Time after time I get asked “My child is struggling at school and I want to know how to best support him. He’s struggling with Maths, what can I do?”, as you can imagine the content varies but the basic question remains the same. Very often when probed the parent will reveal that the child has just left foundation stage and entered key stage 1 (from reception to year 1). This never, ever surprises me.
Our children leave the wonderful, child led environment of early years, that has been designed around their development, and then enter an outdated system that was created when we still believed that ‘children should be seen and not heard’. It has no support system in place to help with this transition and the fact that they need one speaks volumes about the education system we entrust our child's education and development too.
Let me be clear, this is NOT the teachers fault in anyway whatsoever. They are also thrust into a system that means that the actual ‘teaching’ comes way down on the agenda compared to the ticking of boxes and preparing children for assessments. Teachers usually become teachers because they care, they have ideas on how to support children’s learning and want to make a difference but they find themselves in a system that offers them little flexibility and support. Funding is dramatically cut and teachers with classes of 30+ children are spinning all the plates without even a valuable and much needed teaching assistant. This system FAILS OUR CHILDREN.
We are behind in the league tables so why not look at the education systems of our European friends that finish so much higher in the league tables; why not follow suit? Instead we make young children do more classroom based academic learning earlier and earlier and then wonder why we do not get the same results.
Children learn through play, through experiences and by doing so they develop holistically, in a way that is of upmost importance in today’s vulnerable world. We need creative thinkers, good listeners, children who can empathise and problem solve. We can teach children everything else by letting them be children, letting them explore, think critically and figure things out for themselves.
Our children’s mental health is in jeopardy, serious mental health issues are on the rise and when we are continuing to squeeze them through holes they just don’t fit through are we really surprised? Our world is very different from 100 years ago so why has our education system not evolved accordingly?
So when I get asked the question “What can I do to support my child’s education” I respond “By doing everything at home that they are NOT doing at school”. Take them to parks, talk, play games, LISTEN and communicate. Keep their confidence and self-worth high so that when they get knocked down by feeling frustrated at school they can be resilient and have another go. Bridge the Gap for them, be the difference that they need and enjoy them; because our children are special, and deserve to be seen AND heard.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and an emotional education consultant and trainer. A qualified early years practitioner and mum of two with over 21 years experience within the early years sector.