Friday, 26 February 2010

The Horse Boy

"When parents say they would go to the ends of the Earth to help their children, it's usually a figure of speech. But that is literally what Rupert Isaacson does with his wife and their five-year-old autistic son in The Horse Boy, the story of an American family's quixotic journey to the far reaches of Mongolia. It's a film that will both captivate and divide audiences.

The emotionally stirring feature documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, then went on to play the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex., (where it won the audience prize) and Toronto's Hot Docs before Isaacson's autobiographical book of the same title was published in May.

So the film is not based on the best-selling book but is an essential travel companion, providing lyrical moving images of a landscape and people rarely visited by outsiders and, more importantly, the editorial “distance” of director-cinematographer Michel Orion Scott's lens.
Isaacson is the driving force behind both book and film. A journalist and human-rights activist who has written non-fiction books about the Kalahari Desert bushmen, Isaacson was living outside Austin with his wife Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, when their son Rowan was born in 2001. At age two, he was diagnosed with autism. The feeling, Isaacson says in the narration, was “like being hit over the head with a baseball bat.”

As Rowan began “drifting away,” his inconsolable tantrums growing worse, he also developed a profound bond with animals, in particular a neighbour's stubborn old horse. Isaacson, who trained horses when he was young and had witnessed the Kalahari bushmen solve health and spiritual problems through shamanic healing, hatches a plan to take the family to Mongolia, where horseback riding and shamanism remain strong traditions with its nomadic peoples.

Isaacson received a hefty publishing advance, allowing him to finance the 2007 trip and hire Scott, with whom he was collaborating on a different project. (Most of the advance was used afterward to found an equestrian centre.) To some, this will smack of a vanity project, and indeed Isaacson, the film's producer, is cast as the central romantic figure. But Scott's choices in the field and with the editor allow room for viewers to decide whether Isaacson is a humble father-hero or reckless, self-absorbed dad.

At a few key points, a chorus of leading experts interjects to help define autism (typically described as a spectrum of neuro-developmental disorders) and its behaviours – some of which we see through flashbacks to Rowan's home life. More interestingly, the experts reflect on the notion of using animals for healing, how environmental change can “spike” development, and how differently Western and traditional societies treat people with neurological and psychological issues.

While it's clear Rowan's parents aren't expecting to cure their son – the mother's role is the reluctant but loving skeptic – you feel keenly that they hope for some kind of miracle. As the trek progresses, they reveal more modest dreams: Isaacson would like Rowan to feel the “freedom” of riding by himself; Neff would like him to be toilet-trained.

Various breakthroughs (Rowan befriends their guide-interpreter's son) and setbacks happen on the journey, which culminates in a fascinating encounter with the nomadic reindeer people and their legendary shaman.

While The Horse Boy does not suggest parents should emulate Isaacson – indeed few would have the luxury or the nerve – or eschew Western-style treatments, the film's particular story serves as a powerful reminder to all parents that a child's unique strengths and personality may suggest the best path toward healing."

by Jennie Punter

Published on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 1:28PM EST

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Sure Start staff could opt out and be in a co-operative, say Tories

Staff at government Sure Start centres will be the first in the public sector to be able to opt out of their current employment and sell their services back to the taxpayer through co-operatives or as partners with a charity if the Conservatives win the next election.

David Willetts, the shadow minister for universities and skills – with special responsibility for families – outlined the plan today, claiming public sector employees had failed to help the poor.

The Conservatives say that Sure Start was meant to focus money, nursery staff and health visitors on pre-school children in poor areas. Labour has, however, pumped around £1bn a year into the programme, whichby March will see 3,500 centres covering all under-fives in England.

"There's evidence that [we] have lost the focus on the families who most need the help," Willetts said.

He also said that the government had spent £70m to hire outreach workers in disadvantaged areas but that the National Audit Office had shown that more money had not seen a rise in the amount of time spent actively targeting hard-to-reach families. Willetts told a conference organised by the charity 4Children that the Tories would focus on health visitors to identify the most needy and then get them to work with co-operatives and charities to reach some of the hardest cases, win their trust and tailor services to their particular needs.

