All posts by sianwebb

#LetKidsBeKids – A Letter to Nicky Morgan

There have been many letters on the Internet this week addressed to Nicky Morgan, but this is one that particularly struck a chord with me. The #letkidsbekids strike took place on Tuesday of this week and the momentum behind it is still growing. The more people who speak up and stand up for our children the more impact letters like this will have. Childhood, as I have said on many an occasion, is a time where there should never be stress and pressure. And certainly not just so schools can prove they are doing a good job.

Please read and share this letter everywhere…

Dear Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

On May 3rd 2016, my daughter Mo was not at school, because we were supporting the ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ SATS boycott. By not sending Mo into school, I was doing the only remaining thing I could do to voice my disagreement about over-intensive testing, too early and too often, in primary schools. I have read with growing alarm much commentary written by teachers, headteachers and parents alike which expressed concern that the curriculum is narrowing to the detriment of the children’s education in order that we can perform these tests.

I’m very much in support of Mo’s school, and I know that the vast majority of letters the Department for Education will receive as part of this protest will be saying the same things: that the schools we removed our children from are professionally run, warm, creative places; that they are full of helpful, genuine committed staff; that the children are well looked after; that the children are encouraged and respected and prioritised. This letter is no different. My daughter loves her school. She loves the diverse, creative ways in which she is taught (even though I know your plans are to remove the OFSTED judgment on teaching method and focus entirely on ‘results’). The teachers are experienced, imaginative people who battle increasingly draconian working conditions, who always manage to show kindness and interest in her as an individual, regardless of their workload. Teachers already know how my daughter is doing – they would not be doing their jobs adequately if they didn’t. To enforce these tests suggests a total lack of respect for their ability to perform the job we know they can do. Teachers already have to tolerate disrespectful levels of scrutiny into their jobs by people who know little about education, and who refuse to meaningfully engage with their expert opinions. As a parent I have fully supported the industrial actions of the teachers unions in the past and taken my daughter on their marches to demonstrate that support. The tests aren’t for parents, they’re not for the teachers, they’re certainly not for the children who take them. So who are they for?

The last thing I wanted to do is add to the burden of criticism that the school already faces from the department for education and its inspectors, and I sincerely regret that by taking her out for the day, the school’s attendance figures will be affected. But you’re wrong that taking a child out of school ‘even for one day’ will damage their education. It might affect ‘results’, as you measure them, but that’s not what education is. My little girl, who is six, spent the day reading. She was so immersed in a world of dragons that when she finished the book she set about drawing a picture of her favourite scene. That’s a result. She cycled for an hour, and when she eventually wobbled and fell off she laughed herself silly in a heap. That’s a result. We discovered that today was International Firefighters Day, so we made a card for the local fire station. They thought that was a result, and so did we. She learnt how delicate carrot seedlings are, and how to carefully transplant them when they’re big enough. That’s also a result. None of these will count for a single ‘raw mark’ in the tests you’re making her sit, though, will they?

But listen. If the teachers themselves are being largely ignored, something’s gone really wrong. I understand that the NUT has just voted to ballot for a boycott of all primary school tests, and I’ll be behind them if they go ahead. As parents we have very little influence over the curriculum, and that’s usually a good thing: most of us aren’t teachers. But our voices are being more and more muffled: especially if the Government goes ahead with replacing parent governors, a crucial link between the home and school life of our kids, with businesspeople. So it falls to us to act in whatever small way we can.

Someone needs to stand up for our young children if what we’re hearing over and again from parents and teachers (albeit off-the-record) is that testing makes the children stressed, makes the children feel like failures even if they’re doing well (because the goalposts keep changing), and is largely useless as a method of bringing about better ‘results’. It’s time to return to the essence of education: putting the needs of our children first. Not the needs of a government intent on proving the efficacy of its agenda over the agenda of the previous government, which is essentially what all of this comes down to.

Kind regards,

Kate Simants

Feminism: Empowering or Destabilising?

