Friday, 10 April 2015

Do we empower children through testing their education?

I just read about children re-sitting Year 6 SATs if they are deemed to have failed them. I think the idea is to stop children being 'written off' too early. I wonder how it would feel to a child moving up to Year 7, being called out of class to resit a Year 6 exam. A child who may have a multitude of reasons why the levels set as normal for their age doesn't work for their particular circumstances. Let us not forget that the world is made up of many amazing personalities who may not fit the SAT norm.

I wonder why we are so keen in this country, to make all children the same? Do we believe it is easier to teach everyone one curriculum and expect them to reach the same standards at the same time? Is it fair? I think it makes teaching much harder and breaks many child and adult's hearts. There is nothing worse than seeing a child, or young person trying their very best, but being seen as a failure because they don't fit into the education box, often through no fault of their own. We know negative responses to endeavours don't work, but here we are again making them law. It is even more heart breaking seeing a child give up when their potential to shine in a different way is not realised. As a teacher, I know the thrill of watching particular children's talents unfold. The joy of seeing different characteristics come into their own. How we needed the practical, artistic, academic and quirky to flourish, in order to explore all aspects of teaching and learning. I could see the possibilities of each member of my class shine in all their multicoloured amazingness! Did they all fit into the expectations laid out by the national curriculum? Well of course not. But that is what good, fun teaching is about. The diversity of human nature is what keep us all interested and alive. Allowing space in school for all children to thrive and enjoy the experience just seems so ridiculously obvious, I can't understand why we want to keep testing everything. Is it just about league tables? Thank goodness the majority of teachers quietly put the child first and make new legislation fit into what they know works best for their teaching. 

I worry about secondary school expectation though. Can these schools afford to keep retesting? Can they protect the individual child from feeling like a failure if they can't master these tests? 

Imagine a system that allows for all talents, passions and interests. Where you could work on something at a level that would allow the individual to be congratulated for hard work and effort. To then go on to secondary school where there would be further facilities for your skills to progress. Each young person would be prepared for the work place, doing a job they enjoyed and were good at. To progress to a level that suited that person at that time. School would be easier because they would feel engaged and maybe even happy? I know I'm a daydreamer, but I work with lots of young people through Hands-On and everything runs so much smoother when we are in the flow and having a good time. That doesn't mean not working, it means achieving something together at a level that suits. 

My final thing to say is that the focus here is for those who are struggling to pass these tests in the school system, but I also feel the higher achievers are not catered for either. To be constantly compared to the average, or underachievers and seen as better than them leaves a bitter taste too. If you are seen as doing well, but you are not overly competitive or outgoing, it is easy to slip into the 'keep quiet and get on with it' group. Imagine what these children could be when they grow up. What are our expectations? I wonder how many of us grown ups here now would be celebrating our diversity if we were just expected to pass exams with a higher than average grade and to keep doing it until working age. Where is the nuttiness of creative teachers going 'off piste' to explore education without political, health and safety guidelines. I love nothing more than seeing a teacher properly giggling with his or her class during one of our Hands-On sessions - be it sex education with Year 10, or story telling in the Nursery. 

If I could say my piece to those who come up with these testing ideas, I'd say please stop adding to the stress levels of our youngsters and those who care for them and let well-rounded education be for all.