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Lack of aspiration for children in primary

(23 Posts)
Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 12:10:38

Ok, so maybe I'm harking back to golden times but I am frankly a little astonished at the lack of aspiration there is for children at my child's state primary. I was also at a state primary at her age (8) and there seemed to be a lot more aspiration for us (late 80's) in terms of drama and music though perhaps not in sport.

As an example, my daughter's year is putting on a 45 minute play this term. We have just received the script which regardless of it being extremely turgid - here's a bunch of facts let's call it a play - has been divvied up into 55 equal parts instead of the 15 or so parts it probably began with. I can't see what this teaches children - surely it's school assembly stuff to stand up and deliver a line of fact. When I was this age but school put on a production of The Wizard of Oz. Yes, there were fewer main parts, but as children we had to put it on which meant making scenery, learning how to do the lighting, being the prompts, being understudies etc... designing costumes (though I don't believe we actually made them. It started a life-long love of theatre which I doubt many children will end up with from this frankly pathetic piece of school assembly pointlessness which is being called the Y3 play.

As another example, my nephew's school choir only ever sang the melodies of songs, no harmonisation, no separate parts, no ambition. Again at the same age we were doing quite complicated stuff and I know that my child is perfectly capable at 8 of holding her own line while others sing a separate line. We do it for fun at home!

What's happened? Where has the aspiration gone? Have we so lost the pure joy of a) learning and b) teaching and wanting to push children to do exciting stuff that we just don't bother? Is it a case of too much work load for teachers, is it that everyone has to be equal and so no one should shine, no group should shine? I see it in the academics as well so it's not just drama or music.

I find it really sad that I have to go beyond school to find these things for my child when it was all included when I was 8 and at a state primary. Admittedly the academic side wasn't all that great at my primary but I scholarshipped out when I was 10.

Mrscog Tue 14-Mar-17 12:35:13

I think it's lack of time and so much pressure on teachers to meet all the targets on reading/writing etc.

Politicians lack the foresight to see how all those music/drama type things help build these skills in a slightly different way.

I'm sure teachers would love to be spending more time on this stuff - it's up to us as parents to moan to our MPs about how miserable they've made primary education.

juneau Tue 14-Mar-17 12:39:20

Music, drama, cookery, PE and playtime have all been cut back in favour of drilling DC in to meet national targets. Add in that primaries are much bigger than in our day, many more classes in the school, budgets are tighter, etc, and often there aren't the funds for extra-curricular things.

A friend of mine was so appalled that her DC's school doesn't have an orchestra that she started one! Of course, it helps if you have a specific skill and the time in which to share it.

NoLotteryWinYet Tue 14-Mar-17 12:43:55

i agree - the only kids that can do anything musical at DD's school have obviously had lots of private lessons. The few other interested kids can plonk out a tune with one hand on a keyboard or sing bruno mars. That said, I never did any music at school so it wasn't better back in the day for me (although we did have lots of plays).

Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 12:48:02

Yes - I did note that the 'play' was topic based. Urgh. I am starting an after school club but it's sporting as I don't have the skills for drama or music (unless it's football, there's no team sport below Y5). I would love there to be an orchestra at the school but they don't do music lessons in the school by peripatetics though there's guitar and violin en masse if you want to do it at lunchtimes.

Smurfpoo Tue 14-Mar-17 12:57:54

Ofsted look at:
Reading
Writing
SPAG
and tentatively make sure something about science is done (although this isn't properly measured like the others)
Theres an obsession that are kids are in the "world market" and need to be as good at maths as the kids in Asia.
We are churning out stressed exam passes, we are not giving a well rounded education to churn out happy healthy well balanced individuals who are work ready. We are not encouraging plumbers, bakers, builders, train drivers etc etc .

Its all data driven, so you have to teach to get the right data box to measure it by. Ofsted ask for data and so theres now a sub industry of computer programs that have been created to measure your childs progress. So instead of being your lovely daughter whose done really well at maths this week, she's a blob on a graph printed out for an ofsted report.

Its all wrong

Smurfpoo Tue 14-Mar-17 12:58:56

* That our kids are in the world market

Sorry, awful SPAG wink

Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 13:03:20

There was an article in some paper or other about how we teach for factories when we no longer have that sort of economy. In a gig economy you really want people who think laterally and not in narrow lines - narrow lines can be done by computer.

sirfredfredgeorge Tue 14-Mar-17 13:06:16

There's so much more opportunity now outside school, and in clubs for those interested in these areas. So I can see why there's much less ambition, there's no need to have discouraged uninterested kids on the periphery of the activity just to provide the opportunity to the few engaged.

Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 13:13:45

there's no need to have discouraged uninterested kids on the periphery of the activity just to provide the opportunity to the few engaged.

No, instead we'll have 55 discouraged uninterested kids not learning anything except how not to fidget while child 27 is saying their line. I'd rather they didn't do a play at all than do one badly.

I will admit that my daughter absolutely loves theatre (not the dancing though as she hates it and before age 10 it's difficult to find pure drama classes) and said she'd rather have a dancing part and no lines at all than 1 dull line in all of the 45 minutes she has to be on stage. She does like the songs though.

GraceGrape Tue 14-Mar-17 13:20:46

What do you suggest doing about it though? As a teacher, I would love to spend more time on drama, music, art etc. However, as PP have explained, the pressure is on to show Ofsted the right data for reading, writing, maths. I used to do quite a lot of drama as part of my English lessons. Now there is so much grammar to drill into them, we don't have time. While Ofsted is the be all and end all (and the threat of forced academisation hangs over any school whose data is not up to scratch) we are all forced to focus on those core subjects.

