Posted on 16 Comments

The “Packed Lunch” Debate. Pro-Choice.

I saw and read some of the comments and opinions on packed lunches, and those who are both for and against. I have to say that there is a world of difference between the quality and content of packed lunches from school to school and I’ve heard of  really good ones and some really awful ones.

With the price of a dinner ticket increasing to £2.20 per child a day, it’s not an option every parent can afford.  A friend of mine has 6 children and the costs for her for packed lunches every day would be £66 a week, or £264 a month. Not everyone can afford to pay that out every month when they could fill a lunch box with food from the fridge every day with a little planning.

I am lucky enough that if I wanted to, I could send my kids for a school dinner every day, but the big point is that they don’t always want a school dinner.  Some school dinners are ok and they are happy to eat them, but others they find awful, without taste, and complain about how disgusting they are.

I imagine it’s a bit like an NHS hospital versus a Private one, or actually, even in Aberdeen, the quality of food in the main hospital always seems to be lacking in comparison to the food at an offshoot site.

I know my kids sometimes ask for a packed lunch at Primary and sometimes ask for a school lunch.  It’s very dependent on what is on offer and what they think of how it’s cooked.

  • My kids love fish, but won’t eat the Primary school version which they complain has hardly any fish in it and looks like a sliver of grey backed dingy stuff.  I’ve not seen it so I can’t comment personally.
  • The puddings are “fine,” says my youngest.
  • Working with some children at the school, they said that most of their friends take packed lunches as the school ones are often disgusting.

If a school banned packed lunches, I think they will have overstepped the mark into parenting and choice of food for their children.

Yes, I agree that some parents might put things into school lunches that others don’t agree with, but in a few short years, they’ll head to secondary school and then just eat chips from the nearest bakery or junk food store anyway.

I don’t see the point in meeting nutritional guidelines for food that is served up if the food is poor quality and kids don’t want to eat it.  I really would grudge spending £2.20 a day for my child to eat a piece of bread and a pudding as there wasn’t anything else they wanted on that day.

I’m against school lunches being mandatory and I am for pro-parental choice.

I have no problem with guidelines and help for parents to make better packed lunch choices than some people make, but if I had a child who would only eat rice krispies and simply put their school lunch in the bin, I’d rather they ate rice krispies from a packed lunch than ate nothing at all.   Most parents can make up the difference with an evening meal and headteachers being given the option of helicoptering the parents decisions is just plain wrong.

We don’t live in a nanny state that takes decisions away from the parents in other aspects of school life, so why for food?  Why is food important to tackle, but behaviour left to the parents to cope with?  I know which one I’d rather the school took responsibility for.  Blaming all poor behaviour on diet is just plain wrong.

If our local school made school lunches mandatory, I’d move my kids to one where it wasn’t.  I have children who don’t wait in line well, and there are some days that my child just knows he can’t cope with losing 10 minutes of his lunch break standing queuing for his dinner, as it takes too much time away from getting outside and running around for exercise.


Posted on 9 Comments

Gifts For Teachers – Do or Don’t?

I’ve missed the Scottish school holiday time, but there’s always those of you in England who will be looking for some gift ideas for your teachers.  I think there are probably a lot of things that we can and can’t give to teachers to just say a little thanks for all they’ve done all year for our kiddies.

I’m not the best one at remembering to buy a gift for a teacher, but there seems to be a huge competition in some places over who can give the biggest, best, or most expensive gift.  We’ve even had requests on occasion for a £5 per child to go to a gift and in principle I don’t have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with the kids who’s parents can’t or won’t add to the kitty being left off the card and the gifts being sent.

When I have contributed to these things in the past, I believed it was for the teacher, not as some kind of mythical brownie point for parents who do contribute, so I pulled out of them a few years ago.  I asked a couple of times for the card to be from all the children, and not just those of us who’d contributed and met a deafeningly silent stony wall.  From that point I just gave up with it.

