What are my thoughts on education?
Z and Miss C attend a public school. I would love to have been in the position to send them both to a private school and have the luxury of smaller class sizes and access to more resources and activities however our nearest private school is 20 miles away and with myself not working full time, we couldn't afford two sets of fees. The important thing for me is that the kids enjoy going to school and like their teachers.
Of course we have additional support needs for Z in that he is a highly able pupil, who was moved up a year in 2014. He skipped from Primary 2 to Primary 4. A scholarship may have been an option for him at a private school but he is very settled and has an amazing group of friends at his school. Could he be more challenged? Yes he could; but he is happy and doesn't feel under pressure from being pushed too much and I believe that his happiness will enable him to continue to do extremely well in school.
There have been talks about increasing the age a child starts school from age 4/5 to age 7 to coincide with Finland and their excellent attainment rates. Personally I think it depends on the child. If Z had stayed on at nursery until he was 7, he would have been bored and the teachers would have had to find ways to keep him engaged and challenged. Whereas Miss C would probably have enjoyed staying on at nursery and starting school this year. She turns 7 in May. Every child is unique and therefore their ability to do things like learning to read and write will vary according to them.
One thing that I don't agree with is the Chancellor's idea of increasing the number of hours children attend school in a day. This proposal is for schools in England although I can see Scotland following suit because they want to get more parents back in to work to support the economy and childcare is such a huge expenditure for working parents if they don't have family or friends to help out. A way to solve this? Increase how many hours the kids spend in school. They are already looking at doubling the provision of early education for 2, 3 and 4 year olds in Scotland to help parents get back in to work. Six hours is already long enough for children. 30 hours a week! I know some people who only work half of those hours in a week. Children need the opportunity to be outdoors, playing with friends or taking part in extra curricular activities, not spending more hours in a classroom!
The last thing that I've noticed being talked about a lot is the introduction of formal assessments for primary school aged children. Should we be testing them as young as 4/5? Again I think it depends on the individual child. When Z was 5, he went through a series of formal assessments to identify how he could be supported in school. However he wasn't told he was going to be tested; the assessor made it sound like something interesting to Z. Having said that, they could have told Z he was going to do some tests and he would have loved it! There are benefits to assessments as they enable the teachers to plan for the children to help them progress or to identify if the child needs some form of support. But there are ways that can be done without making it a standardised testing system. Children don't need that kind of pressure in primary school! They will have enough of it when it comes to sitting their standard grades or GCSEs.
I'm not sure what the answer is in finding the perfect form of education for children in the UK. Perhaps making the move from nursery into primary a more fluid transition instead of boom, let's learn to read,write and count might be a good start and making childcare more accessible and more affordable for parents too. Ultimately though I guess so long as the children are happy and given the opportunity to enjoy being children is all that really matters.