We regularly hear about pressure within the school system. An article in the papers last weekend outlined a very sad report about the increasing pressure caused by tests, exams and Ofsted methods of assessment, placed upon our children and schools.

The report from the National Union of Teachers says that teachers are seeing unparalleled levels of school-related anxiety, stress and mental health disorders in children, some of which is exacerbated by pressure from parents as well.

The pressure nowadays on children to achieve the grades and results, and upon the schools to do the same, has resulted in childhood mental illnesses and disorders which were never so prevalent in previous years. This pressure also changes the relationships within schools, both between staff and pupils and teacher to teacher to head, as all feel under stress to force kids to meet targets and satisfy unreasonable Ofsted outcomes.

And it brings into question the quality of what the children receive in the educational system.

According to the report some ministers have raised concerns about the mental wellbeing of children because of these pressures, initially caused by the way in which Ofsted assessments influence the climate in schools, and they are rethinking some of their decisions and measures. But although they proclaim that they are investing in mental health services to address some of these issues, it would surely be a better idea to consider what’s causing them in the first place, rather than treat the resulting symptoms, and review their assessment measures with regard to the people they are affecting.

School stresses and phobias are among the reasons many parents are choosing to home school. And whereas the numbers who did so were often higher in the primary sector, more recently there’s been an increase in the number wanting to home educate older children for those very reasons; to alleviate, or repair, the damage caused by an over-assessed approach to education.

Parents who home educate manage to do so successfully without the kinds of pressures associated with the secondary system. They guide their children through exam courses without the angst caused by peer or teacher pressure, do not do unnecessary tests, are able to set themselves targets and objectives to help them achieve what they want to, but without the enforced climate of competition and peer and teacher pressure that is found in the classroom. Yet the children still go forward to complete exams in other settings and gain the grades they need for Uni entrance or work, and are still able to cope with and sit exams, and deal with everyday working or Uni pressures when they get there.

So maybe education ministers could look at the approaches these families take, which are not constantly measured, stressed about, overly assessed or tested, as proof that other approaches work and perhaps it’s possible to take the same approach in schools!



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