Education, Parenting, Thoughts
comments 74

To Whom It May Concern…

Dear Whoever

Obviously, this letter is to anyone who should happen to read it.

But it is particularly to those nameless, faceless oafs that dictate how and when and, precisely, what my children learn. 

This does not include their beloved teachers, who know them well, but a heap of people they will never meet. 

Yes, I’m talking to you, and I have a few questions.

What do you hope to achieve, exactly?

Why must you focus so rigidly on  attainment? 

Why do levels and scores matter to you oh so much?  

Are you ever curious about the lives behind the names on your precious test papers? 

Here is one such life – one face, one name.

 
This is my daughter and she is seven years old.

When I put her to bed this evening she cried because she cannot recall all of her times tables.

As an aside, I cannot recall them all and I am 28 years old.

This is the same child who, at the age of four years and eleven months, within a few weeks of starting school, told me that she thought she may need glasses because she could not yet read properly.

My daughter is an able student, and one who truly loves to learn, yet she is suffering in confidence as a result of current educational guidelines. 

She is at risk of losing her thirst for knowledge because she struggles under the pressure of getting things right.

Things like sums and spellings and handwriting.

Things that shouldn’t matter to a seven year old.

Surely a willingness to try trumps a robotic correct answer every time?

A student who is happy and confident is better off than one with good grades but no enthusiasm, right?

Presently, my daughter still wants to explore and learn and find out more for herself.

But I am left wondering just how many more tests it will take to extinguish this desire?

Instead of drilling her with times tables and spellings until she can repeat them back to me, with a numb mind and a heavy heart, I would like to focus on what drives her to acquire more knowledge.

I am interested in what interests her.

And I care about the things she can already do, regardless of any test result.

Would you like to hear more about what makes my daughter brilliant?

My daughter can empathise; she is full of love and kindness. When David Bowie died she wrote a letter to his family expressing her sadness at their loss.

My daughter can cartwheel; she is packed with energy and athleticism. Every day after school she and her brother can be found climbing trees and racing round parks.

My daughter can solve problems; she sparkles with tenacity and curiosity. When faced with a dilemma, I now find myself asking her advice because of the wonderful way in which her mind works.

My daughter questions everything; she is bubbling with confidence and not afraid to stand up for her rights and beliefs.

My daughter can bake a cake and ride a bike and she gives the best hugs.

My daughter can do a hundred things that your test papers fail to quantify. 

And I refuse to let her lose these qualities. If she lives to be 100 and never knows her times tables or how to write joined up or how to spell “tricky” words, I will be happy and proud.
So long as she also remembers to never become the type of arsehole that makes small children doubt that they are anything other than wonderful.

Because that, to me, is an epic fail.

Maybe not of SATs, but at life.

Thank you for reading.

74 Comments

  1. Well said. With a mum like you she’ll never loose the love of learning or curiosity for life. So glad my kids are now out of their school years.

  2. Annette says

    Dear Jen, I completely empathize with what you say and how you feel about all the tests children are given these days. When I was growing up we were expected to make an effort to get our spelling and maths right, but we were not tested in a proper exam until we were 11 and understood and could cope with doing such tests. By the time my children were going to school the obsession with tests had already begun. My daughter was a bit of a rebel and, like your own, was curious and questioning of everything, she asked so many questions she was often to be found standing outside the classroom where the teacher had sent her for asking too many questions. She is now a mother of 5, having grown up, trained as an electrician and as a panel beater/welder and as a blacksmith ( I said she was a rebel) anything she was interested in and especially if she was told she couldn’t because it was a ‘mans’ job, she did it !! She also runs a business making sails for boats that have difficult, non standard sails, like Chinese junks. My middle child, a son, was dyslexic and because of those tests, he avoided school as much as possible and when he was at school, like my daughter, he got into trouble for asking too many questions, he took no exams and now runs his own company with a turnover of £5 million per year. My third child, another son is also dyslexic and has ADHD, he took NO sats but has still managed to pass his exams and has trained as a mechanic and as a horticulturalist and is now studying art at college. My point is that children are amazing creatures and infinitely adaptable as long as their spirits are not broken. Sats are not nessessary and if your daughter doesn’t want to do them because they worry her then she should not have to. Take her out of school on the days they’re doing sats, or even all together and teach her yourself, if that is practical. There are a lot of groups that teach their children together, not in an official school, as my nephew was, taught at their own pace and in whatever they are interested in. They will be the innovators of the future, because they have been encouraged to think for themselves and not been molded into something they are not !! Good luck to you and your daughter, sats or not, she will be great x

