Too much pressure on children?

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With the introduction of standardised testing in Scotland are we further removing children from their childhood and just instilling the pressure of education earlier. The belief is that these tests will increase attainment in schools. The results of these test will also be published to create league tables for primary schools. However, I feel this will just increase the pressure of achieving and progress for both schools and more importantly children and remove the enjoyment of education for all.

In a recent lecture at university, my lecturer mentioned UpStart, “A campaign to introduce a kindergarten stage for children 3 to 7”. This prompted me to look further into this as our module this year has covered comparative education and in particular we discussed Sweden who have a similar model to that proposed by UpStart. (Upstart Website: http://www.upstart.scot)

Sweden has a different approach to early education than the UK. Primarily their primary education doesn’t start until the age of 7 and instead they have a pre-school stage for 6 year olds. The children also address the staff by their first name, and the staff sit down with the pupils to eat lunch together in a homely environment. I think this promotes inclusion in the classroom as the teacher has the chance to get to know all their pupils, build a class community and a trusting bond together. These are all important aspects of education today and I hope to be able to build into my practice.

Additionally, their classrooms accommodate for children’s play by incorporating a large area in the classroom just for the children to explore through play. I feel that UK nurseries should incorporate this more as it is important to allow children to discover their own learning and interests and be free to be creative and learn through their mistakes in a supportive environment.

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Copyright: https://sites.google.com/site/aninclusiveclassroom/

 

This is what UpStart proposes, to build children’s social skills, language and a solid foundation to then build on in school. At the same time, they suggest that a later start to education can close the achievement gap that standardised testing may increase. In fact Maggie Dent, in her article shows that Australia, who in their previous government introduced formal testing and school rankings, are 5th in the recent OECD rankings for basic literacy and 13th for numeracy. Whereas Finland, who leads this kindergarten approach of starting formal education at the age of 7 and no standardised testing, are at the top of this league table.

These statistics show the potential educational benefits of this system, as children build a strong foundation in which to develop and confident in their abilities before being introduced into formal education. It can also create a lasting enjoyment for education as their is no pressure to develop at a prescribed speed but at one which suits each individual learner.

Furthermore, I agree with her point that as teachers we need to see children as learners and explorers than a statistic and percentage for a particular ranking. Unfortunately this is not particularly possible in our education system today due to the hierarchy of schools to ensure standards of education, from the government to headteachers. This is an important factor to ensure standards of education and to make sure every child is being supported through their development. However, I feel that we may lose sight of what is important due to the accountability aspect of teachers.

Additionally, Dent suggests that giving formal work to young children just increases their stress and so builds early anxiety in the children. Thus potentially further hindering their education as they are given work which they may be unable to achieve and so pressurising the children to achieve rather than allowing them to enjoy their learning. This can also make them very result orientated as we are with exams in higher education thus creating doubt and failure in pupils at an early age and so demotivate them from challenging themselves later on.

I am looking forward to looking further into this idea and finding out more about UpStart’s campaign in Scotland and especially in Dundee.

References:

Heard Article about Standardised Testing: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/13610810.Nicola_Sturgeon_announces_standardised_testing_for_primary_pupils/

Upstart Website: http://www.upstart.scot

UpStart Article by Maggie Dent: http://www.maggiedent.com/sites/default/files/articles/TeachersMatter_StopStealingChildhood.pdf

4 thoughts on “Too much pressure on children?

  1. M MackieM Mackie

    Hi there, I found this a really interesting read and am always fascinated about the differences between the Swedish education system and our own as they seem to have many aspects so right! I’d be interested to know more about what you mean regarding the UK nurseries and large play spaces within the classroom? Having worked in numerous pre school settings I tend to find that space and opportunity for free play is really encouraged and it is on moving into the more formal school system that this begins to change.

    Reply
    1. Ruth DuckRuth Duck Post author

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your comment and interest in my blog post. I am still very new at blogging and so your interest is great motivation for me!

      In reply to your comment, I was considering more in regards to the early stages of primary school when the children progress into primary 1, so yes when they move into a more formal setting. As this stage can focus more heavily on developing numeracy and literacy and so this aspect of play can be forgotten.

      Thanks again,

      🙂

      Reply
  2. M MackieM Mackie

    Hi Ruth,
    No problem at all, your blog is really interesting! Maybe you could take a look at mine sometime? I’m always looking for feedback! https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/glowblogs/uodeportfoliommackie/
    I completely see where you’re coming from with the transitions between play based learning and more formal ‘school’ learning. Being a great advocate of play (particularly outdoors) I feel that the essential concepts of numeracy as well as many of the skills required for language and literacy need to be developed in fun and stimulating ways. I also believe that incorporating more play and exploratory learning can help to keep us as the teachers excited and stimulated – which in turn rubs off onto the children!

    Reply
  3. Claire-emma

    Ruth I couldn’t agree with you more! Curriculum for excellence is trying to create lifelong learners. For this children need to enjoy learning! If children perceive learning as a pass on a test paper or a certain grade or qualification then it isn’t exactly lifelong is it? Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this post.

    Reply

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