(Author's own photograph)
I'm about to go on a rant. I hate homework.
Controversial, as I've been a teacher for 22 years and I've personally set hundreds of hours of homework in that time. But I am becoming increasingly aware of a society in which the only results that anyone wants for children, be it parental or for school statistics, are the bloody As and A*s.
I remember knowing that my peers who scored As were those who were exceptional in that subject. An accident of genetics had made them shine at art, or music or maths. They were in the top 2% of the class. That is why they got an A (there were no A*s back then - and that's another issue - making the top even higher and wider so even more people feel they have to cram themselves in.) I remember feeling happy for them and not feeling worried that it wasn't me. There were loads of us in the B and C group and we were fine.
Yet here we are with A grades being the standard we all want, "the only valid currency" as I heard the Headmaster sadly reflect, Bs and Cs are not good enough anymore it would seem (and 'D', did you say 'D'? I'm so sorry). And how the Hell do you get normal, happy, perfectly able and fine children to get the As and A*s that really should be awarded to only a tiny percentage of the most naturally able? You make them work, work, work. You put the pressure on from the age of four. Six hours of school work at school isn't enough, so you set homework to reinforce and consolidate everything. We can have everything we want at any moment we want it. We are the generation where every desire can be granted; pizza at 3am with one phone call, strawberries in January - so surely it is also possible that all of our children can be leaping in a line and grinning holding that slip of paper telling them they have 10A*s on results day? We can make this happen. Can't we?
We shouldn't bloody have to. They shouldn't bloody have to. That's my rant. We have to find a way to bring the bar back down. NOT to be confused with lowering expectation or hope, and not to say that only the 2% of naturals should go forth and dominate - I just wish that we could find a way to allow our children some freedom from this pressure while they are growing and working out how to see themselves. Unless we can, we are sending a MASSIVE percentage of children the message that they are failing. They should be getting As and they are not. No they should not be getting As. We cannot all be good at everything. It's ridiculous. It invalidates the whole point of an A. No wonder they've had to change to a system where GCSE will be awarded levels up to 9...you want to know why? so they can add more to the top, a level 10/11... they ran into a problem with A, A*, A** it had started to get silly.
And we wonder why levels of childhood anxiety are rising.
If you have children who do not fit the tiny funnel of the measurement system of the UK, if you do not have a child who has naturally been blessed with the paper recording and memory skills of a Dickensian bookkeeper, you may find yourself dreading homework. The ruinination of weekends. The axe hanging over your freedom to visit your family, to go swimming, to camp out. That sodding MyMaths, the blimming physics project.
My advice? Do not stress your child out. Have the camp out. GO swimming and visit aunty Sarah. You will never have this time again. All of us B/C/D fodder from my crap comprehensive, we're pretty much all OK now. We survived. Please, please try to send them the message that although it's good to try hard, it's also good to be happy in your own skin. The one that fits you best. The one that might be made of Cs, Bs and the odd D. But does that make you a less valid person? It will probably only make you a happier, healthier person and that, surely, is the ultimate goal of parents and schools.
Read more from Alice Wilde at her blog - www.halfwavinghalfdrowning.com