Wednesday, 22 October 2008

"Too much, too young"

Following Yorkshire Pudding's post (entitled "Thrall"...including a magnificent DH Lawrence poem) about the state of state education in this country I found this article (The Times) and this one (in The Guardian). It is rare that opposite sides of the political spectrum agree so wholeheartedly on an issue.

Frankly I'm appalled. The thought of a creeping system of"testing" of toddlers and small children is horrendous. Our son will start nursery some time over the coming year. My husband is on the committee of the parent-run nursery. It is a local nursery situated behind the state primary school in the village. The nursery takes a maximum of seven children in one session. Due to government moves to offer "wrap around" child care (8am - 6pm or later) so that parents can work all hours, given to man, to pay government taxes, our small nursery is under pressure to merge with other bigger nurseries in the area. In order to offer this "wrap around care" it will mean that children (aged 2-5) will be bussed around the nurseries to wherever this care and "stimulating" play takes place. The nurseries are all rural which means journey times of at least 20 minutes plus all the extra time involved getting small children on and off the buses.

The children are tiny little things who just need lots of loving, a safe environment in which to play, time to enjoy themselves, have fun...have all the time in the world before "real life" and testing cuts into their little daily lives. What do you think? Please let me know!

17 comments:

Suburbia said...

I am so, so with you on this one. How can we have let this happen to our children, lots of whom have been put off learning and the system before they have even turned 5. It just leads to more stress and trauma. Did no one learn from the unicef survey last year?
Tall Girl started senior school in September and it is the first time she has had to catch a bus to school. This has been quite traumatic experience for her for various reasons. Imagine doing it as an infant!
Something needs to be done. Can you start a campaign, I'll be first to sign up?

Lindsay said...

The system is quite mad! My London based grandchildren are forever tired - they do too much after school. What is wrong with playing at home - it seems to a wrinkly grumpy oldie like me that there is a lot of peer pressure to become involved with after school swimming, ballet, piano lessons etc etc. Sorry for the rant! Hope your little nursery remains as nice as it sounds.

Maggie May said...

I am with you too. Whole heartedly. Bureaucracy gone mad! let little ones be little ones and go where they will feel secure and where they can be taken and collected by their parents.

nappy valley girl said...

I can't stand this idea we have to educate under 5s formally. We start school much earlier in the UK than in other countries so why extend the testing culture to nursery too? But it's not just the government. I went to an appalling meeting at my son's nursery a few months ago where the parents were demanding much more formal teaching and complaining that the children spent too much time playing!

Expat mum said...

When my kids were first enrolled in US schools I was horrified that they really didn't start with writing and reading till they were 6. After ten years of watching, I can see that they caught up, if they were ever behind in the first place.
At the time, while I was jumping up and down with anxiety over it, mo mother, who taught primary school for 30 years, didn't seem bothered at all. According to her there was little point in trying to teach three and four year olds a lot of the 3 R's since some of them still could barely string a sentence together.
And as most child development experts know, children learn through play.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I am tempted to start a campaign Suburbia! I'll definitely keep it in mind. Our five year old is technically allowed to travel to and from school by bus as well but we cannot face doing that. Ideally she can be walked in or failing that - we use the car. (I know it is not good environmentally but still!)

Lindsay, yes, I keep thinking of lessons and things (after school)that my daughter can do but again I keep holding back. I keep thinking that I am being lazy but I think there is plenty of time for all of that! Completely agree with you. Feel free to rant!

Maggie, absolutely. It's not that I want to wrap them in cotton wool I just want them to discover who they are first before the "madness" sets in. I just wonder how these bureaucrats were treated themselves as children...to then conjure up these schemes for such tiny beings!

Nappy Valley Girl...yes, I know what you mean. I don't think the parents realise what they are doing. I don't mean to be patronising or critical of them but I just want to put myself in the children's shoes and imagine the world as they see it. It's not always possible e.g. I was surprised recently that my son was afraid of a bouncy castle/soft play at a party. I think that it is too easy to take "testing" for granted...the children will pick up on it. They are sharper than we are most/all of the time!

