Last week, my daughter brought home from nursery a document produced by Cardiff Council setting out the school admissions process for 2015/16. Next Monday, 13th of October, the application window for admission to reception class opens. As someone who has been asking Cardiff Council for a Welsh medium primary school in Grangetown for some time, I was disappointed that we have reached this point with the council still to reveal their plan to deliver the 60 reception class places promised in their latest WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) document. In fairness those places are planned for the 2016 intake but we were also told that a temporary starter school would be established but there is no mention of that either. We had hoped that the council’s cabinet member for Education, Julia Magill, would offer some update to the process when the council returned from it’s summer break but there is still no sign of any progress, so it looks like we will have to apply to send our daughter to Ysgol Pwll Coch in Canton, as there is still no school in Grangetown for her.
While we wait with baited breath for Cardiff council’s next move, I thought I would look at some of the options for a new welsh medium primary school in Grangetown, who knows, it might even give Councillor Magill and her officers an idea or two.
Channel View Centre
The first option is the the only one that featured in Cardiff Council’s public engagement consultation earlier in the year, and it has faced stiff opposition from users of the centre who fear the loss of leisure facilities and residents who fear traffic congestion on Ferry Road and Jim Driscoll Way. Nevertheless it is the only site on the short list that was in Grangetown, and suitable for a new two form entry school. Given that the council’s cabinet members for education and leisure have issued a statement confirming that a school at Channel View would better safeguard sports and leisure services than a stand alone centre, as currently exists, lets assume they would provide a mixed school/community facility. There are examples of schools combined with community facilities that can be accessed not only after school and during holidays but during the school day as well. However the site is quite small to accommodate all this and I think the building will need to be expanded to allow the retention of assets such as the sports hall. To save space, the building could include a rooftop playground like this Elementary school in central Los Angeles. I would try to retain the recently installed outdoor all weather pitch.
The former gas works, adjacent to the Ikea store off Ferry Road, was not included on the short list for the engagement process but was on the long list of sites that were discounted for various reasons. This site has been talked about frequently as a possible site for a new school, but Cardiff council does not own the site and it would likely be expensive to remediate the historically contaminated land. A school here would depend on a developer taking on the site for residential and the council negotiating the provision of a school. Although the site is much larger than Channel View, and so could conceivably provide a more spacious setting for a school, a developer is unlikely to be keen on taking on the expense of remediation only to have the lion’s share of the site taken over by a school, so I have shown the school occupying around a quarter of the 10 hectare site which would still allow a decent amount of outside space and the opportunity of a less “high rise” building.
Land Adjacent to Clive Street Lane and Ikea
The third site is a wild card, the long strip of land between Clive Street Lane, the Ikea store and the railway line, it was included on the long list in Cardiff Council’s engagement document. I am not quite sure exactly why this site was discounted. but I assume that most of the sites on the long list were discounted for a combination of size and the cost to develop them. The size of the site is actually quite good at 2.2 hectares but the shape and the challenge of some significant changes in level make this quite a challenging site, but I think that’s what makes the site interesting. I also think that the development of what is currently derelict waste land would benefit the adjacent Clive Street lane, which is subject to persistent fly tipping and other anti social behaviour. Perhaps making the lane a little more overlooked and upgrading it’s surroundings would have a beneficial effect.
I hope that we hear of more progress towards a new school for Grangetown soon and my great hope is that the problems this project has faced can be transformed into an opportunity to design something innovative and special that we can be proud of.
*I produced the (very) rough 3D sketch models shown here using Autodesk Formit*
Yesterday, I was dressing my daughter, when I made a decision to put her in an item of clothing purely to identify her as a female.
There were some jeans out, also a nice blue hoody, and as I am always being told by my wife to use clothes that are already out that left me with just socks, shoes and a t-shirt to choose. Wait. Mum’s already put some socks on her and instructed me that she needs to get some wear from a pair of trainers before she grows out of them. So just a t-shirt then. First on the pile were some summer vests (discounted – it’s Autumn now, there’s a nip in the air), but what caught my eye was quite a cool little t-shirt with a guitar on the front. Wait. Trainers, jeans, t-shirt, hoody – she’s going to look like a boy!
