Tag Archives: education

5 Things I Hate About School

Getting the kids back to school is a wonderful thing when it comes to routine, food consumption and of course their overall educational advancement. Loads of things about it suck though.

It’s that time again. September is a huge month of change, more so than January for me, as kids of all ages re-emerge from their tech and halcyon days of trampolining/TikTok video making to stick on a tie and go learn something new.

Loads of parents/carers and guardians will already be on countdown to the moment the school gates open, but for me personally, it’s a 50/50 split. Part of me wants to live somewhere remote(ish) and homeschool/travel the world and enrich my kids minds in a totally different way. But then part of me realised how important their friendships are to their overall well-being and man, who wants to spend 24/7 with their mum. That said, if I won the lottery we’d be travelling for a year and they’d bloody well like it!

I loved school as a kid and teen. I cried the day I left senior school. It was the stability I craved as a military kid who moved around. Leaving felt like the safety net had been pulled from underneath me as the enormity of the responsibility I now felt hit home. As an adult, I’m firmly in the camp of ‘oh I’d go back in a heartbeat’ and relive the care free days of English coursework and sunny days spent on the athletics track.

There’s so much more I hate about school as a parent.

1. School Uniform Shopping

The quality of school jumpers and cardigans is shit. The queues (which start at 7am because only two shops in the whole borough stocks your school) are shit. Take a ticket and wait to slowly die on pastel cushion covered benches at Clarks, shit. £50 for a pair of shoes my darling son will have scuffed to death before October half term, also shit. Someone I follow on Twitter piped up the other day calling to ban school logos on jumpers/cardigans. I get it. Supermarket plain block colour jumper/cardigans are great quality and cost a fraction of the cost. Why’s that not a thing?

2. Pointless Paperwork

Our primary school sends home SO much paperwork that is 100% unnecessary when we have a school to parents texting facility which works fine. I mean sheet after sheet of local education authority notices, changes to the start and finish times due to Covid, fundraising, lost property, it never ends and it’s rarely helpful. Stop killing the planet sending out and update on the safari park day out – just text it!

3. Missing My Gang

My three haven’t started back yet and I’m already missing 10pm games of Mario Uno at the kitchen table. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a G&T and solitude on a Wednesday night when they’re in bed by 8:30pm, but kitchen discos, film nights, late laundry sort outs and marathon Insta reel viewings is just as fun. No really. Boo to education taking them away from pairing socks and running about with undies on their heads, twerking to Mr World Wide!

4. Reading Books

I love to read, as do my kids. We’ve battered all the Chip & Biff, Famous Five, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, JK Rowling, Julia Donaldson, Charlie & Lola, Elmer, Roald Dahl and Flower Fairies collections time and time again. it’s not a struggle to get them to read. They’re now onto murder mysteries which is awesome because listening to them talk about the plot and characters and who they think ‘summit’ is the best. School reading books are woeful. My ten year old has brought home the same Wonder Woman comic book like three times in one half-term. They’re not varied enough. Not exciting enough, not enticing enough. I’m starting a petition to make Rick Mayal’s live reading of George’s Marvellous Medicine, mandatory for all primary school kids. Where is the drama? The fun? The challenging dialogue?

5. Losing Stuff That Costs Money

Rewinding back to school uniform here. How do kids lose so many items of closing in such a short space of time? A school jumper, with a name printed clearly on the label, that they take off and out on the back of their chair or in their (also clearly labelled) tray until the end of school, can vanish into thin air without anyone having any idea of how it happened or where the jumper has gone. What do you mean you’ve come home without any PE shorts? You were just wearing them? Why is there a detention slip in your bag about a missing tie? How do they do it? This whole situation causes me so much stress, every academic year.

That’s it. I’m not asking too much, am I? Text important stuff, don’t lose stuff, stop making school uniform inexplicably expensive, invest in top tier reading material and maybe give them a few more days off so we can pair socks and twerk to PitBull tracks as a family. Thank you.

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Summer Loving

8 weeks, 7 seasons and a whole load of miles later, summer 2021 is almost over and out.

It’s late August and my Paris 2016 throw back pictures are making me sad. Who could ever have known what was in store for the world in the time that has passed? From sunrises at Sacre Coeur to school uniform panic buying and booking pre-term covid tests.

It’s been a lovely summer though, all things considered. We made some memories in London on a four day city break. Did all the fun touristy stuff, London Eye, Emirates Airline cable cars, Uber boat own the Thames, Hamleys for Lego, Leicester Square for M&M’s and a spin around Liberty a la Cruella. We’ve watched tonnes of films too, our collective favourite being Emma Stone as Disney villain, Cruella. The fashion alone is worth the £20 Disney plus streaming fee. The Croods 2, SpaceJam (oh dear) and Free Guy all ranked highly with the Reilly James clan.

