Children: the innocent pawns in the education debate

Today the Government here in the U.K. published its White Paper “The Importance of Teaching”.

Now I am not going to get into the debate on the rights and wrong of the Paper (I have written about my views in earlier blog posts). No, I am going to bemoan the fact that in any educational experiment whether we go forward towards a brave new dawn or backwards to “basics” the children are the innocent “victims” of politicians.

I am not saying that the politicians do not genuinely believe what they are crowing about. The problem is that they do. They really feel that they and they alone, have the answer to the big question.. what makes for the best education for the children in our country?

But it is in the schools where the political ideas play out. So we lurch from one big idea to another, one curriculum to another, on set of teaching norms to another. The children just go to school. They do not consider the big with most things in their life, they are at our mercy. We do not ask them if they would like to go to school.. or to study mathematics or have morning assemblies.

We pack their lunch boxes and get them ready for their day.We hope that they will learn, we want them to have fun, to enjoy the experience of going to school. To most children the school day is about the games they play in the playground at breaktime.

Today, I spent a lovely morning at a local primary school where I have worked at least one morning a week for two and half years. The Year 6 (grade 5) class was learning about World War 2 and I was trying to teach multiplication to my group. The teacher put on a video about D-Day , June 6th 1944.  The music was grave and the pictures were stark and dramatic. The children in my group shuffled uneasily as they listened to the video coming from the room next door.

After a while, one of them said, “Mr Bellamy, do you mind if we watch the video?”

I said “yes” and had, four, entranced children really learning about their past and one of the significant events of the last hundred years. I did not consider the bigger picture when I let them watch. I considered the children and their voices and their feelings… I wonder how many politicians are prepared to do that? I suspect very few.



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