Does the British state school system offer a sound, happy education for future generations?

We now have the experience of hundreds of years of providing a structured education to our children. Millions have attended state institutions to gain a sound education in Science, Mathematics, Literature, Humanities, the Arts and so on. Therefore, in 21st Century Britain, you would kind of think we would have this education thing nailed. Professional, compassionate teachers teaching a solid curriculum to a class of attentive and well balanced children born to calm, rational parents. Yeah right!

Why do the government feel the need to test and monitor our Primary School children so much? Why can’t we let them have a little childhood carefree innocence until they are say, Eleven? Sure, we should keep an eye on their progress and give further support as needed, but do they need the pressure of test after test at their age?

A homework load such as I have seen for my Primary school aged children is ridiculous. Yes, parents should sit with their offspring to help develop skills in Literacy and Maths. But to make them sit in front of a computer night after night to open some outsourced “educational software” and work on questions that are badly written and poorly explained is frankly crazy. I am afraid that these “homework websites” seem to me to be a bit of a cop-out by the teachers. If homework must be set, teachers should do so dynamically, connected to the day’s studies to engage and connect the children’s learning.

Now we come to the Parent Teachers Association or PTA. In principle, a well-meaning and community spirited bunch of parents who want to do their bit to help raise additional funds for the school. In reality, their sole purpose seems to be to extract as much money as they can from beleaguered mums and dads, by every means possible. Cake sales, Mufti days, Summer BBQ, Quiz nights, Spring Balls, Christmas Fairs, lottery’s, are all tools used for this, helped along with a dose of guilt & peer pressure.

The schools demand for money is no less relentless than that of the PTA. To complement their standard curriculum, most schools set up various outside trips, or bring external presenters into the school. Despite having a state-funded operating budget and the £1,000s a year from the PTA, parents are always expected to stump up the cash for every one of these activities. And I love it how the request always states “we would ask for voluntary contribution of £xx per child, however without sufficient contributions the activities will have to be cancelled.” Cancelled, ah OK, so it’s not voluntary then is it! Sure, when I was a boy my parents had to pay for a week’s residential to Torquay (we couldn’t afford the Italy ski trip), but nowadays schools ask for £2 so your kids can go to school out of uniform, £25 to take them to some 2nd rate dusty old museum, or £3.50 for some random mime artist to come and prance about the stage in the school hall!

It seems that some parents live in an alternate dimension to me. If they are not busy forming cliques at the school gate, they are gossiping about “normal parents” who don’t buy Jessica a new saxophone every month; or send Charley to Tennis, Rugby, and Swimming lessons every night (when he isn’t perfectly doing his homework); or don’t turn in their SUV at drop-off in the unofficial uniform of knee length boots, skinny jeans, dyed blonde hair and sunglasses, clutching an iPhone 7 and a skinny latte from Costa’s. It’s usually these parents whose child can do no wrong, “Oh no, little Jacob couldn’t possibly have started the fight.”

And when these little spoilt ones are seen to start a fight, what happens? Their name (or more usually that of an innocent scapegoat) goes on the “black cloud”, or they miss out on play-time. Hardly punishment of the century is it. The teachers must walk the fine line between disciplining a child, but not getting his or her parents on a rampage for “upsetting poor little Max.”

A thankless task, and when added to 30 kids per class, piles of administration, testing, homework marking, food allergies, numerous children’s “conditions”, parents in denial and poor salaries, it’s no wonder that many Teachers are ill-equipped to do the job of teaching, as effectively as they could.

In my day, teachers were respected, but I don’t think this is always the case now. We should pay them more, and let them focus on their core competency – Teaching – and not administration.

There is a bit of “The Grumpy One” in all of us. I hope to help you get in touch with yours!



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