Sticking with the telly box, I’m 5 episodes away from finishing all 7 seasons of Mad Men and WHAT a ride! Still in love with Roger Sterling, the massive idiot, Joan is an inspiration, as is Peggy, although her hair annoyed the life out me for the entire show. Pete Campbell is still a slime ball and Betty, sheesh where to start with Betty?! The soundtrack to my 2021 summer will always be the Mad Men opening credits and I’ll always be eternally grateful that I didn’t become a writer in the 1960’s.

The weather has mostly been amazing an afforded us gorgeous afternoons doing community volunteering and visiting brilliant fundraising initiatives such as The Sunflower Maze. A fab way to spend a couple of hours while helping to fund our amazing NHS.

We’ve also fallen back in love with the garden this summer. I’ve taken more time to actually look after it and I think we’ve clocked up 4 if not 5 highly successful BBQ’s so far. The kids got heavily involved in preparing frozen fruit platters and skewering mushrooms, before taking swingball to a whole new championship level. Loads more summer pics in the gallery.

Taking a break from scrubbing the damn bbq grill, we headed out for dinner earlier this week at Maray, Bold Street in Liverpool. It’s always a treat to have someone else cook and when the food is as good, and the service as friendly as it is at Maray, it makes it extra special. All the hummus, pan fried hake and ginger cake. It wasn’t meant to rhyme, sometimes it just writes itself.

Back to soundtracks quickly, I discovered ‘Brooklyn In The Summer’ by Aloe Blac on a work trip to London and now I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a belter track.

Pleased to have the footy back this summer. Didn’t realise how much I’d missed it. Curios to see what the season has in store for newly promoted Brentford as well as my beloved Toffees with Rafa at the helm. I mean, how bad could it be, right?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with The Blue Room, BBC Spoort and BBC 5Live again this summer thanks to my phenomenal friend and BBC Sport/5Live Producer, Dave. Legend. Coupled with Frankfurt Expo, Bloomberg and my first ever wedding photography gig, it’s been a busy one. My eldest daughter starts out on her acting career this week and I’ve never been more proud of her courage and determination.

It’s back to school for all four of us next week as I make a very welcome return to the classroom. I’m getting new shoes and everything. While I enjoyed the challenge of a new PR project, the 6 months I spent outside of the college environment just made me realise how much I missed it. So NCTJ class of 2022, I hope you know what you’ve let yourselves in for! Shorthand and VJ and Portfolio, oh my!

How’s your summer been? Which memory stands out the most for you?

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Precarity

WHAT a hell of a month June was. You still with me? Clinging on? Yeah, me too.

I did it all last month. Soaring highs and the deepest of lows. Not one, but two of my three kids had accidents which resulted in broken bones. I’ve been to court and back, three times for good measure. I traveled 1000+ miles and island hopped to lay on golden beaches and stare in awe endless skies swept with jaw-dropping sunsets. I also battered London’s art scene in a 12 hour jaunt to the capital, and started a self improvement plan in earnest following a Thursday Throwback that really hit home. on an emotional rollercoaster scale, we’re talking Pepsi Max Big One, on repeat.

I’m feeling incredibly creative recently which is due in part to a trip to Saatchi Gallery to see JR Chronicles exhibition. An artist I’ve admired for a number of years, JR gives a global voice to marginalised communities in order to tell their stories and correct society’s bias. His work is incredible and to see the camera he found on the Parisian subway which kick started his career, was truly special. Sliding doors. You can watch his TED Talk about the impact of his work, here.

At the start of the month I traveled up to Scotland for four idyllic days on the isle of Seil, one of the Slate Islands. Crossing the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ for the first time to our bothy, wifi replaced with skyscapes I could never have imagined, i knew it was going to be an amazing trip. The beaches at Arasaig and Morar took my breath away, as did Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull.

Catching the Harry Potter Express at Malaig and walking beneath the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct, framed with blue sky, was a treat. Later at the equally iconic Clachaig Inn at Glen Coe, I retraced my dads footsteps from back in the late 80’s. I also took the opportunity to follow in 007’s tyre tracks and drive the Lock Etive road or Skyfall road as its known. Eat your heart out Bond!

Loch Lomond, Castle Stalker, or Castle Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhh as made famous in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Oban fish and chips, cycling Kerrera thanks to amazing loan bikes from Oban Cycles and free passage on the basic b*tch ferry made for a truly memorable trip. Having adopted the farm cat, charmed on M&S mackerel pate, and sat on the patio, wrapped in blankets waiting for the stars, this Scotland trip is top 5 one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. A soaring high. Check out the bothy here.

From high to low, low and stressful. First up, my son fell off the play equipment at school and broke his foot. This required plaster and a wheelchair as he’s on diddy. This presented about as many logistical issues as you can imagine when I have two other children who need to get to and from school twice a day and a full time job to hold down. TWO WEEKS LATER, my middle kid launches herself off a swing in the back garden after our first ever, and highly successful BBQ at home. The crack of the impact still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Broken humerus and two nights in hospital – tended to by THE SAME ORTHO CONSULTANT LOOKING AFTER MY SON, I collected my ‘Parent of the Year’ award on the way out. I mean, you couldn’t write it, could you?

