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Educating little ones ......

(36 Posts)
Luckygirl3 Sat 11-Mar-23 20:44:01

Is it just me or does anyone else suffer heartsink when hearing about the state of primary education?

Looking on Mumsnet, there seems to be a headlong rush into making children be what they are not. Pre-school and early years have embraced the idea that children need to learn through play, but once year 1 hits they are all expected to focus, to concentrate, to be able to sit for long periods and - heaven help us! - to keep up with their peers.

If they cannot do this - and many children are not ready to do this at that age - there is a headlong rush to get the child assessed and to find some label to stick on them. I honestly think that a lot of the labelled children are normal children for whom the rigid construct of school is beyond their individual stage of development.

Clearly there are children who have genuine neurological deficits or divergencies, but might it just be that the whole artificial construct of school is something that some children find hard - they are busy being children and exhibiting the traits of children - imagination, flights of fancy ..... etc.

Now I am not suggesting that at home we should allow children to behave just as they wish - they need structures and boundaries in order to feel safe, and they need to find their way in fitting in with other family members - but do they really need to be knuckling down to the sort of government-led focussed learning that is imposed on them so young?

I just think that childhood is so precious that we should value the skills that are inherent in children rather than dragging them into pseudo adult behaviour at the age of 5.

Whitewavemark2 Sat 11-Mar-23 20:52:44

I think those countries who delay formal education until 6 or 7 have got it cracked.

GrannyGravy13 Sat 11-Mar-23 20:57:18

The two primary schools that two of our GC are attending (two of our AC attended them also, one at each) are fairly relaxed until Year 3.

One is half the size of the other less than 1/2 mile away from each other on the same road.

There are two other primary schools within walking distance which are more as you describe, one of which another GC attended, they were more worried if they didn’t go up a reading level, got all spellings correct etc., and their school experience totally different from the other GC.

Joseanne Sat 11-Mar-23 21:34:46

I've always thought it totally unnatural that little children should all be expected to be working at the same level and achieving specific targets when they are still developing as little human beings.
And isn't there that well known expression about weighing the pig? Over-assessment is pointless.

GrannyGravy13 Sat 11-Mar-23 21:45:26


I've always thought it totally unnatural that little children should all be expected to be working at the same level and achieving specific targets when they are still developing as little human beings.
And isn't there that well known expression about weighing the pig? Over-assessment is pointless.

Totally agree 👍

GagaJo Sat 11-Mar-23 23:00:24

My DGS's school is a good one. Very high standards of literacy and numeracy. But as others on here have said, they do sit behind their desks for a lot of the time and he's only in reception.

He hates school already, which is very sad. He's doing really well, but given that he's an only child, he should really love being with all his friends. But because he struggles to concentrate, it's not a place he enjoys being. Poor little lad.

Yammy Sat 11-Mar-23 23:29:43

I got out I couldn't stand what was expected of the teachers or the children.
Learning through play was the mantra when I trained and give me a child until they are 7 and they are mine for life. That child from 0 to 7 has to be happy and encouraged to be confident and try what they want to do. Be interested in the world around them. Not sitting at a table with other children all day constantly being observed and assessed.
My GS had the screaming habjabs yesterday his school had put him into completion with a group and some of the subjects the questions were based on they had not even been taught. No child should be tortured and made to feel small.He even said I used to like my teacher, what can you say in that situation?

Luckygirl3 Sun 12-Mar-23 10:26:46

The differences in developmental speed are more marked when children are small, You can have one child of 6 for whom sitting still and getting absorbed in a task is a joy; but for others it will be hell. They are just not ready - and they get put off learning because they get labelled as troublesome and spend their school days being nagged at one way or another.

It is even more worrying that many parents, exasperated by the child's inability to concentrate, press for the child to be assessed for some pathology or another, so that they can explain away their child's reluctance to fit in at school. These labels follow them through their school career; when maybe they were simply not yet ready for it all at the time the label was attached.

And the parental pressure on teachers to "give more homework" and to compare their child with others are quite worrying. The plethora of outside activities is also getting out of hand in some families: gym, ballet, football, karate, etc. etc.