I think collections do have their place, but only if all the children are treated equally.  I have the kind of children who really struggle to get on with their teachers, so buying them a gift seems terribly uncool to them, but I have bought little trinkets in the past for them to hand over.  Whether they are appreciated or not I have no idea, but it means more to my kids to choose something little.

I got to thinking about teachers gifts due to a couple of things in the post which although weren’t really intended as gifts, they’ve ended up being little gems I can squirrel away for Christmas time.

Sally from asked if I’d like to receive a personalised mug.  I didn’t know what I was getting, and she sent out a lovely one from her teachers gifts range.  I actually would probably not buy a teachers mug, but I am very tempted to buy some of the ones from the other ranges.

Personalised ones stand out for me, and getting one with my twitter name sounds like something I would like a fair bit (xmas pressies if anyone from my family is reading today.)


I wasn’t expecting a box from Border Biscuits, but as I’ve done some review work for them before, they must have decided to send me a box of their new shortbreads to try.   We got strawberry, glace cherry and cranberry & orange.  I’ve only tried the glace cherry so far but I’m sure the kids will devour some quickly enough.

If I’d had these biscuits a few weeks ago, I suspect I’d have wrapped up a packet or two to give to teachers from middler as he seems to get on with his teachers better than my other two.

Fruit Shortcake Border Biscuits

It’s quite a hard call to make.  What on earth do we give to teachers really though?  They can’t take money, and we’re not allowed to take in home baking up here, so there really is only little trinkets or things that the kids have made themselves.

I know that few parents would agree to crediting all children when only some of their parents contributed to a communal gift, so if we’re not money or kudos driven, what else can we give?

I’m not into expensive gifts so it has to be little things that just show some appreciation and nothing more.  I’ve heard of parents spending £20 on a present which I think is ridiculous, so for me, it’s all about the thought and not the price.


Our mug and shortcake biscuits were given free of charge.  I was not obliged to write about them, and all opinions are my own. Mclaggan Smith Mugs is a Scottish based, family run company established in 1974. All mugs are manufactured to a high quality and are screen printed and fired in Scotland.  Contact Sally Simmers at Mclaggan Smith Mugs on or T: 01389 755 655

Teacher Mug 2

Posted on 20 Comments

Groupcall – School Messaging Systems 4 Missing Kids

A couple of weeks ago, a child of mine went to his first morning class and then disappeared.  The school office were notified and nearly two hours later, they sent me a text by Groupcall.  This child is struggling at school and finding it hard to get through some days.

Groupcall is the messaging system used up schools up here in Aberdeen.  There are about 2,500 schools using it in the UK and Europe, so it’s influence is growing.

It was co-funded by Sir Bob Geldof and essentially is for general and emergency communication between a school and its parents and provides solutions for education, public and private sectors.

Our local authority has now allowed Groupcall unlimited for all schools.


I wholly approve of increased communications between home and school, and I have had notifications of both good and bad behaviour in school, as well as new news items and reminders of special days at schools.

Essentially, it’s used to text parents snippets of news about the school, their children and any other communications parents want to send home.

The idea is to improve parental engagement and lower costs, but there really does need to be more local authority input into HOW these messaging systems are used.

It’s a good thing used properly, but it should NEVER take the place of the person to person telephone call in some situations in my opinion.

What about when it goes wrong?

  1. What about a school using it as a way to send a message to a parent or guardian that a child is missing?
  2. What about the parents who don’t even get that text, and don’t find out their child was missing for hours until another parent contacts them?
  3. What about the parents who are bombarded with so many texts that they just begin to ignore them?

The arguments

I’ve listened to the arguments of improving parent / school contact, but I don’t believe that if a child is missing, a parent should be told by groupcall text only.

I’ve been told by my local secondary school here in Aberdeen that it is local authority procedure to report a child missing from school by text.

Yes, I know a text suits some people and not others, and strangely, males seem to be happier with the chance of a text than women, but I am one major techy nerd and I think Groupcall alone just doesn’t cut the mustard in notifying parents.

