As I sit at the kitchen table with my youngest practising his spellings I can see that he’s finding it hard to grasp some of the more difficult words he’s been asked to practice. As I look down at his little face I can see that he’s trying so hard to not only recall the spelling of the word but, to also remember the letter formation of the word too and my heart goes out to him.

Sometimes when I glance down at his work it’s so hard to make sense of the word as the writing is all joined up and scrawly but, I know he’s trying his best so of course I praise him for his efforts.  After all, we’ve all got to start somewhere and he’s learnt so much already since he began his time at school, he is where he needs to be (there or there about’s) but, he has to work harder to get similar results to his brother.  As a family of 4 we can usually be found at the kitchen table at least a few times a week practicing the homework they’ve been given but, it’s the spellings that causes my youngest the most problems. At the tender age of 6 he’s learning words like, ‘beautiful, damage, bridge and wriggle’ and even though he’s trying I can see he struggles at times so we try as parents to find a way, any way for him to remember these complicated words.

As a parent we know the school system only too well and we know how harshly our children are judged against the national standards and criteria set for children of all ages. We know that now at the tender age of 6 they’ll be expected to sit SATS tests and asked to sit these tests so the school can be judged on how they’re teaching our children and this can be harsh at times, especially now the bar has been raised even further.

But, as parents and teachers we have to work within these guidelines and use these targets as a bench mark for how well our child is doing at school.  However, as parents we measure progress and development in a slightly different way for our two boys because even though academic achievement is important, there are so many other skills that we value in line with this.

We try to always remember that academic capability is important but, it’s not the only thing to take into consideration when we’re identifying how our children are progressing.

We try to always take a step back and look at the bigger picture and look at what other skills they’re developing along the way too.  We ask ourselves the following questions;

  • Have the boys made new friends at school? (Social & communication skills)
  •  Do they have nice, healthy friendship groups? (Social & communication skills again)
  • Do they come out of school with a smile on their face? (Feeling of contentment, happiness and enjoyment)
  • Do they have good manners? (Values)
  • Do they have good values instilled in them and are they able to follow them most of the time? (Values & doing the right thing)
  • Are they kind and helpful to others? (kindness and compassion) 
  • Can they work as a team? (in their chosen sport football they can and they love it) 
  • Are they typical boys who struggle to pay attention, listen or concentrate at times? (Absolutely! That’s normality) 
  • Do they get frustrated and angry at times? (Hey, who doesn’t? That’s normal too and it’s good for them to express their emotions) 

And, when I ask myself the above questions and the answer is usually, ‘Yes,’ then I know they’re doing just fine.  All of the above questions do not take into consideration the academic abilities of our boys but, it does take into consideration their communication, personal learning, thinking and social skills.

I recently found out that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework clearly states the following in their guiding principles of the curriculum, extract taken directly form their EYFS framework;

  • Every child is a unique child and is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured
  • Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships
  • Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers
  • Children develop and learn in different ways and learn at different rates

This framework is the benchmark for children in both nursery and reception and as well as academic capabilities it measures a whole range of personal, social and emotional development areas of our children.

It also measures children and takes into consideration their skills in the following areas;

  • Their understanding of the world
  • Playing, exploring and active learning
  • Self confidence and awareness
  • How children manage feelings and behaviours
  • The ability to be imaginative

These areas are vital for children to learn and develop yet, when they hit Key Stage 1 these areas are no longer measured.  Why is this? Surely it’s important for our kids to grow up developing these skills too?! 

But, that’s just my opinion, as a parent of two boys we have to remind ourselves that it’s not all about academic achievement.  I’ve got two very different children, I’ve got one child who is very academic and is eager to work hard and just gets it but, he’s a sensitive soul with a kind heart.  The other works hard but, struggles to concentrate at times yet is so practical, much more than his brother and his determination, endurance and stamina is second to none.  He too has a kind heart and is fiercely independent and is happy in his own skin and yet it seems somewhat unfair to measure them both in the same way.

Recently I had a conversation with a parent about this topic and she expressed her concerns about her child who was struggling and I tried to reassure her of the above.  As a coach I work with so many others who have chosen the academic route when they were younger and gone onto have successful careers but, at some point in their life they’ve made a U turn and their needs and wants have changed.  They have re-evaluated what they want in life and now want to embark on a career or create a business that’s more creative and in line with their passions, for some this has included; photography, cake baking, beauty business, gardening business or something else more practical and in line with their creative flair and some go on to have very successful businesses.

I’m not saying that this is for everyone and I’m certainly not saying to run these businesses you don’t need to have a good level of business acumen, you do.  All I’m saying is we live in a very different world today and it’s very different to the world my parents grew up in and it’s a world where you can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work hard and your determined to succeed in path you choose.  It’s a world of opportunity and it’s accessible to all.

Academic capability and achievements are of course important but, I wanted to showcase my views on this and I’m just saying that there are other ways to be measured too.  There are others characteristics and traits that are valued too and these should be taken into consideration by not only the EYFS but, in other years at school and college too.  These are the characteristics that make someone a, ‘decent, caring, kind, loving’ human being.

So as parents we work hard with our children to help them be the best they can be and we know they will be judged harshly against the standards set in the national curriculum but, we always try remember that this is not the only way to measure progress.  Our children are all unique in their own way and just like the EYFS framework says, they all learn at their own pace too!

If you found this article interesting, thought provoking or perhaps you’ve got another view then we’d love to hear from you, please comment below;