Let Our Kids Be Kids

Let’s just get this straight…

As a previous home educator, I have nothing but the utmost respect for school teachers.

However, I have a Z.  Z spent his pocket money last year joining the Green Party, then decided that he rather liked what Corbyn had to say this year.  Any hopes I had of sitting home and quietly watching Game Of Thrones evaporated around the same time that Jeremy Hunt renamed our NHS Drs “Juniors”.  Instead, while he told me he needed to be in school, Baby D and I sat in the strike on his behalf outside Lister Hospital and provided cake.  Luckily D likes cake and my coat is waterproof.

So imagine my dismay, fury and sense of total fucking outrage to read a missive from my child’s school.  They irritate me enough with their “Your child missed registration, please provide a reason” ignorantly rude texts at the exact moment I try to struggle five kids and a baby into the GPs (IF I can get a GP  appointment, even with two disabled kids).

So, it is with grave dismay I find myself having to pen the following to Mr P, Head of XYZ Academy:
Dear Mr P,

First, I would like to say how happy Z has seemed at school recently, and how pleased we are that despite some difficulties with maths, that he is making use of lunch time clubs (and has also commented to us that he is very grateful to the teacher for giving up his lunch to help himself and other children who are struggling a little), I would be grateful if you would convey this same sentiment to this teacher, from myself and his Father too. We really appreciate it and have taken out a GCSE Pod subscription to help him.

I have just read your SATs week information letter with great interest, and would like to make the following points.

“As we are sure you will be aware, it is a statutory requirement that every child MUST be in school on each day that week.”

I would love to be directed to this piece of legislation as I am having extreme difficulty in locating it, or anything about this particular age group having compulsory SATS, let alone about their daily attendance. Please, would you kindly refer me to the correct source of this information?

“If by 8.35am your child is not in school you will be contacted and your child collected, if we cannot contact you a member of staff will come to your house to pick up your child.”

IF my child were off school ill (the only reason they would be/ever are off school), and a teacher appeared expecting to put them in their car to collect them, I would have no hesitation in calling the Police, Social Services and the local Health Service Executive who retains statutory responsibility for child protection concerns within schools. I would be very grateful if you could pass me the link to the piece of legislation that you believe would give you the right to attempt to remove my sick child from my home WITHOUT my permission or possibly knowledge, with planning of this beginning BEFORE school hours. I would call this kidnapping and a huge safeguarding issue.

On this note, I am writing to explain why Zak Carter will be absent from school on Tuesday 3rd May. A great number of parents nationwide are growing extremely concerned by the attitude being taken by this Government towards the education of our children. We feel strongly that initiatives such as constant and early testing and academisation are being implemented without due consideration for the implications, and that as a result our children face unnecessary testing and a curriculum that limits enjoyment and real understanding.

What we ask is that teachers are allowed the autonomy to teach our children in the way they know will develop an enthusiasm for learning, wonder of the world and a real, embedded understanding of the skills they will need in the future. We want our children to be allowed to enjoy learning and to develop a lifelong passion for it rather than feeling they are stifled and demotivated through continuous and unnecessary testing. It seems that we have reached a point where action needs to be taken; we are aware that some teaching unions will be balloting members with a view to boycott the upcoming ‘SATS’ and hope that you and your colleagues will be a part of this – an action that would receive huge backing from parents across the UK. However, we also feel that it is time for parents to join teachers in taking a stand. These are our children and we must stand up for their rights. As such, a day of protest by parents, ‘LET OUR KIDS BE KIDS’, is supporting the actions of parents who choose to withdraw their children from school on Tuesday 3rd May 2016 for a day of ‘fun learning’ in opposition to the KS1 National Curriculum tests. This we hope will send a message to the Government about the serious concerns held by so many parents with regard to the prescriptive methods currently used to teach our children. This will likewise send the message that we are fully prepared to boycott the upcoming tests also. We also hope that this will demonstrate to teachers the support available to them from parents across the country. This is NOT an attack on teachers for whom we have the greatest respect; instead, we want this protest to demonstrate the trust that we have in the teaching profession and our desire, that teachers be allowed to teach effectively and without constant constraint in order to embed a life-long love of learning in our children. These exceptional circumstances I feel provide a worthy reason for Zak’s absence and one which I hope you feel able to endorse fully.

I have always found it a very miserable state of affairs with this school, that despite the wishes of so many students and parents to actively champion the fabulous job you do of teaching our children, that your home to school correspondence so often falls into a category that I can only describe as “deliberately provocative”. Parents and teachers need to pull together to face the harm being done to education, and I am sure none of you joined the profession for the wages or the stress levels! But letters worded in such a manner may get the result, but do absolutely nothing to raise the regard that parents have for yourselves or the school, fostering an unpleasant “us and them” feeling. May I suggest that whoever drafts this correspondence, spend a little more time pondering how best to foster a spirit of cooperation and cohesiveness, rather than animosity and thinly veiled coercion.

Yours sincerely,

Jane Ashwell-Carter