Patr of this is because it has become unsafe to play out alone - we used to wander the streets of our little town, calling on friends, going to the "rec" etc. We learned resilience (one of the latest buzz words), how to get on with people, independence.

Forsythia Sun 12-Mar-23 10:33:48

The differences between the September born child and the July born child in any year group has always been an issue. I agree about the over labelling and finding a reason, medical or otherwise, why a child is unable to do exactly the same as others. They all mature differently at that age. Parents put the pressure on for sure especially those who are high achievers themselves.

nanna8 Sun 12-Mar-23 10:54:48

I like the primary schools here and I don’t recognise what is described at all. They are great places and so are our kinders. Things change in some of the secondary schools ,though,so parents need to really check them out before they send their children. This is getting harder with stricter zoning unfortunately.

grannyactivist Sun 12-Mar-23 11:13:05

I have three grandchildren who were all born within 16 months, but are in three separate year groups. The five year old (July ‘17 birthday) is in Year 1 and the two four year olds (May ‘18 and November ‘18 birthdays) are in Reception and Pre-school (private school). They all enjoy imaginative play, have good social skills and they like school. All three are very different in their approach to learning. The youngest loves reading and writing and is constantly pushing to ‘learn’, she is naturally curious and asks questions all the time. The middle child is very kind and wants to be helpful, so he follows instructions and is very compliant in school. The eldest is bi-lingual and has a vivid imagination, so often is daydreaming at school and distracted from the lessons, but loves reading and story time.

With only 16 months between them they demonstrate how impossible it is to expect them all to be progressing at the same rate in all things. And yet, somehow, they are all achieving or exceeding their targets.

Glorianny Sun 12-Mar-23 11:16:25

I've got mixed feeling about this I do think children with learning difficulties need early assessment and early intervention. I'm not sure that any of the processes currently used in primary schools actually deal properly with those children and provide for them.
I'd like to see a much more child centred approach which catered for all children. I'd also like to see some fun put back into education. I was a bit of a stickler for peace and quiet when children were working, but I did know that they also needed time to let off steam and have fun some of the time.
I think teachers are so stressed now they are passing it on to the children, I don't think it is deliberate, I think it is just unfortunate that such an emphasis is put on testing.
My DGCs have completely different attitudes to testing DGD is hard working and has worried about her spelling scores since reception. DGS thinks it's all a waste of time and really doesn't care-sometimes he does very well and sometimes it's a disaster.

DaisyAnne Sun 12-Mar-23 11:47:55


I think those countries who delay formal education until 6 or 7 have got it cracked.

What we do need to remember though, is that these countries also often provide free Pre-School. Finland's is from 3 to 6 and is required by law. So they are actually in compulsory education earlier than our children but that the style of education changes at a different time.

Chardy Sun 12-Mar-23 11:55:21

Having had nothing to do with primary education since DD left it 25 years ago, I'm thrilled with what I see through KS1 DGD. She's great at number work, reads really well and seems to enjoy school.

Ellcee Sun 12-Mar-23 12:54:19

Both my daughters were born in a country where children start school in the September before their 7th Birtday. They went to Kindergarten for 3 years before this, which was all play based with no formal education. We moved back to the UK when the eldest was 11 and the youngest 8, so they had 5 years and 2 years respectively of formal education before switching to the UK system. I was a bit concerned - particularly for my younger daughter - that they may struggle as they had had 2 years less at school than their peers, but neither of them had any problems whatsoever. In fact my elder daughter was ahead in all subjects by at least a year, so they lost nothing educationally by starting school two years later than children in the UK. I think 4 is far too young to expect children to sit and concentrate, and be assessed. Our experience suggests that there is nothing to be gained from it either.

grandtanteJE65 Sun 12-Mar-23 13:07:44


I think those countries who delay formal education until 6 or 7 have got it cracked.

I live and have taught in a country that starts formal education when children are 6 or 7 and I honestly believe that this is too late for the majority of children.

