Two of my children are now in Secondary School and the assessing begins – in fact it started way back in Primary School. Assessment of levels of achievement each year, targets to reach, standards to maintain, constant measuring and assessing where children are against the average child. What is an average child though? I don’t know that I’ve ever met an average child – they all seem so individual and unique. I know we have to have something to measure progress against – well, do we? Do we constantly need to know where children are in their development? To some extent I guess we do, as if they were really struggling and need help to keep up, we need to be aware of that in order to give them the help they need. Even as I write this though I’m conscious of the language we are so accustomed to – measuring against, keeping up, levels of achievement – they all seem so constricting, so rigid.
My daughter is in year 9 now and I am sitting in the waiting room of a Family Psychologists while she is having an educational assessment to see if there are any other learning difficulties as well as her Attachment issues. She is finding the whole process difficult, in terms of feeling that there is something wrong with her. Already she feels different at school as she has a statement of educational needs so has a Teaching Assistant to help her, and the other children call her ‘special’ and say she has problems. It’s so hard to know what’s the best thing to do. As a parent we want to get them as much help and support as possible and I also want her to understand what she is good at as well as what she finds difficult, but singling them out from their friends seems to make it harder for them to fit in.
I do know though that whatever we do they already feel different to their peers. I know my daughter is aware that learning doesn’t come easily to her and that she finds it hard to trust others. Building relationships is hard when you don’t trust, as trust is the basis of building good, strong relationships. Her school did ask me what I want to happen as a result of this assessment and my reply was to just be aware of what the issues are so that we can all know how to help her more. I do wish though, in our educational systems, that there was a way of measuring a child’s progress based on their own personal best – their own progression and not compared to others. As my children went through Primary School I was always frustrated with their reports that would say they were constantly below expected levels when they had progressed so much from where they were the previous year – it left them feeling deflated and despondent.
It comes down to having an individual learning plan. If only our system was flexible enough for a child to develop at their own pace and not to be continually compared to others – maybe we would then see the true potential of a child who may not have the traditional abilities but can excel in other areas. I suppose the only way to do that would be to home educate if you have the possibility to do that. For my daughter I just hope this is a stepping stone to more understanding, focused help and support, and a feeling of success if we can find better ways for her to learn.