One hitherto unforeseen advantage of trundling round the house with the vacuum cleaner is that it gives you space to compose blog posts in your head. One disadvantage is that the instant you switch the machine off, those wonderfully crafted words disappear, sucked up as far as I can tell into the Dyson.
Anyway, there I was, mulling over the apparent impossibility of getting GP1 to even think about doing any revision for the forthcoming prelims or perhaps even making a list of what he needs to do. I don’t ask for much. His younger brother, on the other hand, also faced with exams, comes out with such gems as “Mum, if I do this past paper could you mark it so that I don’t cheat?” You’d throw up wouldn’t you, if he wasn’t your own son. So I just laugh, lavish praise, agree and wonder why the application genes couldn’t have been divided equally.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to auction tickets for someone to accompany me to Parents’ Evening tonight. This was prompted by the swimming club (including me, I have to confess) choosing a date in the middle of May for the Club Championships. But when I realised this was right in the middle of exams I backtracked faster than a teenager from a revision timetable. “We can’t have it then!” I cried. “Oh, it’ll be alright” they said. The rest of the committee have 9, 10, 11 year old GIRLS. They don’t know about teenage boys. Our lovely, organised, efficient, competent, female coach said “I’ve been there. I’ve done exams. It can be good to have a break. It’s just a matter of being organised.”
More laughter on my part. Hysterical laughter. “Organised” and “elder son” are two entirely unrelated concepts in our house, particularly where school is concerned. I thought if they came with me to Parents’ Evening – which I’m dreading, by the way – they’d begin to understand some of the difference between 10 year old girls and 16 year old boys. Anyhow, we’ve rearranged things for September, so that’s alright.
It set me off thinking again about boys and girls and school and the education system. Stuff like that with the prospect of another rant developing.
It seems to be generally accepted that boys mature later than girls and that girls do better at school but boys start to catch up later. I’m sure there are lots of references to suppport that but, as I’m so idle, you’ll have to find them yourselves. Sorry. If I was a boy I’d be digging out the references for you, because I’d have caught up and overtaken myself. I’ve also heard it said more than once that there is a big dip in learning during the second year at High School. The first year is all exciting and new; by the second year they’re used to it, are learning to establish their own will and independence and are discovering a whole bunch of other exciting things in the big wide world.
So, if we know all this and if it really is true, where has this big idea come from to narrow their syllabuses, take away the excitement of lots of subjects with no pressure and make them start their exam courses in second year? Especially boys. They mature later? Learning dips in second year? You can just see someone higher up the tree, someone who’s already made it and is probably very organised, rubbing their hands together with glee. Great idea, we can really catch them out this time – make them do everything early! Let’s trip them up big time. They enjoy art, music and PE? They might only be 12 but there’s no time for that. Starting to find History interesting? I might be 12 but I’m going to be a scientist. There’s no room for History in my programme. We’ve got serious stuff to do.
And then we move on to Highers. I apologise – this is old ground – but I feel a need to have a shot at the much lauded Scottish education system. Yes, in Scotland students finish school with a wider range of subjects at the end of their time than they would in England. But a lot of them, my two sons included, are doing Highers (5 subjects) at a time when their English cohort are doing GCSEs (?8 subjects?). They’re mostly too young – perhaps too immature – to leave school if they’re carrying on to Higher education so they have 6th year. As far as I can see from my present vantage point, 6th year’s primary function is to do resits. Especially the boys. The bright ones and the ones who have done some work can do Advanced Highers. Everyone else does resits and/or a mixture of subjects that best fits in with the timetable for the rest of the school, at whatever level the school can manage to timetable.
From my point of view, as we go through the system, it all seems totally crazy.
Why do girls and boys have to do certain things at the same time, at the same age?
Why do all children have to jump through the same hoops at the same time, at the same age?
Why can’t they have three years of unpressurised learning of all sorts of things, do Standard Grades in 5th Year and Highers in 6th year? If they need to do resits, they could come back for a 7th Year. And I know this wouldn’t make any difference to GP1 – I don’t think he’s going to figure out about work and exams before his 21st birthday. Oh, I know it would be totally impractical and difficult to manage around the school leaving age, the expectations of parents, the expectations of pupils, the influence of the media, the pressure on schools for good results, the education budget and a million other things.
There’s no harm in wondering, though. Meanwhile, back to the vacuum cleaner. Oh, and there’s Parents Evening to go to. Anyone want to come?
Photo credit: kennethteo