P stands for pressure

30th June 2000 at 01:00
WE are two supply primary teachers with 50 years' experience between us of teaching and we wish to express our horror at what is going on in the vast majority of the schools we visit.

The key words here are two "p"s both beloved by Office for Standards in Education: "pace" and "planning". The pace at which the school day is currently conducted is frenetic. It means that there is no time for quiet reflection; no time for children to "choose" an activity or discuss their weekend on a Monday morning; no "quiet reading" time.

The regimented literacy and numeracy hours dominate the curriculum; science, geography and history lessons are mainly comprehension exercises using photocopied worksheets and art and music seem to have become subjects to be whispered about furtively in dark corners by nostalgic older members of staff.

At every school we visit, we are told to "be firm" - "this is a lively class" etc to prepare us for teaching what are inevitably very pressured children some of whom, we are sure, once looked to school as an oasis of calm in an oherwise highly stressful existence.

Likewise, the planning required is ridiculous. Of course thorough planning is necessary, but just because it's written down it's going to be any good.

Do experienced teachers really need to record in writing that they are going to need newspapers and paintbrushes for a painting lesson? What makes our hearts sink even lower is that the quality of resulting artwork is often poor despite this attention to detail.

All this is happening when research is showing that learning is most effective when the brain is operating at "alpha" level - that is, in a state of relaxed alertness.

How can children possibly develop creative thinking when they are being rushed through a plethora of learning objectives that the poor teacher has given up most of Sunday laboriously recording on medium and short- term planning sheets?

Time for a rethink, Mr Blunkett. Here are some more "p" words'? Pause to Ponder on the Purpose of Pedagogy. Please.

Mark Edwards

Liz Sutherland

36 George Street, Bedford

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