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Primary education - Better in our day?

(60 Posts)
starfish8 Tue 16-Feb-16 21:15:20

I'm interested to hear people's thoughts on whether you think standards and achievement in primary school was higher, 'back in our day?' I went through primary education from the mid 80s to early 90s.

I wonder if teachers today have a range of more complex issues to deal with, that leads to lower overall progress in their classes?

Were the expected standards higher in the past? I was a bright child and I'm sure I achieved a 6 in Maths (though that could be my memory failing me!).

In what ways has the curriculum been dumbed down in the past 20 years? Are there things children used to get taught which they don't anymore?

To counter this, are teachers overall better qualified and better? Some of the teachers I had back in the day were shocking!

None of this to cause offence, just some random waffling on my part to see what others think?

MsColouring Tue 16-Feb-16 21:23:40

I am a teacher now. I went through primary in the 80s. Standards are generally way higher now. In maths, we just used to work through textbooks - there was hardly any maths teaching. I remember hardly making any progress in year 6 as I was already on the highest book but the teacher didn't really notice I wasn't moving on. Don't remember having much teaching at all in literacy. Saying that, I had an amazing year 5 teacher who really stretched me. But there wasn't the accountability there is now so no-one would notice if you didn't make progress. There also was hardly any variety in teaching methods.

Sirzy Tue 16-Feb-16 21:27:30

I think expectations of pupils is much higher now, but at the same time things - in good schools at least - is much more pupil centres and there is much more support in schools.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Tue 16-Feb-16 21:29:46

No, it wasn't. My children have a much more adventurous and interesting experience than I had. They have made more progress than I did and with much higher confidence in themselves than I was left with.

greenbloom Tue 16-Feb-16 21:35:12

I had a good primary and secondary education. Starting late 70s - my primary had some lovely teachers who ran drama, recorder and most memorably a sewing club. I remember a lot of project type work too. I have no idea about the actual academic standard at primary, it all seemed quite structured, but also far calmer, with plenty of time for stories at the end of the day. Today's primary school day seems manic in comparison.

starfish8 Tue 16-Feb-16 21:46:05

Fantastic comments, all really interesting!

NotJanine Tue 16-Feb-16 21:46:27

My memories of primary school include quite intense maths and English, lots of focus on repetition and reinforcement. Mistakes had to be corrected and you didn't move on to harder stuff until you'd mastered that stage. We didn't do RE and rarely any geography or history or science. No computers. Lots of PE and dance and music and art. Teachers differed in their approach, some were quite old-fashioned and others were free-spirited and wonderfully eccentric.I loved it.

My kids experienced a lot more testing, a wider curriculum but less focus on the basics and less variety in teachers.

Snazarooney Tue 16-Feb-16 21:51:14

You can't coast a school as easily now and the pastoral care is higher.

AalyaSecura Tue 16-Feb-16 21:51:22

Primary in the late 70s here - I was just reminiscing as the Back in Time to programme tonight was on about being 'taught' (loosely) in portacabins for what seemed like weeks because of the caretakers' strike, being on the receiving end of some odd educational experiments, like being allowed to choose what I worked on with no monitoring, I didn't do maths for weeks. But also some cool stuff, dissecting an eyeball and a heart before I was 9. Still have to think twice to remember my 7 and 8 times tables though (and I went on to do maths a level!).

sunnydayinmay Tue 16-Feb-16 21:56:28

Mid to late 1970's - I can't actually remember doing any work at all. I could already read, so I read a lot. I played the recorder. I had a teacher who was passionate about history and geography and she sat us down and told us amazing stories. Another year, my teacher loved science, so just taught us science. Don't remember any maths, and certainly no homework.

To he honest, I was bored for 90% of the time.

Then middle school, no academic work, lots of sport, music and bullying in between.

Much prefer it now. My boys are having a fantastic time.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Tue 16-Feb-16 22:03:46

Vastly better now. I spent my final year of primary helping the reception teacher because I'd done everything and couldn't be moved up a year. Imagine trying to run that one past a parent now grin.

annandale Tue 16-Feb-16 22:06:13

I think ds's education at primary school was better than mine in most ways with three exceptions. I went to an amazing school that, if a child came up with an idea, would allow them to do it. Somehow a range of friends put on vast plays or dance productions, teacher support and allowed to take time and space to do it but ultimately all from the children. Nothing like that at ds's school. Then the school got us to do really lengthy writing - I literally wrote a book about my year six residential and i wasn't the only one. Lastly the choir was compulsory for all children.

However the amount of general knowledge, maths and science ds has learned at school is way beyond anything I did. My knowledge was better because I read more Blue Peter annuals though.

irvine101 Tue 16-Feb-16 22:13:46

I wasn't educated in England, but I think we had a lot more non academic stuff in primary school in my country.
We had weekly music class since start of school, everybody left school by able to read simple music. Weekly art lessons, introduced to proper water colour painting, copper etching and wood carving, etc.
I don't think my ds would get that.

ouryve Tue 16-Feb-16 22:23:21

I went through primary in the 70s and moved school a lot, so experienced several different primary schools.

The overall memory is one of absolute inconsistency between schools. There was also a lot of just being left to get on with things for whole mornings. And a ridiculous amount of copying to be done.

And the noise. It was so damned noisy.

GXmummy Tue 16-Feb-16 22:24:23

I was also on the receiving end of those odd educational experiments- choose what you do. Lots of projects and I remember setting up a library

ChalkHearts Tue 16-Feb-16 22:29:01

Pastoral care is definitely better now.

