I have been reading a lot of discussion on Twitter about the governments announcement this week on testing times tables for 8/9 year olds in all schools in England in 2020. Once again I am frustrated by yet more standardised testing of our children particularly as my son will be the year in which this happens. He has already ‘failed’ his phonics test in year 1 due to not liking made up words. He scored 20 which coincidentally is the number of real words in the test. He is also by the way reading fluently and at gold level which in my understanding is more usual for the year above him – and this is a summer-born child. He can happily count up and down in 2’s, 5’s and 10’s but as yet has to get the leap to understanding this to be his times tables. Learning by rote as I did is not coming …..
I have a brother who due to severe dyslexia could never learn his times tables by rote – thankfully our mother was a maths teacher and could teach him the tricks but it did mean his mental recall was not quite as quick. This is a boy who went on to do double Maths at A level and study electrical & electronic engineering at university but who at age 8 in year 4 would have not been able to pass a times table test. As a university lecturer in electronic & electrical engineering (yes there is a theme here) I have a number of students whose specific learning difficulties mean that times tables are beyond them.
We already test our children in year 1 with phonics, year 2 with SATs and year 6 with SATs plus continual teacher assessment. I have a son who thanks to being adopted has emotional, behavioural and social needs, but who academically if someone writes for him is doing well. My husband & I will do our best with times tables but I am going to need to learn the tricks Mum taught my brother I feel as rote learning does not work with H – he needs to understand. Luckily his current school does not put any emphasis on the KS1 SATs and tries to avoid pressurising the children or causing them stress. I have seen people say on Twitter that stress is good for children as it teaches them to be resilient – but really do they need the amount of stress that can be generated by testing in primary school.
This government seems to believe in a one size fits all education programme which I know it does not – children learn at different rates and in different ways. I am a very written word person with a phenomenal memory but I hate the drive towards rote learning @and testing of recall of facts. This is not what is required to give our children & young people the skills for life. At university level I examine application of knowledge and how a student applies their acquired knowledge to solve a problem as well as critical thinking and reflection. This comes to many students from traditional A level background as a real shock as they cannot rely on their ability to recall facts anymore. I have spent many hours talking to professional engineers in industry and being told this is what they need – graduates who are able to apply knowledge, problem solve and critically evaluate potential solutions. Surely in schools we should be encouraging this from an early age – yes the basic foundation is required but this can come in many ways. Teaching to the next test/exam is not the way to being up a generation of young people who will need to be able to think on their feet and keep up with a fast moving world as technology advances.
On top of all this, the way the national curriculum levels have been re-written to just give a set of age related expectations does not help those parents whose children are always going to be behind or indeed ahead . How can you tell if a child is progressing if they are always working below expected levels – at least with the old numerical system you could see if they were progressing. We are lucky in that we have an adopted child who was mainly working toward at end of year 1 (at in Maths, reading & science and below in writing & creative). However the teachers contextualisation was more important to us than the actual levels.
Eduction is a big minefield in adoption and so much relies on getting the right school and people who are prepared to learn about why our children can be so different. I am treading this minefield at the moment as we plan a move to a new school in September. Our house is currently on the market as we plan to move close to my work to reduce both our commuting times after our job changes 13 months ago. T in particular is feeling like he is missing out on a lot of time with Sqk as he has lost about 5 hours a week with him – and he can be asleep by the time T gets in from work. I have lost half an hour 4 days a week and that is hard enough. Moving will enable me to gain even more time than I had before as the school we want is 10minutes walk from campus so I am hoping to drop down to only needing childcare 2.5-3 days a week between me doing another pick up (& possibly drop off) and T doing a drop off. Plus even when I am working the latest I will pick H up will be just gone 5 and that is only if I have a late meeting. We are planning on using School out of hours club so will gain flexibility as the session is flat rate payment for however long you use it so some daysI may pick him up at just gone 4 (I finish at 4 unless I have a meeting).
Hmm this has turned into a ramble of a post but I needed to get it down…..