Merit point systems destroy self-esteem

28th March 1997 at 00:00
The school that our six-year-old son attends has recently introduced a merit point system, and the way in which it has affected him has been of great concern to us. He is an intelligent and kind child, shy but very articulate, and I was ill at ease, to say the least, when he told me that other children in his class had been laughing at him because of the low number of merit points in his book.

I am a teacher myself, though not working within the system now, and have been familiar with the house-point system. This seemed to operate well, producing an atmosphere of co-operation and motivation towards a shared goal. The individual merit point system, however, seems to work in total contrast, and in my view has an inherent danger of being extremely divisive and competitive in a destructive way.

Our son cares about his work greatly, and the way in which his self-esteem has been affected by having the lowest number of merit points in his class group has caused me to question the system.

The headteacher feels that the system is working well, but the fact that our son has been unable to go to sleep night after night because of worrying about his lack of progress with merit points naturally causes me to think that the system is not working well.

We have told the class teacher of his distress and she has boosted his points in the past couple of weeks, but he is constantly worried that he is falling behind again.

For the child who manages to obtain a high number of points, all well and good, but what of those who obtain the least number at the end of a term? Their self-esteem will undoubtedly receive a battering, and I find it dismaying that children of such a young age should be subjected to such a system.

The article in The TES Pre-school and Primary section (February 28) on self-esteem builders describes an aim of this particular package as being to generate "a whole class ethos", which sounds more productive than a system that has possibilities of bringing about jealousy and animosity among children who are too young to handle all the emotions involved.

I am concerned about our son, and the stress he is experiencing, and at the same time any other child who finds themselves bottom of the pile. Children in their infant years should be allowed to be carefree and build friendships, not forced into competing with their friends at the very start of socialisation.

Is this the aim of our education system? Surely not.

JANET HUGHES Laurels Cottage Churchstoke Montgomery, Powys

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