In terms of what children are learning in school these days, the level of English and math that they are taught is far more comprehensive than probably you or I learned when we were at school and that’s because the standards have gone up. The government wants pupils to reach a certain standard in reading, writing and maths before they leave primary school. For parents and teachers, how do you push pupils who are not quite at the government’s standard to improve without being under pressure to explode?
Like with many things in life, the answer is going to come by getting the balance right. If it is all work and no play, the pupil may become more problematic in the classroom. We need to make sure that opportunities to learn are not just done with a textbook but there are opportunities for outdoor activities, for example, where extra tutoring is needed to ensure it doesn’t become the entire theme of their life. Ensure that they have other opportunities to do fun things and have some downtime to themselves.
One of the things that I notice with children who come to see me for support usually around either confidence, general disengagement or moodiness with their families, is it quite a lot of the time, they are suffering from an acute disorder. Many children suffer from it and it’s something that is very easy to solve just as soon as you’ve been able to identify what it is and very often that low confidence, disengagement and issues with interpersonal problems are caused by this one problem and that one problem is that they are tired.
In reaching a new level of attainment, they might be going to school, then going to tutoring, then squeezing in some extra-curricular activities in their life as well because we want to make sure they are getting other life experiences and get to put other skills into action. We also need to make sure that they get some downtime because otherwise they will be exhausted and then anything else that we put in their way for them to enjoy and achieve they won’t get the most out of it because they’re just not alert enough.
What is the right way to increase pressure? When we’re looking to see better academic outcomes it’s important that a degree of pressure is there but it’s also important that there
is support put in place where extra support might be needed. It’s important that there is a cross-section of different activities to enjoy and not just the core academic ones. It’s also important that there is time for rest and respite and downtime. We need that downtime not just because it makes us feel better but because when we’re having that away time from the things that we’re looking to achieve, that’s when the real work starts to happen on an unconscious level. That’s when the filing away and consolidating short-term memories into long-term memories can begin to take place.
It’s all well and good cramming lots and lots of information into a relatively small space but in order for that information to get digested or incorporated into the psyche of that person they need to have time away from it. They can stop consciously thinking about all of those things they need to learn and let their unconscious mind take care of the information and source it and file it in an appropriate way. That comes from having downtime and rest and time away from a learning environment. This is important for our children and young people moving forward as the standards begin to increase and inevitably the pressure will start to go up.
By Gemma Bailey