They have been bored for the last year or 18 months of kindergarten and are so used to nothing being expected of them, that starting school, where we have long since given up expecting them to sit still and concentrate for long periods is hard.

I am devoutly thankful that I started school at 5½ I can still remember how bored I was at school for the last four months before I finally was able to go to school.

What is needed is not a fixed age of 5, 6 or 7, but an assessment by experienced primary 1 teachers as to when each child is ready to start school from the age of 5 as the lowest time, and 7 as the latest.

Blondiescot Sun 12-Mar-23 13:17:58

My GS is 5 and started primary school last autumn. He literally (and yes, I do mean literally) does not sit still for 30 seconds, so god only knows how he copes in a classroom situation. Even at home, whether he is playing with lego or supposedly watching something on TV, he is constantly bouncing around. He has the attention span of a goldfish - but he is very bright. I just don't think he has the capacity to sit at a desk and concentrate for any length of time.

Caleo Sun 12-Mar-23 13:30:46

Children learn through play. The skilled teacher or parent talks to them as they play so they learn concepts, language, and numeracy skills.

Mollygo Sun 12-Mar-23 13:57:25

Preschool in countries where school starts later often have quite prescriptive activities-e.g. colouring or drawing things the correct shape and colour. Spending time in early years abroad whilst teacher training, I watched in horror as a child’s purple “tree”was put in the bin and he was made to do it correctly. I listened as 3-4 year olds were made to repeat, “Eet eez uh bol, or eet eez uh kek (cake).
They do learn letter formation in many of these countries and parents, anxious for their child to progress in something measurable to them, buy workbooks for the child to do at home.

UK EYFS is now much more relaxed in terms of learn through play, though often it stresses parents that their child is not learning formal work, especially when they think their child has been doing much the same thing in preschool.
The 12 month difference between September, born child and an August born child has always been a concern for me, but as someone mentioned in an earlier post, age is not always an indication of maturity or readiness, ability or desire to learn.

JaneJudge Sun 12-Mar-23 14:03:29

I don't think schools are quick to label children at all, I think it's quite the opposite.

Grandma70s Sun 12-Mar-23 14:17:55

I have a July child and a September child. They both went through three years of infant school, the July one going to the Juniors at just seven, the September one at eight. Their achievements were the same, the younger one at no apparent disadvantage.

micmc47 Sun 12-Mar-23 14:22:11

I worked in Sweden for a number of years, where highly-subsidised pre-schooling is available from age 1 to 6, continuing into further schooling from age 7, which is the stage where a more formally structured, disciplined approach to education begins. This system seems to work well. My 8 year old Grandson is currently attending our local primary school here in the UK, where I'm pleased to say that his earlier years were fairly relaxed, with a focus on developmental issues and on the learning of social skills. We are all well-pleased with the results, but our experience is based on a single school,. Also, as we are not education professionals I don't feel qualified to judge the quality of more general primary education. All I have to go on is our own personal experience, which has been good.

VioletSky Sun 12-Mar-23 14:44:46

I don't agree that schools are eager to label children either...

In the first years adaptations might be put in place for children that need them but there are so many things children might be dealing with that guide behaviour that trying to foist off some sort of diagnosis early would be counterproductive long term.

Also it's not about "labels". For example, someone who is autistic is not autism. Autistic people are still highly individual and having a diagnosis of autism does not mean a one size fits all approach for a child by any means. It's not a label it is a guide for caregivers to understand a child better.

aonk Sun 12-Mar-23 17:35:51

4 of my GC (from 2 different households) go to the same primary school. 3 of them are Summer born. They’re all different in terms of their strengths and weaknesses but are all thriving. The school is strict and traditional and they love it! I’ve not heard a negative comment from any of them. They even cope ok with the homework. I’m a fan of some sort of flexible structure for this age group and also a routine which gives them confidence in knowing what to expect most of the time. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have fun or do any playing but it does begin to equip them to be independent learners and to use their initiative.

Joseanne Sun 12-Mar-23 17:36:56

Don't tell me what any child is achieving at 6 years old; tell me at 16 and I'll be impressed.