EDUCATING YORKSHIRE – Girls under pressure

“They can’t get through school without their friends.”

So stated Mrs Crowther, a head of year at Thornhill. How right she is. Save for a minor blip in Year 4 when I was CRUELLY FROZEN OUT by Jenny and Jane (still not quite over it), by the time I reached Broughton Hall I was happy as the proverbial Larry, surrounded by amigas that are still my friends to this very day. We didn’t fall out and we weren’t bullied (not sure why with regards to the latter – we should have been prime bullying targets as we were a bit weird.) So my schooldays were very harmonious, luckily.

Sadly not everyone has it as good as me in this area (and before you accuse me of sounding smug, can I just point out that this is LITERALLY the only area that was good during my formative years – I was a geek, I had bad skin, I possessed no sporting ability whatsoever and I had a blue brace. I had very little going for me.) This week’s episode of Educating Yorkshire was all about when normally nice girls go a bit Mean Girls.

It focused on a friendship between two girls who were about to sit their GCSEs, Safiyyah and Hadiqa. Safiyyah was…loud, shall we say, and was determined in her quest to become possibly the most incomprehensible air hostess in the world (seriously, she spoke quicker than me.) The only thing standing in her way was that her written English was exactly the same as her spoken English (i.e peppered with “innits” and “likes”) so gaining the C grade required to get on a college course was looking unlikely – as Miss Uren bluntly put it, “I still think you’re going to struggle to get that C.”

Meanwhile, Hadiqa, who wanted to be prime minister, had been at Thornhill for just ten months yet had formed a firm friendship with Safiyyah in the way that you do when you’re young and you make best friends with someone after about five minutes. Hadiqa had the audacity to possess brains as well as beauty so naturally was the butt of other kids’ jokes, but due to the fact that she often moved schools thanks to her father’s work, she seemed older than her years and had a self-assured air about her in comparison to her peers.

Her cool exterior slipped somewhat when the fickle Safiyyah let herself be influenced by the friends she’d known since primary school, who didn’t like Hadiqa, blatantly because they were jealous of her. Hadiqa took to hiding in the loos, flouncing dramatically in and out of classrooms and also developed a penchant for attempting to flip tables over, randomly. Safiyyah in turn blamed Hadiqa for phone calls that her dad had received from an anonymous source which informed him that Safiyyah spoke to boys on Facebook (I give thanks every day for the fact that Facebook did not exist during my school days. Surely the bane of every teacher’s life?) It culminated in Hadiqa returning to school after her nan died and Safiyyah aggressively informing her that she was sorry to hear about her nan but that she didn’t want to be friends with her anymore. Lovely!

Then, as quickly as it had escalated, it all blew over. We saw them skip hand-in-hand down the corridor together, declaring that they were friends forever (until their next tiff, I’d imagine.) Safiyyah missed a C in English by just one mark but got into college anyway. Hadiqa was not prime minister by the end of the episode but I wouldn’t put it past her to succeed…

Next week – Year 9s. As we’re all painfully aware, Year 9 is a dark time for everyone involved. Everyone looks a show and has a bad attitude. Cannot wait.

A Few More Things

Lovely shot of Georgia wiping her nose on the back of her hand at the beginning of the episode.

Ryan’s still hilarious – “I want to be an actor or a singer. Or a fireman.”

Ditto Robbie Joe – “I wanna do what my dad does…he’s…I don’t even know what my dad does.” Brilliant.

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Rainbow laces campaign – #RBGF

Every so often, Joey Barton takes a break from winding people up on Twitter to actually say something that makes some sense.

This is one of those times.

Barton is one of the high-profile stars lending their support to the campaign which aims to highlight the issue of homophobia in football. It’s a joint venture between gay rights charity Stonewall and the betting firm Paddy Power, and has seen rainbow laces sent to all professional teams in England and Scotland during the past week.

I think it’s a great idea. It is addressing an issue that should not even be an issue in this day and age. There are currently no openly gay players in top-flight football – the odds that this is actually the case are tiny. Yet fear of a negative reaction from teammates and fans – not to mention the all-important implications on their commercial interests – is clearly preventing gay players from coming out of the closet.

Everton (go ‘ed my Blue boys!) were the first Premier League club to confirm that they were lending their full support to the campaign. Phil Jagielka, their captain, said “For me and the rest of the lads at Everton a player’s sexuality is not important, but their ability on the pitch is. We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind at Everton and the whole club works hard to get that message out to the fans.”

A great message and a great example to be setting.

