It has been SATs week in the Juniors and for Infant 3. The children have taken assessments in English, Maths and Science and this year, for the first time, a Grammar paper was included. A great deal of debate has raged over the separation of grammar and writing assessments. Some believe that grammar ought to be assessed within the context of longer pieces, others that pure grammar knowledge (i.e. a separate test) would underpin improvement in writing. But then, it is countered, there is less of an opportunity to apply knowledge if it is not seen as key to writing assessment.
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For me, there has to be balance in all things. We have articulate, bright children whose grasp of language is strong. We also value the knowledge of things, Mrs Elson’s Key facts for example, that provides a foundation for further enquiry about the world. Yet we never lose sight of the need to apply knowledge gained to practical activity and especially to investigation. We have a trophy awarded at Speech Night each year which is all about knowledge leading to curiosity. It is for the Junior pupil who has scored the highest over the year in the weekly Key Facts test. It is our belief that developing a firm knowledge base gives children the confidence to enquire about the world around them, to find out whether the facts are correct and to use enquiry to develop their knowledge further. There is no knowledge without discovery and no discovery without knowledge.
On my desk I have a paperweight with a quote attributed to Albert Einstein. For me, it puts into perspective the place of knowledge in learning. Knowledge is essential, undoubtedly, however there is more that must be ignited in young children that will carry them forward in their lives, never losing sight of the voyage of discovery.
Imagination is more powerful than knowledge
This week had bookends. I like the sense of starting a week on a theme then revisiting it as it comes to a close. Of course, schools naturally work like this, but when this is scaled up to the whole school community, it has a greater resonance. We started on Monday with a day dedicated to eSafety. Infant 3 to Junior 4 in Monday’s Assembly, the Junior classes, the teaching staff and parents had the opportunity to understand the risks that we are exposed to in our ever-increasing use of the internet and digital devices. In particular, the staff and parent sessions highlighted, only too clearly, just how much responsibility we as adults must take in guiding, shaping and modelling children’s attitude and behviour, not only in general terms but specifically with respect to on-line activity or the use of digital devices. As the bulk of this responsibility inevitably falls to parents, as a school community have to look very closely at the kind of support we can provide for each other.
My 4-year-old son is, thankfully, not quite at the stage that some children have clearly reached, with an addiction to iPads as severe as that to alcohol or heroin. He does not have unfettered access to computer, iPad, Wii or other devices (including his sister’s ‘old’ Nintendo DS!). Although he wishes it were otherwise. We struggle as parents to enable him to develop the self-control and personal discipline that would prevent the tantrums and sulks if he is either asked to stop or is not allowed to play games on them. We have no answers and know that we share a similar dilemma with other parents of small children.
I hope that we can continue to guide his social and emotional development to ensure that he understands, naturally, the role that technology plays in a balanced and effective life. Discussion will continue for sometime and, as parents who have grown up through the technological revolution, the challenge is for us to see the presence of it from our children’s perspective. He has known nothing else. These devices have been in his house, used by his parents and big sister all of his life. However, we must hold fast to certain immutable facts, regardless of the state of society or the form of media:
- we are the adults and retain a veto
- humans will always need to be adept at social interaction
- an ability to communicate articulately is essential in all aspects of our lives
So when I asked in Monday’s Assembly how many children climbed a tree last weekend I was very pleased that the response was the same number as for those who had used the internet.
Balance and moderation in all things, someone once said.