Don't Test Our Six-Year-Olds! Let Children Be Children

11/07/2016 14:57

My six-year-old loves to dance, write and draw. Yesterday, she wanted to fly to the moon; today, she has said that she will settle for being an award-winning pianist. Oldest has dreams and she dreams big. We love the summer holidays. They are weeks that are filled with drawing, trampling through woods, splashing through streams and playing make-believe with her sister: weeks that she loves.

However, after the summer holidays Oldest will return to school but she won't be full of excitement.

Don't get me wrong, she loves seeing her friends again but she just doesn't love school. In fact, she often uses the word boring to describe school.

The reason for Oldest's apathy towards school is not the fault of her school or teacher. In the primary classroom teachers are unable to inspire pupils because they are so busy having to teach to the curriculum. A curriculum which dictates that they learn about using past and progressive tenses and subordinating conjunctions. The teachers are forced to teach this quickly so that they can move onto the next dry task. We are lucky in Jersey in that we might follow the curriculum but they haven't brought the tests in yet. I say yet but I have no doubt that they will and this is something I fear for Youngest. Six years-old is far too young to be sitting a test, far too young to be getting stressed over whether they have used an exclamatory phrase correctly in their answer. We should be inspiring our 6 year olds not frightening them with tests or boring them with tedious grammatical rules. What is the point of it too? This nuts and bolts approach to learning is hardly going to inspire deep and meaningful learning, so why do it?

Despite living in a modern and progressive society our classrooms seem to be operating in the Victorian times. We now have classrooms that are obsessed with creating drones who can all repeat the rules of grammar in parrot fashion. How is this equipping them for the big wide world? A world that is uncertain. When I was a teacher you were drilled in 'Every Child Matters', which meant that you had to take into account every different child's needs, interests and ability. You took into account that children would make progress at a different rate and that some would need extra support. Now it seems that there is no such thing as 'Every Child Matters', now every child is expected to hit targets at the same time and at the right time. They are expecting this from 6 year olds. Any parent of a 6-year-old will tell you how fickle they can be. One day they might think dinosaurs are the best thing in the world, the next day they aren't interested in dinosaurs anymore. The same can be said for them in the classroom. One day they might be a sponge taking in everything they have been taught; the next day they might be disinterested because they are too preoccupied by the fact that Amy is coming to their house for dinner. At 6 years old we need to be sending them the right message for learning. We need to be showing them that learning can be fun, we need to be inspiring them. We shouldn't be drilling facts into them; no, we should be innovating them. We want to raise a generation that is brave, inquisitive and determined. All the natural attributes of a child. The attributes that are being squandered in the classroom. Our children are not political pawns and they should not be bogged down by endless bureaucracy. They are children - dreamers, explorers, crafters, writers and adventurers. We need to be nurturing their childhood and encouraging them to grow so that when the time is right they can fly. We shouldn't be tying them down with tedious grammatical rules and we shouldn't be scaring them with tests.

Let children be children

This post was first published on Island Living 365