  3. This letter could be about our son harris he also eats slowly so ends up leaving half of his lunch because there not allowed enough time to eat it also to much home work let kids be kids

  4. I definitely agree, children in Germany don’t go to school and work like they do in England, and I don’t know one stupid German child. Let them be young children for a while linger, be happy and want to go to school, instead of worrying about tests

  5. Maggie Edwards says

    Wonderful.I am a retired teacher of over 34 years and agree with everything you have said.

  6. Retired teacher says

    Every politician and policy maker in education in this country should read this. You have said what so many teachers believe and have lost sight of in the quest to hit targets in schools today. The qualities that make a good human being have been dismissed, precious time in school is being taken up in testing what is learnt rather than exploring the unknown and engendering the thirst for lifelong learning. I hope you daughter continues to enjoy her childhood.

  7. Brenda Butterfill says

    Well said …… Let our beautiful children be free to grow naturally x

  8. Diane Banks says

    Sentiments all parents share. I was a year2 teacher most of my career and actively campaigned to have SATs abolished. Good teachers know their pupils well and assessing them in order to move them on in a happy learning environment is sufficient.

  9. pat melling says

    You are absolutely right! I’ve never agreed with sats and other such tests. Well said. ☺

  10. Jan says

    Abroad children do not start school until they are seven, the reason is because they are not ready. In yhis country they do not have to legslly start until thr term aftr they are five but parents still send thrm at four or younger??????

  11. Emma says

    Wow, totally agree with lady, my daughter is ‘behind’ according to the stats…really!! She is being taught time tables instead of basic life skills such as recognising money I.e adding it up, what is a 50p etc I’m teaching her to be able to know she is given the right change in a shop. She is 10 years old and is having to have ‘extra lessons’ to catch up.
    She loves to be creative and write thank you cards or get well cards etc to friends, family and teachers that’s another caring life skill I’m more interested in her having along with many other skills.

  12. amandamac says

    I think this is brilliant, I didn’t have the luxury of having a child but empathise with all parents in this situation

  13. Barbara says

    This is so true and I hope it is read by the people that make these decisions X

  14. Beverley Croft says

    Absolutely agree with you, the education system has become crazy through most of the world, children are losing the joy of learning about things. Learning should be through play in the early years, and developing curiosity of things in the world. This gives a basis for learning for life.

  15. This is fantastic!! I’m lucky in the respect that my Daughter, now 25, escaped the full pressure that these stupid and irrelevant tests require. She did have SAT’s but back in her day they weren’t as bad as they are now. If they want to see how Teachers are performing then take away the paperwork an the not needed aspects of what they have to do alongside their job. They are Teachers – let them TEACH!! If the Teachers can teach then the children will learn. Want to know how the class and Teacher are performing? Then leave them to do what THEY know best and you’ll soon see the results you’re looking for. Let the Teacher judge how to get around little Sammy not being able to do something a certain way, let the Teacher find her own solution as to how to get it through to Sammy so he can understand it in his own way. “If a child can’t understand what you’re trying to teach it then it’s up to you, as a Teacher, to find a different way to get through so that the child DOES understand” (Author forgotten).

  16. Alison Henderson says

    I do so agree with you. Thank you for expressing what I feel using the wonderful example of your daughter. Fortunately she sounds resilient and should do well “in spite of”, but of course that is not the point. People are always saying that “education” is the answer to everything. But my question is: What are we really teaching our kids and how? Is it really of value for their development as healthy, happy members of society? So many tests and pressures and emphasis on the 3 “Rs”are in my opinion not going to provide balanced, independent thinking members of society. Parents and teachers must protest and “the powers that be” must listen.

  17. John regan says

    Well said, and I know your daughter is in good hands.i sincerely hope she grows up happy and healthy God bless

  18. Chris says

    It’s good her child could write a letter to David bowie and is interested in things and is capable of so much more…where did she get these skills..oh yes at school ..where she is taught to read and write and of course do math to enable her to make sure she gets the right change and can succeed later in life..stop bleating about school and support her more with that of as well as encourage her to do after school activities ..like playing out with friends and different sets of fun things…

  19. John Precey says

    You have my simpatheis. I am dyslectic 68 and finish as a highly respected Manager.

