As election fever increases it’s inevitable that education is going to be used for leverage and the latest from the education secretary Nicky Morgan is a good indication.
In the news at the weekend she says that all primary children should know their times tables up to twelve times and have knowledge of the correct use of punctuation, spelling and grammar, as part of the new proposals to raise standards.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to improve standards or set expectations for children’s learning. But what could derail this outcome is the manner in which it is measured and the punitive actions that may result if there’s a failure in certain schools to reach them.
The ridiculous thing is that schools, despite conscientious and hardworking staff, fail for a number of reasons which are not educational and cannot be measured or judged on such prescriptive results; like location and culture, intake and special needs. And focussing on narrow sets of outcomes, just for the sake of results, has nothing to do with the nurture and care of a child.
It’s interesting to note that among the home educating community there are few families who would adopt this style of prescriptive and enforced formal learning with their children at such a young age. Yet the young people still go on to get good overall results and graduate into Uni or work.
The punitive approach outlined by the education secretary will create children who can memorise times tables because they’ve been forced to do so by anxious staff, for example, but who have little understanding of their use and application. We already have children and teachers totally exhausted by the constant change in educational procedures.
Teachers and schools are continually stressed from being measured and assessed through the results of the children in their care. And this in turn filters back down to the way children are treated and the methods used to force required outcomes. Consequently children become anxious and ill and incidences of mental ill health increase. And a far unhappier outcome is that children begin to hate learning and education.
Parents like to see results. Focussing on getting them is beginning to overtake the reason children might need skills in the first place and politics has much to do with that.
In a comment in The Guardian Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, suggests that the proposals would be “totally counterproductive”. He also adds that this is not about creating an inspiring education but “breaking the morale of a profession to score points in the election”
Sadly, our children are the guinea pigs and the schools are again a target for elective strategy. Perhaps parents could be mindful of being conned by such educational propaganda and think carefully about the holistic development of their individual child when examining party policies and making choices about their own child’s personal learning.