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Opinion: Over-competition risks children’s wellbeing

Hurrying children into adulthood violates them. Childhood is an important period of life to which all children are entitled, says Naima JPS headmaster Bill Pratt

    At a time when mental health is the buzzword, where schools employ counsellors in this absurdly competitive environment, I have come to one conclusion. Whatever else is going on, let us all be aware of the wellbeing of our children.

    Over the last 25 years of tremendous social and cultural change, we seem to have concentrated on the needs of the economy at the expense of the families it is supposed to be serving. As a nation, we appear to have lost our way as far as child-rearing goes.

    In our competitive frenzy, we have turned childhood and education into a race. Unless we stop competing so wildly, we will find the next generation isn’t balanced enough to keep the UK economic show on the road.

    Childhood memories differ, but when some of us played, there probably weren’t shiny plastic toys or adults, or mobile phones and screens — you created your own private world from whatever materials came to hand.

    Active play, risk-taking play, imaginative play, social play, solo play, perseverance and resilience, are all in danger of becoming something of a distant past.

    A good primary school should be about facing the future. Our most important task is to prepare our children to face the future by helping them have a secure childhood; and a secure childhood makes for a secure adult. In other words, “Start a child on the right road and even in old age, he will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).

    We must teach our children to be children in distinct contrast to a world which is trying to hurry them towards adulthood. We won’t do this by obsessing how early they can read or write, or league tables and pass rates. If we are not careful, the marketplace and the demands of paper proofs of success are crippling humanity.

    We need to be brave to stand up for what we believe to be right for children in the face of a marketplace which tries to judge us by just successful examination results.

    By relentlessly keeping our gaze on the measurable, all we do is encourage children and their parents to see schools as places for passing tests rather than for meaningful learning.

    Is our school a farm where living things grow freely, or is it a factory and an assembly-line making products to be fashioned and measured quantitively?

    Perhaps less pressure and more play is worthy of thought, but we occasionally lose sight of what we are here for.

    It is vital that we all appreciate that childhood is a stage in life, not a waiting room for adulthood.

    Hurrying children into adulthood violates them. Childhood is an important period of life to which all children are entitled. Children are our greatest resource so let us cherish them and let them be.

    If we are not careful, we are producing an increasingly disillusioned generation regarding the value of education. Limited university places, lack of meaningful employment, and many years of debt. If this is true, then what is going to make life meaningful for these young men and women is not academic qualifications but other things — what kind of human beings they become.

    There are no league tables for emotional and spiritual intelligence and no way of calculating their impact on the balance sheet.

    Modern governments cannot solve society’s problems; they compound them or use tax as a means of social engineering.

    We must help to produce a generation radical and selfless enough to challenge the “me” culture that is now prevalent in Britain.

    As years roll past, our children will not remember what we said or what we did but they will most certainly remember how we made them feel, and if we don’t get this right in our schools, we will have failed to show them the possibility that being is better than having.

    We must challenge the assumptions of the marketplace and speak up for a counter-culture of extended childhood, of play as a key to learning, of the importance of self-denial, of what is lasting and authentic as opposed to short term and trivial.

    Let’s strive for a real balance and care about the quality of their souls.

Education features

Over-competitiveness risks children's wellbeing

Bill Pratt

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Over-competitiveness risks children's wellbeing