We need to empower kids to develop who they are

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There is something going on in Portsmouth that you may not know about.

In fact, you may have lived in the area for decades and still not have heard about it.

Staff at The Harbour School

Staff at The Harbour School

The Harbour School is a special school and pupil referral unit that is spread across five sites around the city.

It’s a place where teams of fantastic teachers, support and admin staff are working their socks off with some amazing children.

It’s perfectly possible that you’ve never had cause to question what happens to the young people who can’t access mainstream education in our city.

Yet Harbour is here, working quietly behind the scenes, catching the kids who fall through the gaps that mainstream can’t always provide for.

On each site, teams of highly-trained staff have the privilege of working with students who are bright, vivacious, determined, and deserving to succeed.

And Harbour goes far beyond delivering a diet of just maths and English.

Instead it ensures that as many curriculum subjects as possible are taught, and that as many qualifications as possible are attained by Year 11.

Staff at THS even teach emotional literacy, under the guidance of one of the school’s deputy directors, Catherine Walker.

She has put in place a system whereby social and emotional skills are taught to students and assessed so that skills such as managing feelings, resilience, empathy and motivation are developed and embedded.

Given the pressure that is placed on children today, right from Year R upwards, in all streams of education, this seems vital.

In amongst government changes to education and the lack of mental health funding that is provided for teenagers, what could be more relevant than empowering our kids to look after and develop the very person that they are, as opposed to only the academic results that they will achieve?

In a world where even five-year-olds are tested, do we not need to take both a break and a leaf out of the book of schools such as Harbour, and begin taking care of our selves – our real selves – for once?


It can’t be just me who simply dissolves into a puddle of love when I see my children sleeping.

There is something about your child, when they are at their most vulnerable, little lashes fanned across dream-flushed cheeks (and silent), that makes all the trials of the day slip away.

It’s the kind of inner peace that you experience when you miss them whilst they are at school.

Although I tend to find that this is easily shattered within a 30-second boundary of them hurtling headlong from the classroom.

But when they are snoozing, I think you can appreciate their wonder for that bit longer. Which leads me to think – would the world be a more peaceful place if we saw political leaders whilst they were having a nap?


Until last week, I was the Family Matters columnist for The News, so some of you may recognise me from my old Tuesday slot.

I must admit that I’m mildly embarrassed to be writing an introduction about myself for this new space, which is perhaps odd when you consider that many of you will have been reading my thoughts and opinions since late 2013.

I recall hearing once that unless you feel a certain sense of ‘eek!’ when you’ve written something, usually just as you’re pressing the ‘send’ button, then you’re probably not writing anything that’s worth reading.

I nearly always think ‘eek’, so hopefully you’ll find this column thought-provoking, at times poignant, and always entertaining on some level.