Dear Reader,

I read an article this week in which it was suggested that feminism hasn’t so much empowered women, but destabilised men. And by this I do not mean that patriarchy is no more – I simply mean that men no longer have a defined role, and this is unnerving them somewhat.

For years feminism has been a voice designed to promote equality and choice for all women. There is still a long way to go with regards to this, the gender pay gap for example is still ever present, but I do think that wires are getting crossed along the way.

I often see tweets and Facebook updates where people claim that because their husband is cooking the dinner and they are assembling flat pack furniture that they live in a non gender role specific house. And that this means they are winning at feminism.

And I have to disagree. Continue reading Feminism: Empowering or Destabilising?

When Did Women Start Being Funny?!

Words by Honor Tuttiett

We always were is the answer of course, but why has it been such a battle to prove that we are? I grew up watching the likes of Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers being the quiet but nonetheless hilarious counterpart to John Cleese. The effortless and lasting humour in Absolutely Fabulous with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, and Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley. All of these women were my focus as a child, it didn’t occur to me that we weren’t considered funny until I grew up and started watching films where the girls were nearly all excluded from witty banter.

Where did this idea come from? I have heard my own boyfriend parroting the line ‘women aren’t funny’ but see him falling about with laughter from my own witty retorts. It is like a mental stigma for some men, but thank god we do seem to be breaking through of late. With the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler having storming success hosting the Golden Globes for the past three years, there is hope that the question of female humour will become erogenous to everyone in the very near future.

After reading Jennifer Saunders’ autobiography, Bonkers, I saw how hard it was for women to push through and be allowed into comedy. Lines like, ‘there can’t be two female acts in a row’ were a staple in comedy clubs in the 70’s and are still said today. Luckily in 2012 What The Frock comedy group was founded to combat this imbalance in the comedy realm and make more unbiased space for women. They regularly host successful female only comedy nights around the UK and began the project in order to prove the point that ‘there were some funny women out there, and that people are willing to pay to see them’. They did so well that it has carried on to this day, but considering that this idea begun in 2012 it shows how long it has been a struggle for females to prove their humour could actually entertain a crowd.   

Female led comedy is actually becoming a very lucrative industry for film and television now that people have realised we can make humour quite well. Bridesmaids (2011) was a breakthrough film grossing just under two hundred million pounds in it’s lifetime. This film was made in the current style of many male humoured films like The Hangover or This Is The End, which are great films don’t get me wrong, but it was amazing to see women do the same style just as well. Orange Is The New Black is also a game changing programme with a nearly all female cast. It shows how we are with each other (when we are at our most humorous), because of it being set in a female prison. It is such a refreshing programme when you think about it, not to mention extremely successful. Female led casts have now broken the film and television mainstream and aren’t going to relinquish their place any time soon.

We are casting off the shackles of being considered unfunny, we always knew it and it seems the world is waking up to the idea now too, although it’s a little late world.

Words of Women – Call for Submissions

Time to see you work in print! Call for submissions!

We are currently accepting literary works for publication for our new section Words of Women for Bristol Woman on the theme of  New Beginnings.

Deadline for submission: 9th October

Email to: submissions@bristolwoman.org.uk

Do you have creative work you would like to share? We are looking for budding poets, prose and monologues! 

POETRY:
No more than 2 poems per person on each theme. In the region of 40 lines
Word document

PROSE:
No more than one entry per person on each theme.1,500 words MAX
Word document

MONOLOGUES:
No more than one entry per person on each theme.! In the region of 40 lines
Word document

SPOKEN WORD VIDEO:
Link to youtube/ vimeo/ website

Email submissions to: submissions@bistolwoman.org.uk
Indicate clearly in subject heading the category and theme that you are sending your work to be considered for.
Work is published on a quarterly basis.
We only accept work for our quarterly theme.

Content can be submitted by anyone and should strive to adhere to the guidelines outlined below. 

If you have any literary works you would like to submit but would like to discuss it first, please get in touch.

