Bucks School Library Service

A blog by Gillian Polding, Area Manager, Children & Young Persons, Buckinghamshire Libraries.

Hi everyone,

I would like to introduce myself as I manage the young people’s library service for Buckinghamshire. This includes Bucks School Library Service.  I hope to be a regular contributor to your forum and am here to help in any way that I can.  In future blogs, I hope to be able to introduce new children’s book titles that you might find useful. One that comes to mind now is:

A free information book explaining the Coronavirus to children, illustrated by Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds.

This is freely accessible to anyone, so please spread the word.

View Book

Published by Nosy Crow, and written by staff within the company, the book has had expert input: Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine acted as a consultant, and the company also had advice from two head teachers and a child psychologist.

The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds:

  • What is the coronavirus?
  • How do you catch the coronavirus?
  • What happens if you catch the coronavirus?
  • Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus?
  • Is there a cure for the coronavirus?
  • Why are some places we normally go to closed?
  • What can I do to help?
  • What’s going to happen next?


Buckinghamshire School Library Service

Bucks School Library Service offers professional, friendly advice and practical support on all aspects of library resource provision. We offer the opportunity to hire books from us on an annual basis for your own library, saving you money and reducing the worry of books becoming worn, damaged or out of date. We also offer the termly hire of project collections. A project collection is a box of 20 books which support the teaching of the curriculum in the classroom. Each box is individually made up to the needs of the teachers and age range/ ability level of pupils. If you can’t find a package that meets your individual schools’ needs, we are happy to discuss your requirements with you and come up with a suitable alternative. The majority of our services are also available on a Pay as Used (PAU) basis which gives all schools the opportunity to make use of our resources.

Gillian Polding MCLIP

Area Manager Children and Young Persons

Buckinghamshire Council

01296 382273

Mobile 07720207010


Walton Street Offices, Walton Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UA


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Back to School

‘Twas the Night before Term – an ode to parents by Helen Shakespeare.

It’s the night before a new term starts and I’m remembering how I used to feel when my two were still in Primary school. As a procrastinator, the final Sunday was fraught with washing and ironing uniform, making packed lunches and discovering the PE kit was missing items that were too late to order. But the relief of dropping them off and knowing it was a temporary end to the frantic and seemingly endless activities that the holiday time contained. Despite being a teacher, I loved that feeling of, ‘over to you...’. In turn, I could have back, that feeling of being pleased to see them after school.

Now parents nationwide are not only having no break from their parenting but during school hours are having to switch from wearing a parent’s hat to a teacher’s for part of everyday. Aside from any teaching skills, it’s terribly confusing for both parties to have to adjust to the same person providing the teaching, the love, the discipline, the comfort, the food and so on. Many parents are also trying to juggle their own work as well as learn a new way of living in isolation with all the angst that brings. The excitement and relief of a new term starting has - this time - during lockdown, given parents a whole new Sunday night feeling.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you all in the great job you are doing:


‘Twas the Night before Term – an ode to parents by Helen Shakespeare


‘Twas the night before term, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The front doors were closed and the streets were all clear

The bins were all full of wine bottles and beer.


The children were playing on Playstations four

The parents on Netflix or Zoom rooms galore.

They all settled in with their daily routine

Protecting the nation from Covid 19.


When on their devices arose such a clatter,

They sprang from their chairs to see what was the matter.

Tonight was a Sunday, seen as a jewel

Until lockdown brought dread at the mention of school.


Farewell to the freedom and playground goodbyes,

Hello to the hell of the classroom online.

Tasks and assignments for feedback and ticks

And a rousing beginning with athlete Joe Wicks.


Some parents proudly announcing new skills

Others reportedly losing the will.

Would they emerge more fat or more fit?

Or had they decided they don’t give a sh*t?


Dreading the watchful eyes of the staff

As they take on the role, on their teacher’s behalf.

“How come we never learnt that way at school?

Grid methods, chunking and algebra rules?”


How come my child had such glowing reports

When all I get now is disdainful retorts?

Never again will I whinge at the school

When my little angel has broken a rule.


Sleepless and anxious to complete all the tasks

While remotely at work or sewing some masks.

Dressing the top half for meetings on line

While forcing the kids to learn as they whine.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the street

The clapping and cheering and pans with a beat,

As I opened the door to tumultuous exhort

Of NHS staff and key workers support.


Among these tough times of self-isolation

We’ve joined as a team, throughout the whole nation.

Sharing and giving not seen since the war

Epitomised in actions from Captain Tom Moore.


So, while we dig deep for our strength and true grit,

Dreading the weeks and trying not to quit,

Look for the blessings, be patient, take heart,

You are being amazing and doing your part.


