My 3-year-old left her pre-school last week with a letter tucked into her book bag that for me spelled the death of pen-and-paper.
This letter was written to inform me that the school had decided to ditch my child's 'scrap book' learning journal and replace it with something new - and there's no room to object, because the money has been spent.
In a matter of weeks, my child's Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) observations will be recorded on staff iPads via Tapestry - an online app that allows teachers to log what she gets up to during the school day, with promise that this is not only a more accessible way for me to view her progress at pre-school, but a time saver for her teaching staff too.
A final nail in the coffin; the app allows me to feed back to the staff, in order to completely eliminate the need for face-to-face communication.
What makes me sad is that my child will no longer be able to run up to me on the last day of term holding the sum of all their hard "work", surprise drawings of her family, and a catalogue of leaves and sticks that she'd spent hours gathering from the school garden. No. Instead, all this will be photographed on a 5 Mega Pixel iPad camera, digitized and then left for me to discover when I log into the pre-school equivalent of Facebook. What's on your mind? "Olive is feeling cheated".
When my eldest child left pre-school for the last time, she greeted me at the gates cuddling her book. It had everything from photos of her first day at nursery, pictures of her playing with friends, her favorite drawings, and annotations by both her teachers, and herself (with help). In the back page was a class photo and a note from her school wishing her the best of luck in Reception. It is something we can treasure for a long time.
I will not replace my child's reading time with iPad time. I don't agree that the best way to spend time with my children in the evenings is staring at a 10" screen. I don't think we should normalize this.
So we've lost the book, and I wasn't given the chance to fight the decision. That's not the end of my frustration.
I am extremely uncomfortable that I was not consulted before the decision was made to upload sensitive information about my child, before I've seen it, to a physical server ) and being managed by a third party whose business could go under the next time they forget to patch a security hole. Or the next time Apple update their operating system. Or if a hard disk fails and can't be recovered. Or if cash flow issues mean they're late paying their hosting bills and the server is switched off. Uncomfortable is an understatement - I'm fuming.
Because Tapestry didn't spend much time thinking about search engines, they have neglected to prevent them from indexing your school's login pages. What this means is, that almost anyone can generate a list of the schools that use this system. Easy pickings for competitor systems doing clever lead generation, hackers wanting pictures to distribute on the dark web, or wife-beating jealous ex's looking for info on you.
The following issues have crossed my mind over the last 4 days since knowing about the plans the school has made.
• Keyworkers will be given an iPad to use. What is the cost per unit to buy? How much do they cost to charge per week? How often will they be updated with the latest security patches?
• Where are these iPads to be kept at the end of the school day? If at the teacher's home (as I've been led to believe) are there measures in place to avoid theft? Will there be guidelines that prevent the teachers from syncing them with their home PCs? If at school, will they be locked in a safe?
• Why does the information have to be published online before I can see it?
• Is there any way of monitoring who exactly has previously accessed MY DATA and on what dates?
• What about parents who don't have access to the internet?
• What measures will be taken to protect parents who don't want estranged partners to learn their where-abouts? A sympathetic family friend could easily slip the log in details over.
• What happens after a child has left school? I have been told that the information is kept available online for 5 years after the child has left - then it is deleted. Will there be export options?
A child learns through observation and imitation. If they don't see it, they don't know how to do it. In 5 years' time will I have an email (not a letter) from school saying that my daughter's handwriting is so poor no-one can read it?
Would you rather sit on the sofa cuddled up with your child reflecting over a book? Or an iPad? I know what I would rather. What are your opinions? Let me know in the comments...or write me a letter.
To read more about my concerns over this ridiculous decision, visit my blog The Newhouse Family here.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Tapestry's server is located in central London, they are a start-up, and that they have a four digit pin that was used to login to the system.