    My house master said some 20 years after I left school that he wished there were marks for being technically competent instead of sufferring only 3 O levels in art woodwork and engineering drawing.

    Life has not changed much only the way they screw you up.

    Best regards

  20. Gemma Sanchez says

    Your daughter sounds like a truly remarkable little girl. Cherish those qualities that makes her the twinkle in your eye. It sounds like you are doing all you can to keep her sparkling.
    As a teacher of primary children, I can assure you, you have our backing.

  21. Ian James says

    Life is full of tests and these ones don’t even matter. It is great to do well, but at primary school who cares.

    You have to try and make tests mean nothing to them, not let your own insecurity on them be felt by the child.

    Pretty difficult thing to do. Going off on one now may ingrain something in them that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

  22. Sarah says

    Schooling has become so much about getting everything correct that they have taken the fun out of learning, and it has become all about statistics and not learning I have noticed this more now as my son, has got to his GCSES and how much he is struggling and all they want to do is push each child to the breaking point saying that he has to get as higher mark as possible and I keep telling him to do his best that is all I ask of him and I wish him so much luck in the world and any other child who is going through the same thing.

  23. Rieann says

    Well said, not sure what to do about it unless you find a different school, Montessori or Steiner, or home school. Goes without saying that you are very visible and active in her School parents and friends association, and step up to the plate when volunteers are needed. Your presence and that of like minded parents are needed to force change.

  24. Louise says

    Wonderfully said! Let’s hope to whom it may concern pays attention. I feel very fortunate that my son’s school continue to focus on developing a child thirst for knowledge and motivating him to learn in a variety of ways. He learns so much more from their grounds days ( looking after the school gardens), going to sing at the local residential home, having local authors, theatres come in. But I wonder how long such methods of learning will be allowed to continue. Surely everyone should understand that if you take the joy out of learning you’ve lost the child already !!!!

  25. Well said! I truly believe our children are being made to grow up far too quickly therefore not having a carefree and fun childhood. These tests are causing children to suffer with all types of ailments like stress, anxiety, lack of self confidence and many more…… Well done to you for standing up for your daughter’s welfare. Long may she continue to learn and explore.

  26. Vicky says

    It’s awful. My daughter is in year 5 and is now not only biting her nails in hands and feet but the skin round her nails and her heels palms and is pulling her hair out. She has dylexia and gets no help as thre is no money. What will become of her. It’s awful.

  27. Tara Smith says

    Your daughter sounds delightful. Cheering you and your daughter on.
    Time for a different type of schooling, methinks. xx

  28. John Cranna says

    best reasoning for home education that I have heard

  29. Mrs Tina Whitlam says

    Brilliantly said. Sats demoralise children, being happy to learn and enjoy going to school, is more important.

  30. Becs says

    I really don’t mean to sound glib, but if the teachers don’t support these tests, and the parents disagree with them, what does it matter whether the children do well in them? What happens to the results? Can’t we just all agree they don’t matter and crack on regardless?

  31. Rachel says

    This is the exact reason I am sending my son off on a weekend of enjoyment to scout camp rater than cram for his SATS as his school advised. I know which is more beneficial to his longterm growth and happiness.

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  33. Sarah says

    Excellent point and extremely well made! Echoes my feelings exactly. Long may your daughter have the beautiful qualities that make her so special xxx

  34. Jules says

    Without sounding harsh to hard working teachers.. (Being one myself) But I have three girls… 2 of which have gone through the SATS tests and not once have either of my two girls have worried, fretted, stressed or become upset through out the whole process.

    Maybe it’s the way the children are taught, learn and reassured that really matters.. Because at the end of the day.. If they enjoying learning and have great teachers there should be no need to worry.. The emphasis is on the teachers/schools..and Not the pupils.. If your child is stressed and worried.. Then Maybe look to the teaching/ school – is it up to a standard it should be? Is that where the problem lies??
    …… With individual schools.. Not the government!

  35. Mark says

    Great article. My wife became disillusioned with state education and management treating children like numbers. She is currently retraining to become a Steiner Schools Teacher. My daughter goes to Elmfield Steiner school and she loves every minute or her school day.

