My post from yesterday ( here) has caused great discusion in the household and made me think very carefully about the topic of education. I am, as a parent reaching the end of the school road and that naturally means a period of reflection.
So what have my children really learnt at school? And could they have learnt as much without the formal education establishment?
Don’t get me wrong (in case any teacher friends are reading this!) This is not going to be a tirade against formal education, just a thought process and maybe when you’ve all read it, some other opinons of how your children have faired!
They attended the same key stage one school, although they had very different experiences. Splosh never had more than 15 children in his class for those formative years, Bernard had the more normal 25+ They both thrived and progressed well within the formal confines of school and achieved the standard accepted levels and very often exceeded them. However people would have you believe that boys and girls learn differently, that smaller class sizes mean higher achievements because of teacher contact time.
They both moved on to the same secondary school and again – totally different experiences. Bernard is totally focused and determined to achieve, Splosh had a more laissez-faire attitude to whether he was going to listen and complete the work. He came out with outstanding GCSE results and went on to 6th form and now university. We’ll have to wait and see about Bernards results as she is sitting her exams as I write! Although her predicted grades are pretty damn good!
So what has school taught them that will really be of use in their life to come? Have they learnt useful life lessons, or have they just been taught what they need to pass the test at the end?
I’m not a great fence sitter but I like to think it’s a little of each! Yes they have been coached to pass the test, because that what teachers have to do with league tables, and performance rating and ofsted etc etc. ( read this to undertand how they feel !) But from the teachers as people, rather than professionals, they have learnt a lot. they have both been fortunate to have some excellent teachers (some pretty hideous ones as well!) but for the most part pretty amazing. I of course can mention no names here some of you will understand who I mean – The greatest history teacher of all time – some fairly splendid language teachers (the communist one might be the bestest!) – my favourite science teacher (yes that is you Mr OCD) – a mentor in the shape of a geography teacher (will be sorely missed!) – and just the nicest, kindest drama teachers (past and present!) and they both had the benefit of the best of reception teachers! I could go on! Each one of them has done their duty and taught them what they need to know to pass the government applied tests. But each of them has also imparted life knowledge as well. They have encouraged my children to have an opinion and to be able to express it, to laugh and to cry. They have listened when they have asked a question and for the most part been able to offer a helpful answer.
Yes there have been those who sat them in straight lines and forced them to learn parrot fashion by rewriting lines from the board, I have to say those teachers have not faired well with my children, and there has been conflict! Those teachers I will not miss at all!
I know I could never have home schooled them and I bow down to those who do. I’m not sure I have the right attitude for it and certainly not the academic knowledge. But equally i see my role (traditional as it may sound) to teach them life skills, how to dress, cook, live, love etc. It it the role of their teachers to teach them to learn. Where the 2 have crossed then all the better, and where we have missed it I hope we have given them the skills to work it out for themselves!
There are many things I would change about the modern school system, league tables, SATS testing, restrictive curriculum to name but a few. There are many things I would change about our school (thats a private conversation later though!) but for the most part, I wouldn’t change the teachers. Maybe without all the government interference they will do a job we are happier with.
In a more perfect world maybe we’ll have schools who can do more of this