Monday, 17 May 2010

Measuring Perfection

The Boy is a worrier. Has been since his early days at school. He worries about letting people down. He worries about not living up to expectations. He worries about things he has done in the past, things he might have to do in the future. He has asked me several times over the past year if the credit crunch is going to affect us. When I stayed in bed with the flu, he was so tense with worry, he could barely speak. We are working on the worrying, but you can only do so much with what you've got.

So the Boy is not best suited to the current environment in primary schools, where every breath is bench-marked. I didn't really worry about SATs and testing with the Girl, because they didn't bother her. She is the perfect example of a good all-rounder. Always met her targets. So while I disagree with the SATs in principle, on a personal level I found them hard to get worked up about. But now the Boy is finishing Year 4 and preparing for Year 5, the requirements of the SATs are looming larger in his life, because he has Failed to Make Progress.

It's like a label hanging around his neck. He is achieving well above average in all his subjects, but his literacy score has not improved over the course of this academic year. I talked to his teacher about it - he is not scoring as well as he should in comprehension. This surprises me. I read with him often, and his comprehension seems fine to me. Okay, so he sometimes gets things ass-backwards, but don't we all? So I dig deeper, and it seems the problem is not his comprehension, but his ability to demonstrate it in written work.

He dislikes writing. Always has. Unlike the Girl, who would sit and scribble down stories for hours, he has always been more interested in other forms of expression. Anyone who knows him will tell you that he can talk for his country, and hold his own in pretty much any conversation. His curiosity and thirst for knowledge about the world know no bounds. But ask him to write down what he did yesterday, or to put into his own words something he has just read, and he freezes.

When the Boy first started school in New York, he was a full year younger than the oldest kids in his class. He was four, but expected to read and write like a five year-old. The teachers put pressure on me to get him tutoring. I resisted. Within a year he was reading well above his age level. The brain develops at its own pace. The same applies to his written work. Okay, he's struggling now, but does it help that he knows his current score according to the National Curriculum, and knows what he 'should' be achieving? I seriously doubt it.

I will give him as much extra help with his writing as I can, not because I think he has a problem, but because it will make his life much easier if he can conform to expectations. But I've also made it clear to him that I think he is perfect the way he is and that SATs are not the be-all and end-all of measuring a child's worth.


  1. And isn't it just as well he's got a Mummy like you? Even though it's hard when you have to keep reassuring him because of bloody league tables that should have nothing to do with his life!

    His teachers should be taking his learning style into account as well, and making sure he's able to access the curriculum in ways other than written.