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Choose to Feel Safe

A blog on our response to trauma from Helen Shakespeare.

Is anyone feeling tired even though your daily activity load has decreased? It’s most likely a response to trauma. It’s not possible to combat the virus actively (fight), it’s not possible to run away from it (flight), so the body goes into ‘play dead’ (freeze) mode. It’s an avoidance coping strategy. Isolation, together with the nature of the virus, has robbed us of our coping mechanisms. Added to and embedded in this traumatic situation we are facing is the fact that enforced lockdown has robbed us of choice. It’s one thing to choose to stay at home and tend to the house or garden, but quite another to feel it’s obligatory. Systems in the workplace sometimes cheat us of choices, but home is where we are meant to feel autonomy. It is well documented that an increase in freedom boosts morale. It is therefore safe to say that the removal of choice will lower morale. According to self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci), needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness must be met in order to enhance levels of self-motivation. Could this be adding to our feelings of fatigue?

So, faced with this new predicament my brain raced to find any history of coping mechanisms I had previously known. It led me back to a time when my daughter was seriously unwell and it was this connection that led to me creating the ‘SAFE’ resource  in the hope of helping; helping not just teenagers, but staff and parents, grandparents and children.

A few years ago, my daughter was self-isolated. I mean this in the strictest sense; she isolated herself due to mental health issues that were drowning her. She chose to self-isolate; she separated herself from friends; she saw no point in getting up; no point in dressing; in washing or in attending to the most basic self-care needs. I know from some friends that these symptoms are included in the list of things people are battling with at this time of lockdown. The part of recovery that has relevance here, was an activity which required her to plan for just four things in her day. One had to be purposeful; one relating to achievement; one to closeness with someone and one for enjoyment. It was based on neuroscience research and the brain being triggered into the production of chemicals that enhance our well-being; achievement triggers dopamine; purpose, serotonin; connection, oxytocin and exercise or enjoyment, endorphins. Choosing her own daily goals enabled her to feel autonomy and a boost to her morale. Not only did she feel as though she was achieving things of purpose, but her day began to have structure and by recording her chosen activities she could also measure an element of progress. I have adapted this to form a daily planning activity under the apt acronym of SAFE. Exercise is included on account of its raised importance at a time when none of us can go to the gym or park  - our usual places.

The SAFE activity ends with choosing three blessings. Research has shown that being thankful is beneficial to our well-being. At Aspire AP we practice this at our daily de-brief, even after the toughest of days. It takes some discipline to begin with, before a habit is formed. After a while, your brain becomes trained to look for the positives during the day itself.

Tired we may be - out of sorts – but we must be kind to ourselves. Read more about how the brain deals with trauma and use the knowledge to be understanding of how you are feeling. Find a way that suits you to plan in the positive ingredients to nurture yourself, give you purpose and help you to connect with others. Give yourself permission to rest. Despite our locked down situation, we have in fact got a lot of choice.

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Dress to Suppress (the Monotony)

To relish the decadence of spending the days in pyjamas or to get yourself brushed and dressed? Senior Education Psychologist, Jenny Feeney, of Bucks County Council, argues that what we choose to wear is more significant than we might realise.

I hate running. But I consider it a necessary evil as it is free and can fit around my schedule. My first attempts at running came when I was living in Camden. I found running around streets that were populated 24-7 entirely embarrassing… and I gave up quickly. Finally, I decided to buy myself some actual running gear. It seemed strange but the mere act of putting on my running clothes gave me the anonymity I needed. I suddenly felt that people probably didn’t assume I was crazy or wonder why I was running around the streets but assumed that I was in fact a ‘runner’. And I felt, for those 30 minutes twice a week, that just maybe, I was a ‘runner’.

Like it or not, clothes play an important role in our social interactions. Clothes provide our brain with cues to people’s behaviours – think, ‘Oh that man is walking up to the house because he is a postal worker’ versus ‘Why is that man walking up to the house?’ And research shows clothes may even influence our own behaviour. Those who know me at work may have spotted my adherence to this view. They may recognise the range of outfits I wear for different roles; the suited and booted leader outfits for big events; the gender neutral shirt and jacket for working with secondary schools; the softer, brighter jumpers and dresses for primary schools; and the dangly earrings and long skirts for when I just plain need to channel the airy fairy psychologist :). My clothes allow me to project myself into who or what I need to be each day.

And so, even in lockdown I continue to use clothing to help me navigate that ‘groundhog day’ feeling. My full running gear comes out to help me match Joe Wicks’ energy during his daily torture sessions. My work clothes go on to remind my brain that even though I am sitting on my bed, I am in fact at work. And on Saturday nights, myself and my two little girls get our glad rags on… because lockdown or not the Feeney girls enjoy a party at the weekend.

