Terms should finish with a bit of fun

3rd August 2007 at 01:00
The last few days at the end of term brings out a feeling in me that never changes a mixture of relief but also frustration.

It makes me feel old and I start to talk in cliches. I often say things were better in the "good old days". I can remember when this time of the school year was relaxing but highly effective. There used to be a sense of winding down and a natural conclusion to the academic year. Teachers became more comfortable and education became less formal. It isn't like that anymore.

Now I am always conscious that nothing is finished at the end of term. Issues are merely parked up until September and it is an increasingly unsatisfactory feeling. We appear to be strapped forever to a soul-less machine in which we measure, shape and judge.

Those final few weeks are frantic, with exams to mark, reports to write and all that performance management. But what we used to do at the end of term was much more productive. It did not stand up to the infernal demands of rigorous content coverage by which we are now repressed. However, in those days we achieved other things that were far more important. We built up relationships and we established friendships because we were allowed to do so.

It was far more effective than ploughing relentlessly through the syllabus, driving students towards a distant set of targets.

I remember the unhappy and troubled young man who blossomed after dismissing three teachers in a cricket match one warm afternoon, in front of some boys who had tormented him. His success transformed his reputation and his school career. Of all the things that happened to him at school, this was by far the most significant.

And what about that teacher who showed such skill in a rounders competition on the beach? Pupils saw her in a completely different light, especially after a visit to the ice-cream parlour.

Yes we played good old-fashioned games. We shared good times with the children in school and reaped benefits. But it couldn't be measured and didn't tick a box. Now we must plan endlessly for a vocational future. If it is not work related we must dismiss it. A utilitarian timetable, rigid and obsessive, has driven out a sense of community.

Apparently fun isn't professional. Sometimes it is best to keep hold of ideas and not replace them because sometimes they were right. Teachers and their students need a proper end of term, not a relentless focus upon exams and coursework requirements.

It would be nice to think that next summer we can all step off and relax. I think it would result in everyone learning a great deal more. John Sutton is a pseudonym. He teaches in North Wales

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