LETTER TO MY CHILDREN
“WHY YOU ARE MISSING SCHOOL TOMORROW”
Tomorrow, when all of your friends return to school after the Bank Holiday weekend, you will not be there. As far as I know, you are the only children in your school who will be on “strike” tomorrow and I need you to understand why I have made this decision on your behalves.
All over the country, mummies and daddies are keeping their children off school tomorrow as a protest against the government’s insistence that you be tested, assessed, labelled and treated as a statistic instead of the wonderful, unique human beings all three of you are. The 3rd May Strike has been organised by a group called “Let Our Kids Be Kids.”
A couple of years ago, the government decided that the best way to make you cleverer was to make the tests you sit when you’re six/seven and when you’re ten/eleven much harder than they should be. All the experts in education, including headmasters and teachers, from schools all over the country agree that making things too difficult for children will not make them cleverer. This is because the only way to teach you things you are not old enough to understand is to drill you with facts you have to remember. This is what your teachers have to do in order that you pass the government’s SATS tests and because it takes up so much time, you are missing out on learning far more important things. We and your teachers know you deserve so much better.
Your teachers have to work very hard to make sure all the children in your school pass the government’s tests, but not all children learn in the same way. All three of you are very different, so your mummy and daddy know it is wrong for the government to create a standard that every child in the country must reach at the same time. One of you finds it easy to learn facts and memorise them. One of you finds it impossible and frustrating to have to learn in this way. One of you has been told that they are very clever because they’ve ticked all of the government’s boxes ahead of time. One of you has already learned that because you do not fit the government’s standard, then you’re viewed a failure.
But kids, your mummy and daddy know that this is a terrible system and we are keeping you off school today to tell the government that all of the children in this country deserve much better.
Your lovely teachers and headmasters have already said that this isn’t the best way to encourage a lifelong love of learning. They have told the government that it is unfair to expect all children to fit into the same box. They have said it is unfair to label children as ‘high-flyers’ or ‘failures’ when they are just six years old, based upon their ability to rote-learn. The government has not listened to your teachers because the data they collect from your tests is too important to them. They want your results so they can rank all the schools in the country, giving your teachers a pass or fail mark too. They even pay your teachers more money if they pass, and less if they fail. Every time your teachers have raised their voice to object to early, unfair testing they have done so because they love you and want the best for you too, but the government has ignored them. The government tells the world that your teachers object because they don’t want to work harder or be held responsible for your test results, but this isn’t true.
This is why we need all the mummies and daddies in the country to raise their voices too and say, “Please listen to our teachers because we know this is wrong too and we don’t want this for our children.”
Some people don’t understand that passing tests is very different to understanding, but it is. We don’t want your teachers to spend all of their time teaching you how to pass a test or teaching you things which you don’t need to know until you’re much older.
Instead we want your teachers to be given the freedom to teach you in the way they know is best. We want them to give you an enthusiasm for learning, instead of a loathing for cramming facts. We want them to value your creativity and your imagination, instead of having to group you in their classes by how quick and capable you are at retaining information. We want them to appreciate how you grow in self-confidence as you solve problems and we want them to be able to help you to think critically about the world around you. We want them to see who you are – a unique human being with an unlimited, unpredictable potential – instead of being forced to view you as a piece of data to be collected, tracked and analysed.
When you sit your tests remember that we know your results reflect a tiny, minuscule fraction of what you can do and that all the most important things about you: your creativity, your imagination, your reasoning, your curiosity, your self-worth and your kindness, are not being measured by SATs.
So tomorrow, instead of going to school for the day, Mummy will be taking you to Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle, where you will learn all about writing and drawing and illustrating and creating and using your imaginations. The government says the arts, “holds children back,” but we know learning how to write beautiful, interesting and original stories in a way that makes the world listen to you is far more useful than having to memorise a list of grammatical terms that no brilliant writer has ever needed to know.
Finally, in making this stand on your behalf we have been able to teach you about democracy and campaigning. Every person in this country has been awarded the wonderful gift of living in a country which values freedom and it is important that we embrace our right to protest whenever we feel strongly about an issue. Never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means you’re standing alone.
All three of you have a voice and if you don’t speak up and use it, then why bother thinking at all? Nobody can hear silence.
#kidstrike3rdmay #letourkidsbekids #sevenstories