask that if pupils have smoking materials, that they are handed into staff.

However, a pair of 13 year old lads on the Adolescent Unit , decided the rules do not apply to them and this evening, forced the window in their bedroom window open, breaking the safety catches and then went out on the flat roof for a cigarette. From what I can gather, the pair had done this a couple of times, before being caught by a member of staff walking past their room and smelling smoke. (I am surprised domestics did not notice the broken catch, when they hoovered their room.)

The boys were soon sent to me. Of course I have a zero tolerance view about this. (I know, I smoke I am bias in some ways, but in school I have to enforce the rules. Also I smoke off site) The pair got a right telling off, as well as being grounded for the whole weekend. Their cigarettes and lighters were confiscated and destroyed and the pair will have pocket money docked, to pay for the window safety latches to be repaired. In the meantime, Sam has boarded up the window, for safety until the latch is fixed. 

What a crap start to the week!

Final Weekend in Blackpool

So it is our last weekend here in Blackpool and it has been a fun one so far! Last night, we went to the pub for a meal and we stayed on for Karaoke. Sam and I sang a few songs, including The Drifters – Saturday night At the movies and Westlife Ft. Diana Ross – When you tell me that you love me. While singing the latter, the other people in the pub, were waving their mobile phones and singing along. We got a massive applause for it too!

Sam and Linda have taken the kids to have a ride on a vintage tram, while I am still at the hotel, looking after Toby, as he’s feeling  not well just now. (He will be OK he often has days when he’s not too good) Meanwhile, Josh has gone down to the hotel pool, as they have “funsplash” this afternoon, with a inflatable island that he can run across, trying not to be knocked in to the pool!

This evening is the kids talent show and the boys are taking part. Hopefully Toby will feel better by then, as he going to do magic tricks. All the boys are entering, doing various acts, from circus stuff to rollerblade stunts.

Tomorrow, we are going to the Sandcastle Waterpark, which should be fun. I am, deffo going on all the flumes and ride the waves in the wave pool! Meanwhile, back to today, I am catching up on a few bits, while sat in the bar in the hotel. Don’t worry though, as I am nipping up every 45 mins to check on Toby and I have told him to use the phone if he needs me. (He just has to pick up the phone and press the button that says Bar and ask to speak to me. – ask for the large ginger haired guy on a acer laptop.) Talking of which, I need to nip up and check on him!

Blackpool (2nd Holiday Post)

Greetings from Blackpool. We’re about half way through our 2 weeks of fun by the sea and we have been having a great time!  Today, we have been back to the Tower, as Toby didn’t get a chance to go up, as he was not very well. So we did the circus and Toby got a special hello from Mookie the Clown, who he got to meet and have his picture taken with during the intermission and at the tower top, I got to take this breathtaking photo of Blackpool.

This evening, there’s a disco for the kids, so we are all going downstairs for that. No doubt, Sam and I will have a couple of pints too!  Tomorrow, the weather is going to be bad, so we have planned indoor activities. We’re taking the kids to Madam Tussauds in the morning and in the afternoon, we are taking the boys to a indoor soft play centre.

Before I go, I need to mention that the hotel food is fantastic. It is a buffet with several choices of hot and cold food and deserts. The kids are able to have as much or as little as they want! Tonight, I had roast pork with all the trimmings and Jam Rollie Poly for pud!

Greetings from Blackpool!

Greetings from Blackpool! The Smith Family are here in Blackpool for our annual Summer Holiday by the sea! Most of the family arrived here yesterday lunchtime, but I arrived later last night, due to dealing with a last minute hiccup at work.

Btw,  Sam’s Mum is looking after Sox and Mollie while we are away.

We are staying in one of the larger chained Hotels here in Blackpool and are not far from the beach. The Hotel is nice, as it has a pool for the kids, a kids club and a couple of bars for me and Sam. I book this holiday months and months in advance and make sure we are in a block of rooms, instead of all over the place. I also make sure that the phones are taken out the kids room as well. 🙂

So after a decent night’s kip, a shower and breakfast, Sam and I took the kids to the Tower, where we watched the circus, (with fountain finale) watched the dancing in the ball room and braved the “walk of faith” at the tower top. After lunch, we have been on the beach. The kids have enjoyed paddling, while Sam and I sat in deckchairs, enjoying the sun! (I have had a paddle too and helped the kids build sandcastles!)

