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Primary school curriculum asking too much of children

(335 Posts)
Ipsos Sun 13-Mar-16 23:12:15


I wondered if I might ask what others think of the pace of work in the primary school curriculum in England the Wales?

My son has been struggling at school and I went to talk to the senco. I said I felt that they were asking too much of ds.

The senco agrees and says that she doesn't know any teacher who thinks that the current fast paced learning is healthy or appropriate for little kids of their age. She says people are always talking about mental health problems in young children as if it was some kind of mystery where it comes from, when in fact it's obvious that it's caused by the school system.

She said there is little that the school can do to shield him from this as they have to meet targets or they will be marked down in their ofsted assessment.

I feel really sad for ds that he is being put through this in his early years, which should be a time of free play and freedom to think and develop naturally.

I wondered if anyone might have ideas on how to solve this problem? If people generally agree that the curriculum is too fast paced, could we perhaps start a petition or something?


OooLookShoes Sun 13-Mar-16 23:18:16

Totally agree.

Plenty of time for stress and targets. They should be playing. I try not to get sucked in, we do a very minimum of homework, and try to do other activities in the home. But they we risk the DC getting upset because they are falling more behind because they aren't doing an extra hour of homework a night. Poor little buggers. sad

G1raffe Sun 13-Mar-16 23:20:27


Ipsos Sun 13-Mar-16 23:31:09

Do you know if there is any way to get my son out of this situation? I really do worry for him. I keep wondering if an independent school would be better. I know a lot of people home educate but I couldn't manage that.

I started in the English system myself and was saved from it by a move to Scotland where the curriculum was much more age appropriate. I keep wondering if we just have to bite the bullet and do that move again, but it is hard as dh is not from scotland and the career he is in does not exist there.


DancingDinosaur Sun 13-Mar-16 23:37:57

I don't think you'll find an independent school better. Mine are at independent, the pressure is very high compared to friends with children in state school.

Inkymess Sun 13-Mar-16 23:41:07

Blimey round here private prep is twice as much pressure from the start. We are at an amazing high performing state school however and our experience is obviously very different from yours. No homework really until juniors and lots of extra curricular stuff and tons of fun

Inkymess Sun 13-Mar-16 23:43:02

Op how old is DS? The private schools here are far more academic and tons of homework from Yr1. People go there if they want highly selective secondaries

clam Sun 13-Mar-16 23:46:23

could we perhaps start a petition or something

Good luck with that! Sorry to be cynical, but have you not noticed the response that the current doctors' strikes and previous teachers' strikes have got from Government? They're hardly likely to take any notice of a petition.

WhirlwindHugs Sun 13-Mar-16 23:48:12

My impression of independents is that because they don't have to do SATs it's a lot easier for them to slow the pace down.

I have been discussing this a lot with friend whose child is in prep school, mine similar age is in state. There has been no expectation at the prep school that all children will be able to learn by heart lots of times tables, spellings etc by the end of year 2.

My year 2 was recently just set a project to do at home (with parents) that there is no way my friends child, a year older, would be asked to do. Prep child does get more homework during the week but much less in the holidays.

It's very frustrating no one seems happy about it (apart from the government... So I doubt they'll change it unfortunately!)

Greengager Sun 13-Mar-16 23:50:19

Yes it's awful. My DS is keeping up with the work but it's stressed and angry a lot now. I don't know what to do about it. He's tested three or four times every week and comes home with piles of spellings and maths.

eyebrowse Sun 13-Mar-16 23:58:10

I can't tell whether Michael Gove destroyed the curriculum through incompetence or through a hidden design to destroy state education.

Ipsos Mon 14-Mar-16 00:00:40

Thanks for the thoughts on this. It all just seems so absurd to me. As a child I once visited a school museum where we could have the experience of being at school in the 1930s where it was all constant hard work and the cane and all that (we weren't actually caned). I feel as if the conservatives want to go back there, and it's so stupid.

There's no sense driving 5 year olds so hard that they end up constantly angry and unable to play.

I feel myself drifting towards teaching ds how to slack off, treat school as the enemy, and take sick days in order to recover his exhausted mind, and that's such a negative attitude to have to teach to a 5 year old.

General election anyone?

ReallyTired Mon 14-Mar-16 01:23:38

I have two children seven years apart and I feel that the new curriculum for literacy is better than seven years ago. I don't believe the new curriculum is that much harder. It's different.

I like the focus on phonics, developing good spelling and grammar of the new curriculum. The old curriculum had ridiculous things like expecting year 2 children to write in a range of genres.

The maths curriculum is a lot harder. I think that too much is expected in reception and year 1. Children need more time to be really solid in the basics. I do like the emphasis on problem solving.

