Your goal for this summer? Mischief managed

23rd July 2016 at 16:00
It's time for a well-deserved summer break, writes TES editor Ann Mroz – don't forget to have fun along the way

Welcome to summer: let the holidays begin – you’ve all certainly earned them. There has even been a little bit of cheer on which to end a tumultuous academic year that has culminated in the appointment of a brand new education secretary, Justine Greening.

For secondary teachers, Ofqual announced that all GCSE and A-level specifications for 2016/17 have finally been approved – and not before time. Hurrah!

And in primary, the Department for Education wrote to schools to say that there would be no statutory multiplication tables tests next year and reconfirmed that there would be no Year 7 resits for those who hadn’t met the required standard in Sats.

The last is probably a good thing to emphasise, given just over half of pupils reached the expected standard in all three key stage 2 tests this year. In the current climate – post-Brexit, post-reshuffle – it would be a very foolhardy DfE that pushed ahead with either of these.

There were many reports of emotional responses from some of the pupils (not to mention their teachers) after sitting the new beefed-up Sats. But for all those tales of tears and tantrums, are children in fact more resilient than we give them credit for?

And with all the concerns about accountability demands squeezing any non-academic lessons out of the curriculum, is there really no room for fun in school any more?

Perhaps teachers need to take a cue from their charges and indulge in a little bit of fun themselves

We thought that the best way to find out was to consult the children themselves, so we got 16 schools (a mix of maintained, independent and alternative provision) from across the UK to ask pupils aged between 4 and 11 what experiences they thought that every child should have before the age of 11. The resulting top 100 is a rather charming list with its fair share of mischief (see the free poster with this issue).

In the top spot is “Call a teacher mum or dad”, followed by the heart-warming “Make a good friend”. A number of the entries are what you’d expect – “Laugh hysterically when someone farts”, “Get to spin on the teacher’s chair”, “Have a water fight”. Others are quite strange – “Have a wasp in the classroom”, “Graze your knee in the playground”, “Be sick in the classroom”.

In some schools, teachers are clearly reading too much Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck, with “Fail so that you can improve on your mistakes” making the list at number 49.

But almost a third were about testing their teachers and seeing what they could get away with -- a healthy and important lesson for life. “Boundaries are what allow us to live in a (mostly) law-abiding society and boundaries give us the ability to make informed choices and cope well with life,” explains Lorinne Mahar, a specialist in child behaviour. “It is a child’s job to push the boundaries, and it is the job of parents and teachers to reinforce them”.

It’s all good old-fashioned fun, and what is most reassuring is that, for all the doom and gloom about today’s children being robbed of their childhood by tests and technology, much of the list could easily have been compiled 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago.

If for children little has changed, the converse is true for their teachers. According to a YouGov report for TES, 44 per cent of them will spend at least 10 days of their summer break on school-related work. Perhaps they need to take a cue from their charges and indulge in a little bit of fun themselves. We suggest numbers 7, 15, and 100. Enjoy!


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