There is a story – a weirdly horrific one – in today’s Times that says that

a quarter of parents with older primary school children are hiring private tutors over the holidays to stop the notorious ‘summer slide’ in their learning, a study has found.

Well. Leaky children with leaky brains, who’d have thought it? My post on why we need long summer holidays refers. The study was done by Carol Vorderman’s Maths Factor, presumably to bolster support for her (pretty good) product.

P1090395We are just back from a week in northern Italy and I have been amazed at the interaction and delight that children of all nationalities encountered (German, Dutch, Italian, principally) have had with their parents. The level of engagement between many of the parents and children was wonderful – whole families carting mountain bikes up cable cars so that the 5-year-olds could take part. None of these families were from the UK. The ones I saw from the UK were (with one notable exception) playing video games and being told to shush – the fact that they were making the noise they did was testimony to how little attention had been paid to them of any quality. I know – a biased sample, from restricted statistical population, only four countries, only parents who could afford to go on holiday, etc., etc.

But still – these children were on holiday and being purposeful with it in play and exploration. None of them struck me as needing a tutor – they had parents.

Tutoring as a subject needs more comment here – there is a good case for it supporting what we do as a school, and it keeps us humble. However, my suspicion is that tutoring is feeding the anxieties of competitive parents rather than a sudden child-led frenzy for more maths in August.

Addendum to this: there is a letter from the Association for the Teachers of Mathematics (ATM – but not the one that produces money) published in the Guardian today saying that they have serious reservations about the new Programmes of Study, particularly that they put too much emphasis on practice and not enough on mathematical thinking. I agree, and feel it may endanger the particular deeper level of understanding of mathematical processes that children in the UK have over their Far Eastern counterparts; though I must also say that I welcome the greater degree of challenge in the new programmes of study for our teachers to grasp a higher quality of the subject for themselves.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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