As a parent, I’ve got two boys in Year 2 and Year 3. As someone just getting back into teaching after several years out, I see the other side of the picture too.
The pressure is more intense than it was just a few years ago, both for the children and the staff. The basic problem is that most children are expected to do work that just isn’t appropriate for them, at their level of learning and development. If I had to teach my own boys in the classroom, I know I’d be tearing my hair out. They are bright, active boys who, like all children, learn through hands-on activities and following their interests. The current school system is only designed to measure what they are able to put down on paper, which shows just a small fraction of their true capabilities.
We’ve got things the wrong way round. Schools are preparing children for the test system, supporting them to pass tests and tick boxes, rather than preparing the school environment to meet children’s needs and provide a rounded education where every child can achieve and feel confident in their abilities.
School doesn’t give them a break. They do enough at school, but in the holidays they come home with two sides of Maths and English homework, when they should just be relaxing and learning through play. That self-directed time is so important when they are still so young.
I know schools are under pressure, but the pressure gets passed on to us, the parents. We don’t always believe that what they are learning at school is the best thing for them, but all the same we worry whether we’re doing enough to help them with their homework – the fronted adverbials, the subjunctives and so on. You start to think ‘maybe my child should know this’ or ‘maybe these test scores are important’ when really we should be focused on making sure that our children are happy and healthy, excited and self-motivated to learn. This is what that they will need for their lives ahead and these are the things that cannot be measured by tests.