Author: A parent of a primary school child, and supporter of More Than a Score
My son is six, in Year 2 and struggling academically. He is struggling with a curriculum that is narrow, age inappropriate and ultimately skull crushingly dull. He doesn’t like school because in his words, “I find the learning so difficult, mummy. It is just too hard for me. I don’t like it!”
My beautiful, bright boy is suffering from anxiety about school at age six. SIX. Many mornings we have tears when we drop him off at school as he feels overly nervous about the day ahead. In fact yesterday morning he awoke at 3 o’clock full of tears, scared about the next day’s lessons. “I just want to stay at home with you mummy, school is too hard!” He said.
I must stress that this is not the fault of his school and most certainly not the fault of his wonderful teacher and support staff, who use all of their expertise, creativity, professionalism and experience to try and make this dreadful curriculum, which frankly should never have returned from the 1950s, engaging for all of the children in their care. Even if my son wasn’t struggling so much, I would still be opposing this curriculum and fighting for change.
On 3rd May 2016 my son and I took part in the Let Our Kids Be Kids’ strike. I took him out of school for the day of in protest of SATs – against high stakes, age inappropriate testing. Is it right that a six year old should feel like a failure because they can’t fathom what a ‘fronted adverbial’ is? (a question on a test SPaG paper that my friend’s son had last year).
I would like both of my children to experience and learn from an education system that has a broad curriculum, where creative and independent thinking is encouraged. Not focused on rote learning in a couple of narrow areas. The government bangs on about ‘mastery’ of learning. How is rote learning (which is all this curriculum is), ‘mastery’ of anything? – Apart from demonstrating that you might be good at repeating back a few facts and figures by heart. How does that give my children a broad and rounded education? It doesn’t. The DfE’s obsession with data and number crunching completely misses the mark…that our children are individuals; they are more than a score.
I work at the Science Museum; a place where invention, creative thinking, excellence and human endeavour is celebrated every single day. Where will my son’s generation of opinion formers, scientists, artists, writers, and musicians be if they are being turned off right at the start of their education?
Where will that generation’s Einsteins, Wright Brothers, Lovelaces, Turings, Somervilles, Sharmans, Wellcomes, Hawkings sit? Stephen Hawking came to the museum to give a talk in our IMAX to a large group of youngsters. “Don’t forget to look up at the stars and not down at your feet!” He said to them. How can our children do that when they are being forced through a system that does not encourage wonder, or help foster a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for learning?
This system has turned my son off. At six years old. This is why I am part of More Than a Score and why I am an ardent supporter of Let Our Kids Be Kids. I owe my son this: to fight for a better system of education, to raise standards and hold schools to account, yes, but I would like to see the government work with teachers and unions to do this, not vomit out flawed policy after flawed policy creating chaos without seemingly consulting anyone. Personally I would like to see a complete suspension of SATs in 2017 so that another group of children do not have to go through same chaotic mess that their peers had to at Key Stages 1 and 2 in 2016.