Unfortunately Everton are in the minority. The Premier League and almost half of its clubs have expressed “disappointment” that they weren’t consulted sooner as the involvement of Paddy Power meant that their “commercial interests” would be compromised – yet another example of the fact that, in football, money is all that matters. Barton expressed disbelief that a TalkSport debate was musing over the “technical issues” faced by players changing their laces, confirming that he’d worn them twice and had not experienced any problems.

Well I’m sorry but this all sounds like a cop-out to me. Quite apart from being a PR nightmare, for these high-profile clubs to take this stance and blame “lack of time”, “commercial conflict” and “technical issues” as excuses is just no good. If this were an anti-racism campaign, I doubt hugely that it would have been met with so much resistance, whether Paddy Power were involved or not.

Granted, the hashtag #RBGF, which stands for “Right Behind Gay Footballers”, isn’t the best choice of tagline for such a campaign – I refuse to believe that it’s an innocent choice of language – but then again, it’s been included in over 230 million tweets since last Sunday, according to Stonewall’s Twitter, so surely raising awareness in this (admittedly linguistically crass) way is a good thing?

If all of these frankly pathetic reasons are truly why the majority of clubs are reluctant to participate, then Stonewall and Paddy Power need to change tack. They need to liaise properly with the League and with Kick It Out (the anti-discrimination campaigners) to ensure that every nonsensical administrative box is ticked, that all “commercial interests” are content, that all technical issues are addressed, that vulgar and provocative language is not used.

I’m afraid to say that I am not convinced that the outcome would be very different – there’s a long way to go with this particular issue.

EDUCATING YORKSHIRE – Week 3

Best episode so far.

End of blog post.

Not really. As if I’d pass up on the opportunity to pontificate for a few hundred words about the telly!

This week focused on two “lively lads” from Thornhill that had a tendency to display, shall we say, challenging behaviour; Robbie-Joe from Year 7 and Tom from Year 10.

Tom described himself as “happy, bouncy and hyper” – which basically translated to being cheeky and disruptive in the classroom. What made his antics all the more frustrating though was that he was quite clearly intelligent. His long-suffering English teacher, Mrs Sinclair (whose hair colour changed within two minutes during the programme – anyone else notice that?!) had the patience of a saint with him. However his behaviour took a turn for the worse when his stepbrother died. In school the next day, it was heartbreaking to see him struggling to express his grief, announcing to his friends “My stepbrother died,” and then saying “…d’ya wan’ a crisp?” after the deafening silence that had followed. We saw him visibly deteriorate – from being quiet in class, to not turning up to lessons in favour of wandering the corridors, to – as the funeral approached – becoming pent-up with aggression, until Mr Mitchell had no option but to send him home. Happily he returned to school with renewed enthusiasm, determined to “get some qualifications”, much to the delight of Mrs Sinclair et al.

Meanwhile Robbie-Joe – or “Gobby Robbie” as he cheerfully declared he was known as – calculated that he got into trouble “four days out of five – so that’s 80%”, so clearly maths wasn’t an issue for him despite his bad behaviour. He was like Tom probably was three years ago, when Tom was still cute and cheeky, rather than a young adult with a tendency to lash out, that had tried the patience of his teachers a few times too often. The brilliantly-monikered Miss Uren obviously saw potential in Robbie, even when driven to distraction by his daydreaming – my favourite exchange of theirs was when he’d arrived on time to school but still managed to be late for class anyway “cos I was helping Lee on his crutches.” Hilarious. It culminated in a visit to the school from his mum who also wanted him to succeed and with constant encouragement from Miss Uren he managed to turn up on time and go a whole week without negative reports about his behaviour. Her boundless enthusiasm was admirable – even Robbie himself seemed confused by her dedication to the cause, pondering “She likes me…dunno why…she’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.” It’s also clear that she’s in possession of a vital quality when teaching – a sense of humour – after I was among many people who had tweets poking fun at her name retweeted by the woman herself. As she pointed out, she’s heard it all before and it doesn’t faze her in the slightest. Brilliant.

I’ve seen on Twitter a bit of a backlash about the school focussing on the badly behaved children. I remember feeling pretty aggrieved as a pupil myself, when naughty kids were rewarded when they behaved themselves once in a blue moon, yet the fact that I behaved on a day-to-day basis went largely unrewarded. However, now that I’ve left school and have friends and family who are teachers, I can see that, as Mrs Crowther pointed out, for some kids it’s a miracle that they even get to school, let alone achieve once they get there. Success is relative. Mr Mitchell said that 90% of his staff’s time is taken up by 5-10% of the children. Obviously this is a sobering statistic, but in state schools with large classes and a vast variance in ability it is unavoidable, and it would appear that Thornhill are doing a good job considering the circumstances (although I wasn’t hugely impressed by the headteacher telling Tom that he could be a “right pain in the arse.” No need!)