I have also been told that as the kids who were missing from school weren’t usually skivers, that they hadn’t been flagged up as a problem when they went missing.  I’d have thought the opposite should have applied, but that’s just my parenting expectations it seems.

Some people said they’d be happier with a text.  Well whatddya know, your kid is missing for hours, but don’t worry, it can wait until your next tea break.

If a child is missing and it’s not usual behaviour – it’s an EMERGENCY in my opinion.

Shame on the schools devolving their duty of care to kids by delegating it to a text that may or may not arrive.

Posted on 19 Comments

Will the school soccer dads just get a life.

I was tempted to use much stronger words in the title, but I decided to give them a break.

Yes, I know that they give up their own time, and that without them, our football wouldn’t run, but some of them really need to get a grip on the world outside their own little head space and really consider the possible results of what they do.

The truth of it is that I really, really get irritated and annoyed with the soccer dads.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all like that and they’re not really bad, but the perceptions of what they do, by the filtering down through their kids causes chaos.

My eldest had a trouble-free football career at primary, with all the kids getting an even crack at the whip, and the coaches playing fair and giving the kids all equal chances at improving their skills.  It was 4 years of bliss at primary football for him, and I really didn’t appreciate how rare and unusual that is.

It’s only natural that I expected the same kind of treatment for my littlest when he started football a couple of years later.  The school pays nothing towards the football as far as I can tell, so the only influences are the dads who take charge of the whole thing, and the parents that pay.

What happened to littlest’s year, is that they went from two strong teams winning everything, to the “football coach” dads deciding they wanted all the good kids in the “A” team.   Now that would have been ok if they’d left it at that, but they didn’t.  When the Gala’s were on, or the “A” team was short of players, they would take the best players from the “B” team away to be spare subs for the “A” team.  That left the “B” team without the kids they relied on at matches and trained with.

Nobody in the “A” team is going to complain about it as their kids still won everything – only now, there was a 2 tier system.  The “A” team kids calling the “B” team kids names etc etc as the “B” team suddenly began to lose everything.  The “A” team dads were going to do everything in their power to make sure their team won, and they could, as they were in charge.

We lived with it and the kids ran their little socks off trying to keep up with the often professionally trained other teams they had to play.

A year on, the “crappy” system has split P6-7 further into three teams as far as I can see.  Teams “A” and “B” train together and have lots of matches.  Team “C” trains on a different night and has very few matches from what I can see, although that may change.  It’s easy to see they’ve taken team “C” and dumped them, all because they have less experience, and they don’t get the benefit of training with the kids whose parents are determined their kids are going to be future Premier Leaguers.

I can’t even get started on the sidelines dads who scream abuse at their kids for missing a goal or being in the wrong position, but that bubbles away too.

I have no beef about doing it fairly, but there has been little fairness in how this has worked out.   The morality is crap, and I guess that’s why the rest of us parents have to sign a disclaimer that says we’re not allowed to disagree with anything that they decide.

Basically, they tell us to put up or shut up, or our kids are out.

For the sake of our kids, we tend to do what we’re told, but we don’t have to like it.

One child in littlest’s team whose dad has the luxury of a 9-5 job, which means he can coach, has told his darling that if he gets better at football, he’ll get moved up a team, but nobody else will.  Where the final kicks come in, is when the soccer coach dads speak about the other kids in front of their own, and those kids go to school and tell the rest what teams etc they’re in.  They use terms like ‘you’re in the rubbish team for kids that are no use at football.”

Now that really gets the hackles up on the back of my neck.

But I really must remember that I am effectively gagged from saying anything to them, or they might throw my child out.  On the blog, shouting from the rooftops, they can’t gag me here.

I feel so much better for letting that all out.



Posted on 16 Comments

School Lunches – “Healthy” versus “Unhealthy”

With grinning faces, the kids love it if there’s pizza, or burgers and chips on the school menu.  Granted, the days of lumpy custard have hopefully spent their last ever days gracing the plates of our growing future generation, but for my kids, stodge is what they want from a school dinner in Aberdeen City.

