Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Joined Mumsnet Bloggers

I have had a Mumsnet account since 2008 and generally just lurked in threads about teenagers, eduction and large families, occasionally posting. I've just applied, and been accepted as a Mumsnet blogger, no pressure there then. I've been browsing the Mumsnet bloggers network help pages to get some hints and tips about blogging. I've added a badge and now I need to join the review panel and find out how to get the widget.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New blog focus

I've changed my blog title and layout today as part of my blog refresh. Time moves on and my old profile is no longer upto date.
An occasional blog sharing my experiences as a mother of 4 teenagers, school governor and university administrator. Usually written at the kitchen table where I lurk all evening in the hope that one of my teenagers will talk to me when they come to raid the fridge.
 The children are no longer teenagers and spend very little time at home. I'm entering a new phase of my life as an empty nester.
Stock.xchng: greensmoke

Monday, 30 May 2011

New school admissions code and twins

I was surprised to read in the Guardian that the draft, new school admissions code includes the guidance that:
"Schools must give priority to children whose parents are in the armed forces, as well as children in care, and ensure twins and triplets are in the same class."
Don't rely on school place lotteries, local authorities are told The Guardian, 27 May 2011
 I've always felt that twins do better if they are in different classes at school but I know that this can depend on twins individual needs. According to a  Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA) report 20% of multiple birth children starting school are allocated to classes (either together or apart) without any consultation with parents. Amazingly around 1% of multiple birth children starting school are offered places in different schools. This equates to almost 200 children per year (The Educational Needs and Experiences of Multiple Birth Children TAMBA 2009)

The new admissions code will allow twins and triplets to be admitted to an infant class
"even if it takes the class over the 30-child limit" DfE Press notice 27th May 2011
so there should be no reason for twins or triplets to be split between different schools. The chief executive of TAMBA,  Keith Reed, says
"We are delighted that the new Government has taken on board our suggestion to add twins and multiple-birth children to the list of infant class size exceptions." ,
Both of my sets of twins started primary school, and secondary school in different classes. Next year my sixteen year old twins are going one step further and have chosen to go to different sixth form colleges. The logistics of them travelling in different directions every day will be a challenge but they have each chosen the course and college that is best for them.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Goodbye Aga

Having named this blog 'Aga Kitchen Tales', previously posted a blog about my Aga and even registered my Aga on the 'This is my Aga' website, I'm now saying goodbye to the Aga. Like many others, I've decided I can't afford to keep my oil-guzzling Aga going. I could swap to an electric Aga but I've decided to go for an electric range with 5 hotplates, a grill and a warming plate.

Saying goodbye to an Aga is not something you can do instantly. I've switched it off this evening so we can remove the fitted worktops from around it tomorrow. On Tuesday the plumber is coming to disconnect the hot water supply and oil pipes, and then on Wednesday I've got two men coming from Avec Cookers to dismantle it and take all the pieces away. They will be able to use bits of my Aga as spares for their re-conditioned Agas.

I'm also going to have to rename this blog. I've been trying to think of a title all evening.

Friday, 6 August 2010

My staff profile from our office newsletter

Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in Lancaster but spent most of my childhood in Nottingham where my parents and sister still live. My father was a Maths teacher and we used to spend the long summer holidays touring through Europe with our caravan packed with tins of corned beef and Smash, lots of travel on a small budget. I think this gave me the travelling bug that took me to New Zealand via Texas and Costa Rica at the beginning of my academic career. I did my first degree in Botany at Cambridge and then my PhD in plant genetics in Liverpool. My first post-doc was based at the University of Texas in Austin but I did all of my field work in a National Park in the Pacific tropical rainforests of Costa Rica. I met my husband Chris when I was a student at Cambridge and we got married before I started my post-doc in Texas. After two years we moved on to New Zealand where I had another 2 year post-doc, this time in the School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Chris followed me back to the UK in 1989 when I got a third post-doc in Edinburgh. We then moved to Bracknell in Berkshire when Chris and I both got post-docs at the Silwood Park campus of Imperial College. We had our first set of twins, two girls, Rose and Alice, while we were in Bracknell.

What jobs have you done to date?

