Dear Parents, Carers and anyone who believes that children should enjoy their education,
As a headteacher I am writing in support of the campaign by the energetic and insightful team at Let our Kids be Kids!
In my school there are many socially deprived children. Some of them have limited experiences to the extent that they have not even visited the nearby city which is only 6 miles away. In addition to providing as many new experiences as possible through visits and a commitment to outdoor education, we believe that immersion in story is one of the most valuable means of extending their vocabulary and imagination. Unfortunately, the current obsession with grammar and punctuation means that reading for pleasure is curtailed and children rarely have the luxury of reading an exciting story without having to provide tedious written answers ensuring that they can discuss an author’s skill at using prepositional phrases or personification – two words I hadn’t heard of until secondary school! Imagine my disappointment when reading with a group of children who thought they could please me by identifying determiners and embedded clauses in a text but were unable to talk with any feeling about the dilemma the character was facing or identify with them or even have their imaginations captured by the text, as they were too busy trying to “spot” grammatical features.
Maths poses the same dilemmas! Children need to be able to do basic maths efficiently in order to function in the world and solve problems. It is helpful for them to know their tables up to 10 x 10 and as schools we should be ensuring that this is done. (However, someone should tell the Minister of State for Education that decimalisation occurred in 1971 and there is therefore no point in learning tables up to 12 x 12.) I am at a loss to know how the removal of the calculator test and the introduction of Roman numerals help with preparing children for future mathematical learning though. I also do not see the logic behind insisting that everyone should use the same method as long as children use a method that works for them. It seems that this government is insistent upon schools churning out scores of robots instead of rounded human beings.
At our school we have decided that enough is enough. We are currently trialling a new way of working which we will roll out to all classes in September. Children will study good quality literature for a minimum of three hours weekly, time which will be spend reading/being read to and oral discussion of the text. There will be no written comprehension during this activity. Grammar and punctuation may be pointed out incidentally but will not be the focus of these sessions. Writing genres will be cut down dramatically so that children can concentrate on using their imaginations to write exciting stories and not have to try and remember the features of a newspaper report or a balanced argument! We are hoping to re-kindle the love of reading and writing amongst children and teachers.
We are taking similar action with the rest of the national curriculum. That is, we will teach the children what is relevant to them; skills that will help them in the future and will hopefully turn them into enthusiastic learners – not robots who learn facts artificially in order to pass tests.
The powers that be will not be enamoured by this approach – but let’s face it what are they going to do? Turn us all into academies?……..
Good luck on the 3rd May!
A Primary Headteacher