The poor kid (the second casualty) struggled with the pain a lot and so after 6 hours sleep across three nights and a whole load of morphine ( her, not me), I spent just 10 minutes preparing for a huge interview and unsurprisingly, came out of it feeling utterly meh.

On the up again – I taught shorthand again this month and I LOVED IT. I started working out and cycling more. I’ve lost three pounds but I’m sure its down the sofa, insert wink emoji here. My mum is super happy after a little surprise windfall and has treated herself to a new Dyson. My eldest kid smashed her GCSE mocks and isn’t injured in any way, although I’ve probably just jinxed that. A good mate smashed his shorthand exam, I worked with Kiss FM and I finally met my lovely work team, in person, for the first time since starting my new job in February. Yep, five months ago! I climbed Kinder Scout again, this time with the eldest kid. The weather was pants, my dad cried off saying he’d hurt his back (suspish), and with the new diet regime I couldn’t eat strawberry laces all the way around the hike. That said, I managed to eat plenty of caramel Snackajacks at the summit and my dad got his front and back lawn mowed. Alls well that ends well.

How’s July looking?

Check out all my photo’s from June (including some x rays for the gruesome fans) over on the Gallery, here.

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9 Really Fun Home School Activities for Lockdown 3.0

These ideas don’t take ages to set up, they don’t need lots of expensive equipment and you’ll definitely enjoy them yourself (when the kids have gone to watch Cartoon Network!)

I woke up with Whitesnake’s 1987 hit, ‘Here I Go Again on my Own’ stuck in my head. Following yesterdays anouncement of lockdown 3.0 in the UK, I decided to make a start on some fun home schooling activities for my younger two. My teen is already being inundated with work from her teachers, but we both know she’ll emerge from her tech cave to join in the chalking and science experiments. They always do!

So, here’s 10 ideas I’ve pulled from the likes of Pinterest to help ensure my kids to actually learn something, but also explore activities outside of Purple Mash and TT Rockstars. My younger kids are age 6 and 9, years 2 and 4 at school respectively. I try to find activities they can both do, and leave the targeted English, maths and science to the pack sent home from school. Basically, I’m trying to be the fun substitute teacher who lets them paint their hands with glue and do word searches!

Baking and cooking together teaches all kinds of great skills.

My advice, not that you asked for it, but my advice for homeschooling is don’t sweat it. Yes there will be days when they have square eyes from being on tech, there will be days when you assign Lego building as an educational achievement (well, it is) and some days you’ll get a full set of timestables done with dry pasta shapes before cooking it for tea. It’s all good.

Here’s 10 fun homeschooling activities to check out during lockdown 3.0

1 – Cotton Bud Painting

My little boy hates practising his handwriting. He practically has his own font, but it’s the one thing that gets flagged up at every parents evening. We’ve had a go at cotton bud painting to make it more fun and then made dot art pictures afterwards. All you need is a box of cotton buds, some paint and paper. More here.

2 – Me on the Map

My kids both enjoyed making maps of their local areas at school. I thought we would take on this idea, and see if they could identify where they are in the universe, never mind their own postcode. Paper, sweet wrappers, pens, highlighters, glitter, string, whatever. Make a map of your world together.

3 – Salt Dough Dinos

I LOVE salt dough, but playdough is just as fun to mould. We’re combining history and play here by making some salt dough dino prints. We’ll prob watch Jurassic Park afterwards too. More inspiration for salt dough creations here.

4 – Maths Pegs

Maths is a bit of a chore in our house and so anything that can make numbers more fun is a bonus. If you can get your hands on some wooden pegs, this is a great way to get to grips with times tables without needing the wifi code. Paper, pens and pegs. More info here.

5 – Scavenger Hunt

These scavenger hunt cards are so easy to make and you can choose to stay indoors or even take them out into the garden or the local park. Paper and pens is all you need. Set your kids a challenge to find something rainbow coloured, slimy, fluffy, green, hard, smooth, whatever. More ideas here.

6 – Taste the Rainbow

Did you know there so much more to a bag of Skittles than just eating them?! Science experiments with Skittles are a great crowd pleaser for little ones. It’s as easy as arranging the sweets in a circle on a plate and adding warm water for an instant rainbow. Alternatively, if you have some food colouring at home, check out this rainbow lettuce and celery experiment.

7 – Marble Run Maze

It’s day one and the kids have already eaten me out of house and home, which on the plus side means, I have loads of boxes and tubes to use. Get yourself some selotape, some boxes and scissors and make a marble run. You don’t even need marbles! Toy cars, frozen peas, bouncy balls, all work just as well. I’ve found that taping boxes to the walls often pulls the paint off, so I stick to the doors or fridge works best. More inspiration for your little engineers here.

8 – Historical Pick A Number

Do you remember making these ‘pick a number’ things in school (bottom left hand corner of the pic)? I have no idea when I learned, but I can still make them in my sleep! Why not mix up your kids history projects with a bit or origami? Great for history or English tasks, swap out the ”you’re cute’ messaging for comprehension questions, where did I live? What food did I eat? Name one interesting fact about me, what era did I live in? More on this idea, here.