The "co-operative" message fits a Conservative agenda, he said, to prise control from government and put it into the hands of third-sector organisations which are an attractive source of "competition, innovation and localism".The Tories said that they were looking at setting up an "early years unit" in government to fund the co-operatives. "I think quite a lot of the early years budget is stuck in the hands of local authorities without ever reaching the hands of the parents," he said.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010


"The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions." Thich Nhat Hanh

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
Mohandas Gandhi

“Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don't worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.”
Sara Paddison

Loreena McKennit The Mummer's Dance

Monday, 22 February 2010

For School Business Managers

Practical Tools to Support Professional School Business Managers on a CD-ROM


Organised for easy reference according to the key areas of responsibility, the documents provide comprehensive support to school business managers (SBMs).
All documents can be adapted, saved or printed off.

The role of the SBM
- Template job descriptions and adverts: School Business

- Checklists: SBM tasks and areas of responsibility; Certificate of School Business Management; Diploma of School Business Management; Advanced Diploma of School Business

- Table: Senior leadership team; Senior members of staff; Who does what

Strategic Leadership and School improvement
- Checklists: Inspection; The role of the SBM and SIDP; Extended services

- Diagrams: Single Integrated Development Plan (SIDP) front cover; Single Integrated Development Plan (SIDP) strategic level plan

- Tables: SIDP organisational level plan; SIDP Operational level plan sample; The SBM role in school inspections; Self evaluation timing plan; Common purpose (purchasing); Links with other schools; E-procurement collaboration; Job titles in LAs; Outsourcing services; Voluntary organisations; RAISEonline: key features of the report; Useful data to keep to hand; Key terms you need to know; Age-related expectations; Tracking sheet; Progress sheet log

Financial management and FMSiS made simple
- Checklist: Evaluating services for value
- Template policy: Procurement procedures and VFM
- Diagram: Asset Management System
- Tables: School capital plan; Register of assets; The budget setting timeline; BBudget tracking; Demonstrating best value principles

HR management
- Checklists: Recruitment; Clearance of new staff
- Forms: Safeguarding central record example

Facilities/estate management
- Checklists: Equipment maintenance; Reporting equipment costs and issues to governors; Handling lettings bookings
- Case studies: Building schools for the future; Green Flag award for sustainability; Minibus maintenance; Extended schools provision; Safety and maintenance of equipment

Risk management
- Forms: Major health and safety acts; Health and safety regulations; Risk assessment matrix; Health and safety policy
- Policy: Risk assessment

The companion handbook includes guidance on the law and good
practice, including:
- Every Child Matters
- Safeguarding
- Financial planning
- Models of working for SBMs
- Career development and qualifications
- Self-evaluation and school improvement planning and
- Managing partnerships with other schools, the local authority,
local services and for extended services
- Data for learning
- Pay
- Budgeting
- Asset management
- School status
- Marketing and communications
- Copyright
- Sustainable schools
… and much more.


Forum Business Media Ltd, Unit F3, Kingsway Business Park, Oldfield Road, Hampton,
Middlesex TW12 2HD, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 8941 8589,

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Ofsted to privatise nursery inspections

'The inspection of nurseries and childcare in England is to be privatised, Ofsted has confirmed. The inspectorate for education and children's services is in the final stages of selecting private companies to run the checks. Tribal Group has been made the "preferred bidder" for one area of England, it is understood, but further announcements are expected. '
I received the above information yesterday via e-mail.
To be able to read more about this announcement, one has to register and login via these links. The registration is a three steps procedure as follows:

To be able to read any other information which is included on the list of announcements doesn’t require registration and login. I am not sure why one has to register and login to access this information where as the other links require no login at all.

The other announcements were:
56 Local Authorities Have Been Chosen To Pilot The Early Years Single Funding Formula

EYFS rules for playworkers threatens holiday provision

Linda Gilroy MP says ‘Shout out for a sure start’