Head teacher's letter causes controversy

By Morwenna Evans Friday, July 18, 2014

A recent letter from the head-teacher of Barrowford Primary School in Nelson has caught the attention of thousands of parents across social media.

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This small primary school in Lancashire drew international attention when the head teacher sent a letter to its KS2 pupils along with their exam results. The letter congratulated the students on their exam grades, but also highlighted the importance of recognising extra-curricular attributes and other skills the children may possess.

It tells pupils the school is "proud" of them as they have demonstrated a "huge amount of commitment and tried your best during a tricky week"

The letter went on …

"these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique". The examiners, "do not know each of you... They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture.”

This praise of the pupils’ non-academic achievements has been tweeted and re-posted across social media across the globe.

However, the reaction to this statement has not been unanimously positive. Whilst The Department for Education said the letter was "a matter for the school", declining to take a definite stance, Shona Sibary, Daily Mail columnist, offered a scathing review during an interview on GMTV.

Sibary, who is a mother of four, commented that if she received this letter in conjunction with her child’s exam results, she would be absolutely ‘livid’.

She went on to state that the timing of the letter was ‘irresponsible’ as it positioned the students’ exam results as of equal importance to ‘helping their parents stack the dishwasher, or looking after their little sister’. At this critical stage in a child’s academic career; transitioning between primary and secondary school, Sibary argued that instead of promoting the pastoral attributes of their pupils, the school should emphasise the importance of exam results. In stressing this significance, she argued, the school would responsibly enable their pupils to understand and prepare for the step-up to secondary school and increased exam pressure.

Maths Doctor has found that many students do struggle when entering secondary school or returning to school following the summer holidays due to this ‘summer slide’ period. Pupils enjoy a long, and well deserved break from school, however many struggle to maintain the knowledge and skills they have obtained in their last year of primary school and therefore encounter a difficult leap when they start their new school year.

Sibary felt that the letter sent to parents and pupils could make students believe that the attributes highlighted, although very important, were of equal importance to their exam results, when in fact we should be doing all we can to encourage children to strive to do their best in academic subjects.

To what extent we push our children to succeed in all areas is a point of contention amongst many. What do you think? Does the letter present exam results as less important than extra-curricular merits? Was the head-teacher right to send the letter at same time as exam results?

Categories: Education