I don’t really think of being a post-doc as a job because it’s linked to a specific research project and it’s a short-term contract. My first real job was a lectureship at the University of Coventry. Chris had a lectureship at the University of Birmingham and we could have settled in the West Midlands but Chris was attracted by the first round of 5 year University Research Fellowships advertised by the University of Leeds in 1995. I remember Chris bringing the advertisement into Birmingham Maternity Hospital to show me on the morning of my caesarean section to deliver my second set of twins, this time a boy and a girl, Jack and Lucy. I wanted more children and Chris wanted more time to do his own research and the two things fitted quite nicely with giving up our lectureships and returning to the post-doc lifestyle in Leeds. Chris had a 5 year URF in Biology at Leeds and I got a part-time post-doc in Geography, plus a part-time contract with the Open University as a tutor. I continued to work part-time at Leeds until last September, moving from Geography to Biological Sciences in 2003 via Yorkshire Universities. My first job in Biological
Sciences was Marketing and Widening Participation Officer. I moved to Quality Assurance Officer in 2005 and then Manager of the Teaching Support team in 2007 when the Undergraduate School was set up.

Expand a little on your role?
At the moment I’m covering some of the role of the Undergraduate School Manager while Jenny Hamlin is on maternity leave. I thrive on new challenges and am enjoying working with the staff in the Undergraduate School Office and meeting more students and academic staff. I’m not sure how the role will develop when the new Director of the Undergraduate School and Institute Directors of Studies are appointed and Jenny returns from maternity leave, but I know there will be plenty to do.

Have you had any challenging tasks to undertake to date?

My biggest challenge in Biological Sciences is the one I was faced with when I first arrived in 2003. I had to develop a suite of co-ordinated recruitment brochures for the 4 Schools (plus 1 Division). I organised a full tendering exercise with 5 designers, consultations with staff, students, prospective students and their parents and managed to meet the print deadline required to get the brochures printed for the University Open Day in just under 7 months. I’m delighted that three of the five cover shots that were part of that initial branding exercise are still in use and the faculty logo and colour scheme are still part of the faculty interpretation of the University visual identity. More recent challenges have included setting up an on-line room booking system and then changing from a faculty system to the University on-line system. This year my main challenge has been moving the printing of teaching materials from an external supplier to the University Print and Copy Bureau. I think it is important to support the jobs of colleagues across the university where we can. By committing to move our printing business to Print and Copy Bureau we have enabled them to upgrade their printers and offer a more competitively priced service.

What were your thoughts when you were told you were having a second pair or twins and how did you cope with 4 little ones?

I went for my first scan on my own. I remember the midwife thinking I should have known it was twins again because my bump was so big. I thought it was because I was pre-stretched. Chris didn’t come to the scan because Rose had chicken pox. He picked me up from outside the hospital and drove straight off so I didn’t tell him it was twins (again) until he stopped at some traffic lights. He thought I was joking. We were very busy, and tired, when the children were all young but we have always worked as a team, and put the family first. It has definitely improved my time management and organisation skills. The best part about it is that when you have 4 children and a full-time job, no-one expects you to have a tidy house.

What do you do in your leisure time?

We have a 6 acre smallholding in North Yorkshire and have three horses and some chickens. In December we got a new puppy who I am supposed to be training but most of my non-work time is taken up with looking after my family. Jack and Lucy are half way through their GCSEs at Selby High School while Rose and Alice have just finished their A Levels at York College. I’m also vice-chair of governors at Selby High School.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

I had a few notable encounters with animals while I was working in Costa Rica; coming face to face with a jaguar, disturbing a herd of wild pigs in the rain forest and almost stepping on a wasps nest but the scariest moment was one evening when a bat that was roosting in the toilet block fell onto my head while I was on the loo and couldn’t fly away because it got caught in my hair. It still sends shivers down my back just thinking about it.

Do you have any ambitions?

I’d like to continue with the travelling which has had to be put on hold over the last 18 years. I’ve booked to go to Cuba next Easter but I have lots of destinations on my wish list. If I had to choose I’d put Chile, Easter Island, Brazil and Peru top of my list. There was a possibility of going on an AUA (Association of University Administrators) study tour to Brazil for 4 weeks this November but the timing wasn’t good with the faculty restructure.

