There has been much talk recently about the rise in stress and anxiety levels in those of school going age. Here is one of the reasons for this increase:
Last night I was casually scrolling though twitter and I came across a tweet from a mother who was trying to help her 9-year-old do some English homework. The question was:
“There is a lovely example of a fronted non-finite clause on the bottom half of page 45. Can you find and copy it?“.
I have been an English teacher for 25 years. I have no idea what a “fronted non-finite clause” is. And frankly, I do not care. And you have to ask yourself: why does a 9-year-old have to know that? And what is the point in being able to “find and copy” it?
Sadly, this is what has happened to our education system. Teachers who have been in the profession for years have had to retrain themselves to be able to teach this nonsense. Pupils now have to learn this rubbish and spit it out in the exams. For those who are dyslexic, reading a text is difficult enough. Now they have the added pressure of having to learn some quite advanced linguistics. Why? What is the point? Other than raising stress levels, it has no value at all.
I was recently interviewed for a podcast where I spoke about my views on mental health in the classroom and how therapeutic techniques can be really beneficial to the wellbeing of all. But when those in power make decisions about what they think is a valuable education, far too often they get it wrong. This phenomenon in the English classroom is down to Michael Gove (who has never been a teacher) making a rather ill-informed and arrogant decision about what makes a good English education.
But now we have parents who cannot help their children. What did this well-educated mother (Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Uni of Birmingham; biological anthropologist, author, broadcaster; President of Humanists UK) feel like when she could not help her daughter?
In this education system, the love of reading vanishes. Stress levels and anxiety sore. Parents, pupils and teachers suffer. The curriculum has had to expand to include the dreaded Subject Terminology. Nothing has been removed to make way for it. Each lesson now becomes a race to get through a scheme of work. Fun, enjoyment, laughing and arguing about character and setting take second place to making sure you can spell “onomatopoeia” and spot “anaphora”.
Until such time as teachers and those with knowledge of wellbeing make the decisions about what makes a good education, we are going to continue to see a rise in stress and anxiety levels in the classroom and at home.