This story is part of Black Ballad’s takeover of HuffPost UK, a week-long series by Black women on parenting, family, and our post-Covid future.
“Mama, I don’t want to do that, it’s boring!”
“But babe, it’s writing a story, it’s fun! You love writing stories!”
“Yes, but not about that!”
This conversation at our kitchen table about school work set during lockdown stuck in my mind. Our six-year old can often be found creating booklets about whatever she’s interested in at the time. Over lockdown she wrote about the complicated love lives of Greek gods, a series about a little girl of dual vampire and fairy heritage, and her own take on the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. These homemade books are carefully written and illustrated and can currently be found all over our house.
They often run to 30 pages plus. She loves learning but when she was set the task of writing a story for school during lockdown we struggled to get a paragraph out of her just because the topic didn’t set her on fire. I found myself saying to her, “Your books at home are so good. I know you can write more than two sentences. Why don’t you show your teacher what you can really do with your school work?”
As a parent who also spent many years as a teacher, I had a flash forward of poor assessment grades and a life in bottom sets because she hadn’t demonstrated the full breadth of her knowledge in the way expected.
Yes, I had these thoughts during homeschooling in a pandemic. Yes, I had these thoughts fleetingly about a six-year-old. I should probably have taken a longer term view, but these fears point to how deeply ingrained the need to assess and measure learning is in the English school system. Parental fears are also linked to perceived high stakes for kids who...