Kyle enjoying the beach

This evening, Kyrlo and Josh want to check out the hotel pool, so I am taking them swimming, (even though they have been to the beach) while the other boys go to the kids club. (Sam is taking Zak and Will swimming tomorrow evening) Tomorrow we are hitting the Pleasure Beach and I will be taking Kyrlo, Toby and Zak on the slower rides. (I so want to go on the Wallace and Gromit Ride and on the driving ride!)

Let hope the weather stays good and our holiday is not like last year’s! (Toby had to be rushed to hospital during last year’s holiday, as he got Septicemia, due to his kidney transplant he had a couple of years back. Sam sat with him day and night in Intensive Care, while Toby was fighting for his life. It was very touch and go, but Toby fought off the infection and is OK now, thankfully.)

 

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)

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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.

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!”

Finale:

  • 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.

When Kids Go Missing

Let me start this post, by saying that at our school, we have robust procedures that are followed, when ever a pupil in our care goes missing. However, there is not enough awareness of runaways and why they do it and I hope this post will help to give an incite into why kids runaway and as a school, how we deal with such issues.

Young People go missing for several reasons. Sometimes an argument causes youngsters to run away, sometimes it can be caused by bullying, sometimes it’s an act of rebellion and sometimes, kids just go missing for the thrill of it. When any of the kids in our care go missing, We as a school, have a “duty of care” and part of that duty, it is paramount that we act quickly and professionally and that the boy in question is found quickly.

So what do we do when one of our Young People go missing?

The 1st thing we do, is to do an extensive search of the school grounds, including the unit the young person is on and the main school as needed. We also put an alert out to all staff via staff radios. If a search brings no results, we ask the Boarders on his the unit, if they had seen the boarder in question. (Sometimes telling us about a den in the grounds or somewhere the boarders go when they want to be along, helps us to find the young person.) We also will try the young person’s mobile to make contact. (Each Unit has a list of young people’s mobile numbers.

If that doesn’t bring any results, I will get a phone call. I could be out with the kids or in the bath, but it means I need to get over to school ASAP. I will then be handed information about what has happened, at what time and those involved. Next, I call the Police (999)  and report the young person as missing. Meanwhile staff will search the Young Person’s room, to see if they have left any clues to where they are going. Meanwhile, I will go to Sam’s office and view the CCTV footage, to see which way the young person left the site and which direction he went.  I then have the wonderful job of phoning the boy in question’s Parents and informing them that their son is missing and  we have the Police out looking for him. I also have to contact Karen (our Head Teacher) and brief her. I then will ring the boy’s Social Worker (or the Emergency Duty Team if in the evening or at weekends or a Bank Holiday)

The Police will search his room, as well as speaking to pupils and staff, look at the CCTV and  circulate the information about the boy in question.  Meanwhile a spare member of staff will take the school car and drive around the local area. Sometimes it’s possible to find the boy in question, quite easily. I also will go through the browsing history on the unit PC’s as sometimes that gives us a clue on where they may have gone. I can get this from the Server for the networked PC’s in J Block,  which keeps a log of EVERY site they visit, even if they think they can be crafty and delete the browsing history on the PC. (The server is actually in the Server Room next to my office, so I can get to it quite easily if needed. Our Network interfaces the main school network and uses Community Connect. It means that the kids can access their files from school, via the same network.

Sometimes the Police bring the Young Person back and sometimes they come back on their own. When they return, a member of staff will call me and I will come back over to school. (Unless I am working, as I will already be on site.  A member of staff will remain with the boy in question, while I undertake a “return interview”. The return interview is not about telling the boy off for going missing. Instead it is about establishing why he went missing and how we can further support him. Of course, I will mention how dangerous going missing is. I remind the boy in question that he can come to me or any member of staff, if something is bothering them. If he wants to talk to me and I am not on shift, he can write a note and ask a member of staff to put it in my pigeon hole in the post room, on the ground floor of J Block; or use the computers on the units and send me a email. (Above the computers on the units is a poster, which has my work email address on it.) When I am back on shift, I will happily have a chat over a cup of tea. Of course, if one of the boys is distressed, I can be called and I will happily drive over to school. (In my Morris Minor of course!)

Finally, I have alot of paperwork to do when a boy goes missing, which is placed in his file, which is locked in the unit office filing cabinet.

When a boy is offsite, our staff are trained not to give chase. As stated above, a member of staff will drive round to try and locate the boy in question, while the group Leader will use their school mobile, to phone me. The police will be involved, if the boy in question is not found quickly and usual procedures will be followed.

I have only ever had to deal with a runaway once in all the time I have worked for the school. However, I think it is something that should be highlighted and that was why I wrote this article.