9 – CHALK!

Chalk is the most versatile teaching aid of all time. You can pick up a pack of chalk for about £2 and teach your kids something from every aspect of the curriculum with it. Draw the solar system on your driveway, draw around each other and sketch in the bones, make an Urban Orienteering playground in your own garden, blend the colours to make art, draw a treasure map, write times tables down path, draw a frame and snap selfies, the possibilities are endless. More ideas here.

To all the parents and care givers taking on lockdown homeschooling, I wish you good luck! Let’s do our best.

Give these ideas a go and drop me a line with how they went, I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m on Twitter @katereillyjames or email me, katereillyjames@gmail.com.

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The Stopwatch

I’ve inherited a stopwatch. It’s not a beloved family heirloom, it’s a mark of personal progress and I’m feeling the pressure with every second.

September 2020 brought around a whole bunch of surprises. Namely a new path in my journalism career. Having spent sometime during lockdown, indulging in a number of community arts project, I accepted a job offer in the medical sales/beauty industry. I quickly realised that lips, nips and tucks were most definitely not my thing and after agreeing to produce a media strategy for the company, we parted ways amicably.

Nest came the summer holidays, which in reality were nothing more than an extension of the previous two months the kids had been off school. Eat Out To Help Out was launched and we were able to get out and about more, thanks to the good weather and more people wearing masks.

As September loomed, I was worried about affording uniforms and school shoes and winter coats and birthday celebrations, hoping my part time charity job would keep me afloat.

A conversation with my former journalism lecturer lead to a Zoom call, and a flurry of Whatsapp messages and eventually an interview, complete with ‘You’re on mute’ hilarity.

I’ve officially gone full circle. I began my professional journalism career with an NCTJ Journalism Diploma at The City Of Liverpool College, and now here I am, teaching shorthand and Essential Journalism to the next cohort of budding reporters. It’s an incredible honour and they’re a great group too.

I’m now 9 weeks into the job and I’m still loving it and still as overly optimistic about education as I was back in the summer. My students are bright, determined and showing real promise of walking into the industry with portfolio’s bursting with published work. It makes me really proud to have played a small part in their journey. A journey which takes just 18 weeks on the fast track NCTJ course. The days fly by. Between classroom taught lessons, industry work experience and days spent out filming and interviewing, blink and it’s Christmas.

I came into work today, ready to teach a fun filled afternoon of Teeline Shorthand. I was rummaging around in my desk drawer for a white board marker that worked and came across a black box. I’d not noticed it before. I can only assume it’s been there the whole time and I’d paid it no mind.

Inside is a polished, silver stop watch. The very stop watch which ticked away hour upon hour of shorthand practise when I was a student in this very classroom. The sight of it used to give me shivers. Clicking the start/stop button brought all my memories flooding back. The discovery of the stop watch made me a little more sympathetic of my students’ and their battles with shorthand. It’s a real skill, one that takes hours of consistent practise and no bullshit excuses.

We’re hurtling towards a jam-packed exam schedule, which naturally raises the stress levels for all involved, students and staff. We’re also hurtling towards Christmas and hoping for normality. Or maybe you’re looking towards New Year and hoping 2021 will bring relief from the lockdown, Covid and stress? I know I am.

If only we could just stop the clock for a moment, and breathe.

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Back to School

My kids go back to school tomorrow, and this September, I’ll be right behind them, heading for the classroom. I’ve only gone and bagged my dream job!

When I was at school (hundreds of years ago), I wanted to be a teacher. I did my year 10 work experience at my school – I interned for the PE department because it was my favourite subject. I loved the idea of playing a part in students’ development and watching them learn and master new things with your guidance.

Somewhere around age 17, I lost the thirst to learn. I knew university wasn’t for me. I was partway through my A-Levels (PE, English Lit, English Language, Psychology) when an opportunity to go home (Sydney) and work at the Olympic Games 2000 came up, I grabbed it with both hands. Bags packed, I was out of school and all ideas of education and teaching we’re left on the tarmac.

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20 whole years later, I’ve done it. I’ve finally got myself a teaching job. I’m absolutely delighted to say I’ll be joining the staff at The City of Liverpool College and I will be delivering the NCTJ Journalism Diploma programme. It’s the very course I graduated from back in 2016 and the very course I have championed to anyone interested in a career in journalism.

Since the vacancy came up online, I’ve thought of nothing else than delivering shorthand training and supporting journalism students with opportunities to expand on and polish their portfolio’s, ready for the world of work. I can’t wait to get started.

It’s inevitable that the new job has made me stop and think about my previous career decisions. It’s entirely possible that, had I have knuckled down at 17, gone to uni, got my PGCE, that by now I could be enjoying 15 years worth of educating others. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, right?

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So this September, there are four pairs of shiny new shoes (okay, mine are Nike’s) on the stairs, four new water bottles lined up ready for the first school day, and three students rooting for their momma on her first big day.