Making faces that would sour milk, they turn their noses up at school dinner fish, as I’m told it tends to be grey with “bits” on it.   Similarly the soft veg and tasteless fruit seem to be pretty low on the agenda of my hungry horaces at feeding time.

Portion sizes are teensy, and on the one day I was able to join the lunch time rabble, I was shocked how little kids were eating of their meals once they tasted them, and made faces at each other.

I really don’t see the point of meeting Governmental Nutritional Guidelines, or claiming to serve a balanced meal if the food looks and tastes like shoe leather.  And what about the 11 year olds getting the same portion sizes as the 4 year olds?  How is that going to keep them alert during afternoon classes, bellies not full enough from their £2 meal?

So, given the “reasonably low” standard of food on offer in many lunch canteens, why oh why do the schools insist on telling kids they shouldn’t be taking cans of fizzy pop, or sweeties in their lunch boxes?

I’m told by the kids that the staff take cans of pop away from children who have taken them to school.  If it happens, it’s thieving of the lowest proportions from kids, and seems to set double standards that rankle.  All it creates is the sweetie mob and the non sweetie mob hierarchy as lots of parents put sweets in lunch boxes, even when they’re asked not to.

The short story is, that as a health promoting school, we’re not supposed to give them any sweeties to school, but the tables are turned when they sanction teachers using sweets to bribe the kids into better behaviour.

Little children’s brains try to absorb the contents of the healthy living world and come home full of facts and figures on how bad some foods are, yet when the same kids go to secondary schools, (or academy, or whatever else schools at 12 + are) they are suddenly faced with canteen style food of epic fast food proportions, and expecting around £5 a day to gorge themselves on whichever food tasty of the day catches their eye.

I’ve been “reliably” informed by an excitedly animated face, that the food in secondary is as good as Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“That’s good for me mum,” came the  high pitched happy chappie who starts there next Tuesday.   “I need to put on a few pounds,” says the skinny football mad lad.

A response of “Ye’ll get a packed and like it, with a school lunch on special occasions,”  leads to folded arms and a pout worthy of One Direction.

So, after all of this, I have yet to see what the point was of making such a fuss of “healthy” versus “unhealthy” food at primary, if at secondary, they can choose to just get stuffed full of junk and want £5 a day for lunch.  Ok, so senior school moves to a cafeteria style service with healthy choices,  but with many kids, the only choice they will make is the junk, as they often have to eat the healthy stuff at home.

Aside from the fact I am not spending £15 a DAY on kids lunches when they reach secondary, am I the only one who thinks it’s a ridiculous double standard?

Posted on 23 Comments

Sweet Temptation – Who’s Right – Teacher or Me? Help…..

We had a situation last week.   I may be reading too much into it, but it really irritated me to the bone.

On the way home from school, elder was very quiet and piped up that he had a letter than I had to sign for him to take back into school.  I didn’t think that much about it at the time and just thought it would be for “yet” another trip for P7’s.

At home, he sheepishly slipped the letter under my nose and I read it with total disgust.  Not in disgust at him I have to say (although I had to show him some displeasure) but in disgust at the contents.

It begins by saying this type of thing:

Dear Mss xxxxx
I am really sorry for stealing sweeties from your desk, and I know it was just too tempting, so please please forgive me and I know you can never ever trust me ever again for lying and nobody likes a thief.   I have to say sorry to the whole class and I hope you can forgive me.
Yada Yada Yada you get the idea.

 Some of you may be shocked that on this occasion, I didn’t give my boy the third degree, or make him bow and scrape to a pretence of guilt in front of me.  Some of you may stop reading right now, make your mind up what kind of person I am, and then you don’t find out my side of the story.

Wind my neck back in for a month and we find a group of “professionals” and I talking about my boy, his future, and his transition to the big school next year.  As part of that discussion, I tell them about my sons sugar addiction and cravings.  Bear in mind that I am not talking about your average pouty child who just likes a sweetie or two.

