Another term, another two parental consultations for my eldest children – one leaving me happy and confident that I have made the right choices – and one leaving me simply confused.
I am still no nearer to knowing whether my biggest boy should continue his education through Welsh or English but that’s a story for another time – right now it’s the forthcoming national numeracy and literacy tests that are occupying my mind.
These tests take place next term and in the case of my eight year old, the exam practice began with last weekend’s homework. It was also suggested that we should be using the Easter holidays to work through past papers for the tests – practising the sort of questions that are likely to come up, reinforcing the self-checking, encouraging good exam technique eg not lingering over problem questions if they are only worth one mark.
I don’t have a problem with extra work at home where necessary to support a child’s development – in fact I have been actively seeking support on this from school. But I’m really not sure how I feel about practising for these tests, because I’m not clear on the benefit of ‘good’ results. Last year I toed the party line and insisted my son practise really hard, and he came out eighteen months to two years above average for his age. Yet in real life, he is constantly hovering just above the line where he is deemed as in need of extra help. So clearly the results don’t bear that much relation to what’s actually happening, and if that’s the case, why bother?
I imagine the test results contribute to those all important league tables and possibly individual teacher performance ratings. And I do have sympathy with this – it must be immensely frustrating for educational professionals to be graded by how well pupils can pass exams.
But that still leaves us in a situation where we are being asked to spend time on an exercise that is pretty irrelevant as far as the kids go, in place of spending time on what they actually need support with.
So – do I do as I’m told and insist on my son practising for the tests? Or do I spend some time with him in the holidays working on the areas he needs to improve – in his case, fluency and confidence in Welsh? Or – given that he has a homework assignment plus spellings plus times tables plus a reading book every weekend in term time, maybe he should enjoy being a child and have a complete break over Easter!
What would you do?