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!

Kingsman: The School Service!

I had to go to the hall to grab a Year 8, who’s Social Worker had come to see him and got to watch a act for the School Show. (It’s almost a month now until the end of term and the School End Of Term Fanale!) Some of the Year 10s are re-enacting a Scene from Kingsmen: The Golden Circle. They are re-enacting the scene where Merlin is stood on a landmine and has to give his own life to save Eggsy and Harry, by singing Country Roads, before blowing himself up.

In the version Yr 10s are re-enacting, no one gets hurt and the explosion is replaced with a “thunder flash” which will produce a big flash and a puff of white smoke. One of our Year 10s (who is Scottish, is playing Merlin, another Year 10 who is a uncanny look alike, is playing Eggsy, a Year 10 plays Harry Heart, while 5 Year 9s are playing the guards, (using black water pistols instead of guns) Poppy Adams is being  played by our Head Teacher Karen. (She said she has always wanted to play a ruthless villein!) Finally the backing Vocals to Country Roads are being provided by the school choir.

Sam has managed to create a very good replica of the sound track with his Tyros Keyboard, (trumpets and all) For the part with the spray, we are using a can deodorant that has been painted black and is used to spray the landmine and Eggys foot. Poppy will be sat at the side of the stage when she is called on the radio. Finally, instead of a headbutt, Merlin will push the guard that gets too close. It’s my fault the lads on Oaks and Acorns got into the Kingsmen films, as a we watched Kingsmen: The Secret Service, one night, when I was working a late shift on their unit.

If you have no idea what I am on about, watch the below clip. Btw, with most of our unit at rehearsals, this has been the 1st time in ages, it has been quiet enough for me to post  while on one of the units! 🙂



BGT: Go Flakefleet School!

So, I have been catching up on Britain’s Got Talent, as I ended up working nights all weekend, so I have missed watching it. Thanks to Sky + I have recorded it and have been catching up.

I have followed Flakefleet Primary School from Fleetwood Lancs, through the entire competition and I think they should win. They are showing the nation that education can be fun and that choirs are not all boring and stereotypical. I can’t wait for the final on Sunday and who knows….. Maybe I can convince our kids to enter next year! (You never know!)


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.

Toby’s Bathroom

 I have been working on getting a bathroom setup for Toby, who we foster. Toby has had a kidney transplant and needs help with his personal care. So I have been converting a box room, into a special bathroom, which also doubles as a extra bathroom for our kids.

First is the toilet. The toilet is a close coupled wc, which has been positioned so that either myself or Kyle can stand either side of the toilet. He also has a rail, so if he wants to stand and do the other end, he can hold the rail while one of us supports him to stand. We were going to put a folding rail in, but it would get in the way. (Especially Kyle is a larger lad) We decided not to install a loo roll holder, as the other boys don’t really use the loo and anyway, the roll holder would be too far from the wall.

At the side of the loo, is the draws with Toby’s supplies. (Catheter Bags, wipes, gloves, disposable aprons etc)

The sink has a mixer tap, which is the lever type. This makes it easier for Toby to wash his hands. There is now a shaver socket as well, which Toby can use when he is older, if he decides to dry shave. (The control switch for the shaver socket and the extractor fan are mounted above the outside of the door. The light switch is also outside the door. The walls are painted with white tiles that are half way up the wall. The top frieze has shell effects, which are cool.

The floor is cushioned Lino, which Toby chose. He chose Lino that looks like floor tiles and he chose the colour black, as it is his favorite.

The bathroom has spot lights, which are recessed in the ceiling and were a pain to install. (Our Electrician did that) So the bathroom is bright! The door opens outwards and also has a safety lock, which can be released with a 20 pence piece from outside.


We’ve installed both a bath and a shower, as the kids like both. We can wheel in a hoist to get Toby in and out the bath and one of us can sit behind him in a little recess, behind the bath. There is a stabilizer underneath the bath, which controls the temperature of the water to the bath and the shower.

The shower is not a mixer shower connected to the taps on the bath. It has it’s own supply from under the bath and goes up a channel in the wall. The shower has a riser rail and is also thermostatic. The shower screen has toughened glass for safety. The bottom of the bath is also non slip for safety.

The bathroom is big enough, so we can wheel in the mobile hoist and using a sling, we can safely lift Toby in and out the bath, using a hoist. We were going to install a track hoist from his bedroom, across the hall and into the bathroom,  However, that would be major work and may of needed the joists strengthening. Not only is this costly, but Josh would have needed to move out his attic bedroom while we do the works. Plus we would of had to rip up his bedroom floor and made a massive mess.


Over this weekend, our Electrician is installing an alarm cord by the bath and one by the toilet too. This project cost about £2,500 to do. I did most of the labour and out of that cost, it includes the labour and parts for the Electrician.

Now Toby has a adapted bathroom which meets his needs.  Kyle and I are proud of what we have built for Toby. He finally has a bathroom that was purpose built around his needs. We struggled to care for him in the current kids bathroom, as it is smaller and meant that it was harder to help him. For instance, we could not get either side of the toilet so we had to stand in front of him to lift him on and off the loo. The bath was not suitable for him, because we could not get the mobile hoist into the bathroom

Most of the time, he was getting strip washes in his bedroom, with a bath 2 – 3 times a week. During the day, he was having to use the downstairs toilet, (which he still uses) as it is adapted already.  At night, he was using a bottle or a commode. That was no quality of life for a 9 yo, so we decided the junk room needed to be converted to a bathroom. Now Toby can have baths safely, he no longer needs his bottle or the commode and has a bathroom that was designed with Toby in mind.

Fri Night Off

Most Fridays I run Karaoke and disco in the gym for the Boarders. However, tonight we are hosting a inter-school special needs basketball friendly in the gym, so no karaoke tonight.

Kyle is on late / sleep in at work and Jenny (our live in carer) is having a DVD night with our boys, so I have escaped and gone for a pint down my local.

My boss Karen walked in after I arrived and we are catching up with a bottle of white. (And why not, we both work very hard and we are having a laugh!)

Tommrow, I shall post photos of the bathroom I’ve built for our disabled foster soon. What used to be a  box room full of junk, is now a bright and spacious adapted bathroom!