As the coalition attempts to get to grips with tackling this country's enormous deficit inevitably Welfare and Education are among the front runners for intense scrutiny. I doubt many of us would question a general spending overhaul in all government departments, the growth of management level employees over the past 10 or more years has been exponential and excessive.
What I as a parent, teacher and former Registered Childminder would most like to see is an admission that the patchwork that is the Children's Plan has stupendously failed to improve opportunities for children from less well-off families (Jill Kirby Telegraph 11th June), and that "learning outcomes" for children are no better with the blinkered focus on quantifying and measuring learning and achievement using the six learning areas and 69 goals every child should achieve by the age of five.
For me, it has always been obvious that children learn best when they are valued, loved, happy, interested and encouraged. Giving them opportunities and supporting their curiosity is of paramount importance, not photographing and recording their every action as evidence of progress and attainment. I’ve seen teachers carrying around digital cameras and post-it notes constantly so as not to miss anything they need to record rather than focussing on their vocational task in hand and found it quite distasteful. It is degrading for teacher’s to justify their professional recordings in this way, akin to a GP having to photograph each patient and add a note of conversations and discussions to support each prescription. Or the surgeon having to stop mid- operation to photograph each step and justify his action and the patient's progress! Totally absurd but a product of the gradual attrition of the professional qualifications of all who teach and care for children.
Is it any wonder there is a national shortage of suitably qualified teachers and the job has become so much more about recording and pen pushing than actual teaching that those with the best teaching qualities are no longer attracted to the profession. Childminders are apparently quitting at the rate of 12 per day, small wonder when a trip to the park becomes another day of box- ticking and self-justification!
What is it with our obsession with making all that should be intuitive and spontaneous into a science? Like a friend with a premature baby who was told she should keep expressing all her daughter's feeds so she could record exactly how much milk the child drank. What on earth FOR? If the child is thriving and producing plenty of wet nappies then intake is irrelevant and expressing potentially damaging since it fails to stimulate milk supply like a baby feeding. A different issue but another good example with our obsession with quantifying, measuring and recording!
What we are losing at an alarming rate in this country is the ability to trust our human instinct and intuition, as mothers, carers and professionals. The money wasted on this is shocking. There is no evidence that Every Child Matters has done more than generate a phenomenal amount of training, paperwork and stress for professionals whilst they are distracted from interacting , caring and nurturing those in their care. Records matter, but professionals should be able to write them without focussing on collecting evidence every second of the day.
In our drive for efficiency and frugality in the cuts ahead let's take this golden opportunity to reassess and reevaluate what really matters to our children. This requires far less financial input and reinstates the professionalism of those working with children. It would recognise the all-important ingredients for happy, thriving individuals in all arenas and form the building blocks of happy successful adults. As human beings we need to be loved, nurtured and respected. Children should have opportunities to succeed and progress but no amount of tick boxes and performance indicators can guarantee this. Unless there is good reason for greater scrutiny on an individual basis attempting to mechanise a child's development is costly and superficial at best, at worst it undermines professionals and prevents them from doing what they do best- caring for our children.