Monday, 9 May 2016

Take My Kid Out Of Your Box

I have a real issue with 'quizzes' that appear on my Facebook newsfeed that turn a serious issue in to a joke or game. A couple of years ago the "How Bipolar are you?"
And "How OCD are you?" quizzes came around and I remember putting a status on Facebook stating that if people were genuinely concerned they had Bipolar or OCD it would be more beneficial to visit a GP and get a mental health referral rather than take a quiz on Facebook. The point being, these are serious conditions that people live with every day and it's damn right disrespectful to turn the symptoms of a disorder in to measurable traits that you may or may not possess just for a bit of social media attention
"Oohhh! I'm 95% OCD because I like to clean my house!!" Bullshit.
So think how overjoyed I was when I browsed through my newsfeed and flicked past a quiz entitled "Can YOU pass a six year olds SATS test?"
It was bound to occur. The media has been bombarded this week with the "Let our kids be kids" campaign, and rightly so! 
I didn't take the test. And at first I wasn't too disgruntled about it. After all, maybe it would be educational for adults to see just what this government is expecting of our children. 
It was the comments section that grinded my gears. It's always the comments section! 
There was the usual eye roll provoking comments "oooh I passed I passed!" 
Yes, you passed. You're 38. Well done. 
But the majority of comments were actually offensive, hurtful, and completely missing the point.
Apparently "ALL kids age six should ACE this test, otherwise their parents need to work harder at teaching them"
"Just because parents are thicker than their kids, doesn't mean they should underestimate them."
There were many more comments along the same lines, but these two really struck a chord with me. 
Why are the parents to blame all of a sudden for this governments constant changing of goal posts in terms of our children's education? Why is there an assumption that ALL children should be on the same academic level, ignoring any individual differences and capabilities? Why is there an inference that the children who will not "ACE" this test are offspring to "thick" parents who don't put any effort in to teaching their children?

It won't be long before MY child has to take this test. Maybe he will ace it. Maybe he will get every single question wrong.  But do you know what? I really don't care. He will be SIX! SIX YEARS OLD. There are countries in Europe where he would not even have started school yet. Of course I teach him and assist him with his school work, but I spend more time trying to teach him how not to be a dick. A lesson that many people who commented on this quiz thread clearly missed in life. 
A child's intelligence can not be observed simply through a test. To state that is to deny the fact that intelligence exists in many forms, not all of which can be measured with pen and paper. 
Yes, we could push our darling children harder. But perhaps when weighing up the effects of that we choose to value our children's mental health over their academic capabilities when pushed to the absolute brink. What good will it be when our children can't make their way through university or hold down a job because they've been pushed and pressurised so much that they have seriously deteriorating mental health issues.
What happens when the expected achievement goal of our children is raised so high that they are immediately set up to fail and our special educational needs support is flooded with children who don't really have educational needs, but are instead unable to achieve a result that is unachievable? 
My son is 4 and in reception. He is classed as "delayed" because he is not reaching specific targets for his class. Does this mean I'm a bad mother? That I don't spend time with him helping him to learn? 
Was I a bad mother yesterday when instead of sitting and going over his letters and sounds I allowed him to have fun in the garden and soak up the sun? Was I a bad mother when I showed him how to weed the garden instead of showing him how to do adding and subtracting? Was I a bad mother when he asked me if the worm he had found was a boy or a girl and I told him that earthworms were both boys and girls at the same time? Because to me THIS is learning. 
Remove the box that you are so readily eager to place my child in and the rest of the children in this country.
Wake up and realise that they need their childhood, not tests so that they can be a statistic on a bar chart. 
For the record. I have a degree in psychology and work for one of the biggest mental health charities in Europe. My sons Father has a Masters Degree, makes films and lectures at a local university. So whilst your busy removing the boxes from our children you can also remove that ugly stereotype you've got going on about 'thick parents' not educating their kids.


  1. YES YES YES!! There is not one word wrong with this post. Took the words right out of my mouth. Good woman!

  2. I've purposely steered clear of this whole debate for a few reasons but I agree with you, there is WAY more to a child's development that simply cannot be gauged through a test and nor should it be at this age. In all honesty, my 7yr old felt NO pressure and there was very little 'buzz' about it at his school. He simply 'had a quiz' one day and that was that. No drama and no direct impact on him whether he aced it or had spelled his name backwards. What irks me is that they are using the kids as a way to monitor the school's success which seems unfair.
    Re the 10yr olds SATS I'm not entirely sure how these work, I believe they possibly have some impact on their future subject levels? I do know someone who's son took them this year and a lot of parents feel this is too young to have the stress of an exam but I'm not sure I agree. I was educated in N.Ireland where I sat the '11 Plus' exam (I was 10) and that really DID have a huge impact on your future, determining if you went to Secondary or Grammar school. I knew it was a big deal, even parents put pressure on their kids to do well as so much depended on the result but I never, ever felt stressed about it. I knew I had to get my head down and work hard, I had 'butterflies' before the exam and of course everyone was nervous on results day but my point is none of us were scarred for life or traumatised by it or depressed in any way.
    I do have a bit of a 'suck it up' attitude for a lot of things but I also don't like the idea of kids ever being stressed, especially at 6 or 7 years. I wrote a post about how my two kids are completely different when it comes to personality and academic skills so I am very aware of that fact that while one is strong in certain areas, the other isn't and vice-versa. Like you say, unfortunately there are no tests for life skills or imagination or compassion etc etc.
    Great read, sorry for waffling on a bit, glad to have found you via #BlogStars today!