This week has been interesting for me and has caused me to do a lot of thinking. Mainly about tests. This week saw the 3rd of May school strike in protest against the SATs and I got to enjoy a lovely trip out to the London Natural History Museum with one of my schooling friends. While chatting to her about why she had removed her children for the day in support of the strike she voiced that she had been somewhat irritated by the attitudes of some home educating parents in the lead up to the strike. Their stance was “If you’re not happy you should pull them out, de register, home educate…” with comments being made questioning the commitment and dedication of parents whose children go off to school. I am not surprised at all that this irritated her, as it would me. Of course we like to ensure that parents know that if they and their children are unhappy with the school system home education is a perfectly legal and legitimate alternative route to take, but that does not then give us the right to question those parents who choose to keep their children enrolled in mainstream school. We all have bad days, I would love to be able to complain out loud about having a bad day without someone suggesting “perhaps you should look at sending them back to school?” NO! a bad day happens, I am not willing or prepared to upset our whole way of life due to a bad day. On the same note, if a child is happy in school, doing well in school and the parent is happy with the ethics of the school then why cant they complain about a bad day? Why cant they stand up and take action on behalf and in support of those not so fortunate?
While talking to my friend she explained that she was very happy with her childrens school, and that she couldn’t fault the teachers and her children were doing well. She was choosing to strike not to keep them off for the day to soothe worries and anxieties, not because she didnt want the sitting tests, not because she was teaching them to run away but because she was in support of hundreds if not thousands of children across the country who ARE experiencing high stress levels and anxiety. The 70% rise in children with mental health concerns believed to be strongly related to the stress and pressure put on children from such a young age to learn academically. She is against children being put under pressure and tested on their academic skills when they are still at an age when their developing brains should be learning through play and natural exploration. She can see that so many children across the country are loosing their love of learning and their natural born curiosity. She understands that teachers aren’t happy about all of this, teachers train and go into the profession to help children to learn, to make a difference to a childs life. They study child development and then enter the classroom where government guidelines basically instruct them to ignore all that they have spent years studying. The rise in numbers of teachers leaving the profession is astounding, and these are good teachers! The kind that actually care about our children but can not find it in their hearts to continue in this way. Does this not scare parents? It would scare me if my children were in school. My friend striking and keeping her children off understood that the strike was also in support of these teachers.
It was sad to see the other side of the opinions on the strike though. People making a decision or a judgement without fully realising or understanding what was going on. The assumption that SATs are a vital part of a childs schooling and to not sit them would really mess with a childs education (eeerrr I dont know about you but at no point on a job application or college or university document have I had to remember what I scored on my SATs!) Parents believeing that SATs results determine what “sets” you are placed in when you go into secondary school (because clearly young people dont learn or develop skills once they get into secondary school, the secondary schools dont run their own assessments and ah yes, that totally explains why year 2s need to be academically tested! *insert eye roll*) Comments of “If not keeping my children off because I do not want to disrupt their education.” …. I dont understand why as a parent you would place so much value on an education system that has left you with such disbelief at your own capabilities as a parent that you genuinely believe that one extra day off school would put them behind!?
There were comments around the rise in mental health concerns in children, self harm, depression, anxiety and even suicide. To which I saw some parents responding with suggestions along the lines of “if children are suffering that much it isnt down to the schools its due to the parents not equipping them with the correct tools to deal with stress” The children are 6 ffs!! I wouldn’t pack a 5 or 6 year old off to school and think wow they might get stressed out and pressured before they start school we should prepare for this! At that age I would expect the school to be in support of their young developing brain and follow a learning through play ethos! I have seen parents claiming that their children are find doing their SATs because when they have got upset and cried and stressed they have been reassured that the tests dont matter “just do the best you can” and that they arent important. Well, then why are you allowing your children to reach the point where they are crying and stressed about it? Why is it ok that you need to reassure them like this? Why is it ok for a school to cause your child to worry to the point of tears only for you to tell your child that its ok, they arent important tests anyway? Why wouldnt you want to take a stand against that?! Even if your children are fine, why wouldnt you want to show support for the many who aren’t?
The fact is, that if nothing is challenged then everything will continue down the drain. School hours increasing, tougher exams, younger testing, children in preschools and nurseries being placed under pressure to be “school ready” before the age of 4 and compulsory academy status bringing with it a mass drop if not total removal of SEN provision in many schools and a loss of LEA to look to for admission appeals. What good will any of this do children in the long term?. Those of you who sit and say “well I did ok, it never did me any harm” well great, why aren’t you questioning why it all needs to change then? Those of you who all love the school holidays and complain when they are over and your life will return to school runs and homework and angry children? Why arent you taking a stand and demanding “WHY?” Those who argue that their child has SEN and who needs the school support and couldn’t cope without that structured routine, are you investigating clearly how your childs provisions and routine will be affected by all of these proposed changes? No? maybe not immediately but think, if schools are not going to be governed by local authorities but instead will be independent how long really will the local education authority be standing in a position to support those with statements?
To hear some people refer to the strike yesterday as “a bunch of parents throwing their toys out of the pram” was pretty appalling and shocking. How many parents really truely are prepared to educate themselves on what is happening around them. How many have done that and are still actually happy and not at all concerned or worried about what our government are doing? How many are really fully in support of Nicky Morgan and all her bs? If you are really happy with everything proposed then great, no worries. But for those who aren’t, well then why wouldn’t you have shown your support? Why didn’t you sign the petition?
The Hashtag #letkidsbekids was full of photos of children attending picnics and activity days across the country. Some groups as many as 500 attending, what an amazing atmosphere there must have been at these events.
My children don’t go to school, if they did it would be SATs time for them in year 6 and year 9. We aren’t affected by any of that stress anymore which, for us, is wonderful. I remember clearly the start of A’s anxiety attacks, chest pain landing her in hospital and causing migraine and vomiting as a result of stress. Teachers telling her that these were important tests and the results would impact on her at secondary school. She physically pulled her hair out. This was not due to a lack of support at home, this was not due to a lack of reassurance from parents and loved ones. Its the way she was placed under stress and the way her brain and her body reacted to it. None of us could have foreseen it, and possibly the only way we could have prevented it is to know what we know now and remove her. She did so well as it happened, she did brilliantly in the tests. However when she went up into secondary school they were not mentioned again and she was taught in her year group without being divided immediately into sets anyway. The tests that she had so worried and stressed over were never mentioned again! There is no denying the rise in home ed numbers and I have met so many children who are overcoming anxiety as a result of their experience in school. No not all children suffer, some do fine, but the number of those who are doing fine WILL drop dramatically in coming years as all of the proposed changes take place. Children are not biologically developed enough to cope , it is why schooling was introduced in the first places, why childhood was defined as different to adulthood. The acknowledgement that children are different from adults. Kids need to be kids! Let kids be kids! Let our kids be kids! Let your kids be kids!