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Diary

In this blog we are posting news from around the network, reflections on general news items and other broad-ranging items of interest. Current contributors are Sightlines Initiative directors Robin Duckett, Liz Elders, Debi Keyte Hartland and Chris Merrick.
We have a Library View (see left column) to help you find past articles.

Only Life Educates ...

"Ultimately only life educates, and the deeper that life, the real world, burrows into the school, the more dynamic and the more robust will be the educational process. That the school has been locked away and walled in as if by a tall fence from life itself has been its greatest failing. Education is just as meaningless outside the real world as is fire without oxygen, or as is breathing in a vacuum."  Vygotsky, L. (first published in 1926) Educational Psychology 

I have this quote on my desk, thanks to colleague Mary Jane Drummond, and when this morning I heard about the UN Global Youth Survey, it seemed to be a fitting comment.

Here is an extract from their pilot study, of 10 - 18 year-olds:

from the Pilot Study publication

 "The most alarming result Irom the test run of the Global Youth Poll is the common agreement by all participants that school is not a place they enjoy spending their time. Vietnam and Mexico show the best results among the 11 different regions, where only 29% and 28% of those interviewed answered with a clear NO when asked if they had enjoyed their time at school in 2017. Other countries such as the U.S. are clear with 44% of young people turning their back to the vision of education they experience from secondary school up to university. In the U.K. the frustration is at 42% of the respondents. Together with the other questions asked around education in the Global Youth Poll this sends a stark alert to all in charge of education ... "

At the moment the poll is for secondary age children: HERE is the link for more info and for children to participate.

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Making space for learning, Saying NO to squashing children

Right now, 420 educators including 50+ from the UK, are encountering the optimistic and determined work of the city of Reggio Emilia to build an education which is founded on celebrating children's learning potential. The determination and enthusiasm of everyone here fuels optimism and example that things can be different for children and for schools - in the UK and worldwide -even when we experience the 'brick wall' of governments which seem determined to build warehouses of instruction in place of the creative learning which children deserve.


In the UK , whilst working imaginatively and persistently to bring life to education, we also have to confront those who are keen on turning it into an unhappy place of testing and passive instruction. 
Government has announced a new testing plan for young children, which it would like to extend. 
Go here to join the petition against it.

Below are extracts from ​recent articles highlighting the situation, and suggestions of other actions you can take to convince MPs and government to reconsider their wisdom, and instead, support intelligent and humane education. (And you can read more in our last week's diary item.)

'Compulsory national curriculum tests taken by primary school pupils are too closely linked to school performance, the House of Commons Education Committee has said, and are having a negative impact on children's education and wellbeing.

In a new report on primary assessment, the committee found pupils are being taught a narrower curriculum, with staff neglecting arts and humanities subjects by focusing too heavily on maths and English to ensure pupils pass the controversial exams.​'

Read More (The Independent)

'Thousands of parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams over mental health concerns.​'
Read More (The Independent)

'More than 700 academics, early years experts and teachers sign open letter opposing new national test for four-year-olds

Hundreds of academics are among those who are signing an open letter urging the government to scrap plans to create a baseline assessment test of four- and five-year-olds, which they say will be both pointless and damaging to pupils.'

Read More (Times Education Supplement)

'Increasingly parents are asking what they can do to protect children from the high stakes testing in primary schools. There's a mainstream awareness that the system is not fit for purpose and that the pressure children face in primary school is damaging.
It's hard for parents to know what to do for the best. Parents are very respectful of teachers and headteachers and trust them with the well-being of their children. However, parents are also aware that the teaching profession is speaking out against SATs and being ignored.

  • This Question Time clip shows the strength of public opinion against the high stakes testing and the frustration felt by the profession.
  • This article shows that MPs are aware of the link between SATs and mental health.
  • This report shows the severe impact high pressured testing can have on young children.'

LetKidsBeKids are promoting a parent-led 'withdrawal from SATs' campaign -

Read More here. (Let Kids Be Kids)

Children do not live in the future - they live today. We can change their present. 
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Whose Education Is It Anyway?

