Grant Woodward: Here’s a crazy idea, let’s allow our kids to be kids

Children today are already under too much pressure to achieve. Pic: PA
Children today are already under too much pressure to achieve. Pic: PA
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More tests are not the answer to help children who are struggling.

BY rights, every mum and dad in Yorkshire should be sending Nicky Morgan a Christmas card.

The Education Secretary set out plans this week that she assures us will prevent our children slipping through the net.

Morgan says too many kids are struggling in the classroom but don’t get the right help until it’s too late.

By the time they’ve reached their GCSEs the gap between them and the most able students can be glaringly obvious.

The upshot is a set of duff results that put them on the back foot before they’ve even reached adulthood.

After that a lifetime of grotty job prospects and poor pay awaits.

Crumbs. I’m already starting to panic about what life’s got in store for my twins. And they’re not even five.

So what’s this magic bullet Mrs Morgan has got up her sleeve?

Simple. More exams.

Hmmm.

I can see where Morgan is coming from. She says she wants to stop pupils from falling behind – especially in the 20 local authorities where the majority of students fail to pass five good GCSEs.

Given that four of these authorities are in Yorkshire, where numbers of pupils achieving this benchmark are actually falling, the need for action is clear.

And the importance of primary education can’t be over-estimated.

It forms the basis of learning and puts in place the building blocks that enable children to flourish throughout their time at school and beyond.

Or at least it should. The consistently poor attainment levels in Yorkshire suggest that too many pupils are falling behind their peers elsewhere in the country at a young age.

But I still reckon it’s a big mistake to think extra testing is an adequate substitute for better learning.

The blunt truth is that Yorkshire has more pupils going to schools that are rated as being not good enough than anywhere else in the country.

Furthermore, the fact that the current system already means that England has the most tested children in the whole of Europe suggests that a shortage of exams isn’t the issue.

If you look at high-performing countries such as Sweden and Finland, children have barely even started school by the age of seven.

If teachers who see their pupils day in, day out are unable to identify those who are struggling and how to help them then they’re not doing their job properly.

It suggests the problem lies in standards in the classroom rather than the lack of yet another exam for young children.

But the question that needs to be asked then is why is this the case?

Is it because the teachers aren’t very good?

In some cases, perhaps.

But I’m more inclined to think it has a lot more to do with workloads and time pressures.

Getting to know 30 children well enough to spot where they need help and then find the time to provide it must be a tricky task at the best of times.

Throw in the constant Government tinkering with everything from the curriculum to how pupils are assessed and it becomes even tougher.

And what about the children themselves?

As far as my son is concerned I’m not too worried, he seems the sort to take tests in his stride.

But my daughter is showing all the signs of a perfectionist and sitting an exam at the age of seven is likely to be a cause of a huge amount of stress.

You’ve got to wonder whether all the pressure we put children under these days will come back to haunt us.

Perhaps Mrs Morgan would be better advised to forget targets and just let teachers teach.

As for the kids, they seem to learn far more when they enjoy something.

So here’s a radical idea. How about we just let our children be children?

I like fans’ DIY approach

EVERYONE knows the situation at Elland Road descended into a farce a long time ago.

In the last few days, however, there seemed to be a ray of light.

The Leeds Fans United group, headed by millionaire and huge Whites fan Dylan Thwaites, came forward and tried to broker a deal with owner Massimo Cellino.

Talks broke down yesterday with the fans group saying Cellino broke his word to offer them first refusal and the Italian firing back that they’re “like kids in a sweet shop” who “say a lot of fairytales”.

So back to square one then?

Well, not quite. As the talks with Leeds Fans United were breaking down, Cellino was meeting with a potential buyer in London. Far from being a club no one wants to buy, suddenly Leeds have suitors lining up.

The consensus among supporters is that a buyer with billions coming out of their ears would be preferable to a fans consortium scrabbling round for the money to even buy the club, let alone rebuild it.

But if LFU’s refusal to sit back and watch the club they love disappear down the tubes has flushed out some serious players then Whites supporters everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude.

Personally, I just hope the other interested party isn’t Red Bull, who seem determined to suck the life and tradition out of any team they get their hands on.

Sorry Daniel, Bond is a big miss

HAVE you seen Spectre yet? Like every other overgrown schoolboy out there I couldn’t wait to feast my eyes on Bond’s latest adventure.

I like Daniel Craig’s Bond, which has brought a much-needed edge back to the franchise after Pierce Brosnan passed his sell-by date in the truly awful Die Another Day.

So I could have wept into my popcorn when I sat through two-and-a-half hours of turgid action that pulled out every Bond cliché in the book.

This was like a ham-fisted Crimewatch reconstruction of 007’s best bits rather than the white knuckle ride I was hoping for.

The set piece scenes were all too predictable and felt like they’d been done before by Connery, Moore and the rest – only much, much better.

But worst of all we went inside Bond’s London flat. We even saw his kitchen and flatscreen telly. I’m sorry, that’s a step too far. I’m not sure my relationship with 007 will ever recover.

WATER TREAT: The river at Otley full of people in pedalos and rowing boats.

Neil Hudson: Hire boats return to Otley’s river for first time since 2001