My eldest was 4 years and 6 weeks old when she joined reception last year. Although she had been going to nursery since she was 11 months, starting school hit her like the proverbial ton of bricks. She was utterly exhausted and no amount of low key evenings and early nights were touching the sides. Almost half way through the second term, and not a lot has changed. She is beside herself come 6pm, if she goes to bed past 6:30pm it’s a complete disaster.
I was a bit shocked to discover that home work would start straight away, but it all seemed quite gentle. She was given six ‘rainbow words’ to learn to read each week, which came from a learning resource called Sparklebox. They were tested on them every Friday, and not given a new set of words until they had absolutely mastered the previous set. I felt comfortable with this, as I did the Oxford Reading Tree books she was to read three times a week. The child starts on the simplest books, with just a few pages and a couple of words on each page, and progresses upwards. On the positive side of the fence, it has been incredible seeing the progression over the last six months. She is properly reading now.
On State Education, and the proposed longer school day
Last week, she came home with a certificate to say that she had learnt all her rainbow words. Now she was to master how to spell a set of words each week instead. If that isn’t confusing enough, she has to use joined up handwriting. Her poor little 4½ year old mind is struggling big time, and I can almost see her brain disengaging before my eyes. The term ‘too much too soon’ is all I can think of. My biggest concern is that once her attention has been lost, she’ll just switch off completely. It’s the way she has always been – you can’t force her (or any child!) to learn when she doesn’t want to.
I’m well aware that my kids come from an advantaged background. We have tons of books in the house, and have read to our girls since they were small babies. By the time 4yo was a year I could recite entire Julia Donaldson books en route to the park. My girls have a diet of home made fresh food. We take them on outings. They are loved and know it – not a day goes by without them being told just how much. We are a tactile, affectionate family. I believe that these are the things that matter when bringing up children. Their school day is important, but our home life is so much more so. If push came to shove, and the hours were extended, we would just find a way to cope. Like we do with any other obstacle we have to get through in our lives.
What about the kids who aren’t getting supported at home? The so-called ‘born losers’, who don’t stand a chance from the off? Once their brains are disengaged, how on earth are they going to be brought back to a place where they want to learn again? What about the teachers, who are already overworked and underpaid? One of our neighbours has just resigned because he is so disenfranchised, and this was only his second year on the job.
Surely if the government want to genuinely fix ‘Broken Britain’, get everyone into work and improve numeracy and literacy stats, then more needs to be done inside the family home. More support needs to be given to people bringing up their children, whilst still reeling from their own dysfunctional upbringings. More attention needs to be paid to the mental health well being of parents.
To truly fix any problem in life, you need to get to the very root of it. Extending school hours, and pushing parents into full time work will just drive an even bigger wedge between them and their families. In my opinion, this policy suggestion is another example of overgrown rich kids trying to play God with the rest of us. No long term thought to the damage it would cause has been paid at all.
What are your views?