What is harsh is that all children are expected to sit the equivalent of the level 3 papers. I feel this is really harsh. There is far less differentiation than the past.

dodobookends Mon 14-Mar-16 01:41:58

I can't tell whether Michael Gove destroyed the curriculum through incompetence or through a hidden design to destroy state education.

By doing one of them, he is also managing to do the other.

ReallyTired Mon 14-Mar-16 02:05:47

I think it's ofsted's relentless obcession with progress that has destroyed the primary curriculum. Activites like the school play are no longer valued.

Topsy34 Mon 14-Mar-16 05:55:00

I completely agree,mds has been pushed too far and I'm meeting the head to discuss finding a medium

If i have to home ed i will but it seems such a shame as he loves being in school, he just can't keep up with pace

Topsy34 Mon 14-Mar-16 05:56:00

I don't mean a shame to home ed him, as i think that would be amazing, but a shame i would be taking him out if an environment he enjoys bar the pace and level

zen1 Mon 14-Mar-16 06:17:29

I also agree. The expectations of the level of achievement for very young children have gone right up and my youngest child (yr 2) will never meet them (has SEN). However, if the curriculum had been the same is it was when my eldest (yr 8) was in the infants, then my yr 2 child would at least have been attaining NC levels. Instead, he seems doomed to stay on P-levels for ever more because he will never meet the new expectations for his age. My 9 year old is also struggling because of the change in curriculum 2 years before leaving primary. Having looked at the new Yr 6 SATS, I really don't see how knowing all the grammar nomenclature will be of use in life unless someone is going to pursue a career in languages.

redgoat Mon 14-Mar-16 06:25:37

It's awful. I'm leaving teaching at the end if this year because of it. This government is destroying our children. I have to get such unrealistic targets out of my children and I fear for their mental health. A whole generation are being set up to fail.

mouldycheesefan Mon 14-Mar-16 06:36:06

It's asking too much of teachers!

The pace is fine for my children but all children learn at different rates. Some will find it a challenge, some won't. If the pace is slowed some won't be challenged enough and be bored.
They do seem to go over and over and over the same stuff continuously e.g phonics there is a lot of repetition they spend the whole of year one repeating the same,e phonics for their phonics test. So the pace on those type of things is actually slow to the point of tedium.
I think you need to be really specific about what your son is to struggling with because ' the pace' doesn't mean much e.g is it maths, is it reading etc. Slower learner do get a lot of help and small group support to reach the minimum standards.

Footle Mon 14-Mar-16 07:03:49

OP, is there a Steiner school anywhere near you ?

ChalkHearts Mon 14-Mar-16 07:11:44

I don't know how bad things are now, at your school.

But the old system (I.e pre this year) wasn't working either.

Teachers were happy to let SEN kids drift miles below the expected level.

20% of children left primary not reading or writing well. 50% didn't pass their GCSEs. It was certainly no golden age.

I think this system is probably only equally bad to the old system. Not worse.

AnotherNewt Mon 14-Mar-16 07:23:21

Steiner schools are terribly rigid (later start to reading isn't optional, or child-centric, it's one manifestation of a very set approach to what is learned, when and how). It is unlikely to suit those who want the needs to pupils to be considered individually, or are not in sympathy with the belief system if anthroposophy.

Prep schools are much more pressured because - unless the junior department of a through school - the DC have to pass competitive exams for transfer. This is often considerably more stressful for the pupils (who know how much is riding on it) and which involves multiple exams. Pre-preps are already on this trajectory.

Also, pace of delivery of the primary curriculum varies between schools.

It is quite possible that, as your SENCO says, the teachers in your school are very unhappy about how the curriculum is being delivered. But there are other schools which are far happier. This is usually a SMT issue, not a central government issue (but always easier to blame the distant bogeyman).

Have you been to look at any other local schools? Because you may find that others suit your general outlook rather better.

But actually, I'd also ask questions carefully about the relative performance of the various school's SENCOs.

SpaceKablooie Mon 14-Mar-16 07:35:40

ipsos, I think that you're totally right, but I don't know what to do about it either.

Does anyone know if primary schools really are generally more relaxed in Scotland? I think I want to move back (home for me, and DH would love to).

spanieleyes Mon 14-Mar-16 07:45:49

20% of children left primary not reading or writing well.

And 18% of primary aged children have special educational needs. Not all children with SEN will be lower attainers but a large proportion will be, so the 20% figure quoted is not surprising. But whatever the level a child with SEN is working at, they are still expected to make the same rate of progress as children without SEN, so whilst they might not achieve as highly, they can't simply be left to drift!

And I'm also not sure how increasing the degree of difficulty and the level of expectation required will necessarily make children "brighter", it will certainly increase the pressure on them to achieve ever increasing levels.

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