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Well, the testing of five year-olds has been postponed - for a year - by the UK government. It has taken the force majeure of the virus epidemic to attain this - human words were not shifting them. For them, successful education still means intensive testing though, and they are keen to retrieve the situation and return to 'business as usual' - and for children to 'catch up' on their missed lessons.
In the meantime, many educators are striving to point out that 'good education' does not comprise intensive testing and 'catching up.' Here is an extract from a notable recent letter to parents from the head teacher of Kirkoswald Primary School, Cumbria:
"I would like to urge you to consider, not what children have missed out on but what they have gained from this situation. Some have learnt to follow a recipe and cook, to iron, to bake, to hoover, garden or identify wildflowers, trees and birds. Some have responded emotionally and creatively to the circumstances in the form of poetry and art. Education is not a linear experience, it encapsulates our entire lives and we learn forever. The children of this time, like the children who endured the Second World War, will have experienced something that will shape them for the rest of their lives. They may have learnt to be happy in their own skin, enjoy solitude, be self-reliant, resilient and resourceful. They may have benefited from the lack of structure and the cessation of the frantic pace of dashing from school to swimming lessons, gym classes and karate.
I have observed children doing things independently and learning to fill their time constructively, whether that be scootering to Lazonby or going for a bike ride with a friend. Too many of us, these days, are scheduled to death and don't know what to do with ourselves when we are given time. Let us hope that this time has gifted the children of this generation with an ability to take time out, reflect and be simply themselves. These are such precious gifts that will serve them well into the future.
What I am trying to say is that children do not need to catch up, they need to be allowed to recover from a set of circumstances that 6 months ago may have seemed inconceivable and that in the experiencing they have been equipped with new skills and attributes to support them through this.
The children of the 2020 cohort have missed national assessments and testing if they were in reception, Y1, Y2, Y4 and Y6 and this will have absolutely no impact upon their future achievements. ALL children have missed school and there will need to be flex and adaptation within the system, into the future, to allow for this. Maybe we could dream of a time where schools are able to measure the things that we value rather than value the things that we measure."
Greta Ellis: Head Teacher, Kirkoswald Primary School, Cumbria
(full text here)
Our government may have moderated its enacting on education but it has not changed its mind: educators and parents together still need to make the case for a humane foundation for education, on behalf of our children.
It looks as if we will need to be as forceful as a virus to have a lasting effect.
Hats off to all who, like Ms. Ellis, are making a stand, and telling a different account of what is important.
Here is another in our suggestions series: Learning Together at Home (If you haven't already, click on the link to sign up for news and to participate.)
We would like to invite the children to design and make and robot and tell us what it is for? It will give them the opportunity to use their imagination, design ideas, making skills, to problem solve and share their thoughts and creative ideas. They could re-purpose household objects, use recycling material and other materials from around the home (with your agreement). Please send us photos of what the children have made or a photo of their drawing of what it could be; and the children's thoughts on it for us share.
" We would like to invite you to make a robot and to tell us what it is for? You could use recycling materials or re-purpose household objects or materials, but please do ask your parents first before using anything. We would love to see your imaginative ideas, your designs and what you've made. If you prefer to draw rather than make, you could draw you're design. Tell us about your thinking in designing and making and your ideas about what the robot would do?"
Here's a first example, from Edward and Thomas, in Penrith:
Network member Lottie Child recently participated in a seminar in the House of Commons, hosted by ex-teacher Emma Hardy MP and TED Prize winner Professor Sugata Mitra, to consider 'Rethinking Education.'
Here is her reflection, in which she considers the themes:
- Should schooling be for 'pouring information in'?;
- Children are competent and resourceful learners;
- Rethinking Education;
- Where to with children's agency?
There is an important and recurring thread which seems to run through all: the call for democracy and children's agency in schools. It is so encouraging that the hosting MP also makes this call - read on: