GP Taylor: Testing times for young don’t give them life skills

Is there too much testing in schools?
Is there too much testing in schools?
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THERE are many things I learnt at school that have been useful in my adult life. Many of them have nothing to do with what would be regarded as normal education.

I was very lucky to have a form teacher who specialised in equipping his students for the struggles of life. He was a man who had done many things before becoming a teacher. Mr Hodgson knew what real life was all about and made sure that his pupils left with the skills to cope.

My teacher could see that many of us wouldn’t get a CSE or GCE and that a one-size-fits-all style of education didn’t work. Within weeks of us starting school, he had split us up into those who would be capable of going on to further education and those who would be better in the world of work. He gave much enthusiasm into teaching each group equally, in fact, he always went the extra mile with those who struggled.

His belief was that if we had a good working knowledge of English and maths then we could cope in the world of work. He concentrated on turning boys into men who would make something of their lives. Discipline was an important part of his philosophy, quickly followed by politeness and good manners. Even the roughest kid knew that and he commanded the respect of everyone. I can honestly say that without him, I would not be writing this today.

Mr Hodgson gave me a love of history and books as well as a thirst for knowledge. He made me the man I am today. His influence was greater than that of my family. His lessons did not conform to the curriculum of the day. It was tailor-made to the needs of the students in his class.

Education today is in crisis. Successive governments have reinvented the wheel time and time again. They have become obsessed with testing at an early age and believing that this will somehow improve the educational prospects of children. This pressurised approach to teaching makes matters worse. Modern day education is like judging a monkey and a goldfish and coming to the conclusion that they are both failures because one can’t swim underwater and the other can’t climb a tree.

Students are turned out into the world ill-equipped to cope with modern life. The theorems of Pythagoras don’t really help in the dole queue or filling out your tax return.

In 2017, there is an urgent need to scrap the concept of a National Curriculum. This should be replaced with a guideline of what skill sets children should have at a certain age. It should be down to local education authorities to decide what is relevant and ultimately down to schools to decided local educational needs.

Education should become holistic. The needs of the child put before exam results and league tables. It should also be local with parents having the right to send their children to the nearest school. Parental choice should also be stopped. Currently there is educational apartheid, with aspirational parents doing everything they can to get children into the best schools and travelling great distances to do so.

There will always be children who want to work and those who don’t. Having all the academic children in one school leads to an imbalance. Pupils and parents should be allowed to select either an academic or practical form of education from the age of 13. Lessons and subjects should be crafted for either route. There is nothing wrong with wanting a trade and not all children need to go on to higher education. At the moment, this is being used to keep the numbers of young unemployed at an acceptable level.

League tables for schools are divisive and should be stopped. Popular schools where parents push to get their children in cause other schools to fail by creaming off the best and brightest pupils forcing other schools to take those from poorer educational backgrounds.

There should be no selection on faith grounds. Faith schools lead to segregation and intolerance and have no place in a modern educational system.

As the YouTube rapper ‘Boyinaband’ said: “If you can’t explain why a subject is applicable to most people’s lives it should not be mandatory.”

Quite right if you ask me and one look at his video, ‘Don’t stay in school’, will give you all the answers from the mouth of one very frustrated man. He asks the questions of why aren’t pupils taught subjects so that they have a practical application in life? Where is the teaching on paying taxes, voting, current affairs, health, laws, parenting and raising a child?

In 2017, we need a total overhaul of the educational system that gives schools the right to choose what is best for their pupils.

Schools need to become centred around the needs of the child and not the needs of the test. It should be a time for education and not exam preparation. Learning is life long and our days at school should be the happiest and most profitable of our lives.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.