Big school and me.

20160803_174247Am I the only one struggling with big school?

I’m floundering. Flapping around playing a constant game of catchup with the school, and have been ever since September when I was thrown in at the deep end blissfully unaware of what was required of me as a parent.

My own primary school was in a tiny old Rectory in our little village. It accommodated 30 children at full capacity and there were only three members of staff (one of whom was my mum which was ace). I absolutely loved it and used to run to school on my own via my best friend’s house at the end of our street. We would then climb onto the churchyard wall and try to run along it without falling off, sometimes paddling in the babbling brook which separated our houses from the old Rectory. Sounds idyllic I know, and it was.

Safe to say, that as a parent in 2016 – some 40 years later, I was not prepared for how modern primary schools operate.

My daughter started school this year with 60 others the same age as her. The playground in the mornings is awash with scooters and hyped up children charging around at 100 miles an hour. Only last week an elderly grandparent got knocked over by a wayward pupil on a runaway scooter.
There are strict rules to adhere to. Homework (already!). Trips, and endless PTA meetings and emails to attend to. On top of this we receive a weekly newsletter by email often containing vital information regarding the children’s week ahead; text messages nearly every day informing us of various schemes and activities which require a parental decision; We also have a virtual ‘Portal” where we can log on and see pictures and a ‘pupil diary’ outlining activities that have been carried out successfully (or sometimes unsuccessfully). And as I discovered today we also have parent seminars every few weeks in the school hall where we get a powerpoint presentation and handouts in order to be brought up to speed with precisely what has been learned recently and how we may enhance that learning.

I know it’s going to sound mealy mouthed because on the one hand it’s excellent that there is so much feedback and involvement with the parents but it just all seems a bit much for Reception.
This last week we had the saga of the school Christmas show to deal with (twice) and my daughter was stricken with horror at the idea of having to stand up two days running in front of people and say lines out loud. We witnessed a regression to quite severe behaviour and it was all I could do to actually get her into the school on the days of the show. She couldn’t sleep for nerves and as a result we were late one of the mornings. Instead of going straight into her classroom, we were led in through ‘the door of shame’ for late children and got a ticking off which further heightened her anxiety levels. I explained why we were 5 minutes late and yet still later on that I day I received another email and text letting me know how serious tardiness is. Asking whether I was in fact aware how bad it was for children to not be in school by the allotted time.
I’m sort of a bit angry about it now, and I’m left with the overwhelming feeling that 4 is way way too young for children – our own children in particular with their often traumatic backgrounds – to have to deal with all this admin.
Why can’t they have at least one more blissful year of playing with their friends before they (and their parents) get thrown into this busy world of rules and regiment? It’s just a so much more of a big deal than I realised it would be.

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3 thoughts on “Big school and me.

  1. Well said and great summary of how overwhelming ‘education’ is for everyone: it’s a job for parents to keep up! Absolutely agree with your last point. My son only made it till October half term in reception, we pulled him out and and he re-started a year later (back in reception again).

    By the way, children dont start primary until age 7(or 6 at the most) in the top three performing countries in the latest PISA (OECD’s latest global education survey). I suspect most of the other countries ranked above the UK are the same! Even when they do start earlier (like in the Netherlands), formal learning doesnt start till age 7 (The curriculum for Reception in England is comparable to what they do at age 6/7 in the Netherlands – two years later!), and still better results!

    Early Years education matters – yes, but not in terms of reading and writing: they need to develop socially and emotionally FIRST. Our kids are being damaged but there seems to be no change in sight!

  2. This makes me so grateful for how our primary school was. My kids started reception very soon after they moved in, and the school was so receptive to their needs. My son, who was still only 4, was allowed to start in nursery and visit his reception class with a support worker until he was ready. Reception was play focused. Neither of them was expected to speak in the Christmas play – my daughter held her teacher’s hand throughout it. (A year later, her confidence had improved so much she took the lead role…)
    When I sprained my ankle and my daughter really struggled with her feelings and getting to school, I was told to just bring her when she was ready. If I needed school to give her breakfast, I was told to just let them know. She was so anxious she threw up at school and they understood it wasn’t a physical illness and kept her at school to reassure her. They were amazing.
    All that said – there are far too many trips, far too many “special” days and theme weeks and far too many expectations around dressing up. Now we’re in year 2, there are 12 insane spellings, plus 16 homework questions and reading every week, which is just impossible when we’re still building our family connections and working through their trauma.
    But I am so grateful for the school’s support and awareness around attachment issues.

  3. I hear you.
    We have been through all of that minus the seminars.
    We have moved school in year two. His needs were not being met.
    The education system is not good for children, especially LAC/Adoptees.
    Do you have a virtual head you can work with?

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