It’s going to be fairly chaotic for us all going back to an educational setting. Whether it’s the kids, teens, or adults. I hope your youngsters enjoy seeing their friends again, you settle into a routine quickly, and you’re all safe and well.

Happy New School Year!

Miss James

 

 

 

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In The Fridge

Naomi dropped her backpack in the hall and wandered into the kitchen to see what was in the fridge.

Ben followed close behind, like a lap dog. It was plain to see he was besotted with her. 

“Don’t know why my mum keeps buying these DiaryLea lunchables, but I’ll keep eating them.” she offered Ben a plastic lunch pack with a smile. 

“Haha, probably because you can’t even make a Pot Noodle without burning the kitchen down.” Ben teased. 

“I’m not that bad! She rolled her eyes and sat up on the kitchen worktop to eat. 

“I well and truly messed that up. I’ve definitely failed.” Naomi closed her eyes and sighed. 

“Don’t say that you always think you’ve done worse than you have, you said that in the mocks and you did great.” Ben put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. 

“Great? I scraped a D, Ben. A D! The only place I’ll be going in September will be the Job Centre, most likely with my mum.” The panic began to rise again. Naomi jumped down and opened a can of Coke as a distraction. 

“Mum’s going to be so disappointed. She wanted me to get into the sixth form and follow Golden Balls to university. I’m going to be stuck stewarding at the game until I’m 65, like Jimmy Mac.” She fought back tears. 

“Hey, hey come on.” Ben put his arms around her shoulders. “Elle, it’s alright to not have it all worked out yet. Just because my predicted grades are good, it doesn’t mean I know which path I’m going to take.

“Just try and chill a bit. You can only do your best.” Ben gave her a winning smile. He was doing everything right. Being a shoulder to cry on, offering good advice, giving her space, not being too pushy. By the end of the term, they’d be an item. He was sure of it. 

“Urgh, anyway, I can’t change it now, can I?” Naomi wiped her eyes and dropped her packet into the kitchen bin. “Come on, kick your arse on MarioKart?”

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Walk Like an Egyptian in the heart of Liverpool

Today I saw the ancient world version of a tweet. Seriously!

I was filming for The Guide Liverpool at World Museum this afternoon for the press view of Ancient Egypt: A journey through time, two days ahead of the official opening….and it knocked my sarcophagus off!

 

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Not sorry about my Will Smith red carpet pose!

 

Having visited the Egypt gallery regularly for many years (more than I’m willing to admit) both as a child and with my own brood, I expected to find a revamped space with much of the same artefacts we’ve come to know and love. What I discovered was so much more.

I learned more about our city’s links with the ancient world in the 20 minutes I wandered around the gallery and spoke to the team behind this mammoth project, than I could ever have imagined. From scarab beetle tweet-like messages and guy-liner to 10- stunningly presented mummies in all their finery, the entire 1,000 square metre gallery is phenomenal.

 

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Thebes/Liverpool we’re all the same when it comes to looking sharp and nailing those eyeliner flicks!

 

Head on over to The Guide Liverpool for our video and all the details about the official launch on Friday 28th April at 10am. If you do one thing this Bank Holiday weekend, discover a little bit of Ancient Egypt in the heart of Liverpool.

Kate x

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The Lord Mayor of Liverpool Spring Fashion Show 2016

The 2nd Annual Lord Mayor’s Spring Fashion Show took place at the Devonshire House Hotel, Edge Lane on Thursday night.

A wealth of home-grown talent brought the charity event to life with every aspect of the show, from hair and make-up to the designers and models, native to the North West.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Tony Concepcion and his wife Ann greeted guests and thanked the audience for turning out to support their chosen charities, Ronald McDonald House at Alder Hey, Kind and Listersteps. IMG_6737

The Lord Mayor gave a passionate speech about the importance of helping local families to cope with difficult situations and how the kind and compassionate people of Liverpool is what makes the city so great.

The catwalk kicked off with sumptuous velvet evening gowns from Karen Gold. Erica Wildflower, Julie Kaye and Ria Jewels completed the first half of the show with unique collections featuring festival kaftans, Woodstock style summer wear and funky club wear.

Singer Sophia Spencer wowed the audience during the interval with her smooth, soulful vocals as guests were given the chance to browse a selection of exhibitor stands selling designer accessories, jewellery and cosmetics.

The second half of the show was dedicated to emerging talent as art students at the City of Liverpool College and Holly Lodge Girls’ College, got their first taste of the Liverpool Fashion scene.

The Mad Hatters of Holly Lodge, who were kindly funded by the Liverpool Decorative and Fine Art Society, were the youngest designers to debut a collection on the professional catwalk, and they did not disappoint.

With just four months to master the tricky skill of hat making, or millinery, the year 12 and 13 students stepped up to the challenge, supported by a fantastic teaching team and created 15 weird and wacky pieces from a Medusa-style snake headdress and top hat to a snow-globe Alice-band and a bejewelled peacock skull cap.

Directed and produced by a winning partnership between Amanda Moss PR and The Lord Mayors Charity Committee, both of which are dedicated to providing opportunities for the city’s young people, the event was a great success with funds raised through ticket sales and raffles on the night.

