Tuesday, 3 March 2015

My Parents Evening Balls Up

Last summer, my boy, Max, started at a new school.  We put a great deal of effort into making sure his introduction to a new – and much bigger – school went smoothly.

I even consulted with a parenting expert on the subject of changing schools.

In reality we probably went a little too far, and the result was Max immediately lost enthusiasm for his existing education provider, and was counting down the moments until he was to start with a new one.

But while Max’s transition was smooth(ish) and well planned out, I didn’t put any consideration into my own.

See, I’m an idiot.  An imbecile in fact (copywright Dan Hughes).

I thought how different can one school really be to another?  Surely my support and engage roll would be identical?   No change for me then.

And in reality that’s true to some degree, they aren’t a great deal different.  We have to supply more kit, stationary etc, communicate in a different way and seemingly put up with more elaborate and expensive school trips.

Homework has obviously become a little more difficult, and things that parents are invited to have changed too.  Which is where I recently where I made a little, err, terribly minor mistake.

At this school the procedure for parents evening, is that you decide which of your children’s teachers you’d like to see and then it’s your child’s responsibility to book appointments with each of them.

Which is immediately a a dangerous concept.   Having to go and talk to more than one person is always going to be a higher risk for a nincompoop like moi.

Max actually did a great job of lining up teachers one after another, arranging convenient time slots rather than just accepting random times and prolonging my pain.

So he did his job, and made mine simple, even writing down for me, turn up at this time, for this teacher.  What could possible go wrong?

However in a hall full of patient parents waiting to see teachers positioned at clearly marked desks positioned around them, I found myself sat opposite someone who had no idea why I’d sat down.

“Hello, I’m Max Newbold’s dad.”

And it was somewhere in the next few seconds when I realised – perhaps the teacher’s face gave it away – that that was all very nice, but I wasn’t due to see this teacher, not only at that time, nor at all that day.  I’m not sure they even teach my boy.

Luckily, as I seem immune to embarrassment these days, I fronted it out, despite a good few parents becoming amused and simultaneously crippled with embarrassment on my behalf.

I spent the rest of my time, double-checking with children I recognised, who was who, and confirming that Max was indeed in one of their classes.

Max’s reports and progress were all good, so he got a figurative A* for his first parents evening performance.  However I only managed, albeit with some aplomb I like to think, a rather humorous F.

I’ll add it to all the others I haven’t got.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Football League Family Club of the Year

This year I’m helping the Football League decide which of its 72 members deserves to be crowned their Family Club of the Year.

I’ll be part of a judging panel that will evaluate entries from football clubs of all three tiers of the Football League, and as well as recognising divisional winners, will look whose doing the best job of providing a quality experience for families.

Whilst plaudits and prestige are rightly awarded for the performance of football teams on the pitch, the Football League has recognised the importance of rewarding the efforts that go on off the pitch.

Families, and the attendance there of, are of vital importance to all Football League clubs in securing their long-term futures.  Without a future generation of supporters, who make a genuine difference and impact at any club, teams will struggle to compete and, possibly, even exist.


I love supporting one of my local teams, and I love it even more now that my son comes to games with me.

We actually generally go as a three-generation family, as it’s usually Max sandwiched by his dad and granddad at Walsall games.

I’m proud of how easy my club, The Mighty Saddlers, have made it for youngsters to come to games.  They were the first club in the country to introduce the concept of free football for all under-18s.

And the access they give to their players is second to none.  Fans regularly interact with them, as it is so clearly drilled that we are a community club that cares about its support.

Walsall Player, Romaine Sawyers with Max (mini-Tommy Bradshaw)


This will be my third time on the judging panel of the Football League Awards, and there have been many highlights, including seeing Portsmouth, despite their financial trouble, crowned Family Club of the Year in 2012.

Some of their initiatives were brilliant, and simply required effort rather than cash, as they were working on a zero budget basis.  My favourite was having an end of season camp out on their pitch.  Families were invited to play games, and set up a tent for a night out camping on the famous Fratton Park pitch at the end of the regular season.

Huddersfield Town have always impressed with their consistent work for families.  They created their own version of football cards for children as well as run the excellent Huddersfield Town XI vs 200 Kids match annually.

But initiatives don’t have to be huge.  In fact, when we visited Carlisle United last Easter, they were giving away a free single sweet to children coming through the away turnstiles.  Which led to one of my friend’s little girls ask if we could come every week!


I’m looking forward to seeing what clubs have come up with this year, and what they are offering to attract more local families to games.

Would also be great if you could share any good or bad experiences you’ve had with your local Football League team.

To help us decide who deserves the accolade this season.

Drop us a line, leave a comment, Tweet or visit my Facebook page to tell me more about your experience as a family visiting the football.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I Love My Nephew (and Jonny's Sister)

It was my nephew's Christening at the weekend.

He's approaching his first birthday, and it was about time that his arrival was something those that love him should get together and celebrate.

His parents did a marvellous job of arranging a Christening that one guest described as the Christening if Carlsberg did Christenings.

Enough said.

Even if I has my doubts when I was wrestling with a load of tangled balloons minutes before we should all have been in Church.

I'm in there somewhere

My nephew, Bertie, was the real star.

It's unbelievable how you seem to find new love for a new person, and there was a lot of love for him on Sunday, as I'm sure there will be forever.

I find it overwhelming at times how much I love Bertie, which is something I have in common with both my son Max, and my wife, Helen.

We couldn't love him any more.

The last 10 months or so have been an absolute treasure to have been part of. 

We love looking after Bertie.

His overnight stays here have been a mixture of tears, laughs, nappies and discovery (Probably shouldn't have coupled nappies with discovery).

However his 'sleeps' here have all been exhaustively brilliant.

I'm in awe of the way my sister has taken to parenthood.  She's a brilliant mum, and his dad is doing top job too.  Bertie really is one very lucky boy.

What do you get for the boy who you love so much it aches?

Whilst time and attention should always win out, there are times when material things can be very appropriate.

Times like Christenings.

I remembered back to what I've bought my own son, Max, for significant events in the past.  And also what I've bought another godson of mine.

It's so difficult to find something that isn't too cumbersome, truly is a gift in the sense as you wouldn't necessary buy yourself, and that will last a good length of time to perhaps become a treasured possession.

And my tip for such a present is Jonny's Sister.  I love Jonny's Sister.  Amongst other things, they make letter cushions to an unparalleled quality, which is important when you are looking for a gift that will stand the test of time.

My boy's 'M' is still proudly on display despite nearly being ten years old, and I hope Bertie's 'B' also can be treasured for many years to come too.


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