I have been trying very hard not to write this post! I wanted to write something positive, inspiring and helpful. But I realised that in order to do that I must first be honest, put my hand up and admit I am truly frustrated – even angry – with what I am experiencing with the school my daughter is attending.
This is a school just rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted.
It is possible that I am over analysing this but the emotion is real and keeps returning. I may be the only person in the world who thinks, feels and believes this but I am going to write it anyway. In doing so it releases me to post part 2 of this blog which will be my thoughts on how schools and education can inspire our children irrespective of an Ofsted grade.
I loved the fact that when it snowed my daughters class were allowed to go out and play. They were so excited by this seemingly amazing gift. They have a NQT who is great and you can tell she still has the ambition of wanting to be in education. This comes across beautifully to the children.
There was another day recently when after weeks of asking “how was your day?” the reply was not “fine” as usual but “epic”. Wow what had happened on this epic day? It transpired that they had spent all morning doing art and all afternoon doing P.E no boring writing! A REWARD for having spent the previous week doing tests.
I loved these 2 days. The children were excited and the rest of the day at home was fun and creative. Hurrah, but shouldn’t this be everyday?
Sadly these are only 2 days out of the norm. So what is the norm? Lots of Literacy and Maths. Lots of sitting and writing just because that’s what is needed. Doing important learning for the future. Created by a system of rules and testing to make all children fit into a preconceived one size fits all way of learning.
For me there is the blind lack of understanding and unfathomable logic. For example we have just had World Book Day. A great song and dance was made and we had to create character related costumes that our children could wear to school. In assembly we were shown slides of each class. I wholly support these kind of days, I think the creative part should be done at school not left to the parents but that’s another story!
But the real story is this. Yes it was a good day. But my daughter is so bored with having to read the school reading scheme that our home school reading is on many occasions a real struggle. I have found it very hard to support her and seemingly support the school in their home school agreement we had to sign at beginning of each year with regards to homework.
The reality of the schools interest in this is that her teacher has listened to her read these school books 4 times this academic year! It is us as her parents who do this work. We are very well placed to know what she is capable of. When she asks why can’t I be a free reader the true answer would not be very supportive of the school system. So we have a fine line to tread. Instead we enjoy reading lots of other books together. We decided to not fight about reading the dreary school books with her and focus on enjoyment. It helps us all. During this time she received a Head Teachers Award for using great words and descriptive writing at school. This was just after she had read a book at home that she loved. You could argue why not read both the school reading scheme and your own books. I would say life is too busy and short to waste time and energy on being uninspired and fighting about something that is bringing everyones energy down at the end of the day just because you are told so! Tell me the purpose beyond ‘it is what we do because of the system’ and I’ll take some interest.
Why take part in a book day to inspire reading but not allow a pupil to grow and thrive in reading books that are interesting, relevant and fun. I want this wave of enthusiasm to be encouraged and supported not drained out by an old ideal of learning.
Red nose day is coming up and the children were told to bring in a £1 donation for a nose. But the school did not buy enough for every child so our experience of this fun charity opportunity was lots of disappointed pupils being told at the office that they didn’t have any left. A very deflating start to the day? Yes more red noses could be bought but why would a school not put the children first and create a system that meant every child had the chance to get what they had been promised. It would hardly be difficult to buy 1 per child and only allow each child to buy 1 nose. The worse case scenario is that nobody buys any noses and therefore the school has given the money to charity, but is that really likely?
A small thing but it constantly demonstrates that it is not the children that are the first thing to be considered when making decisions.
In assembly this morning it was announced that the school had sent a team to a netball tournament. When we were told they came last a member of the senior management said but it’s ok because we only had one practice and we are proud of you.
My thoughts immediately rang out with ARE YOU LISTENING to yourself.
You are actually saying you were not prepared. We didn’t support you with the skills needed to do your best. Sport is not important we have other things that fill up our time.
Why is it ok to spend the best part of a year preparing children for SATS by doing endless past papers but not give them the skills for a sports event?
Are you interested in the children or just the schools ranking on a table? Is it not possible to do both?
The examples are endless and tiring. I feel better for acknowledging my feelings and bewilderment in what I experience.
I think you need a completely different approach, outlook and focus.
I have previously spoken to the school about these and similar situations. I encourage my daughter to express herself to the teachers. But sadly the culture is of fear not growth. Children want to be good and don’t want to be told off, she wants to do the right thing. But it is not her right thing but what she believes is right in the eyes of the school. It is very hard to support your child to be true to themselves when they spend so much of their time in school with a culture that is driven by right and wrong. Getting things right is good making mistakes is bad. Speaking up for yourself is hard when the fear of reprisal is great. Somewhere along the line this is the message that has come across to a seven year old child.
How could this change? A broader curriculum?
This doesn’t just mean doing more arts related subjects (which I would love), it is much more back to basics than that. We need to know what education fundamentally means, why we are doing it and then listen to our children about how they can best receive it.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest Part 2 will be about how it can be different.