Lots of photo’s in the Gallery section here. Thank you to Emma Lampkin for allowing me to share her images.

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6 Months and Counting

I bloody love a countdown, about as much as I love a challenge and 2016 will test me to the absolute limit.

September is a busy month for me with three little dudes starting new schools, seeing friends after the summer break, birthdays and re-settling into nursery routines. So in my infinite wisdom I thought, why not make that entire schedule more pressured by adding a whole new dimension.

September 11th welcomes the Tough Mudder challenge to the north west. A half-marathon distance littered with obstacles to test even the fittest of participants including ice, fire and gulp….electricity…not to mention all the mud.

This morning I have happily paid the grand total of £90 to take part in this frankly terrifying challenge, and that’s exactly what I love about it. Its a challenge, not a race. Its about camaraderie, team work and sheer determination.

It’s also about commitment. I’ve now committed to six months of serious hard graft to build physical and mental strength as I have none, zilch. (I had to mop my kitchen floor yesterday to stop me and the kids eating any more snacks before dinner) see….none!

So that’s me done, signed on the dotted line. I’m feeling positive, apprehensive but positive. I can train, I can conquer my fears and I can do this. There’s only one question left to answer now.

Who’s with me?

For more info and to hold my hand through this terrifying experience, check out Tough Mudder here. …please….anyone!?

 

 

 

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Eat Sleep WAHHHH Repeat

This weekend I suffered the ultimate shame. I had to listen to a stranger apologise for MY behaviour. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life. This is how it came about.

I started the NCTJ course in early September and since then my feet have barely touched the ground! I’m on the go from 5am until 8pm most days, furiously scribbling shorthand exercises all over the Metro paper en route to college and consuming every possible headline on Twitter. Lessons involve British history, political debate, discussing media law cases and commentating on football matches, plus learning hieroglyphics……no wait sorry…I mean shorthand (which after four weeks I’m finally beginning to get my head around).

It’s hard work and I’m not ashamed to say some days I feel like I’m struggling to keep up. I come tearing out of college after hours of lessons to collect my three kids from nursery and school to go straight home and start dinner, feed them, clear up, tell them to quit bickering and pulling hair, start the bath and bedtime routine, throw the hoover around, while soaking up the tidal wave in the bathroom and wiping sticky finger marks off the TV and then pack bags for the following day and set out clean uniforms. Once they’re all in bed after four requests for a drink, a wee and yet another raucous rendition of Room on The Broom I can finally sit down to look over the days notes and try to retain least a little bit of the information I’ve learned. Sound familiar? It’s all go……well until it all stopped, on Saturday.

I was taken to The Royal Liverpool Hospital by paramedics Eddie and Rich, who after learning that I’m a trainee journalist, went on to tell me just how deeply the NHS cuts were being felt by staff and patients. It’s a sorry tale, and one I intend on writing up in detail in the coming weeks. (See Eddie, told you I’d give you a mention)

The medical staff in A&E worked out I was suffering from some kind of virus and left me with a dainty little cardboard pot in a busy triage while they prepped my paperwork. It was at this exact point that I lost control of my faculties. Feeling a wave of heat rising rapidly from my feet I tried in vain to get my Superdry hoody off over my head……only to faint forwards out of the chair and vomit all over the shoes of two ladies sat to my left. The last thing I remember is a nurse running towards me saying ‘Oh dear, I’m so sorry about that’

I came around a minute of so later laying on a bed feeling utterly horrendous and being glared at by two angry-looking ladies wiping their shoes with paper towels. Not my finest hour. It turns out I have a stomach ulcer and coughing up blood all weekend is a symptom of doing something wrong! I’d run myself into the ground, my diet was pretty disgusting and trying to be the best at everything clearly wasn’t working out.

Armed with a medicine haul Walter White would be proud of, I’m now back at home resting up. I’ve come up with a better strategy to still be awesome at everything but also to take better care of myself too. And the silver lining….easy weight loss!

Thank you so very much to everyone who looked after me. Paramedics Eddie and Rich, A&E staff Laura, Kayleigh and Rob and especially to the lovely catering lady who said she’s save me chicken curry and rice in case I got my appetite back. Legends!

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#IAMMPCT

I’m still walking around with a big smile on my face and wishing I was 16 again following my visit to the ACC Arena yesterday morning. I may only be an honorary Scouser, but I’ve never been more proud of this city’s youngsters.

The last of the September sun shone brightly over the Albert Dock as training providers, students, parents and press flocked to see what the Motivational Preparation College for Training (MPCT) can offer the young people of Merseyside….and the launch event knocked my socks off!

The MPCT encourages learners to be the best possible version of themselves through education and motivational learning methods. Only, this isn’t your run of the mill sixth-form college. Students take part in daily inspection, drills and adventure training along side classroom based vocational qualifications. The flexible training programmes are aimed at 16-19 year olds and offer support and guidance from enrolment right through to employment, enabling students to make informed choices about their futures.