Here we are- Easter time! ...

...the celebration of spring, new life, growth, energy, possibilities …life, exuberance, energy! 

However, in the worlds of education, we have …. More proposals for testing – and cuts – and educators leaving – and cauldrons of stress ladled out free and with seconds to all on the receiving end. Joy! Policymakers are spinning tests and conjuring new measuring devices as if their lives and careers depended on it – how industrious they are. And lucky us! We Will be told – and efficiently, too. More joy.


Put up, shut up or get out?

Of course myriads of children - and parents – and educators- feel quite differently about how things actually should be – and many are raising voices, taking on this 'other' stick-wielding point of view, trying to make a difference:sometimes by instinct (surely this is not good?), sometimes by experience and knowledge (the observant educator and parent). And some are simply trying to get through the day, or find ways to run away or otherwise survive it all (this is often the lot of the children.)Significantly increasing numbers of parents have been taking the 'get out' option, not seeing any alternative amidst the onslaught of regimes of testing, and going for home-schooling.

During Easter weekend the main educators' union in the UK have been convening and discussing how to protect education against yet more 'high-stakes testing' which is about to be pronounced upon four-year-olds by the UK government. It has been wondered whether the policy-politicians behind all of this have ever been children? Maybe not – that would explain much. But maybe they have been – in which case there is hope.

Commenting on the BBC this week on the government's 'high stakes testing' approach to education, the internationally-renowned educator Professor Sir Ken Robinson cogently outlined the damaging path which education is being pushed down. Do take two minutes to listen to the interview here.

For decades and decades now, educators have been striving to make the case for education which enables, enlivens, connects. Often we've been working and doing this amongst ourselves – which is great and necessary. But this rather leaves parents out on a limb, with varying degrees of disquiet or unhappiness which can simply feel unfathomable, or lead to decisions such as simply keeping their children away from the whole sorry mess. Rather latterly we've realised that 'our information' needs sharing and discussing broadly – that examples of lived, exciting education needs sharing, that aspirations for what education could actually be need blazoning in public spaces. Parents are the potential partners in this re-making of such a basic public good. 

In Sightlines Initiative network we feel the urgent need to share how, what, why we work, to give substance to 'an education of the possible' (Loris Malaguzzi, founder-educator of Reggio's educational approach.) We work to engage in our ideas with parents, with the local communities, bringing alive through film, visual and written documentation the exciting learning of children, engaged in deep learning when we manage to keep the fetters off, and give good time, space and attention to what we offer in 'the classroom.'There are many examples on our website and in publications. And colleagues are doing this internationally: we are learning how to connect.

You, Your Child, and School

Ken Robinson has also been considering how to inform and support parents: he has a new book to which he refers in his interview. It is very timely in the work of spreading a broad cultural vision for enlivening education. Here's an extract from his introduction:

"Education is sometimes thought of as a preparation for what happens when your child leaves school-getting a good job or going on to higher education. There's a sense in which that's true, but childhood is not a rehearsal. Your children are living their lives now with their own feelings, thoughts, and relationships. Education has to engage with them in the here and now, just as you do as a parent. Who your children become and what they go on to do in the future has everything to do with the experiences they have in the present. If your children have a narrow education, they may not discover the talents and interests that could enrich their lives in the present and inspire their futures beyond school.
I hope [that this book] will be useful in three ways.

  • The first is by looking at the sort of education your children need these days and how it relates to your roles as a parent. The world is changing so quickly now that education has to change too.
  • The second is by looking at the challenges you face in helping them get that education. Some of those challenges have to do with public policies for education and some more generally with the times we live in.
  • The third is by looking at your options and power as a parent to overcome these challenges."

You can read more of it here; and you can view Ken Robinson 's own video introduction here

We recommend it to all who are striving to envision and empower a broad vision for education and the wellbeing of the children who are and will experience it.

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