The whole blue/pink, boy/girl thing was something we had tried to avoid from the beginning – we decided not to find out the gender of our baby until the birth, so we bought clothes that we liked and would be happy to put on a boy or a girl – apart from some gifts and hand-me-downs this means not much pink. Since becoming a parent I have discovered that although baby clothes departments are split down the middle, blue and pink, if you manage to find baby clothes in any other colours – red, green, orange, yellow, purple – they also indicate “male”. Something else you discover when you become a parent, is that strangers will talk to you about your baby, and in doing so, they will reveal the gender they believe your child to be. In the case of our daughter, strangers, checkout operators, old ladies at bus stops, healthcare professionals who haven’t read their notes and don’t know whether her name is a boy or a girl’s name, inevitably judge her to be a boy. I usually don’t bother to correct them, just smile and nod, and don’t worry too much about it but I think the sheer weight of numbers is getting to me. When she was a baby, I thought that it was a 50/50 and people were just guessing wrong, but it’s every time. “He looks just like you.” “Would he like a balloon?” “Need a high chair for the little man?” Today, at a car boot sale a stall holder invited us to “just let him have a rummage” through her box of toys, despite the fact that our daughter was wearing a dress!
The little lady is now at an age where she no longer wears “baby” clothes like baby grows and rompers, she is now a toddler and clothing styles are far more distinct for boys and for girls, even t-shirts and trousers are cut differently (despite body shapes still being broadly similar at this age), and are embellished with cars and monkeys for boys, and flowers and butterflies for girls. But perhaps I’m putting too much importance on clothes, that is what we always think about when we walk away from one of these encounters, “But she’s wearing girly jeans” we protest. Do people look close enough to tell the difference between boy jeans and girl jeans? I do know that people often point out her resemblance to me, so maybe they make a subconscious connection – I am a very manly man after all. Then again the child minder has been complimented on her son’s smile (not her actual son, my son… err, daughter).
So in the meantime, I’m using Hello Kitty t-shirts as a gender indentifier, boys don’t wear Hello Kitty right?
Maybe she just looks like a boy, maybe she’s an ugly duckling (she’s not – she’s beautiful).
I haven’t written anything for a while, but I feel like I should write about my experiences, so far, of fatherhood, or more specifically, additional paternity leave.
My daughter’s first birthday is fast approaching, and I feel very fortunate to have been allowed to spend much more time with her, thanks to new paternity leave rules, than other fathers might have.
My wife and I decided before our daughter was born, that I would take the last three months of our parental leave allocation, but up until I actually started my leave, I wasn’t really sure what it would be like. How would we spend our days? Would she nap without her Mum? How would she cope without fresh breastmilk?
The answer was that we would work it out for ourselves. We play, read books, go for walks, go to the cinema, even do housework (not as much as mummy would like!) and lots more.
We have the occasional bad day, but we have fun, we should, we’re both easily amused. I came with the attitude that we were going to have a good time, and I think that was easier knowing that it was just for three months.
I wanted to be organised and ordered but preparation didn’t go well, Mojo was having a flare of her Crohns over christmas, so I was firefighting from the get go. But as time went on, I have tried to plan what we might do the next day or in the coming week, although I have also found it is best not to plan to do too much, as I will inevitably be waylaid by a poo-plosion or some such. Some of the small things I enjoy that I didn’t think much about are; picking out clothes and dressing her and putting a clean nappy on her. The second of these sounds odd, but it is, I think, a combination of the slightly smug self satisfaction that comes with being a cloth nappy parent, and the sense of achievement at having changed a nappy! No, seriously, I think it is a good feeling when I have made her clean and comfortable. It feels good to care for my child.
I’ve learnt a lot, it has made me closer to my daughter and even, I think, made us better parents.
I have enjoyed it so much I have asked about cutting my hours at work so we can spend more time together…. and have more fun!