My worst parent - One size does not fit all

2nd September 2011 at 01:00

Children come in all shapes and sizes. So why do Jack's parents assume that one size fits all? They pop up almost daily - to say that the homework was so easy, Jack is becoming demotivated, while you know that it was pitched just right and the outcome was clearly a parent-child joint venture. They want to know why Jack is still on the easy reading books when Harry's mum says that Harry is on the hard books. They always want Jack in the top set, or on the top table, even when the classroom is mixed ability.

Would these parents take Jack into a shop and insist on buying clothes three sizes too big because the boy next door is six inches taller so Jack must be the same? Or make him wear shoes two sizes too big because another child has bigger feet? Imagine Jack's physical and emotional distress if his parents made him do this.

Yet in schools up and down the country, parents like Jack's do the educational equivalent every day. They insist that their child is more intelligent than those in higher sets, that they can do work at home but, for some reason, perhaps connected to the teacher, fail to replicate it in school. Worse, their self-esteem is being destroyed with work that is too easy and therefore, they have had to be dragged into school kicking and screaming after a sleepless night.

What would happen to Jack's self-esteem if he was sent to school in clothes that didn't fit, just to prove he was as good as the children he sits next to? This is exactly what Jack's parents try to do with his education. Nothing destroys self-esteem faster than waiting with rising panic for the lesson to end, hoping the teacher doesn't ask a question that exposes ignorance in front of peers.

Children grow and learn at different rates. So if Jack's parents trust a fitter to sell them shoes that fit their son, why don't they trust his teacher to provide an education that fits, too?

The writer is a primary school teacher in Hampshire.

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