Bullying is dealt with more often than it was.

ineedaholidaynow Tue 16-Feb-16 22:32:15

Aalya I was also at Primary School in the 70s and I sometimes wonder whether I had imagined the time in the equivalent of Y6, when we were allowed to make up our own timetable, but I assume you had something similar. As long as we did 20 minutes of reading and maths every day, we could choose from a range of different subjects to fill the rest of our day. I suppose it was a bit like independent learning that DS did in YR a few years ago.

I am not sure what the teacher did all day, as we were all working individually from text books. Even maths wasn't timetabled you just chose when to do your 20 minutes each day. I liked maths and reading so just did that all day and so didn't bother with art, geography or whatever else was on offer. I also got my parents to buy me the next stage maths text book as I was bored with the one at school.

So in that respect it certainly wasn't better in my time. However, I don't remember any homework or tests, apart from having to read a list of words to the headteacher every so often. So certainly less pressure, but I don't remember learning that much. It was a shock going to secondary school especially as I went to an independent one which was very keen on homework and tests!

BertPuttocks Tue 16-Feb-16 22:37:02

I started primary school in the late 1970s.

Maths lessons usually meant being left to get on with working our way through different coloured boxes of cards with questions on them. I think they were called SMP cards?

Reading involved reading to a teacher once a term. There were no TAs in our school so it was one teacher looking after 30 children. I could already read when I started school so was left to get on with it by myself.

I think my children's primary school is like a whole new world. They seem to learn so much more than I did, and they learn about topics that I only experienced in secondary school.

Their teachers do a fantastic job. I think primary education is a hundred times better than it was in my day.

CorBlimeyTrousers Tue 16-Feb-16 22:43:06

Really interesting question. I was at primary school in the early / mid 1980s and have a son in Year 1. Our teachers were on strike quite a lot (in my memory) and I learned to read quite easily but no one seemed to notice my sister couldn't read for several years. I have happy memories but in Year 6 I had 'finished' primary school maths and my memories are just of helping others. On the other hand we didn't have homework which I think is a good thing.

I think my son's teachers in Reception and Year 1 know him much better as an individual than mine did. The plans seem clearer and more structured. But there is more pressure and competition (lots of children in Year 1 doing extra tutoring) and homework, which I don't really agree with at his age.

CorBlimeyTrousers Tue 16-Feb-16 22:44:51

Oh yes my Year 1 son has learned things we didn't do until much later - gravity, tally charts and so on. I think that's good.

To summarise - overall I think his primary education is quite a lot better than mine.

Zipitydooda Tue 16-Feb-16 22:45:20

I recently compared my English work from when I was in the equivalent of y8 in a highly selective grammar school in 1990 to my son's writing and his is head and shoulders better than mine. He is stronger in maths too (I went on to do very well in A level maths). He is in y6 and didn't get a place at the same grammar school. Standards are a lot higher, expectations are higher, there is more competition.

This whole standards thing seems like an illusion fed to us by politicians to me. Our poor kids are suffering because we are encouraged to measure our own success in our children's achievements from the day they are born. It does no one any good. Our society needs variety and creativity to navigate the rapidly changing world not robot children who are all the same and ready for 1950s style office work and no prospect of retirement ever.

MilkRunningOutAgain Tue 16-Feb-16 23:14:39

I think primary is much more structured these days, there is little freedom to do your own thing, or to do independent learning. Literacy is so structured it's very boring, story plan, write, edit, with defined goals and no choice. Every lesson has a specific closed purpose, aimed to maximise sats scores. I remember doing my own thing a lot, with encouragement from several excellent teachers. Maths, we worked through text books but unlike others on this thread I did get lots of help and input, and I'm pretty sure I was level 6 by the time I left. Teachers did get time too, much less pressure on everyone which was a great thing. I did have a couple of duff teachers, one who couldn't keep control of the class, and one who as far as I recall did very little at all and left us to it. There were longer PE lessons, whole afternoons in the summer running races and playing rounders. I think my DCs have overall received a more even quality of education, but I think a lot of the fun has gone, and they are constantly nagged to improve, which I don't like.

Washediris Wed 17-Feb-16 06:42:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsJamin Wed 17-Feb-16 07:02:40

Primary schools in the 80s were a total lottery, mine was brilliant, a computer in every classroom, great teachers, but as there was so much has autonomy in the school, they just chose what to teach. I remember doing a whole topic in one day, going into something in great detail, which is one thing kids today might not do as there are more subjects to pack in. My sons' education is so much more considered and structured and taught by the teacher rather than just working through textbooks. Obviously we were tested half as much and I think teaching would have been much more enjoyable for good teachers.

OddBoots Wed 17-Feb-16 07:05:13

Both Primary and Secondary schools are better now than when I was at school.

In I don't remember a huge amount about Infants but in Juniors for maths we worked through Ginn workbooks and if you finished those you were allowed to help the teachers but helping the teachers meant mounting work on double sugar paper to put on the displays, cleaning the painting area or washing up the cups in the staff room. English was okay but they had decided we didn't need to know the grammar, that any expression was good expression. I loved choir, and the assemblies were quite interesting. We didn't do any history or geography and all the science seemed to be plant based. My last year was an education as we had a new young teacher and she used to talk to us about her new boyfriend and try to get advice from us about him! We did better than the other 4th year class though as they had a teacher that was always comparing them to her wonderful daughter who was at private school.

My secondary could have been the inspiration for Grange Hill - Some boys in Y10 were caught by a teacher committing an armed robbery, drugs were rife, pregnancy rates were high, parents would come in and finish the children's fights. The teaching was okay in the top sets but everything else was a huge distraction.

I have one child at sixth form and one in the middle of high school and they have both been taught lots more than I was and in a far better environment.

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