I qualified as a teacher in 1994 so have only ever taught the national curriculum. I cannot harken back to the "good old days" when teachers taught without a national framework. But it seems to me the real problem is the endless strategies and QCA documents which offer advice on how to cover the attainment targets so that all children reach the appropriate "level".
The national curriculum assumes all children enter with nothing in their heads. If they are all filled up with the same lessons, the same strategies at the appropriate level, then they will all achieve the same level. If they begin to fall down, we have "catch up" strategies (springboard, additional literacy support) to fill them up with "the right stuff" again.
Sadly, it seems teachers have meekly followed along.
I came into education believing that children are not empty vessels waiting for me to pour in my wisdom. Rather, a child comes into primary school already full of experiences. Yes, I know this varies from endless exposure to television and Nintendo, to children who can already read and count to 100. But that is my point. Because children vary so much, how can we treat them all the same? Differentiation is not the answer, creativity is.
As teachers, we should help children express their interests, whether through a Bob the Builder role-play area or a news time. Children should experience reading as a door to an exciting world, which in turn will help them write as a means of self-expression. Primary education should be a nurturing time, where children learn because they are happy, secure and allowed to express their understanding of the world and how it works through all areas of the curriculum.
Sadly, more and more teachers - perhaps because of pressure from above, perhaps because of the fear of being deemed "unsatisfactory" - use the plans provided and follow the strategy. We have become so browbeaten we have forgotten that we are professional educators who know best because we know our children. We know that they are not lab rats who will respond in exactly the same way, given the same stimuli. But we are all so overwhelmed with work that we cling to any bit of planning flotsam that keeps us afloat.
I have only had time to write this as I am on long-term sick leave after I damaged my back restraining a child who was going berserk and becoming a serious threat to the safety of others. If this child's infant experience had offered him the opportunity to work through some of his problems - perhaps by more painting and artistic expression - would he have felt the need to express his feelings through trying to "smash up this f***ing school"?
The writer is an acting head of an inner-city primary school. She wants to remain anonymous