Keep fun in its proper place

25th April 2003 at 01:00
FUN is taken seriously in the primary school, but at this time of year it is in short supply.

There is not a lot of fun on the Year 6 timetable. Heads are studiously bowed over well-thumbed past national test papers, and young brains are stretched to perform at their respective levels. The idea of fun has vanished in the rigorous schedules of cerebral training.

Gravity is not only a force being revised in science lessons - it is also the air that hangs heavily in many classrooms.

With all this serious study, no wonder there is a yearning for more fun.

But it is not only in the exam season that there are calls for the return of fun. Some would say the atmosphere is gloomy all year. The current obsession with testing, targets and a narrowly prescribed curriculum, takes us back to the grind of those grim Victorian classrooms. Surely it is time to loosen up and enjoy ourselves?

I am not so sure. Yes, we need a much more balanced approach to assessment and accountability. And yes, learning in the primary school - Jor at any level - should be interesting, stimulating and exciting. But if calls for the reinstatement of fun in the primary school mean a return to the casual days of drift and low expectations, is that what we really want?

Is it not better and more honest to make it clear to children that their education is a serious business which involves effort, discipline and challenge rather more than having fun?

Most children are aware of this and know intuitively the difference between work and play.

In a few weeks' time, they will be working and concentrating as never before. And yet as soon as they have handed in their papers, and without giving them another moment's thought, children will rush out into the playground, which they know is the proper place for them to have some serious fun.

Alan Kerr is a teacher and writer

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