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It’s OK Not To Be OK

A blog by Jenny Murray, CAMHS Link Psychologist for Aspire AP, Bucks.

I had a very irrational response last week to not being able to join a meeting online. Technology. This is a new problem, I cannot blame the traffic! I just couldn’t get it to work and I got really cross...with nobody, because there was nobody to get cross with. The computer said no!

Luckily, humour is never far from my reach and I managed to laugh at myself and then had a lovely conversation with the meeting organiser. I shared my crazy five minutes with her, inviting us both to laugh at me and reflecting that everyone seems a little more sensitive than usual lately. National emergency, life threatening, collective trauma, crisis, disaster, catastrophic loss, uncertainty. These are the messages we are hearing day in, day out.

The overarching message is that we are not safe going about our lives as we were. We have to change everything. We don’t have past experiences to draw upon, to help us to navigate through this, we have never experienced anything like this before. We don’t really understand how things will be in the future, what the time frames are or what ‘normal’ will actually look like in the future.

For now, we are adjusting to a new normal that feels alien and frankly very strange. This situation is impacting on all aspects of our lives. Social media and remote ways of staying connected can be both a blessing and a curse. Sharing humour, positivity and support, connecting communities, supporting the more vulnerable and generally reaching out to each other and doing what we were told we should be doing some weeks ago – being kind.

On the down side there can be an implicit message in all the positivity sharing, that if you are not feeling OK, that is not OK. What concerns me somewhat is that we are hearing not just about threats to our physical health and that of the people we care about, but also to our mental health. I say this cautiously, as I would not want to invalidate people’s experiences of poor mental health or to downplay the potential impact on our wellbeing; but distressing experiences lead to distressing feelings.

It is entirely understandable to feel sad, worried, fearful and uncertain during times of uncertainty and when there is a very real threat that we are constantly reminded of. We are adjusting to something we have no template for. Many of us in the professions we work in are ‘do-ers’ and ‘fixers’. We help people learn and grow and feel better; we nurture and coach. It speaks to our core values. It feels important and meaningful and it feels like this is what we should be doing, because ultimately helping others helps us. So now, many are feeling that they lack purpose they feel guilty and a little lost. We express this in different ways. My daughter (9) asked me on Easter Sunday if I was able to speak to people I knew who were in Heaven. I asked her why and she said she wants to know if it is OK up there. When I go to the shop she calls me after about fifteen minutes, “When will you be back mummy, I miss you”. Fifteen minutes....

We are all in this together but our stories are not the same, so while we adjust and find comfort in collective experiences and connections with others that are either entirely new or are strengthened, we should bear in mind that it is OK not to feel OK. Yes, it is helpful to have a structure to your day, and get exercise, read more, get the jobs done we haven’t done and start that new hobby... this is the real world, some days it is OK not to feel OK, to not give in to the ‘should do’s’ and to ask ourselves, what do I need, just for now? The rule book has been thrown out, we are writing a new one. If ever there was a time to put your own mask on before attending to someone else’s, it is now.

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A blog post by Nick Fanshaw, Year 5 Teacher, St Paul’s Chipperfield

What would your legacy be?

Could this crisis offer a unique opportunity to consider how we truly wish to be remembered?

As these turbulent times play out, a shadow from within rears itself to question us; to question our purpose; to question our morality.  If today were your last day – if now was all that you held within your hand… would you be satisfied with who and what you were?  And who and what you’d become?  Would you feel you’d left enough on this blank canvas we all arrived on – so someone else could admire your metaphorical painting in fifty, a hundred or even five hundred years to come?

We are all ants in this labyrinth of life; we are all numbers and statistics.  By nature we like order and clarity – numbers are just that.  Yet I pose the question: are you a prime number, a number below ten or are you four hundred and seventy four thousand, eight hundred and twenty one?  A number you’ve just read but as this line reaches its climax - a number you will not be able to recount.  Herein lies my issue with the society we have become.  We should now feel embarrassed about two things.  Keeping up with the Joneses and taking for granted the pure simplicity in which life should be loved and appreciated.  Like Mary Schmich states in her commencement speech (made famous in Baz Luhrmann’s song), ‘The race is long, and in the end, only with yourself!’

The journey you take is about those moments on the way.  Those moments enable me to forge a legacy in prose and pictures.  I savour those times – the simplicity of what flows in writing and the inspiration that leaves its imprint on me.  A summer breeze or the notes through my headphones on a dark, quiet evening.  That makes me - me!  When you can saviour the freebies of life – then you’re well on the road to fulfilment – well on your way to understanding what your legacy is.