1.     The work must include original and informative content.

  1. All content that is submitted to Bristol Woman for publication must be 100% exclusively owned by you.
  2. Literary content is defined as written material as either poetry, prose or monologues.

2.     The work does not have to be in English.

  1. We want to celebrate Bristol as a diverse city and will consider publishing work in various languages.
  2. All articles must be worded naturally and in a manner that allows for easy understanding.

3.     The article must not contain unattributed content to which the author does not have rights.

  1. Work must be attributed to only ONE author or co-author and NOT belong to multiple parties or the public domain.
  2. Private Label Rights article packs are content available for anyone to purchase and place their name on. These will not be acceptable for publication.

4.     The work must not contain profanity or pornographic material.

  1. Any work that contain sexually explicit material is prohibited.
  2. Profane language and slang terminology consists of expletives, racial slurs, and vulgar euphemisms, and have no place in professional and informative articles or in their titles. If you wouldn’t hear it in a PG movie, keep it out of your articles.

5.     The work must not contain illegal content.

  1. We reserve the right to determine what content is suitable for publication in the magazine. We will not accept content determined to be overly controversial, having a questionable legal status, or anything not consistent with the nature of the magazine.

Interview with Kate Johnson, Literary Agent

Words of Women Editor: Shagufta Iqbal

Kate1. Brief biog about yourself?

I’m an agent at the New York-based Wolf Literary Services. Previously, I worked for literary magazines and reviews such as the then-Chicago-based StoryQuarterly and Bookslut.com. And I secretly believe it is the scandalous name of the latter that secured my job at Georges Borchardt, Inc., another literary agency in New York, where I had worked for about eight and a half years before moving to Wolf. As with most folks in the publishing industry, work is so much a part of my life and identity, but when I’m not reading or doing bookish things, I like to run (OK, “jog” is more accurate), cook, paint, and collect stamps in my passport.

Continue reading Interview with Kate Johnson, Literary Agent

Creating a Revolution: Tree Change Dolls

Words by Honor Tuttiett

Children’s toys have long been a contentious subject. They can have influence in gendering children, creating a divide between boys and girls from the very start of life. Barbie and Bratz dolls have repeatedly had to defend themselves after accusations of them sexualising children’s toys. Toy shops must be a mine field for parents trying to give their child an unbiased play experience, but fear no longer! A lovely woman from Australia has by accident created a revolution in doll toys.

She calls them Tree Change Dolls and this week they have gone viral.

http://dolls-idea.dailymegabyte.com/woman-removes-dolls-makeup-wins-internet/

Sonia Singh was made redundant from her usual career and consequently decided to return to something she loved as a child; dolls. She was just experimenting with making-under the dolls she rescued them from the dump and charity shops. Removing their make up with nail polish remover and dressing them in wholesome, knitted clothes curtesy of her mum. She re paints their faces with more size accurate eyes and lips, creating a naturalistic style children can relate to easily. They are styled as hikers, gardeners and generally more normal images that you would be happy for your child to play with.

Her husband persuaded her to share these experiments with her Facebook friends of about 200, and from there, fame struck! The reaction has been overwhelming as globally people are seeing these dolls as a relief to their issues with toys. She says in her delight that she believes that young people would rather play with a doll they can relate to or see a resemblance in, rather than being encouraged to lust after hyper sexualised ideals. The world is already full of adverts asking you to be different, why should that have to be in child’s play too?

It is a shame that the statement didn’t come from the manufacturers themselves, but hopefully this will be the beginning of a new craze. Her Etsy shop is just around the corner, but she has stated that she is not a manufacturer and therefore the incredible demand for her dolls with take time to fulfil. Nevertheless the video I have linked to this piece shows you a bit about how she makes them, so you can have a go yourself! Try making-under your dolls and feel comfortable with your children’s toys! Hats off to Sonia Singh!

Businesswoman calls for flexible working hours to help mothers get back to work

Words by Angela Brennan

Della Hudson, who runs Hudson Accountants and is calling for flexible working hours.
Della Hudson, who runs Hudson Accountants and is calling for flexible working hours.