Thanks expatmum. Yep I agree with you as well. The Scandinavian countries all start their children at school at 7, I think, and they then start to outdo us (at school) pretty quickly. It is all rather depressing. Sometimes I don't know whether to "ostrich" or start a campaign as Surburbia suggests. I am praying that a change in government might reverse things and even then...No! "Be positive!" I keep telling myself!!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Nappy Valley Girl...what I meant to say...was that the children will pick up on the "stress" of being tested (from parents/pre-school leaders etc.)...Thanks for commenting. You can see that I'm hyped up about the whole thing!

East Anglian Troy said...

I've rather belatedly been reading an article in this Sunday's Telegraph magazine about some Kindergarten in Germany that let their toddlers play outside in a natural environment for large parts of the day. I've managed to find it also on their website:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/main.jhtml?xml=/education/2008/10/18/sm_kindergarten.xml

you may find it to be of interest.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you, Troy, the article is fascinating. I agree that children are getting more and more cut off from nature. It seems an excellent way to learn...it would be wonderful if that system caught on over here. Maybe the way we are getting cut off from food production and farming...the same is happening with schooling? I have the feeling that parents do want to change things. I hope that change does happen (and soon).

The Dotterel said...

Oh don't get me started on testing, targets, mergers, economies of scale and all the other rubbish that I've spent the last twenty years doing(when I should have been teaching children)! Education is really quite simple, and most (but not all) young children naturally love to learn. But what they're increasingly getting when it comes to school is a straightjacket restricting all their curiosity. Hopeless!

French Fancy said...

Too much testing for these little ones. I don't have children but if I did I would want them to go to a parent-run nursery such as yours where they could play without fear of becoming a statistic on someone's clipboard.

I think the Alice Thomson article you linked to at the end of your blog has an error about the French school system though. Most French children attend a baby school (called a maternelle) from the age of three and it is where they learn to read and write. they have a three course meal for lunch and then lie down in sleeping bags they have brought with for an hour's nap. (doesn't is sound good).

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thank you so much, The Dotterel, it is always nice to hear from the front line so to speak...rather than through the media the whole time. I think it is what is so brilliant about blogging...hearing things from the horse's mouth! Although I'm not comparing you to a horse of course! You've put it in a nutshell.

Thank you, Frency Fancy, I just hope that our nursery can hold out against the forces of "efficiency" for a few years at least (if not forever)! Yes, I did wonder about the French reference and thank you for clarifying that one. Sounds marvellous and, dare I say it, a bit like life in a French bank I once worked in!!

Sandi McBride said...

Really all you have to do is look around you...we've gone from working children to the point of illness to coddling them to the point of laziness and now we have decided that they need to be tested till they collapse...I don't know what happened to letting children be children...but all this testing can not be a good thing.
Sanid

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Well said, Sandi! Letting children be....nothing wrong with that (as long as they are not up to mischief!)....Hx

Ladybird World Mum said...

Testing is totally unrealistic and insane for any child who has only just learned how to speak, walk, and play. Madness. I run my own pre-school in West Sussex. I love it. And there is no way that I will let some crazy bureaucratic imbeciles direct me down the wrong road. Children in my setting play play and play! And when they leave, they are so ready to start Big School and the demands it makes on them, because they have spent all that valuable time PLAYING. Playing and only playing is how young children learn.
Your last paragraph is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!
How about you start up your own nursery?! From someone who did, its worth it. Good luck with your little one.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello ladybird world mum! Welcome to my blog. Thank you for your comments. Your nursery sounds absolutely ideal and the idea of starting one sounds tempting. The only drawback to that is that we are concentrating on getting other businesses up and running. There is a Montessori nursery and school 20 mins. down the road but I would like to keep the little one local. I'll pop over to your blog to see if I can learn more!

Arthur Clewley said...

send 'em the boarding school - it never did me any harm!