    Her typical day as a 4 – 6 year would consist of singing, baking, climbing trees, building dens and basically being allowed to be children.

    I’ve copied a link with more info about Steiner aka waldorf education.
    http://www.steinerwaldorf.org/

    Mark

  36. Karen says

    Absolutely brilliant! Children need to explore the world around them and their place in it. They’re need to learn how wonderful and special they are, because if they can’t love themselves for who they are, they will not be able to care for anyone or anything else. Who would want to sit in an office day after day when there is a wonderful world out there. Testing children is a former of abuse.

  37. Tony Marriott says

    What a lovely letter, and a wonderful daughter you have.
    Through illness I never went to school till I was 11years old, so only had 4 years of schooling.It did not do me too much harm, as I have had quite an interesting life since leaving school, I was for several years a Handybank manager, so it didn’t do too much damage.
    I wish your daughter well for the future.

    T.M.

  38. Brenda Bundy says

    SATS are not an exam. There is no pass or fail. Just a way of checking whether children need extra help or are falling behind in key subjects. Or perhaps it would be better with the old system where some children leave school still unable to read or write.

  39. I agree with absolutely everything you have said, unfortunately my son did not fit into the nice neat little box called main stream school so he was labelled as Bad and he gave up by the age of 13 and didn’t even bother to continue to try, school had squashed all the life out of him. He could not wait to leave and said he never wanted to go to college or learn in that kind of environment again. The saddest part of this is my son is very intelligent, but being labelled with ADHD the teachers decided to leave him at the back of the class and ignore his needs. Classic example of the system failing yet another student. I have spoken to many other parents and they all feel the same, school=drones. Our children are being brainwashed into clones so that they fit into the one size fits all box of the future, but lets be real here, one size does not fit all and in fact only fits those who are willing to bend or cram themselves into it!!!!!!!!!

  40. My daughter is seven and last she year her list of spellings included: interrelated!!! I refused to do them, I told the teacher that in 39 years I have never used the word interrelated, I can’t spell the word interrelated & I have no idea what it means. Why on Earth does a seven year old need to be able to spell it???!!!

  41. Ray says

    As a point of interest the nameless faceless oafs are basing their model on the asian style of learning where the ideal is conformity of attainment in tests. This has of course led to the situation where the asian model has produced precisely zero Nobel prizewinners and basically means they are devoid of original ideas. So much so that everything manufactured there is based on original ideas from USA and Europe.

  42. Good on you, my son is just about to turn 16 and he hates school because of attitudes of teachers towards him! So much so he became the class clown and has inthe last 6 months or so decided to get his head down regardless of who thinks what about him. There are 3 teachers at his school who have been there for sam through out and who have now decided to help him to study and do the best he can in his exams including getting him a brand new laptop and 3 loaded dongles so he can study and revise at home. I just hope its not to late for him. We say at my age which is 52, that school years were the best times of our lives…what happened!!!!?

  43. Des Noons says

    Please let children be children & enjoy childhood. There is no need for exams & assessments whilst at primary & Junior school. Let them live

  44. Kelly says

    Completely agree my son is the same and has hated school since starting year 2 all because of the pressures around SATs.

  45. Well said couldn’t agree more I heard tonight that kids are supposed to know what subordinating conjunction,prepositions, determinates, modal verbs,relative clauses and other such guff at 7-11 year olds are being made to learn that I don’t know what they are on about and I am 58 year old grandad and never had to worry about such rubbish and I run my own business for the last 28 years

  46. Tania says

    I totally agree with what is in this letter there young children they shouldn’t have to worry about sats at there age or getting upset or stressed about having to do tests,there only young once let them enjoy themselves while there young.

  47. Jean White says

    Well said and written Jen I agree totally with all you have said

  48. Nicola says

    Pushing a child at such a young age can severely damage their learning capabilities and confidence, and this comes from experience.

    Being screamed at to know my times table along with other things, and being told I was stupid at such a young age has given me mental blocks as an adult when under pressure to recall information I do comprehensively know…. I even battle with still feeling stupid today!

    Children should be children and they learn best through fun and curiosity, stress shuts them down and cognitive walls are built, when will this ever be learnt across the board!

