On a Tuesday, I cover classes at a local school. This morning, I covered in Year 6.
Their maths task was to complete three different sets of written multiplications: one set with decimals of up to 2 decimal places, one set with money and one presented as 2-step word problems including money – where they were inexplicably shopping for maps that cost £27.42 each.
Now I understand the value in learning and practising skills, I do. In fact, I believe that without basic skills, nothing else can be learned – and I even wrote about this when I wrote about using multiple-choice tests in class.
But so much has been crammed into the new National Curriculum, that learning and practising skills required to pass Year 6 SATS is all children and teachers have time for. There are very few opportunities to apply these skills in real-world or even in interesting scenarios – especially if you don’t fall into the ‘Exceeding’ category.
These children won’t have time to practise their money skills by setting up a stall to raise money for the school charity. They won’t learn how to make the best use of their £50 budget and collective skills to create the very best return on this investment for the charity.
They won’t have time to plan the class Christmas party, competing in groups to find the most creative way to spend their £20 budget.
When this Year 6 class grow up, maybe one of them will be a doctor, maybe one will be a lawyer. Maybe one of the them will be a manual labourer. But, for most of them, the jobs they will be doing as adults aren’t even conceivable to us at the moment.
They will be working with technology that we can only dream of, in companies that haven’t yet been started.
Our role as educators is to prepare them to be happy, well-balanced adults who contribute to society and enjoy their work.
By 2050, more than 50% of jobs will be freelance or working from home. The skills these children will need are self-motivation, the ability to listen to a client’s problem and propose and effective solution, to use a computer to communicate – not just by e-mail but by using video communication and whatever other amazing ways Science will have come up with by then.
They will need to organise their work day, prioritise jobs, maintain momentum and problem solve.
They will need to find out how to complete tasks they don’t understand – to use the Internet to find answers to problems as they arise and to be able to sift through search results to find the most accurate and reliable answers quickly.
They will need to decide which tools are worth paying extra for and learn how to budget their money so that they can still do their job but aren’t paying out unnecessary expenses.
The children in this Year 6 class are amazing children. They have ideas and they will achieve amazing things in their adult lives.
But I suspect that manually working out the cost of 14 items at £27.42 each… isn’t going to be one of them.
Let’s face it… the new National Curriculum and the current Year 6 SATS tests, are great for preparing our children to work in a 1950s department store.
Is that good enough for our children?
And let’s not forget that the children in this year’s Year 6 classes, purely by accident of their birth year, are playing an enormous game of catch up to complete the objectives needed to do well in the Year 6 SATS tests.
Instead, we need a curriculum that focuses on problem solving, on innovation, on self-motivation, on self-reliance, on teamwork, on creating a solution for a given problem.
Let’s start preparing our children for life in the 21st Century.
Let’s want more for these children.
Let’s let them dream big – and then let’s give them to tools to be successful in their dreams.
On behalf of Year 6 children up and down the country… let them succeed!