Friday, 16 October 2009

New Report

The report that has been published recommends delaying formal education until children are 6. "Hooray!", I hear you shout. But don't be too excited. Whilst this report ticks all my boxes (and other parent's) about education it obviously doesn't tick the government's box. They believe it would be a 'backward step' and 'counter productive'. So, they are ignoring the expertise of those who have written the report, ignoring the pleas from parents like me who's children do not fit the education system, and ignoring the experiences of teachers all over the country.

So, what do I do? I wrote a letter to the Education Minister Mr Vernon Coaker. And here is a copy of my letter.

Dear Mr Coaker,

I am a mother of 3 young boys aged 8, 5 and 2. It was with great excitement that I read the news report about delaying formal education until the age of 6, only to be utterly disappointed when I read that you said it would be counter-productive.

I wonder, Mr Coaker, if you have young children in the school system at the moment? If you had, and especially if you had boys, you might understand how our education system is damaging our children and holding them back rather than inspiring and motivating them to learn.

My eldest son is in Year 3. This year, and only this year, has he begun to be inspired to learn. Whilst reception was fantastic for his learning needs, moving into Year 1 squashed the life and excitement out of him and turned him off learning completely. Every night we had to battle through reading books with him, wondering if he would ever learn to read. Year 2 was not much better because he had to be put through the utter and ridiculous torture of SATS. Was his teacher interested in helping him learn or was she interested in making sure the SATS results were good? The pressure put on him was unbelievable and at the Parent's evening I was told that he "would never be a writer". This, talking about a boy who is interested in the world around him and soaks up information like a sponge, was total rubbish but his confidence in his ability had sunk so low that whenever he had to write anything he would end up in tears. What does a parent do when faced with the fact that their child is not being taught in a way that they can learn? I taught him myself. Every evening after school we would spend working on this together in a way that was far more creative than his teacher had ever thought of. 2 months later his writing had improved tremendously and still is.

My 2nd son is now in Year 1. Reception was a fantastic year for him. He was able to be creative and to learn through play. He could learn by movement and in a way that was just right for him. However again we are watching Year 1 squeeze the excitement about learning out of him. He no longer wants to read or write. He doesn't even want to go to school anymore. In my opinion Year 1 is a total waste of time. The children simply cannot learn in a way that is right for them. Young children should not have to sit at desks reading and writing. They should be exploring the world around them.

Over and over again I hear stories of, particularly boys but sometimes girls, who have been failed by the education system because they are not being taught in a way they can learn. They then become discouraged and lose confidence, only to sink further down. These are the children who leave school without any skills. These are the children who commit crime (I realise there are other factors involved in this). These are the children who cost the NHS because they have depression, and other illnesses as adults. Our children need help. Our children need to play, and to be children. They are not robots who can conform to a set pattern, they are children who start out excited and motivated about learning and school, but get squashed, squeezed and moulded into a box that just does not fit them.

I plead with you to take this report seriously. I am not the only mother who believes these things. Talk to parents and teachers. Don't just make up your minds about this report yet. Read books such as "Boys and Girls Learn Differently" by Michael Gurian. These are our children and they deserve our very very best, yet time and time again they do not receive it.Thank you for your time in reading my email and I look forward to watching the education system change for the best for our children.


Helen Hodgson

Will it make any difference? I doubt it. I doubt I will even be graced with a reply. But who will stick up for our children if parents don't? I have to at least try.

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