Last week was results day for many 16 year-olds, up and down the country, marking the end of a very stressful and for some, a mentally fraught journey.
I am in awe of the younger generation and their achievements. I have 16 year old twins and in future blogs I hope to tell you about their achievements, set-backs and experiences. I just haven’t discussed this with them yet! Today’s blog is more about my observations on our education system.
From primary school our education system seems to be about preparing students for tests, for mocks and for exams. It’s about seeing how well they can perform on a certain day. How well they can remember facts, figures. Some of the homework that the twins brought home from primary school would have me stumped. I’ll never forget when I was asked if I knew what a subordinate clause was?!
It seems to be taking away the enjoyment out of reading and writing. I remember writing stories at school without worrying about weird and wonderful different grammar terms. We were encouraged to be creative – although not too creative. I went to a strict Catholic primary school!
The curriculum seems to be a lot narrower with less emphasis on music, arts, technology. Are we missing opportunities to unearth the spark that every pupil possesses, especially the ones who might struggle academically. Funding cuts mean there are less opportunities to learn a musical instrument. I learnt so much through playing an instrument and being a member of different bands, and orchestra’s. I had a talent which gave me confidence, motivation and increased my self-esteem.
We focus on getting pupils ready for exams. On top of that many schools start assessing pupils before they get through the school gates. Do they have the right shade of black shoes, does their pencil case have the full list of different colour pens, equipment etc, is their tie straight? Yes, there might be some method to this madness but when pupils are sent to detention and miss out on education if they don’t conform to the right standards, does the punishment truly fit the crime? The pressure and anxiety at home for some pupils means that just getting to the school gate is a major achievement.
Is it a massive surprise when some pupils struggle to fit into this narrow definition of learning and play-up, mis-behave or whatever you want to call it? Do teachers have the time or the skills to engage with pupils who can’t cope? I know many teachers and I know they have the will it’s just the way that is getting harder to find.
Also, with the constant pressure to prepare for tests are we stifling creativity and the capacity to make mistakes and learn from them?
The fantastic Sir Nick Robinson discusses this a lot better than I ever could in this brilliant TED talk from 2006.
The kids who struggle tend to be “managed” rather than educated and tend to be excluded around test times. Once kids start to be excluded it’s often the start of the road that leads to isolation or worse criminal behaviour.
Lots of studies have now established the link between school exclusions and rises in youth criminal behaviour and involvement in the prison system.
Surely it makes sense to invest more time and resources into the pupils who are struggling, who need to find a different way to learn and engage and have the talent and creativity to succeed. Just think of the savings further down the line if it stops someone getting involved in the criminal system. If they go onto succeed they will be contributing to society and will pay back with interest the time and resources that were spent on them in school.
I came across this yesterday on social media and loved it. A young person shouting about her achievements and her aspirations even though they might not match exactly the standards that the government are looking for. Good luck to her!
Our schools are amazing places which educate, inspire and motivate every day. The teachers and staff work miracles under the most trying of circumstances. The youngsters who achieve and do well, really do give me hope for the future. They’re bright, articulate able to recognise what’s right and wrong and are not afraid to make their opinion known.
I just worry about the ones who don’t quite fit into the system – are we doing enough to help them succeed?
Would love to hear your thoughts – thank you!