A Boy Called Freddie …


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Freddie McGill

@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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Do you know how this website started?

Not many readers of Teacher Toolkit will know the real reason I started this website – as an expectant father and having just lost my teaching job to redundancy, I found myself without work and 85 miles away from home in a hospital for three months.

Why write this blog?

To pass the time and to communicate with my family; to deal with the trauma of redundancy and my son being born a premature, I blogged about Freddie’s premature start into the world – all 1 pound 9 ounces of him. Fast forward three months and at home with a new-born on oxygen support and no job, I found myself with an old Teacher Toolkit blog (here it is) and time on my hands.

If you’d like to grab a quick historical tour of my son’s entry into the world, you can read a catalogue of medical and developmental blog posts on Teacher Toolkit and on Freddie’s blog – born 28+2 weeks gestation – too small and born too soon.  I set about revamping the website from Blogger to WordPress and this was my first blog on this website. Ten years later, and several imports, the rest we say “is history!”

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One in four pupils

Did you know one in nine children are born premature and one in four premature births do not survive? Of those that do survive, one in four children develop SEN. Preterm children are at high risk of learning difficulties and research studies have shown they suffer from poor academic attainment by the age of 11, particularly in mathematics. It is mathematics that often proves to be the most challenging area of the curriculum.

Strangely, Freddie’s strongest subject at school appears to be maths.

As one would imagine, prematurity is a subject very close to my heart; as a teacher, school leader and as a parent having researched and lived this on both sides of the classroom. The impact of a premature birth on a child, a family and the pressures placed upon a school (due to lack of funding), rarely provides teachers with the resources to meet the needs of premature children.

Summer Born Children

For several years, the government has ignored updating its admissions guidelines to allow parents of summer-born children to delay the admissions point at which their child enters into formal schooling. In 2015, I faced my own challenges when having to select a ‘local school’ for my son – a process largely out of my hands.

Teachers reading this blog, please be aware that there are children you are teaching who will have particular needs based on something way beyond all of our control; life and nature. But, one thing we can control is education policy to support all children. Nick Gibb MP has failed to update admissions guidance for summer born children; there have been some Department for Education updates, but at the moment not enough is being done to support pupils who need a little extra support.

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Like any parent, if you want to know what motivates me, the above pictures give you my answer. Saturday 17th November 2018 is World Prematurity Day. What are you doing to raise the profile for children who have had a difficult start in life, who then have to survive within an education system that may or may not be meeting their needs?

When you are faced with an educational system that you love, which pushes good people out of the classroom for whatever reason, one has to make a choice. In 2011, I choose to fight back, then in 2017 I chose to do to it again. This may explain why I am determined to change the workload and wellbeing narrative for teachers – and for those teacher-parents who may find impossible to balance the classroom by simply wanting to be a mum/dad.


7 thoughts on “A Boy Called Freddie …

  1. Wow! Freddie is an absolute hero. What a wonderful family he has around him too. I am on maternity leave at the moment, my daughter is 6 months old. I had a really challenging pregnancy, nearly delivering at 31 weeks and can safely say that as a teacher I will be focusing on raising the profile of the premature children in my class. I think parenthood really enhances your desire to focus on those with individual, very specific needs, something which of course as a teacher you always strive to achieve anyway. However, teachers who become parents are such an asset to a school and come with a whole new wealth of knowledge and regained passion ;more should be done to encourage them back to work in a part time capacity to balance work and family life.

  2. My twin sons were born at 28 weeks weighing in at 725 and 710 gms. That was 25 years ago. Like your son, maths was one of their stronger subjects at school. One is now a lawyer and the other a doctor. As they were about to enter school, I qualified as a teacher. Like you, their journey has impacted by development as a teacher.

  3. I ended up making a decision due to my daughter having multiple medical problems. My husband continued to work full time and now I find myself having spent 20 years as a teacher but with no linear progression. My last contract finished in summer and I am considering leaving altogether.

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