Is there anything you have done that you are particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of my children and enjoy watching them gain confidence and independence as they get older.
What’s your most frequently asked question?
In the VLE, how do I…………….?
******** Thanks Helen for giving us an insight into your life – a very busy one! This is such a lovely photo of you and your family that I just had to include it

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas letter 2009

Rose and Alice’s move from learner drivers to fully fledged car owners (shared Fiat Punto) was one of the major features of this year. Chris did most of the driving practice. I wasn’t deemed to be calm enough to accompany them in the early stages. We all coped really well; Alice got out of the car and refused to drive any further at a junction in Selby with me and Rose refused to go out with Chris for at least a week after he had the temerity to pass comment on a manoeuvre or two.

At Easter we went on a family holiday to the Red Sea with a tiring day trip to Cairo to see the antiquities museum, the Pyramids and the Sphinx. The snorkelling was wonderful, but not quite as exciting as the traffic in Cairo.
After Easter, we started on a tour of University Open Days. To be honest I think I was more interested in having an opportunity to check out the competition than the girls were. Rose and Alice’s UCAS forms are now in. Rose has applied for accountancy at East Anglia, York, Sheffield, Northumbria and Hull. Alice has applied for deferred entry to study Chemical Engineering at UCL, Newcastle, Nottingham, Herriot Watt and Aston. We liked Herriot Watt; Alice said it was like having a University at Harewood House (except near Edinburgh), which is a large country house and estate just to the north of Leeds (where the north of England red kite release has been carried out).
In the summer, Jack went on a School outdoor activities holiday to the Ardeche whilst Lucy chose the less active option of touring the Belgian battle fields and chocolate shops. Rose, Alice and Lucy spent a muddy weekend at Leeds Festival and apart from that we have been at home all year. Even Chris has only had his passport out to go to Egypt. He spent most of the summer re-visiting silver-spotted skipper butterfly sites on the north and south downs. We did a survey together in 1982.
We had a series of family celebrations at the end of the summer; my parent’s golden wedding anniversary, Chris’s 50th birthday and Chris’ nephew’s wedding in Ditchling. It was good to meet up with family and lovely to see the Thomas cousins monopolising the dance floor.
I went back to Newnham in September as part of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary. It was also 30 years since I first went to Cambridge. It was lovely to meet up with so many old friends and spend a night in College.
Jack and Lucy have started their GCSE courses and have also being doing their bronze Duke of Edinburgh award. Jack is helping to coach the village under 8 football team and refereeing home matches and Lucy is helping out at an after-school club at a primary school in Selby. Jack and Chris have continued their Hull season tickets. Alice has continued to work at Starbucks in the Designer Outlet and Rose works at Polo Ralph Lauren. They had a joint 18th birthday party at a Selby nightclub in November. It was lovely to see all their friends from school, stagedoor and college together.
Sadly, Rex died during the year, of heart attack we think – very quick, on his way out to the garden. After six weeks of “never going to have another dog”, Chris caved in and Ruby arrived; a Staffordshire Bull Terrier x Border Collie puppy. We need to take her to puppy training classes…

Sunday, 10 May 2009

University of Warwick Open day

We had a lovely day at Warwick University yesterday. I had been to the campus before for an Association of University Administrators Annual Conference (2005) and will be going again next year. The girls loved the campus and squealed with delight when they realised their chemistry 'goody bags' included a laminated periodic table. All four girls; Rose, Alice and two friends were booked on the Chemistry talks. Hannah and Sarah also went to Biology and Alice (and I) went to Engineering.

The best part of the day for me was to see so many parents out and about, enjoying a day with their teenagers. It a much more positive image of both parents and teenagers than one ever gets from news, media etc. Its also useful to for me to find out how other university degree programmes are put together.

The girls didn't seem to get as much out of the talks as they did at Hull. I think they wanted more information about what the degree programmes included rather than what careers you might go onto afterwards. They feel they are at the stage where they are trying to choose between different degrees and they need more information about what they will study if they go to a particular University. Despite that, they both came home very impressed with Warwick and wanting to know which other Universities have campuses. I've added Loughborough and Sussex to our list of places to visit which is getting longer and longer.....