Every now and then there’s a news story that warms the heart with its utter humanity. This week, news of the homework set by Mrs Thom, a teacher at Bucklebury Church of England Primary School in Reading, got the world of education and beyond talking about values in schools and the things that ought to, should and could be focused on.
In case you missed it, the homework urged children in Year 6 to “go on a bike or scooter ride, read a book, watch your favourite TV programme, smile, eat Haribo or ice-cream, laugh until your tummy hurts” – you get the message. This is about doing anything but worrying about SATs and their aftermath and getting back to healthy (we’ll overlook the Haribo reference!) pursuits for children in their leisure time.
A statement from the school shows that Mrs Thom’s approach is very much shared by colleagues. While keen to stress that they “absolutely recognise the value of assessment”, they also strive to provide an education based on exceptionally delivered personalised provision. The statement said:
“We believe in growing the whole child, in every child. To that end, we endeavour to nurture fully rounded children balanced in mind, body and spirit.”
Regardless of the age and stage that you teach, you won’t have missed the furore surrounding this year’s SATs tests, and it seems inevitable that teachers across the country will either do something similar (several letters have been sent to children and parents along a similar theme) or be sympathetic to schools that do. If social media is anything to go by, many teachers and education experts have been upset (to put it mildly) about the content of the tests and the pressure that young people have apparently been put under. It’s not an overstatement to say that the value of these tests, particularly this year, has been widely called into question.
Yet at a time when Natasha Devon, now former government champion for mental health in schools, has been told her services are no longer required, we might be forgiven for wondering if parents’ and professionals’ concerns about the impact of stress and anxiety on children and young people are being taken seriously enough. While the government has said that Natasha Devon’s role is redundant because of plans for a new cross-government post, her criticism of the current testing regime and the links she made between that school pressures and growing incidences of anxiety among children won’t have gone unnoticed.
While a glance at edutwitter will show that not all teachers believe that the tests are too difficult or that there is anything inherently wrong with the testing regime (it seems the tired traditional v. progressive debate rears its head here too), many do have grave concerns and to see those being transformed into practical encouragement for children to enjoy themselves and develop interests outside school seems deeply positive for both pupils and teachers alike. As the saying goes, we teach what we most need to learn. Maybe there should be a similar list of activities for teachers to do for their “homework” too! After all, remembering what helps us to relax, unwind and reconnect with what’s joyful in our lives must go a long way towards enhancing teacher wellbeing, and that can only be a good thing for both teachers and learners.
Have a good week!