As a teacher of young children, one does tend to become quite protective over the children in your care. This feeling has risen strongly to the surface this week after reading the misery many children are experiencing whilst completing their SATs (Standardised Assessment Tests). Having spoken to both teachers who are having to administer them and knowing children who have taken them, it would seem neither are enjoying or benefitting from the experience. Whilst it is not for me to jump on a political soapbox and preach my personal philosophies and feelings, I am mightily relieved the children in Pre-Prep are not going to have to bear the unnecessary pressure of such testing, ever. That is not to say the children are not formally assessed, as they are on a regular basis: the results of which are used to validate that which generally we already know and inform onward individual learning journeys, and not to showcase how ‘clever’ our children may be. Indeed, when I spend time looking at the data the vast majority of our children achieve well above the national average which one would hope for given the small, year-group-specific class sizes, highly skilled staff and, importantly, freedom from the pressure to ‘perform’.
I am so thankful I work in a school where routine drills of assessing how many words a child can read in a specified number of seconds is alien, where the children are expected not only to accumulate knowledge but also to make use of it in innovative and creative ways and where the joy of ‘learning and discovery’ sits at the heart of each and every day. I read a story to the children in assembly yesterday morning which perfectly captured the essence of life at King’s Hall. The story told the tale of a wise, old donkey who knew an awful lot about the world and a rather excitable, young rabbit who wanted to know everything about the world but was rather too bouncy to sit still and listen. Initially, the donkey insisted that in order to teach the rabbit all he knew, the rabbit would have to be able to sit still and listen. However, the donkey soon discovered learning was far more exciting if one discovered it for oneself and also that he could learn an awful lot about the world from rabbit. I likened the donkey to the teachers (although did qualify it was just the ‘wise’ part and not the ‘old) and the rabbit to the children. The ‘rabbits’ agreed their ‘donkeys’ were exceedingly clever and probably knew everything, that it is rather dull to just sit still and listen, that finding things out is really exciting and that they all have lots of energy. The ‘donkeys’ agreed their ‘rabbits’ were definitely full of bounce, that not a day goes by when they do not learn something new from them and that they would much rather listen to the ‘rabbits’ voices than their own.
I hope the SATs misery will soon be nothing but a distant memory for the teachers and children who are having to endure them at present and that the rest of the term is filled with plenty of donkeys and rabbits delighting in exploring the world around them!