Come along for the ride!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Herbert Spencer was right

"Children all learn at different speeds".

How many times in these politically correct days have we heard those words?

"Don't worry if the other parents are saying that their child is already reading and yours isn't interested in books; all children will get there eventually". (Wherever 'there' is!).

I was talking to a teacher the other day about my concerns over certain pupils lack of basic skills and what were we able to do to help. After all, when you drop your child off at school, you fully expect them to be getting all the help they need in order to learn whatever it is they require to get into a desirable secondary school and from there, to enter the job market in an advantageous position.

What I was told pretty much boiled down to, 'not much'. It seems that unfortunately, if a pupil isn't on target to do well by then end of Year 5, then the attention of the school 'must turn' to children that are expected to do well.

"Eh? How does that work then?" I enquired.

She explained how the SAT's and Ofsted inspections were to blame. Consecutive governments (in their infinite wisdom), deem a school that does not meet a minimum target of (very high) grades as set by the government, to be a "failing" school and graded appropriately. As you are no doubt aware, these grades are published nationally in the form of league tables. Governments tick off the school governors, the governors tick off the Headteacher, the Headteacher ticks off the teachers and the teachers tick off nobody - they are the end of the line.

So what happens?

Teachers realise that in order to avoid all this telling off, filtering from Downing Street to their classrooms, they have to focus on the children that will do well; it really is the
survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, in the wake of the strong learners are the many who just don't get equivalent fractions; those who just don't know where to put their full stops and capital letters.

As a parent though, I can't help but feel slightly horrified by this set up. I mean, M and I both spend several hours each week reading with our children, having them (well, Joseph at the moment) read to us, working on writing, going through maths questions etc but I know for a fact that many of the children at school don't have anyone to go through their work with them; no-one to push them to achieve, to help them, to nurture them.

So if they're not getting the support at home and the schools can't afford to spare the time to bring them fully up to speed (which is the bottom line, let's face it), it would seem that their young lives are over before they've really started! If they walk out of primary school with vital knowledge missing, they sure ain't gonna be able to really catch up in secondary - I'm talking about the real basic building blocks of education.

Have you got children? Make sure you read to them, every day, hear them read to you, sit and go through their maths even if it isn't your strong point. Do whatever it takes to support their learning. On a daily basis I see what a busy and demanding day they have at school and they're only 4, 5, 6 .... 8, 9, 10 years old!!

Man, who'd be a kid again??


Blogger Alistair said...

Hullo there DOAB,

Really nice post.

Thank you for voicing a similar train of thought as myself about the concern of our younger generations education and the ability of society to nurture and reap the benefits of all the potential that they have.

I have to admit as I read your post and got to the part of 'you would expect them to be gettin all the help they need' that I was thinking "Er, No I wouldn't" as I thought you had a fundamental difference in attitude to my belief that the responsibility for maximising that potential is very firmly shared with the parents, with, in my view, most of the responsibility in fact resting with the parents.
I was glad when you went on to describe just that, perhaps without stating quite the same belief in responsibility level.
I believe that as a teacher you can only build on foundations that parents should be laying with the child and should be working hand in hand with them to get the best outcomes for the child.

Not every child will be a doctor or teacher or whatever but we should show them how to find out what they may be good at and at the same time keep doors open so that when a child or persons attitude or understanding changes there should be avenues left to enable them to achieve what they want.
Although not working in education, I think I understand and share some of your concerns on the grading and ratings system that we currently emphasise in our education system and I think I believe that this should in no shape or form be the be all and end all but should be seen in a wider context of modern society and our determination to make things work better.
I agree there is a real danger with the way it works currently in widening the gap between the educational have's and have nots and that needs to be addressed.

In my experience of working with children through the Childrens Hearings System in Scotland I often see children who are not able to get the best out of the education system and I find that they are almost totally without consistent support and encouragement from parents, working together on some aspects of education whether it be reading writing or 'rithmetic and through that to learn the behaviours of patience, consistency, application, respect and commitment to self and others, and to begin to learn to make choices on personal responsibility in a safe and supporting environment.

I read recently a report, from who I cant recall right now, that said that there is a clear correlation between reading in childhood and offending behaviour: Children who learn to read books do not in generl offend { although hopefully they can spell}

I believe that education should be there to show children how to open the doors of skill, achievement and understanding and help build personal and social responsibility. It wont do that without real joined up systems and behaviours by education, industry, arts and society itself.

Sorry if this is all a bit preachy and I can see my arguments are all over the place but its been a long day and your post triggered an instinctive response just as I was planning to go to bed {damn you! lol}

Anyway shouldn't you be in bed too on a school night? What kind of state are you going to be in to teach the bairns in the morning!!!

kind regards.........Al

1:24 am

Blogger Dad said...

Wow, your "comment" is nearly longer than my original post!!!

I think we agree more than I managed to describe actually. Foundations for learning undoubtedly starts with the parents; no question. Sadly however, all too often, I work (like yourself), with children whose parents either cannot read or write English and whose knowledge of maths is virtually non-existent. It was these children I was referring to.

Anyway, without wanting to get too political, I just wanted to express my disbelief at a system that has supposedly been honed over many decades yet still allows figures and results to get in the way of offering a helping hand to our future; our children.


8:08 pm


Post a Comment

<< Home