MUM-of-two Della Hudson is calling for small businesses to offer flexible working hours to help mothers get back to work.

The chartered accountant, who runs Hudson Accountants, set up her own firm because she was unable to find a company which would offer flexitime.

Today her business has quadrupled and is manned by a team of four – and she is keen to promote flexible working hours.

Della, 46, said: “I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home-mum, but there were no jobs which offered the flexibility needed to spend time with my children and have a fulfilling career.

“I often see mothers at the school gates that are unable to work in their chosen fields because they cannot carry out 9 to 5 jobs and flexible working hours simply aren’t available.

“I think this is such a shame and companies are missing out on great talent. I think it would be in the interest of all parties if small to middle sized companies offered adjustable hours.”

Last year, workers were given the ‘right to ask’ for flexible hours. But few positions are actively advertised as flexible.

Della offers flexible and remote working, where practical.

She said: “I try to offer flexible working hours to my team, whether they are mothers or not. I think it helps bring in a high calibre of staff and I believe the adaptability is reciprocated

“I trust my team to get the work done away from the office. I know from their output that they’re hard-working.”

Della Hudson and the team at Hudson Accountants. From left to right: Dawn Bettney, Holly Bailey and Della Hudson
Della Hudson and the team at Hudson Accountants. From left to right: Dawn Bettney, Holly Bailey and Della Hudson

Della and her family had been based in Paris for four years until 2008. They came home after her husband’s contract with an international engineering firm came to an end.

In France, Della had managed charity accounts for the local church, sold English books and acted as a Sunday school teacher and English tutor.

But despite having worked for multi-million pound organisations and having 20 years’ experience behind her, she struggled to find suitable work when she returned to the UK.

So she decided to set up her own firm six years ago with little more than a computer on her kitchen table.

She juggled bringing up two young children with developing and refreshing business skills, while attracting new clients.

Della said: “I started slowly and would fit work in when I could, particularly if I couldn’t get child care. I also walked the high street to drop off mailshots to every business in the area.”

But she found a boost in confidence is sometimes needed when returning to the workplace.

She said: “You can get a bit rusty after a long maternity break, for example. I found refresher courses were helpful. But sometimes it’s just about having the confidence to take action.

“I used to deliberate for ages before making a business decision. But now I have the confidence to grow and trust my forecasts, so I just get on with making changes.

“It still surprises me that what should have been a second income has in fact become a career in itself. I’ve been able to grow, create jobs and give back to the community.”

Della offers free Money Matters seminars throughout the year – where entrepreneurs can get business advice and ideas on how to grow their business.

For more information on Money Matters, visit http://www.hudsonaccountants.com/money-matters

Sex education goes beyond contraception

Words by Honor Tuttiett

Fantastic news came this year as the Office of National Statistics released figures showing that teenage pregnancy has fallen consecutively for the past four years. Nationally the figures have dropped by 10% in 2015, but in Bristol the numbers show that under 18- conceptions have fallen from 1 in 20 in the early 2000’s to 1 in 50 now, a 21% reduction. These figures signify the hard work the city has coordinated in the last ten years to help young people become educated in sexual health.

Continue reading Sex education goes beyond contraception

The Femicide Census

sian norrisWords by Sian Norris

Regular Blogger for Bristol Woman

In the first three days of 2012, eight women were killed as a result of male violence. Their names were Susan McGoldrick, Tanya Turnbull, Alison Turnbull, Kirsty Treolar, Claire O’Connor, Betty Yates, Kathleen Milward and Marie McGrory. The youngest was 20 years old, the oldest was 87.

We know their names because that week, feminist activist and Chief Executive of NIA, Karen Ingala-Smith, wrote them down.  Shocked at how many women were killed by men in such a short space of time, Karen decided to keep counting. By the end of 2014 she had counted 417 women. Last year, a woman was killed by a man every 2.46 days.

Continue reading The Femicide Census