Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Actually, parents know best

I'm so glad these kids are playing. I'm delighted they are not sitting at desks, being criticised for the way they hold a crayon at the age of two.

I want every nursery and pre-school, and all early years schools around the country, to make mud pies. Schools need to be bolder, more imaginative. They should do what many parents want: say that testing toddlers is shit, so they're not going to do it. While you go to work, they're off to play in the woods instead.

I'm sure many parents instinctively feel that an assessment approach to early years - instead of free-range creative imaginative play - is education in the wrong direction.

Sitting kids behind desks makes them easier to control, sure. But it's not the right way for a healthy individual to grow. And it only works in the short-term.

I want more kids to be free. Every move they make should not come with a teacher-assessor, an Ofsted inspector, and a tick box on a clipboard. That is a crap way to teach children about the role of adults in their lives. It is a destructive way to say 'this is the society you grow up in'. It destroys trust. It breaks apart every growing relationship. It says, 'your parents do not know you best. The assessor does'. It is social control, disguised as education.

How many kids were removed deliberately from this culture under the Labour years?

But here's my problem with this article. Not the nursery. Not what they are doing. That's fantastic. National coverage will be great for them, and put smiles on faces.

It's the writing. Specifically, the assumptions that creep through this article, and that I feel the writer holds about the audience. Assumptions that are implicitly endorsed by The Independent. The article merits a page, after all.

This question: 'So what if the children do splash each other with the water?'

Eh? I don't know whether to fall about laughing, or drop my head in my hands in despair.

Whose voice is that? Is it the headteacher presenting herself with a rhetorical question? Is it your voice, Richard?

And then, more, who is the question aimed at? Richard, who are you speaking to, love? Are you asking this question of intelligent readers, and people who are parents of kids?

To even think this is a worthwhile question, to ask it of us, assumes we have already absorbed, endorsed, and approved the toddler assessment culture; that we now look up in horror at this latest assault on our educational provision. Look Mabel! I have dropped my toast in shock! Have you seen the breakfast news?! Kids splash each other with water! The end of the world has come!

But Richard, maybe you're asking this question of yourself? It certainly reads like it.

Well, don't worry about that. Grit knows a thing or two about talking to herself. But she keeps a blog read by six people and a hamster. Richard, you write in a national newspaper theoretically read by thousands. Do you know your audience?

I have not, in my life either as a parent or in pre-parenthood, ever met anyone who thinks it is somehow dangerous, abnormal, regressive, alarming, a retrograde step for civilization, if nursery kids splash water at each other.

The only way I can imagine this behaviour can be thought of as alarming, is within the context of a dry classroom, possibly one in which Ofsted is reviewing behaviour. And that, Richard, is an assumption behind this question. That pre-school life is automatically institutional; the mainstream supervision is school; that child behaviour within this context necessarily must be monitored, explained, and justified.

Maybe it speaks volumes about the outlook of The Independent. Maybe the life of an educational writer is a narrow one. Maybe journalists should get out more, so they can ask sensible questions.

An article like this offers the opposite to the assumptions I have, out here, in my home ed world. That children of all ages are free to interact together, to play, take a role in supervising each other, grow with the expectation that adults are here to support them, help them realise their liberty. There should be no justification to play.

Richard, I think your question comes from a wider assumption, so often made across the educational media, about what kids should be doing and the contexts they should be found in.

It betrays that same, predictable track of many education writers: that education can only take place in school, that the words school and education are interchangeable. As if one means the other. Yet how clearly you can see, from people about you, from kids themselves, from looking at how they behave, listening to what they say, that schools and education are often worlds apart.

Yes, maybe you should just get out more.


Kestrel said...

I wish there was an applause emoticon on your blog Grit. That was superb. If I was Richard, I'd be terrified of you. You write like the Celtic Bards of old, killing with satire. I salute you.

sharon said...

He probably needs a thorough soaking at the water play table - silly sod!

PS, that's a good idea from Kestrel, any chance you could fix up an applause button Grit? And maybe a 'throw random bouquets/chocolates/cake button' . . . I was going to say bottles of beer but that might be dangerous ;-)

Rachel M. said...

"Yesterday a case emerged of parents who were warned they could be reported to child protection
services if they continue to allow their eight- and five-year-old children to cycle to school."

HUH?????? I'm now stunned speechless!!!

Deb said...

What struck me is how much focus he put on the RISK that the kiddies are taking. I was imagining 4 year olds building Teetering Towers of Danger with rusty metal and power tools. Not playing in the MUD. Or is merely having access to the outdoors High Risk Behaviour nowadays?

Everyone knows you can't LEARN and HAVE FUN simultaneously. Something should be done. Call your LA immed. before someone is bitten by a hostile caterpillar.

Emma said...

Have you a copy of the Independent, this hamster's cage needs changing. ;-)

kellyi said...

I agree with Kestrel - you should have applause for this.

A friend of mine works at a local school (remaining nameless because I'm pretty sure your blog is read by more then 6 people and hamster!)

She told me yesterday that they'd had the Ofsted people in, and that it had gone well because they had shut them in a room with good biscuits and managed to cover up the teenagers camping in the field, the ambulance that arrived and the obscene cartoon a pupil had drawn on a wall!

Made me smile.

Grit said...

hello people. yeah, that's SIX COMMENTS! WOOHOO! HERE I COME, UK!

Old Holborn said...

I am reporting all of you to social services

Roger Thornhill said...

In some ways naming the Dept for Children Schools and Families was probably the most honest thing Labour did, as it exposed their mindset of control and approach.

Dept of Education can coexist with home Edu, but DCSF? Error! Error!

I'm glad the Lerber name and, I hope, mindset has gone.

I want proof.

Grit said...

holysmoke i've hit BIGTIME. I got twittered by OH. I am showing Dig. i call this BARGAINING POWER.

proof, roger? you may be right in that the mindset doesn't go. on the ground here, the local authorities still look dodgy: home ed moving closer to safeguarding because the authorities are broke and doubling up work. so one person does a twice-heavy job eight times as badly. i predict disaster. however, if badman&balls had got their way? the legal bills would have been expensive.

Raquel said...

how about they save money and just disappear!? Fed up with the lot of them. I'm a grown up person , believe it or not, and I can look after my own children thank you very much Mr/Mrs EWO!

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

You hit the nail on the head a few times here. I so miss homeschool:(