  49. Sally says

    You sound like a fantastic parent! Stick to your principles and defend your daughters spirit
    . I refused to let my children do weekend and holiday homework so they could enjoy other things-it didn’t do them any harm- one is a doctor and the other two are engineers. And timetables? Neither my husband or my daughter know them-and they both have degrees!

  50. Mark Robinson says

    I can still recall my times tables and my spelling is pretty good, picked up at an early age and both I feel have served me well throughout life. Numeracy and being able to communicate effectively with other people are essential. They’re obviously not the be all and end all – kids with abilities in other areas will still make their way through life, but they’re nevertheless damned useful. There are millions of Asian kids learning the skills you seem to decry and they will be the ones in demand in our global economy.

  51. Lynn Kelly says

    Brilliant choice of words and all true, I wish you all the best for you , your daughter and all the other children and parents that are having to go through the hoops of an uneducated government.

  52. Kevin says

    Tell your little girl I am 60 and always did and still have trouble ! – the tables never would sit easily in my memory.
    And I have tested IQ of just under genius level (147)
    I had to figure a way to try to recall them differently – for instance the 2x, 5x 10x and 11x are fairly easy but I found the rest just wouldn’t sit in my memory – even to this day.
    So I would come to the answer in a different way; for instance to find 9×9 I would multiply 9 by 10 (easy ) then take away a 9 Hence we get 81
    I found that the 6x table was a bit easier for some reason !
    So from the : 2x 5x (6x) 10x and 11x which I was more able to learn I could figure out ways to get the answers to the ones that just didn’t want to sit in my memory.
    But tell your little girl even without all this I did lots of really interesting career moves in my life.
    Such as being an Advertising Print Production Manager at Harrods.
    Meeting all sorts of famous and interesting people.

  53. Here here children’s minds are for exploring life but this will mean they loose there own imagination which is happening already
    Hey ousted leave theses kids alone

  54. Toby says

    You completely misunderstand the need for learning. Of course it’s hard at times. But if we don’t help our kids to do it we’re seriously failing them.

  55. Julie lagger says

    This young parent talks such sense I hope someone listens to her .

  56. When I went to school we has spelling tests and maths test no pressure but now they have SATS for this and Sats for that. We took our 11+ and that was all I loved The 60’s no worries just a good childhood

  57. Adrian Perks. says

    Kids just need to be kids. Everything else will come in good time xx

  58. She is a beautiful person so much more than the rest x teach her to enjoy life x

  59. We should be nurturing what energies and talents and loves children already have rather than burdening them with leaning by rote what we think they “should” have. The most precious spirits that come into this world are gentle and sensitive and inquisitive; they have the most to give but unfortunately are the easiest to crush. Our education system is doing a good crushing job.

  60. I had the same problem as your little girl when I was in Primary School in fact the female teacher kept the class in every playtime until each one passed her oral testing eventually I was the only one left in the classroom each play time. Those damn tables just would not stick in my brain !! Eventually she gave up on me and let me go !
    Even now I feel unsure somewhat !
    Anyway on in my in my adult life I decided to do a IQ test just for the heck of it !
    I found I had a IQ just 6 points short of Genius rating.
    Not bad for a guy who eventually left school at 15 without a single exam just to get away from the damn place.
    Guess what.
    My major position of employment in my working life was at Harrods in Knightsbridge, starting as a sales assistant in linens eventually transferring to work for Personnel as a ‘Mobile Shop Assistant ‘ working on a daily basis in any dept that was short of assistants, even as a lift operator and at One Christmas I was one of The Harrods Santa’s; eventually I worked full time in the advertising dept as a Print Production senior assistant to the advertising Print Production Manager. Not bad eh !
    Basically I just took relevant evening classes such as print production when needed.
    I used to enter the directors suite of offices all the time to get relevant signatures to ok the advertisement expenditures etc.
    I knew Mohammed Alfayad, and his Son ‘Dodi’ gave all of us in the Advertising Office free tickets to the first film that he produced; ‘Special Fx’
    So tell your little girl to relax; actually the tables only have a tough bit to remember in the CENTRAL sections of the 6x,7x 8x and 9x tables – the 2x, 3x,4x, 5x 10x 11x and 12x are not too bad !
    Regards
    Kevin SNELLING
    PS. Imagine going through school with that surname eh !

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