Next week basically seems to be about girls being absolute horrors to one another, which, as a former pupil at an all-girls comprehensive, brought back some memories of catfights aplenty.

P.S – the star of the show was quite clearly Ryan for his 5-second cameo, galloping across the hall to Gangnam Style. Legend.

Record of Rage – Glastonbury Special

I’ve just read this article after @GlastoWatch tweeted the link to it and I am FUMING:

http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Glastonbury-fans-harder-ticket/story-19817518-detail/story.html

Firstly, I’m angry because they have misspelt the word “festival” in the headline, which is frankly shoddy.

However, the main reason for my rage is the fact that I can absolutely guarantee that the majority of the freshly registered contingent are scallies, plain and simple.

I did notice this when I last went to Glastonbury in 2010. The amount of chavs had increased tenfold and the reason for this is that festivals are now “cool” and places to be “seen” at. Urrgh. Now, when festival season arrives, all I see on Facebook and Twitter is check-ins from scallies that I went to school with – scallies who laughably called us goths for going to Glasto when we were still at school, may I add! (Sidenote – the memory of us being called goths never fails to make me laugh. The comedy. Although, to be fair, I did wear a lot of black.) Said scallies think that “the one with Sex on Fire on” was Kings of Leon’s first album and get on the coach to festivals with rollers in.

I’m aware that this all sounds a bit snobby. And perhaps it is. But in 2010 I noticed a change (for the worse) in atmosphere that coincided with the change in clientele. Glastonbury is special. They can overrun V, and desecrate Reading and Leeds, but I wish they’d leave Glastonbury alone.

Granted, when I first went in 2002, I’d imagine that stalwarts who’d been attending year in, year out since 1970 took one look at us, fresh from sitting our GCSEs, wearing appalling hats and double denim and eager, innocent expressions, and thought “what THE HELL are these children doing here?” But to be fair to us we got into the swing of things – we didn’t cause any trouble and, forgive me for saying this and sounding like the most pretentious person of all time, but we went for the music, not to show off our Hunter wellies.

I blame the Kaiser Chiefs for this entirely. There is a direct correlation between “I Predict A Riot” making indie mainstream and festivals becoming so popular that they sold out within minutes. Franz Ferdinand could be implicated here as well, I suppose, but I like them, so I am laying the blame solely at Ricky Wilson and co’s door. By the time Kings of Leon’s demise was completed by releasing Sex On Fire (oh, how I long for the days when this band were brilliant), we were all pretty much doomed.

Naturally, if my friends and I all manage to get our sweaty paws on tickets, then this rant will be rendered null and void. But if not, there will be hell to pay.

EDUCATING YORKSHIRE

Educating Essex has been my favourite in the long line of brilliant Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentaries in recent years, so it was with much anticipation that I settled down to watch its successor, Educating Yorkshire, last week.

You can imagine my dismay when I hated nearly everything about it.

Apart from Ryan, the hilarious, old-before-his-time, latte-drinking 12-year-old, everyone else featured seemed to have watched its predecessor and tried – and failed – to ape it. While I suppose that this is inevitable to a certain extent – no documentary ever really captures the innocence of the first series to be broadcast – I yearned for the likes of the genuinely inspirational Mr Drew, the lost soul Vinni, the queen bee Carrie. The “star” of the show, Bailey, wasn’t as funny as everyone made out. (Side note – speaking from experience, you should really have left the eyebrows alone.) Plus I found the headteacher, Mr Mitchell, intensely irritating. His main concern seemed to be winning the approval of his pupils and the manner in which he disciplined them was totally inconsistent.

Cue loads of teachers telling me “you don’t know how hard it is!” Well, I do, actually. Many of my friends and family are teachers. I know how hard they work. My brother and cousins are still at school. I can fully understand how frustrating it must be to control a class of thirty kids whilst catering to different learning styles. However, just because I’m not a teacher doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on the education system. I have, after all, been a pupil, and not much seems to have changed with regards to the social set-up in schools in the nine years (NINE YEARS! Sob!) since I left school – kids still get bullied, kids still get overlooked academically, kids still disrupt lessons. Similarly, some teachers do care, some teachers just…don’t.

Last night’s episode, which was thankfully way more watchable than last week’s, focused on Jac and Georgia. Now, we’ve all been to school with a Georgia, a character” (for “character”, read “gob-on-legs”), a self proclaimed “cool” kid, who surrounds herself with sycophants who, if they were truly honest with themselves, are absolutely terrified of her. Likewise, Jac was instantly recognisable as a bit of a geek, who was getting picked on by aforementioned cool kids and had reached the end of his tether with it on a number of occasions. The fight that they were both involved in made it obvious why. Georgia escaped scot-free, after basically having a laugh with Mr Mitchell and another senior member of staff while messing on her phone, whereas Jac was sent to the isolation room and told to attend anger management classes.

