How can one use a traumatic moment and turn it into something positive?
There will be a core group of readers who will remember the 21st May 2011 when I first shared this photo. Not many readers of Teacher Toolkit will know the real reason I started this website – as an expectant father and having just lost my school leadership job to redundancy), I found myself without work after 17 years in teaching – and then 85 miles away from home in hospital for three months.
How did Teacher Toolkit start?
For those readers who did not know, my son was born at 28+2 weeks gestation – almost 12 weeks premature – and had less than a 50% chance of survival. With one in four pupils born prematurely in every classroom, premature birth is something I believe needs to be added to the SEN register and is a personal project for me.
To pass the time and to communicate with my family, I blogged about Freddie’s premature start into the world – all 1 pound 9 ounces of him. This helped me to deal with the trauma of redundancy and having a child born too small and too soon. Without realising, his blog soon went viral in the parenting community with donations and television requests and so on … Fast forward three months and at home with a new-born on oxygen support and with no job, I found myself with an old Teacher Toolkit blog (here it is) and with a bit of time on my hands to reinvent myself.
10 Million Readers!
Today, eight years later, Freddie is thriving – and so am I thanks to this website. Largely due to the above circumstances, these difficulties ignited something in me to fight back against the system and survive, to make a living and provide for my family, sharing my professional wisdom and passion for teaching with others across the world.
As I write, the website is just shy of 10 million readers and is now a full-time job, alongside training teachers across the world.
Why the annual t-shirt photo?
Today, my son Freddie celebrates his 8th birthday.
In the gallery below you will see my first kangaroo cuddle – a term in the neonatal world when premature babies need skin-to-skin care to help premature babies feel safe and develop/grow. Eight years later, this has become a family tradition and our way of celebrating the traumatic period in Freddie’s life. It’s also our way of raising funds for the amazing people at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Bliss Charity and Tommy’s Baby.
Some of the medical decisions I have had to make along the way have had to wait. There has been some personal things to deal with and with premature babies, children ARE slower to develop cognitively and this is a challenge for parents and teachers …
Fathers day has been a blessing, and as a full-time school leader, childcare has often backfired over the last eight years in school. Along the way, having unpicked the reasons why many teachers leave the teaching profession, to ‘raise a family’ is often cited as the biggest factor. I now understand why …
Summer Born Children and School Admissions
Over the years I’ve taken an active interest in premature parents and school admissions for summer born children, hoping to see some changes to the school admissions code – parents are still waiting 4 years later despite Nick Gibb’s reassurances.
I wrote to Nick Gibb last month and received a reply (with a grammatical error during SATs week). I’d like to unpick why my son will always be ‘below-expected progress‘ in primary school. Research studies have shown that preterm children are at high risk of learning difficulties and poor academic attainment by the age of 11, particularly in mathematics.
Despite all this, Freddie is making progress – and in turn, I suspect this is due to his incredible mother and his home. I will continue to blog and seek an education system that is fairer for all pupils, and one which is kinder to those people who choose to work in our schools – or are squeezed out for the most absurd reasons.
Happy birthday, son – you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. If you are interested in how far Freddie has come on since his difficult start in life, you can discover his full medical history as a premature child.