Kamal Magecha from Brentwood tutors Guided Learning talks about the value of education.
Recently, I heard a child’s story of their educational journey. A child who went from being sweet, innocent and happy to becoming withdrawn, still sweet, weary and unhappy, with diagnosed ill Mental Health.
As a primary student they enjoyed school, except the tests, they really didn’t enjoy those; they didn’t enjoy sitting still for long; they found that writing was hard and they could not concentrate for long. The teachers tried their best to help but more often than not, they couldn’t help everyone as there wasn’t the time. If a topic wasn’t understood there was no chance of going back over it unless you asked your parents. They usually didn’t teach it the same as school and would confuse the child even further.
The child started to fall back in their learning and couldn’t keep up with everyone. They were so embarrassed and ashamed. How could they fall behind? Everyone else found it easy! What was wrong with them? Why couldn’t they get it into their head?
As primary school continued, the child fell further and further behind. They got more and more embarrassed and ashamed of themself. The teachers tried their best but couldn’t help someone who had changed from a happy child to an unhappy one. They didn’t have the knowledge, time or resources. The child became a casualty of ill mental health. Referral to CAMHS was made and after several months, the child was finally seen, only to be told that the wait was over 18 months as they were not “in danger”.
Things continued in this way throughout the rest of their school life. The child feeling totally lost and unable to learn. In the bottom sets for all subjects and disengaged from everything. In Year 11, the year of the GCSE exams, they found that one teacher who pestered the child and chased for homework/class work/encouraging participation. They took some time to understand that this child just needed some help and understanding. They understood that the child that needs the most love and understanding usually behaved as if they didn’t.
The child is suspicious- what does the teacher want? Why couldn’t they be like all the others and let them be? What did it matter to them anyway? Finally, the child complied with the teacher’s requests and handed in some work. The teacher was shocked! After almost 12 years in education, the child who kept falling further behind in their learning and suffering ill Mental Health was dyslexic. How had this never been picked up?
I believe, that the education system is failing our young people, all of them. They are taught to pass exams, rather than enjoy learning and exploring. The education system is rigid and requires all children to be a particular way. For example, from a very young age, children have to sit still and listen to what the teacher says. As a parent, I know how much energy I needed to keep up with my children when they were playing and on holidays; to enforce that they did not expend this energy except for short break times and lunchtime seems torturous.
The education system is creating children who fit a particular mould and does not allow for anyone who doesn’t fit. Children with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism etc leave school feeling less confident in themselves, for life. They face issues with their mental health and more often than not, will be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and a variety of ill mental health conditions.
Education, and access to an education, is a right for every child so why are we still failing them? Teachers, headteachers and teaching assistants working in schools and those who left the profession, say that there is insufficient funding to support the children. Most schools have 30 children in a classroom and some have more. How can the teacher cater for every child? The truth is they can’t.
Teachers leave the profession due to burnout and the lack of support from senior leadership teams. Changes to the education curriculum appear to be decided by people who haven’t been in a classroom environment teaching and don’t so understand the implications of the changes.
Things need to change so that all children can access an education that is rightly theirs. I believe that failing even one child in their learning, is not acceptable.