Mummy blogger Eileen Unwin, founder of Go Kids in Henley on Thames is getting excited about the long summer break and is passionate that parents take this time to reflect on the pressure our young children are under.
The holidays are upon us and with them we can take a welcome sigh of relief for reaching the long summer break in one piece. It seems that a school year is made up of terms that build in pressure slowly but gradually, until a final explosion of exam stress. Psychologists and educators alike are becoming acutely aware that children are becoming increasingly anxious as they are subjected to exam preparation and the expectations of what they can achieve. The goal posts are moving and many parents seem to be pushing limits that are unsurpassable in their child’s natural ability. This subject has hit the headlines recently and quite honestly, so it should. It is evident that we, as parents, need to pedal backwards and re-focus on whether our children will look back on memories of carefree, blissful days or them only remember the stress of exams and afternoons or weekends spent with a tutor studying.
Tests and exams are starting as early as 6 years old and all in the name of “assessing” and judging a child’s ability at this young age. Seriously? Many of the early years tests including SATS are a form of Government testing that is only a small indication of a child’s ability and schools are specifically requested to “refrain” from revising, let alone tutoring for the tests. They are a burden a child should not be aware of. However, many parents and educators have taken it upon themselves to define their children and their school by their child’s results. Is it really necessary to introduce academic competitiveness at this young age when children are so vulnerable and susceptible to their environment? It sounds harsh in a somewhat child-led world but it is becoming more apparent that it is high achieving parents and striving league table educators that are setting the precedent for this crazy epidemic of excelling beyond the realms of a child’s capabilities.
As a mother of four young children, I am acutely aware of what my children have to endure in the education system we have introduced them to and I see the vicious circle that ensues when the bar is raised. The old adage stands true in that children are children for a very short time. Let us not wish away their childhoods. We, as adults, need to respect and accept that it is our responsibility to ensure they have the most memorable carefree early years that are possible. It may all sound romantic and idealized but it is incredibly important to make this a sincere priority in our lives. One day our children will reflect and remember what they endured in their younger years and I guarantee that we will have cause to regret. Let them remember genuine memories of unpressured primary years and not ones of bribes and treats for working hard.
There are a few leading, forward thinking schools that are removing themselves from this increasingly vicious circle in order to give “life skills” the same attention as reading and writing. They are labeled as ‘happiness’ lessons. Whilst this is a positive move forward it is, nonetheless, a sad state of affairs that schools are taking it upon themselves to teach our children to be happy. If we put an end to analyzing and all children were given the same degree of free/wild play with others of varying ages and abilities on a regular basis, they would thrive without worry from parents and educators. They do not need to be taught how to be carefree without inhibitions… they simply need to be encouraged, not withheld.
Let us use this summer break to reflect and encourage our children to step back into the world of kids and re-discover the fun that can be had! Maybe when we enter the next school term, we promise less pressure and hope that others mirror our approach in order to start turning the system around. Education is a long, long road. There is no rush. Money may buy tutors but it does not buy memories. Children will learn and mature, they will succeed and they will ultimately thank you.
Eileen is based in Henley-on-Thames and juggles motherhood to four highly active, young children with her ‘Go Run’ business as well as writing Behind Every Bump, a story blog.