We’ve never had such a sustained period of time for self-reflection. Never have we had to deal with this much introspection because life has become too busy.  Who are you?  What are you about?  What would you say your legacy will be?  I am not immune to soul-searching but I haven’t had to search too far.  It’s given me this transparency – it’s almost cleansing. I feel refreshed and know that, no matter what the next year brings, what I leave behind in the end – whenever the end is – is something that I stood for and something I was proud of.  That’s not to say I’m not worried about my family, friends and children I teach – I really am - but don’t feel guilty at this moment to take stock of you.  I hope this time shapes people, makes people kinder, makes people appreciate life’s minimalism, makes people learn more about what they want from life and how they want to be remembered in years to come.  I hope it also makes everyone do those things they’ve always wanted to do but never tried.  As bleak as times are – there are positives to be gained from this isolation – the self-reflection and questioning could be exactly what you need to prosper in the future.

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An open letter to my Aspire Family by Debra Rutley.

Dear Aspire Family,

That we call ourselves a family is something I love and feel really proud of.

Right now, I’m missing my family.

I’m missing the guaranteed warmth, love and connection that awaits at every school site.

I’m missing your smiles, laughter and even hugs!

I feel the loss that our students must feel without you.

You have been my family for almost 20 years and I don’t say enough how much I appreciate being and working with you all.

Reminiscing, as families do, on our good times, especially the Revival Days at the end of every year brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh out loud. Being silly, not self -conscious and a good sport made these days wonderful memories to cherish. My favourites were the full staff flash dance, singing to Britney, the money wind tunnel and so much laughter with and at each other. We all have favourite memories and stories and we have loads of them.

The big magic moments of team days are not what knits us together. We are connected through the everyday joy and love, the little things we notice and do and our shared values.

You do small things that change lives and show that no matter what, you are still there day after day. Forgiveness is a given, tough conversations can happen, we can make mistakes, we support not judge and we have each other’s backs.

Our students and visitors feel this too. We embody those motivational pictures and carved words that many families aspire to “love lives here”. People see the values in our behaviours and people know where we come from.

When times are tough and challenging for us as a group, individuals or for our families there is guaranteed support, sometimes from an unexpected corner and often from lots of corners.

Right now, we are acting like the whole world is part of our family asking our usual red thread questions:

“What if that was my child?”

“What if that was my sister?”

And as usual we are asking:

“How can I help?”

And we are helping our whole community.

Thank you for being that family people would want to choose.


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When all the rules have changed: Is shouting the new norm?

Reflections on changing behaviour patterns and the ‘new normal’ from Educational Psychologist Jenny Feeney of Bucks County Council.

In my mid 30s I had the opportunity to move overseas. Emigrating was exhilarating but I totally underestimated the impact it would have on my sense of self in the world. From the moment we are born we are constantly creating ‘schemas’ that help us to predict what the world looks like and how others will behave. And suddenly, those years of internalising closely observed social rules throughout my childhood weren’t so useful in a sea of people who were socialised using different schemas… Our brains are marvellous things but the short-cuts that allow us to function also create errors in our thinking. We seek those who behave in familiar ways and are suspicious of those who behave differently to us. And so, we land on unhelpful prejudices such as, ‘New Yorkers are rude’, whereas those same New Yorkers considered me (someone to whom the adjectives ‘over confident’ and ‘bossy’, have been liberally applied) to be shy and incapable of getting myself heard. Wow, it was a learning curve just to get my order in at the local bagel store.

So, fast forward a few years, having returned to the UK and ‘normality’ I once again find myself in a whole new culture… one of physical distancing. Suddenly it is ‘normal’ to stand apart from people, give them a wide berth in the street or supermarket aisle, have no physical contact, not help them to reach things on the supermarket shelf even! When I go out to the supermarket I find myself worrying that people must find me rude, stand-offish, even strange. Somehow I don’t fit it all over again. And having never been someone you might consider ‘bubbly’ I find putting on a smile you can spot at 6 feet to be excruciating!  

I think it is important to recognise how important those subconscious schemas are for managing our anxiety and knowing how to behave. We are in a world where it feels as though there are no ‘social schema’… even the ‘going to the supermarket schema’ has to be re-written.  But one thing experience and research has told me is that people are resilient, our brains will adjust and we will incorporate these new ways of living into new schemas to be kept ‘on file’ for the future. And in the meantime? Well we can’t be getting it ‘wrong’ and we can influence what becomes the new ‘socially acceptable’. So I’m off to practise shouting ‘HOW YOU DOING?!’ from 6 feet away... it seemed to work in Brooklyn anyway.

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