Yesterday we received our first feedback about Joni from her nursery. It was generally positive, yet it did criticise her for asking ‘can I…?’ when she wanted to play with different toys or do different activities. It’s hardly surprising that she’s polite in a brand new environment. She’s used to checking with me before she gets paint out or play dough so of course she’ll check at nursery – she’s only been there 5 times! But apparently they have to complete this form before she’s 3 so it’s been done in a hurry, they haven’t really had a chance to get to know her.
Having worked in early years education I know the importance, in terms of Ofsted, to record observations of a child and to include parents in these observations and reviews of progress – so I can see why they do it. I deliberately chose a school nursery which runs structured 3 hour sessions as I think this would suit Joni best. It happens to be at the end of our road and has a very good reputation too – but none of that would mean anything if I didn’t feel it was right for Joni. I really like the teachers and their ethos and Joni hasn’t had any problems settling in so far.
Getting this ‘report’ made me realise a couple of things – firstly, that I will have a physical reaction to feedback from other adults about my child’s progress.
I felt a little queasy when I was handed the sheet of paper – I did not want to read anything that criticised my very small little girl. She’s two, if you suggest she’s anything less than perfect I might get a little head-butty. I also didn’t want to hear if she’s not getting on ok or they’re worried about her. Not because I don’t want to help her (I’m sure these reports are really useful when a child has a problem that could be addressed with additional support) or know but because I don’t want anyone else judging my child by their criteria. They didn’t mention her fantastic imagination or surprising memory or a whole load of other stuff because they’ve not experienced it. I know her best and I know that school will never have the full picture (or care for it) before committing pen to paper and making their judgements. I guess that this is preparation for life isn’t it? You will be continually judged by a set of external criteria – and if Michael Gove has his wicked way with the education system this will happen formally from as early as 4 years old.
Secondly, and more importantly, I am unlikely to ever agree with this feedback. Obviously I am fiercely defensive, proud and protective of my offspring but more than that I absolutely refuse for them to be put in a box. ‘Good’ at something or ‘weak’ at something else. I was always told that I wasn’t very good at maths and science and I believed it. Actually, I was fine and could have been better with more encouragement.
Schools and their reporting serve a purpose but I am always reminding myself of the importance of the education they receive at home. As a parent I want to teach my children to have the confidence to be sure about who and what they are regardless of the criteria by which they will be judged by others. If they know their worth then nothing else matters much.
I will admit that I was quite looking forward to this kind of feedback from school (charming reports of an idyllic schooling is what I’m imagining) but, like with most aspects of parenting, the reality has challenged the imagined and changed my point of view. For the better, I think.