Tested To Destruction

If there’s one thing that annoys about schools and the education system in general these days, it’s the amount of testing that goes on in them. Mostly they have no purpose but to fulfil government targets, or for a “progress update” when the last test was probably only last week, but when they also seem way beyond the intended target, you know something is up.

For instance, today I was with the Year 1’s. These are very small children (I didn’t quite realise how small until one of them asked me how tall I was and then asked me how tall I thought they were… they were nearly half my height) aged 5 or 6. And yet, this morning, they did a 90 minute test on maths questions, some of them rather complex like, “If I buy 2 apples, which cost 10p each, and a loaf of bread, which costs 55p, how much change will I get from £1?”. The end result was almost tear-inducing. The poor kids just sat there scratching their heads and looking baffled. Others were reduced to tears saying the questions were too hard, while some kept asking how long till break time. Then there was persistent mumbling as they “helped” each other answer the questions, making the whole exercise a waste of time anyway.

We really need to relax a little in this country. Education is being sapped of all its fun – where were the Lego sets, the dolls, the toys and the sandpits? No wonder kids grow to hate school at such an early age now.

So this was a rather disappointing lesson from my trip into school today. But I couldn’t resist winding up the kids a little. They were at the perfect age to do so… as too many of them kept asking me if I “made” the fans that had just been put into each class. I’d put them together during the break, straight out of the box from B&Q. So I carefully explained how I bent the metal into a beautiful criss-cross pattern and melted some plastic into the fan shape. Their faces were a picture.

But that was mostly what I did today. I don’t think I’m going to enjoy Year 1 for the fact that I’m not actually going to be able to do any work with the kids. The teachers are just going to ask me to do displays (like I did today) or other admin work for the kids’ records of achievement. They seem to be well staffed in Year 1 anyway, unlike other years, which further reduces the amount of time I might get anyway. Here was me hoping to do some painting or something really fun and I ended up pulling staples off a wall display all day…

Things are pretty good at the moment. I feel I’ve got a good balance of free time and very productive and interesting “work”, which doesn’t really feel like work. And now I’ve finally been in all the classes I’m going to, I feel quite settled. No more new teachers to meet, and no more new names to learn. Out of the six classes I’m hanging around doing various odd jobs for, that’s 180 different kids. I’d say I’ve got about 20 names so far. The chances of me getting anywhere past 50% will be greatly limited by the fact that I only have six more weeks left.

I would like to say it’s testing my brain’s memory to destruction, but I would want to avoid such an obvious circular reference to the title of this post, thus making it feel “complete”. That would be too easy.