One of the highest priorities within education has to be be removing or reducing stress and anxiety for our children in whatever form. Our priority should be to find a solution that allows children to be themselves and educators should continue to seek a way to assess progress and achievement in a way that balances challenge and wellbeing.
Learning how to “perform” under pressure is a valuable life skill but it should be age appropriate and done in a way that still allows people to show their best selves. Too much pressure and we restrict what children can show – we see only a glimpse of their potential in a situation that isn’t usual. In fact, for the majority of tasks in life we rarely work under this same level of scrutiny or pressure, so why do we test in these conditions at such a young age? in professions that require to performing under intense pressure, people spend years developing these skills and whilst schools should introduce them, we must bear in mind that this way of working doesn’t suit everyone. We begin this journey at BPS by focusing on developing resilience, adaptability and the opportunity to “perform and compete”.
This week in school we have been assessing the progress our children have made this term. It is an important process because it shapes our teaching and ensures we are supporting every child in the right way to reach their potential. We deliberately try to downplay this exercise, keep it as similar as possible to a normal day in the classroom and be extra responsive to any child who finds it harder to adjust to. Creating a relaxed environment, having breaks, treats and opportunities to “de-stress” are all encouraged, and staff have worked hard to keep the mood as calm and light as possible. Despite our best efforts, the reality is that there will always be some children who feel under pressure during these moments and as teachers and parents we should continue to take care that our comments and actions don’t add to the pressure.
This is a particularly busy period for Year 6 as they attend assessment days and entrance tests at prospective senior schools. The format of these days has adjusted significantly over the years as all schools demonstrate their ambition to create situations that show children at their best versus what they can achieve under pressure. I have spoken with three senior schools this week about our shared approach to help support our children relax and enjoy the experience and the situation is definitely improving. It was wonderful hearing from our children about their experience at one of these schools which could not have been more positive. They returned buzzing about their day and excited about the future, not a sign of nerves or stress to be seen, just how it should be. At BPS we help our children prepare for these experiences in a multitude of ways to help take away any element of surprise and allow them all to be themselves. It is a much more child-friendly and effective approach to helping children find a school that is right for their skills and character, which is better for everyone in the long run.
So the signs are very positive and whilst there is still some way to go we know we are on the right track. Well done to everyone for managing any nerves this week, I hope you all have a very stress-free weekend.