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Day: August 14, 2012

How would the media and public react if Nick Clegg quit to spend more time with his family?

I read a fine piece earlier today (yes I know it was posted eight days ago but I hardly ever check my google reader) by Louise Shaw entitled Don’t Menschn the kids…. now apart from being a first rate play on words and far better than any I have thought up over the years (damnit) it has a very interesting and pertinent point to it.

Louise Mensch resigned as an MP last week and blamed the strain of juggling a family life along with her work as an MP as the main reason. In general she has been taken at her word and we saw a spawn of articles about how difficult things are for women juggling a family life and a career but why do we not recognise that it is also difficult for men? We talk about equality all the time but when it comes to this issue things are still perceived to be harder for women than it is for men. Why is this?

She puts forward the question of if Nick Clegg resigned citing the same reasons then would the media or the public at large believe him? The answer as she hypothesises is no and she’s correct of course. He has spoken before about his difficulty of juggling the two and in particular the school run caused a wave of opinions last summer when it came out that he shared the school run with his wife.

But the idea that the second most senior politician in the land is belting back from breakfast meetings at Westminster, where he is wading through the quagmire of a looming £43 billion bunga bunga disaster if the wobbly Italian economy collapses, in order to take his three sons to school, is risible verging on terrifying.

Ah the words of The Telegraph’s Judith Woods there in her oh so wonderful piece entitled Nick Clegg should run the country, not the kids to school. Yes dropping kids off to school or picking them up isn’t the be all and end all of being a parent but whatever happens – in any family – you look after them first and foremost. Same for David Cameron or any other MP or anyone in any job. Having a settled and happy personal life whether it be a family or not will lead to that person being a better worker. The happier we are the more positive we are.

However there is a stigma attached to a man doing the school run here. If Nick said ‘sod this’ and decided to do another job that would help his family more then would the media and public say ‘bravo Nick’ – would they heck. They would say he was a weasel and left politics because he was a spineless so and so. Imagine if his wife moved back home and he went with her to support her career choices the whole media would fawn over themselves to make him out to be a bad guy even though he was putting the happiness of his wife and family first.

Of course we aren’t expecting that to happen but it is a theoretical possibility. Even though attitudes are slowing changing with regards to traditional bread winners and men having more of a hands on approach to parenting these barriers have not exactly caved in.

I think that whatever happens people should put the well-being of their families and themselves first and foremost. Louise Mensch decided that the best thing for her and her family was to resign and move to New York to be with her husband. I read many people saying that she couldn’t he quit his job and move to the UK to support her? Well no doubt he could’ve done but aren’t relationships all about partnerships and they decided together that this was the best way forward.

If we are to take women at their word when they talk about family life and the stresses of it then we need to say the same for men when they talk about it. All families are different and all people are different. Some men want to be more hands-on, some don’t. Some women like all the responsibility and some don’t. Family life is different for everyone and people should never be ridiculed for putting their family and personal happiness first – whether it be a woman or a man who does it.

Sadly stereotypes and perceptions means that this isn’t the case and if Nick Clegg did quit to back his wives career or for family reasons then I suspect the media’s perception would be a complete 180 to how they covered Louise Mensch in exactly the same situation.

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More PE each week is good but it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ problem

I don’t think it would be a shock to anyone that knows me that I was would enjoy two hours of PE a day. In fact not a lot would’ve made me happier at school than spending ten hours a week playing sport. Yes I said playing sport and not doing Physical Education. I think there is a distinct difference between the two and one that should not be ignored.

When the Mayor of London said last week that he thought two hours of PE a day was a great idea then he’s right. It is. However great ideas in theory don’t always equate to being great ideas in practice. If there was compulsory two hours of PE a day then most schools would need to either find eight hours extra a week or cut time from other subjects. Now if you were to ask me whether PE was more important than algebra then I’d say it was but many would disagree.

