Under pressure

School's not always fun.
School’s not always fun.

I recently attended that thing that parents pretend to hate but secretly like and that kids really do hate – parents’ evening. Even though we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter how they are doing as long as they are trying their best, it’s still great to hear your kids are doing well and are a credit to the class. It makes us feel like we’re doing a pretty good job as parents. Or, at least, we’re doing one thing right.

This year is a SATs year for my girls. For those of you who don’t know, SATs are taken at regular intervals during a child’s schooling in England. The first of these are taken when a child is 7 (or nearly 7) and they are supposed to check children are where the Government expects them to be in English, Maths and Science. In reality, SATs mean extra pressure for teachers and their pupils as the results are published and schools are judged on them.

Because of this, my girls’ predicted SATs results were the main topic of conversation at parents’ evening. It was great to hear that both of them are expected to reach the required levels when the tests are taken in May. It was also great to hear that in some or all of the subject areas they are predicted to do better than this. I know I shouldn’t feel like this. I firmly believe that children progress at different rates and, for some, our education system is not necessarily the best way to learn. I don’t think children should be formally tested at 7 years old. I think they should still be learning by play. However, despite all my objections to SATs and the way they force teachers to teach, I was still pleased to hear that my daughters shouldn’t have any problems achieving the required standards; which shows that despite all my lofty ideals, I’m still one of those mothers who gets off on their kids doing well. I’m not proud of this but there you go.

However, I ceased to be one of those mothers and my lofty ideals came back to the forefront when my daughters’ teacher started talking about my girls ‘working very hard’ and ‘pushing themselves’ in order to achieve levels that are expected for older children. She told us the things we could do at home to help  and, I’m ashamed to say, I nodded in stunned silence. I was momentarily silenced as I tried to understand what our education system expects of our children. I thought about it all the way home and some more when I got there before finally coming to the conclusion that it expects 7 year olds to knuckle down and work their socks off to achieve results that make the school and Government look good.

What’s that all about? That’s not doing something that’s best for the children. Yes, they need to focus on English, Maths and Science but not push them to achieve their potential. If they were 16 and taking their GCSEs, I could understand it but they are not. This isn’t about the difference between a ‘C’ grade and an ‘A’. These children are 7. Some of them will still be 6 when they take the tests. And, to me, when 6 & 7 year olds come home from school (where they are all being worked hard) they should just be able to play, watch TV and complain they are bored with absolutely nothing to do (despite being given 101 suggestions). So, although I’m going to help my kids with their schooling and homework, I’m not going to put them under any extra pressure. I’m just going to encourage them to play and enjoy their childhood whilst it lasts.




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