Recently I had a conversation with a friend about how teaching has changed since we both qualified more than 10 years ago. More testing – tick, more focus on core subjects – tick, more evidence of progress – tick, more feedback marking – double tick. But when we got down to the nitty gritty we realised the biggest change in education during the last 10 years was the increase in pressure our pupils are now facing. The education system, like never before, is expecting children to do an awful lot and a lot younger. By the time they get to the end of Year 6, especially when sitting grammar school tests or entrance tests to selective schools, they are expected to understand, infer meaning and write about complex passages of text and do maths that I don’t remember doing until GCSE (although maths was never my strongest point.)
All this pressure on our younger children is trickling down from our more memory focused GCSEs along with the changes in the curriculum at junior school level in 2014 and the 2017 white paper Bold Beginnings, which suggested that even Early Years level should be less play-based. These changes have put pressure on children to learn and be educated at a level that is often not appropriate for their age bracket. The outcome of children not being able to access education at a level that is right for them means that they feel left behind and feel anxious about not understanding. The mental health epidemic in young people is sadly on the rise and with a continued focus on core subjects, while ignoring more creative outlets like Music and Art, it means more children are struggling to find education enjoyable and accessible. One of the reasons I started Little Writing Company was to foster a love of writing and creativity without the pressure of 'getting it right.'
So is there a solution to the pressure on children? The march of technology means we don’t know what jobs will even exist in 10 or 20 years’ time so our children need a broad and creative education which makes them adaptable to a changing job market and environment that doesn’t yet exist. Schools need to adapt to this changing world otherwise our children will continue to feel the pressure.