The Blog

The Cleverest Kids in the World

Urgh - so it was exam results day yesterday and no doubt some proud parents were sighing with relief as their offspring brandished the piece of paper showing a clutch of A*, but not me.

Urgh - so it was exam results day yesterday and no doubt some proud parents were sighing with relief as their offspring brandished the piece of paper showing a clutch of A*, but not me.

I hate exam result day as much as 'go to the dentist for a root canal, which he performs blindfolded day' or 'appendix removal without an anaesthetic day,' although arguably the latter two are less painful.

Let me be clear. I have smart, funny, kind kids. They are exactly the two kids I would have picked had I been able to pick any in the whole wide world - funny that. Neither are violin-playing, Mandarin-speaking mathematical geniuses (although one can recite the name of every single Pokémon, and another can run up and down a very steep hill without drawing breath) and this is fine by us.

I just wish that we, as a nation, placed more emphasis on making our kids really great citizens of the planet instead of pushing them to achieve a particular grade. Surely we should be measuring our children in a different way?

I wish exam assessors had seen my 17 year old son patiently listening to his 8 year girl cousin recite the names of all her best friends before demonstrating her best ballet moves while making him wear several loom bands. He is lovely, loyal and hard working.

I wish exam assessors had been present a few years ago, to see my other son crying as he gripped the pencil and tried repeatedly to write his surname -dyslexia is no picnic. He is determined, single minded and knows how to overcome adversity, even if he can't spell.

Good teachers (and there are many) are like beacons of hope, encouraging and helping our children become the best they possibly can be and to these individuals I send my love and gratitude. I believe that good education at school and at home should be about filling their toolkit, giving them the necessary tools to go out into the world. But this manic grade chasing? It's bonkers. And as for anyone that suffers from extreme nerves or happens to be ill or grieving on a particular day or in the build up to the exams - tough luck.

I think we should look at how do we define 'clever?' Some of the 'cleverest' people I know don't have a single qualification but can restore boats, sculpt wood, paint incredible pictures, peel an orange in one long peel and know how to catch fish with nothing more than a piece of twine and a pebble... the cleverest person of all (my Grandad Joe) used to be able to identify any tree just from a piece of bark... now that is smart.

My boys paced the halls yesterday, snapped at each other and were tense with anticipation. Despite constant reassurances that these grades don't matter and that their life will reveal its path no matter what grades they attain, the pressure they are under feels immense! I think it's so unfair, they are so young. I wish this time in their lives was pressure free.

I don't want them stressing about grade boundaries and tuition fees. I want them getting to know themselves and figuring out their place on the planet. I don't care so much about paths of academic study, but would rather they travel to as many countries as they can and speak to as many different people as they can find. THEN I'd like them to have a good old think about what they want to do in life and then change their mind, again and again, until the way ahead is clear.

I want them to gather good people and keep them next to their hearts like precious jewels, I want them to swim in the dark, walk in the rain and learn the names of trees and one day, if they are really smart, they will be able to tell their granddaughter the names of any tree, identifiable just by it's bark... now that really would be something.