Was it any wonder that Jac was lashing out, when all around him other students were not being punished for similar misdemeanours? It was enough to drive anyone to anger management sessions.

Jac’s friends were sweetly supportive, marching up en masse to see Mr Mitchell to demand that his suspension for more misbehaviour be overturned, one taking it a tad too far with his declaration that they’d “throw Molotovs at the windows!” if it didn’t.

The suspension still stood.

No Molotov cocktails were thrown.

Thankfully, justice was done in the end. Georgia was told she couldn’t attend the prom – finally, a punishment that really hit her where it hurt – and we witnessed her forlornly waving her friends off to the party. Meanwhile Jac threw some dodgy shapes in an ill-fitting suit. It brought a lump to my throat.

I’m determined to stick with Educating Yorkshire – hopefully the teachers will win me round eventually, and if they feature the lovely Ryan again then they should be on to a winner.

A FOOTWEAR-RELATED CRY FOR HELP

As mentioned recently, our Maria is getting married next month. I’m one of the bridesmaids. The dress is sorted. The hair and make-up is booked. All that remains to purchase is a pair of nude heels to complete the outfit. Sounds simple enough, oui?

NON.

The problem here, and the problem I have every time I need to seek out a pair of heels, is this – I HATE WEARING HEELS. I CANNOT WALK IN THEM. I AM A DISASTER AREA OF A FEMALE. I look like Bambi on ice when wearing heels and inevitably start the event with good intentions to persevere with them, only to end the night with no shoes on and glass in the soles of my feet.

I have looked at so many pair of shoes I am seeing them in my sleep. The heels I am drawn to (i.e ones that seem vaguely comfortable) look, if I’m brutally honest with myself, vaguely orthopaedic, similar to corrective footwear. Obviously this isn’t the best look. I also found a pair the other day which I decided were “the ones”, only to realise a bit later on, horror-stricken, that they had the look of a (whisper it now) kitten heel about them. I now feel a.) ashamed of myself and b.) less Scouse as a result of this.

PLEASE FIND ME A PAIR OF SHOES THAT ARE COMFORTABLE YET NOT FRUMPY AND ALSO DON’T COST THE EARTH. Oh, and they’ve got to be nude.

Thanking y’all in advance.

Autumn is coming; so too are nice clothes

I know it to be true that autumn is upon us because I could see my breath this morning on my way to work. Therefore, I am able to confirm that summer is officially over.

I’ve mixed feelings about this. This summer wasn’t too shabby, after an admittedly shaky start. I don’t quite feel ready to say goodbye to warm weather and say hi to dark mornings and cold commutes instead. The only thing that’s keeping me going is the prospect of beautiful autumn clothes which, as a woman who is scared of bodycon and is pasty of limb, appeals to me way more than any of the summer styles. (Sidenote: never referred to myself as a woman before. Not sure how I feel about it. As Britney once warbled, I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.)

I basically need EVERYTHING off ASOS – paisley prints, floral playsuits and chunky knits galore. SWOON.

Clockwise from top left - swing playsuit in floral print; double-breasted coatigan; swing dress in paisley floral; jumper in Aztec eye pattern.

Clockwise from top left – swing playsuit in floral print; double-breasted coatigan; swing dress in paisley floral; jumper in Aztec eye pattern.

My obsession with cut-out ankle boots shows no signs of abating; I fear I may have to go to rehab for some help with this.

From top - ASOS; River Island

From top – ASOS; River Island

If my summer comprised of many a pair of questionable trousers, then I pray that my winter features plenty of dubious bobble hats. I must point out at this point that I do not suit hats. They only serve to accentuate my podgy face and yet I am unable to resist them – the louder the print, the better.

Clockwise from top left - Top Shop; New Look; Forever 21; Accessorize

Clockwise from top left – Top Shop; New Look; Forever 21; Accessorize

However, my favourite part of the autumn/winter season by far is selecting a winter coat. Every year I promise myself that I’ll invest in a “proper” (read: “expensive”) coat, and every year I end up buying about four cheap and cheerful ones from Primarni instead. But the list-making is half the fun anyway – here’s four of my favourites so far:

Clockwise from top left - Zara, Warehouse, Top Shop, Oasis

Clockwise from top left – Zara, Warehouse, Top Shop, Oasis

Now all that needs to happen is for me to win the lottery, so I can actually purchase all of the above. Otherwise I’ll just have to layer my summer clothes and hope it doesn’t snow.