How many students would like the school day lengthened by an hour each day so extra PE time could be taught? Not many I suspect and those who don’t like PE anyway would be distraught but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing. We have a very short school day as it is so what is there to stop the school day going on an extra hour each day?

I remember in Year 8 we had double Games and double Geography back-to-back between morning break and Lunch. Our Games teacher was also our Geography teacher so it was ok as we often came in late all hot and bothered when the girls were sitting there waiting for five minutes for us to turn up (he often overran the Games lesson as a) we liked it and b) he’d forget the time) and we had no issues being late as he knew why. However this also happened in Year 7 but this wasn’t the same teacher. Luckily he was a good teacher and was understanding. I know other kids didn’t have that understanding. I do think PE and/or Games should preferably be taught in a period where there is a natural break after it or preferably at the end of the day although a whole school having PE last thing doesn’t really work.

I can hear the tens of you that will read this yelling out ‘but I didn’t like PE so I wouldn’t like this’ but the reality is most of us didn’t like most of our lessons anyway. The important thing is to give options. At school we didn’t really have many PE options. The choice was made for us. Also looking back I think at both my senior schools there were only four full-time PE staff at both so that doesn’t leave to much wiggle room for multiple choices. So staffing levels need to be addressed if this government are genuinely keen on making PE a vital part of the curriculum again.

Personally speaking I think there are many things that students need to learn but don’t and I like the Japanese model of after-school clubs that cater for all. Whilst Japanese classes may finish at say around 3, kids won’t go home until nearer 6 as they have a variety of after-school clubs that they have to attend but they get the choice of what to attend but I’m digressing away from just the PE aspect and into the whole make-up of school days and that is probably not the way to go at this juncture.

Back at PE. At my first secondary school we had both PE and Games. So PE was things like Gym and working on general fitness and Games was whatever sport you were playing that half-term so Rugby, Hockey, Basketball, Cricket etc… – we were a Rugby school and not a Football one. Lots of talk about Indian dance and I do recall somewhere in the annals of my mind that we did do dance for a half-term at some point. I see no problem with dance being taught in a PE lesson. PE should mostly be about getting kids active.

PE is not a ‘one size fits all’ lesson but to be blunt neither is any subject taught in school. Schools are often about things you enjoy and then things you endure. Technology for me was something I had less than zero interest in. Whether it be graphics or woodwork or design or cooking I just didn’t care. I possibly could have used that cooking skill now as I live off microwave meals and bunging things in the oven but I still had to do it for two hours a week. The same should be levied at PE.

I have read so many people saying that they had bad experiences of PE at school and that we shouldn’t force it upon those that don’t like it because they didn’t. Well that’s crap. We can’t pick and choose what we do at school until we are 14 pretty much and PE is not only part of a broad education it is part of making this country a healthier one. PE can inspire just as much as Maths or English can. Reading Shakespeare or Dickens will inspire a writer but running around a muddy field will inspire someone else.

Physical Education can and should become part of the Olympics legacy. They want to inspire a generation well this is the opportunity. If I was Michael Gove I would find a way to extend the school day and get an hour of PE at least three days a week and community projects in two days a week. Education isn’t just about learning stuff but also about maturing and getting interested in things. After-school clubs were in my day pretty much limited to sporting endeavours but how good would it be if lots of other interests were catered for? Building robots or making a community radio station or fashion design or whatever. We need to inspire kids and get them interested in things after school that aren’t going home and watching cartoons, playing on the games console, surfing the internet or wandering around the shops.

PE can be a big part of this but there are other things that will inspire people. Yes this would involve more work for teachers but for me the onus on teachers now to fill students brains with useless information to pass exams and to get up league tables. Teachers should be there to inspire kids in whatever interests them. All teachers have hobbies that they are interested in and no doubt they’ll be many students who would also be interested in that.

So to conclude as I have again waffled off subject. I think the school day should be extended. PE options should be wide and varied. However inspiring a generation isn’t just about sport it is about everything. Students need inspiring or they’ll do nothing and a motivated student in one capacity will lead to doing well in others.

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