Friday, 16 October 2009

Formal lessons should be introduced later

Following hot-on-the-heels of my debut at parents evening, I have had some great discussions with fellow parents of children in reception class, and some in year 1.

There does not seem to be totally commonality in attitude, but the majority feel that the education train runs too fast, and is ultimately to the detriment of a child’s learning, rather than making the most of their current ‘sponge-like’ learning capacity.

It was of no surprise then, that the report published by The Cambridge Primary Review – billed as the most comprehensive enquiry into English primary education for 40 years – was a topic of great discussion and intrigue this morning.

Most us had picked it up from the BBC news report that had focused on the recommendation that we should follow the international example, and not rush children into a formal learning environment.

I have had a quick read of the review document, and found that there were also positives in it. Suggesting that while primary schools are under too much pressure to attain certain standards, they are generally doing a very good job.

Many years ago I remember being so bored on a plane journey, running out of things to read, I ended up reading the education section of a broadsheet newspaper.

I was not a parent, nor close to being one, but I found an article that stuck with me, or my understanding of it, up until now.

It advocated the same principle, citing somewhere like Switzerland as an example. Where they actually slowed children down to the same pace of learning, but yielded much better levels of education by the end of formal schooling.

The article suggested that we concentrate very much on the perceived gifted children here, and all is set to cater for them, but the masses have to just churn out results, and that those results do not equate to quality learning, or a sound education.

The Cambridge Primary Review makes for very interesting reading, and the recommendation that formal lessons should not start until a child is six, is something that resonates with me, the layman.

Interesting the review only suggests evidence for the current method of switching to formal learning methods after a reception year, to damage longer-term learning. It records no evidence of the opposite.

It would also be interesting to know, or read further, how this would actually affect teachers of this age group, and beyond.

Having children closer together in formal knowledge must be easier to teach, and I would suggest those children still hungry to learn more could have their horizons broadened, rather than just ‘being better’ at the subjects they learn with their classmates.

This report may come too late to affect my son’s schooling, yet interestingly if we moved to Wales then his learning would be different, with the suggestions of this review already being followed.

I am still up for the challenge of trying to make school seem as fun and as unpressurised as possible, even if the reality, for now, is different.