Yesterday I heard first hand from teenagers who’ve overcome deeply-personal issues with traditional schooling and social problems. They spoke about their experiences with positivity and acceptance, another testament to the emphasis the college puts on building confidence and emotional wellbeing in preparation for the world of work. A number of students took to the stage to speak about their journeys through military preparation training and how it has instilled in them important life skills like taking pride in their appearance, punctuality and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. (Find me a parent who wouldn’t marvel at a teenager taking pride in ironing their own uniform and laying off the pot noodles!) #IAMMPCT

16 year old Nicole made a huge impression on me. Currently the only girl on roll at the newly opened Liverpool branch of MPCT, Nicola said there was no point in starting a two year A level course having gained her GCSE’s this summer, because her heart wasn’t in it. She is focussed on becoming a combat medic and is working hard to ready herself for selection into the British Army next year. I’ve never met a more mature, determined and out-going teenager. She made me want to up my game.

During the launch event the young recruits showed off some dynamic (and very loud) drill displays, complete with bellowing staff sergeant and hyper-active PT…..every one of those kids was in perfect sync (no tik-toking on this parade) smiling and having a blast showing off their new-found skills.

Every student at the launch made a lasting impression, their desire to achieve is infectious. I sat typing up my notes afterwards feeling proud. Liverpool can only benefit from more success stories to inspire the next wave of kids approaching 16 and beyond. And whether its a career in the Armed Forces or on ‘civvy street’ they aspire to, I can only echo Councillor Ian Francis in thanking MPCT for providing this unique training opportunity for Merseyside’s youngsters.

To find out more about The Motivational Preparation College for Training click here. If you’re on Twitter follow @MPCT_HQ and the #IAMMPCT for all the latest news on enrolment and new centre openings.

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Old Skool

Earlier this week I came face to face with my high school, head of languages teacher as I arrived a few minutes late to a presentation…she didn’t look impressed. I scurried past her and took my place in the auditorium as she addressed the parents of years 5/6 pupils at the Holly Lodge Girls College open evening… as Head Mistress.

The look she gave me instantly transported me back to the corridors of lower school at Broadgreen High School where I’d loiter about waiting for my best friend Leah to finish registration. My own group tutor had a much more lax approach and allowed us to do whatever the hell we wanted providing he’d seen out faces long enough to put a tick in the box next to our names (Ahhh Mr Burgess, what a legend). Mrs Tinsley was strict, yet calm and effortlessly commanded control. Her form group would sit, backs-straight and silent at their desks for the 35 minute period completely focused on whatever school news she had to report each morning while we arsed about at the window pulling faces and doing our best to get our mates into trouble. Eventually Mrs Tinsley would grow bored of our antics (and the lack of authority imposed by our teacher) and rocket out into the corridor to send us all skittering back to our form rooms. I thought she was a bit of a nark and could lighten up a bit…which is ironic as now I respect her authority and I think she’s an excellent head teacher! Oh to be 13 again eh?

Holly Lodge Girls College

My eldest daughter will be off to senior school shortly and our first port of call for admissions was Holly Lodge Girls College (or Holly Splodge as we called it back in 1994). Mrs Tinsley welcomed parents warmly and only after a brief chat later on, realised she had taught both my ex husband and me (about a hundred years ago) at a different school. She went on to address the disappointing Ofsted report which had graded the school down following an outstanding grade just a few years earlier. Mrs Tinsley really felt that result, she explained just how committed her staff are to improving on the already impressive GCSE grades the students are achieving and how proud she is of the girls who helped raise the national average in Maths specifically. Having watched a short video of year 11 opening their exam results and explaining to camera just how they felt about their outstanding grades I couldn’t help but feel like Ofsted had missed the mark a bit.

Around the school there are constant reminders of the positive ethos of the school. Confidence, Determination, Resilience. The girls are encouraged to support one another, and to complete work thoroughly and to the highest possible standard. All great qualities to carry into any work place or further education. I was impressed.

The facilities at Holly Lodge are second to none. Two year 8 girls excitedly showed us around the state of the art recording studio complete with 8-track style software and radio studio. Year 7 girls taught my girl how to conduct an experiment with hydro-chloric acid in the Science labs while I got lost reminiscing about HND Fashion and Textiles with the Arts faculty surrounded by sewing machines and tailors dummies. The English staff spoke at length about the positive changes in reading material within the subject and Ellie talked animatedly about her love of Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton. She was ecstatic to learn about theatre trips and joint ventures with the drama department. Along side finger print technology in the canteen and an interactive homework website (for sneaky parents to check up on progress) I’d say Holly Lodge is leading the way in terms of nurturing girls into successful, confident women. Ellie absolutely loved it and despite being the first open evening event we’ve attend, she’d adamant Holly Lodge is right for her.

Note to self, never be late for meetings with the Head Mistress!