I have only recently come to terms with the fact that my son is a sugar addict and that it is part of his condition.  I specifically mentioned it at the meeting where his teacher was present as I had only just found out for myself that he was not just an out and out thief from the treat cupboard, but actually has an illness that is a side effect of his condition and compels him to ingest sweet stuff.  He is just lucky as can be that his genes keep him as slender as he is with all the stuff he packs away.

It helps me to understand why we cannot have lots of bags of sweets in the house, or lots of packets of biscuits as if he knows they are there, he will get up during the night and clear the cupboards.  This behaviour has caused many arguments in the family with extended groundings, removal of privileges, promises of treats to leave them alone etc etc etc and NOTHING worked.  I was so in the dark that I thought my boy was just pushing the limits further than is acceptable.

Back to the story.   We have the teacher INFORMED that he is a sugar addict and that it is part of his condition.  Then the teacher leaves a bowl of sweeties on her desk to give to the children.  I can only guess at the reason for the sweeties, but I suspect they are an incentive for good behaviour.

Picture this.  An empty room with no adults around, and a group of boys who probably have little opportunity to make the grade for one of these revered sweeties help themselves to one and congratulate themselves on their cleverness at outwitting the adults.  One of the boys feels guilty, so dobs the rest of them in and says he didn’t pinch any “so I am told by my boy” .  He also tells me that the dobber in got off with it.

At this point, I am fighting the urge not to laugh as in the same situation, if I were a child in their shoes, I suspect that I would have helped myself to one of those sweeties too.  I am also irritated with the teacher for putting such temptation in the way of someone who has a sugar addiction and expecting them not to take one.   I am even more irritated with myself for expecting the teacher to even to remember that he has a sugar addiction.

I will not be carrying on this issue at home though I cannot tell my boy exactly what I think of it all.

They were warned – and my boy had to take the same punishment as the other boys who took a sweetie, but heaven above – why, why, why would you leave a bowl of sweeties on a desk in front of a class of kids.   It is utter madness.

What do you all think?

Posted on 4 Comments

Umbrella’s at Dawn

I have been moved to blog about the growing band of mummies who stand at the school gates with brollies big enough to lose three people in.  I really, honestly and truly do not like brollies of any shape, size or colour (unless they are attached to a buggy and shading a little one’s eyes).  I really do not like them. 

People barge into you, spokes hit you on different parts of your head and body and you try to squeeze past on paths and pavements, and they rarely lift the spokes up to avoid hitting you.  Then there are the head turners, who suddenly hit you with the lower end of the brolly which is behind their head and leaning on their shoulders.

This morning, set the scene, I am trying to lead a very wet dog and three neighbours children though a rainy public path.    That is on top of the two children who belong to me.  We go single file to walk through the mummy chat zone, but I have a problem.  Mummies are lined up right along the path.  There is nowhere to walk, they are blocking the whole path.   There is a lot of noise on the walkway 6 feet up, and the rain is drowning out a lot of noise.  They are also shouting to each other to be heard.

Neighbours child no 3 asks politely if one “lady” will move, no luck.  She asks if another “lady” will move and gets swatted away as if she were a fly on her coat tails.   We can’t see any faces, as they are brandishing large umbrellas which are spoke to spoke as they chat selfishly.    The hackles are rising on the back of my neck as I call all the children back to behind me. 

Then I spot a car drawing up behind us on the road and move swiftly to the passenger door.  Inside is a well known other brolly hater.  I ask her if she has a lovely big brolly in her car, and to my amazement she has.   I leave her car, also with two of her children in tow.

Armed with the large green umbrella, I make my way back to the mummy brolly tent and shove my green one into the spokes of the other mummies brollies.  The onslaught brings a parting of the path, which allows me to get my forming brood through in one piece, and without this mummy getting someone else’s brolly spokes in her eyes.  I politely mutter sorry, sorry, sorry in passing while trying to keep a straight face.  Strangely none of them seems to mind this at all.  

All of which brings me to the absolute loating I have for umbrellas at school gates, or anywhere near a school, and why, for the safety of my eyes, I am going shopping this afternoon for my very own brolly tent.

if you can’t beat em, join em.