Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear Mr Gibb

I understand you have a brother.

I just wonder, when you were growing up, whether your achievements were uniform.

Did you both learn to walk the same number of steps, across the same distance, in the same place at the exact same age? Is the one who walked first the better walker now?

Did you both learn to talk the same words in the same order, with the same pronunciation, at the same rate at the exact same age? Did the slower talker get 'taught' the words his brother had already spoken by his age?

Did you both enjoy the same things at 20 months old? Or did one enjoy water play whilst the other hated getting wet? Did one love books whilst the other preferred building blocks? Was the water-hating child forced to play with water? Was the book lover forced to play with blocks instead?

Did you both learn to ride a bike without stabilisers at the exact same age, over the same distance, with the same competence? Is the one who cycled earliest the more competent rider now?

Did you both learn to read the same words in the same order in the same way at the same age? Or did one of you learn sight words more readily whilst one of you relied more heavily on phonics? (I'm not sure phonics was the same during your primary education as it was now but the concept was still around - letters make sounds - sounds make words). Is there a decipherable difference between your abilities to read now that you are adults?

My point is this - children are different. You and your brother did not, I'm assuming, achieve milestones at exactly the same ages. You most likely went through different processes to get there. You had different interests and different motivations and different strengths.

This is exactly the same for all children. Whether one year, five years or fifteen years.

But if one of you had been labelled as failing because you hadn't walked as early as the other, would this have been fair? If you had been given intervention daily to ensure you were as skilled at cycling as your brother (or vice versa) would this have made you enjoy it more? Would knowing that you weren't as good be a good motivation for you?

I know it must be hard to make decisions about professional pedagogy that you have no first hand experience of, bar your own education (where you claim music was taught in the same way as science?! Why?! They are totally different). And of course, you have the reams of specifically targeted research which supports the vision for education that you decided on before you even toyed with the notion of broadening your understanding of educational principles.

So I'm not asking you to change your mind about what you believe constitutes a good education. I know that is not going to happen.

But I am asking you to just acknowledge that children are different. They learn in different ways, at different rates, through different processes and with different strengths. And if you can acknowledge that, then you must be able to acknowledge that squashing them all into the same box (or in the same rows, taking the same format of tests), can't be as productive as offering a multitude of ways to learn (such as offering different approaches to things like, for example, music and science).

Because if you can just acknowledge this, then maybe there is just the tiniest, tiniest hope that you do have some understanding of children after all.

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Dear Mr Gibb

I understand you have a brother. I just wonder, when you were growing up, whether your achievements were uniform. Did you both learn to ...