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Educating Caroline

The beauty of having a blog is being able to write and share the things I’m passionate about and topping that list is family. Earlier this week my extended family got together at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to celebrate my younger sister Caroline and her graduation from John Moore’s University….with an impressive 2:1 in Psychology. Although she switched degree from Journalism after year one, I’ve no doubt Caroline will utilise her junior hack skills and psychometric testing methods to become the North West’s answer to April O’Neill (She watched a lot of Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Diagnosis Murder as a kid)

Caroline & Kate

          Congratulations Caroline!!

I wish I’d known what I wanted to do from a young age, I’m envious of those who transition from school or university on a career path they are dedicated to and focused on. It’s taken me turning 32 to really knuckle down and decide what I want to do and more importantly what I can do with my future. Ultimately I want my kids to grow up seeing me work hard to meet my goals and for them to be proud of me. The greatest gift my Mum has given me is my work ethic, she too is a grafter and I want my kids to have that attitude towards getting what they want through hard work and effort.

Caroline, the youngest of three is the only one to complete a degree, as my older brother and I left education at HND level to pursue very different paths in the Civil Service and overseas. Typically we’ve come full circle and found the only way to truly get the work/life balance right is through ongoing learning and development and not by chasing the elusive 6 figure salary. The cost of education is soaring, and bursaries and grants are almost none existent for our age bracket making it practically impossible to take a career break to retrain. With yet more changes to the welfare system scheduled for the next academic year, the time to learn is now.

After much soul-searching, a number of Open University short courses and hundreds of emails to The City of Liverpool College, I am officially a proper, 100% student again in September as I embark on the NCTJ accreditation course and the first step to becoming a fully fledged Journalist. I’ve not been this excited since my friend Graeme told me Tom Hardy was in Size? on Bold Street! I’m already learning Teeline Shorthand and trying to get my head around McNae’s Law in Journalism tome….and despite it being challenging, it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. AND…..the icing on the cake? Caroline and I are classmates……cue ‘You can’t sit with us’ meme’s a plenty on our Facebook accounts.

I’m ridiculously proud to say my brother is also returning to college in September to show the world what a truly gifted artist he is…no really we’re not just being supportive in that way families do….if he was crap we’d have told him by now! His earlier work in super car design,  still life and wicked comic illustrations are effortless and we’re all sick and tired of harping on about how he should do something with his talent. Finally, after 14 years in London, the daily slog of the civil service has ground him down to appreciate his natural flair and he’s raring to go. Watch this space for updates on his work…also if you want a 9ft tall My Little Pony/Marvel mural painting on your bedroom wall….he’s your guy!

So here’s to Caroline, so proud of you and love you very much. You’ve inspired me and Andy to try again x

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Full Circle Fashion

In just a matter of hours I’m going to my first ever red carpet, fashion event. As a little (and not so little) girl I often dreamed of what it would be like to don a beautiful gown, slip on some Louboutins and generally look a million dollars smiling and waving to the crowds. It doesn’t help my shredded nerves at all that Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz are reportedly attending! Eeeek.

My first taste of high-end fashion was when The Clothes Show came to BBC One, Caryn Franklin (Oh her silver streak!!) and Jeff Banks became my style mentors each Sunday evening and having to wait a whole WEEK for the next episode was complete torture! I spent my early years in Barnard Castle (in the glorious North of course) where I regularly visited The Bowes Museum with my mum and older brother. Even as a youngster I was fascinated at the old-fashioned clothes and toys on display, I’m still awestruck 25 years later at founder of the museum, Josephine Bowes’ pink taffeta ball gown which stands proudly along side regular exhibits from some of the worlds most famous designers. My love of fashion was born in those four walls.

Full Circle Fashion

Style is Eternal, hugging your brother outside the museum is most definitely not!

I moved away to the big city (Liverpool) and studied Fashion and Textiles design at St Helen’s College with the most awesome bunch of friends and tutors a frustrated artist can ever hope to meet. From recycled fashion shows (I strutted down a catwalk dressed in shredded bed-sheets and a corset at one point) to cheering on fellow class mate, Kirsty Doyle in her Project Catwalk triumph I had endless fun learning pattern cutting, history of art, screen-printing and photography (to name a few components of the course) and learned how to charity shop like a pro. Life skills! Since my colourful college days I’ve worked in retail, merchandising, media and PR. I’ve had three beautiful children and chased off two husbands…..I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve moved house, dyed my hair and cleared out my wardrobe….things and people have come and gone. But Barnard Castle still feels like home and fashion is still very much my first love.

As a trainee fashion journalist I’m back in Barnard Castle for a few days as somehow I’ve been invited to the VIP launch of Yves Saint Laurent, Style is Eternal, the first exhibition in the UK to present a comprehensive display of the French fashion designer’s work and life…..at The Bowes Museum. I was tempted to write a piece on how much of a privilege it is for a museum in the North to host such a high profile event…….and while it is a major event I think it belongs at The Bowes, where Style is Eternal.

I’ve laid out my gown and carefully chosen my accessories ….no Louboutin’s for me just yet but I’d like to think Josephine would approve.

The exhibition runs from July 11th to October 25th so you too can fall in love with fashion. Tickets available here.

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