NennyNooNoo Tue 14-Mar-17 13:22:07

The Y3 'play' sounds more like an end of term assembly to me. Maybe they just used the wrong term. Do they not do a proper play at the end of the summer term?

sirfredfredgeorge Tue 14-Mar-17 13:29:01

I'd rather they didn't do a play at all than do one badly

Seems reasonable. How do you get 55 lines in 45 minutes though?

But the point is not about the disinterest in the production, it's the amount of practice and rehearsal that's required to not do the production badly. So for all the rehearsals and practice of the event, that's when the others have nothing to do.

So the periphery kids do nothing, whilst the few get lots of extra practice. Practice that most can easily get outside of school - sure some won't be able to access it through cost or whatever, but those are generally the more disadvantaged kids who wouldn't be getting the big parts anyway.

You don't need to put on an external production to provide opportunity for all students to do drama etc. Spend a school year putting on quick small shows and improvisations to each other or other classes and everyone will have the opportunity to experience drama, much more than a few having big parts in a production.

GraceGrape Tue 14-Mar-17 13:31:14

Re the play, it will have been divided up so that parents can all see their child do something rather than just stand on the edges watching 5 or 6 children shine. If drama is your DCs thing, a drama club or theatre school os the place to hone their performance skills. That's not what school plays are about.

Smurfpoo Tue 14-Mar-17 13:32:57

There's so much more opportunity now outside school,
(parking the obvious cost and parental engagement issue to one side)
For those that have the confidence and knowledge to go "do you know what mum, i would like to try acting / dancing / climbing / diving / skiing"

You don't know you will like it unless you know about it, think you would be good at it / enjoy it and try it.

Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 13:35:24

Grace - I have no idea. I wish there were solutions but I imagine there are too many competing interests. Constantly changing things piecemeal just seems to make things worse and no-one has the will to completely look at the system, completely overhaul and future proof it - though I think that's probably what we need to do both for schools and for the NHS and social care!

Nenny - only Y6 get to do a proper play at end of summer term. None of the other years are involved.

iseenodust Tue 14-Mar-17 13:39:43

I would say wait and see. DS was in a version of Wind in the Willows that had a line for every child (there were 80 of them). There were a few bigger parts and plenty of song & dance. It was surprisingly good and it was nice to see DS say something with conviction rather than be 4th shepherd silently looking at his feet. He hasn't embraced drama but it did his confidence some good.

Enb76 Tue 14-Mar-17 13:42:37

I do a bit of extra curricular with my daughter - cost is an issue as I'm a single parent earning far less than 16k a year. She would like to do pure drama - there's no opportunity as they are all 'musical theatre' which we tried at crippling expense and she hates the dancing. She also plays the piano (G3/4) and has to sit through me doing interminable singing stuff because I have no one to look after her while I rehearse. So that's her musical education taken care of.

School is exactly where disadvantaged children should be getting exposed to this stuff.

irvineoneohone Tue 14-Mar-17 14:55:19

"School is exactly where disadvantaged children should be getting exposed to this stuff."

Isn't that what school is trying to do by give 55 equal parts, rather than few confident ones?

NennyNooNoo Tue 14-Mar-17 16:18:54

I wonder if the size of the school makes any difference. Yours sounds like a big school with a double class intake. Ours has a total of about 110 pupils spread across year R to year 6 in 4 classrooms, and we seem to have a lot more involvement in those sorts of activities e.g. Everyone from yr 3 to year 6 takes part in a play / musical every summer with the year 6s all getting the speaking parts, while the younger ones sing in unison. Easier to do if you've only got 16 or 17 in a year group. At the end of every term we have a whole school performance with each class singing or presenting, and we also have a school choir who sing in harmony. Sounds like your school could do better but maybe it's the scaling up that's the problem.

Eolian Tue 14-Mar-17 16:28:01

There's loads wrong with the Ofsted-driven, data-producing treadmill, but I'm not sure more ambitious school plays would be top of the list of things I'd introduce tbh. My son's primary do a non-turgid play with proper parts twice a year, plus a few concerts/dance shows and the time it takes to rehearse for them is ridiculous. Ds loves performing but gets soooo bored with the endless (but inevitable, I guess) repetitive rehearsing. He'd rather be doing maths.

I'm not at all anti doing fun stuff, but good, ambitious drama and music take a lot of time and require masses of extra work from already over-worked staff. Teachers need more scope and freedom to make actual lesson time more fun and less pressured, rather than spending more time on extra-curricular stuff imo.

sirfredfredgeorge Tue 14-Mar-17 17:01:05

smurfpoo I absolutely agree you need to try it, but that is what the small productions with everyone doing something does - in reality very small productions involving small groups only presenting to each other in drama class would do it even more. Putting on a big production where likely the already skilled kids who've been exposed outside of school will simply take the bigger parts doesn't drive that encouragement.

The big problem is cost and parental engagement as you say, but I don't think big school productions actually help solve that, as it's probably already too late. The confident, expressive speakers are already ahead of the game.

nat73 Tue 14-Mar-17 19:33:11

TBH I feel our school is the opposite ... a disproportionate amount of time goes into the Xmas and summer plays and meanwhile academically we are bottom of the table..

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