Someone should do something

Let me paint a picture for you.

Your child is starting kindergarten next year. Perhaps this is your first child to be heading off to school, perhaps it’s your last, either way the kid is looking forward to it.

You and your partner have got the school holiday child care juggling act all figured out and you’ve managed to arrange things so that you’ll be able to have the day off for the first day of term and one of you will be available to pick your child up each afternoon after school for at least the first week. After that though, you’ll have used up all your leave and every bit of flexibility your workplace can offer.

Then this week you receive in the mail a letter laying out the arrangements for the start of the 2009 school year. For the first week there will be no normal classes for kindergarten children, instead, during that week, each child has an appointment for a single 45 minute, one-on-one, assessment session with their kindergarten teacher. Suddenly there’s an entire extra week of care needed for your child.

What are you going to do? Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have grandparents or friends who can step in and help out, but that’s not true for everyone.

Whatever I might think of the new “Best Start” assessment program that is being introduced in schools (that’s a whole ‘nother rant), the implementation of it at our school SUCKS. I’m furious and I’m not even affected by it. I’m not sure if this is being done the same way in all the 400 (I think that’s the right figure) schools that are part of the first phase for introducing this new assessment program, but, if it is, there’s going to be an awful lot of unhappy parents. I know at least one parent for whom this represents actual loss of earnings because she will have to take leave without pay and her partner can’t step in and help out because he’s a teacher and there’s no way he can take time off in the first week back. I’m sure they won’t be the only family in a similar position.

I feel like I ought to be doing something, at very least I think I’ll be pointing out at the next P&C meeting the assumptions being made about there being a parent or other carer (who am I kidding, it’s mum we’re talking about here isn’t it?) readily available to cover the extra week and asking that those concerns be addressed in the implementation of Best Start testing for 2010.

Update: An email has been sent (not be me) and responded to by someone from the DET who rang back pretty much straight away. In part, here’s what I was told about that phone call:

Their recommendation is that the assessments occur after the kids have settled in, with time for the teachers to work out the “early birds” and “late birds” as she put it – ie, assess the ones who have settled in well first and give the others more time so that the assessments are realistic and useful, and not carried out when the kids are nervous and overwhelmed.

The expectation of the department was that kinder would begin at the same time as the rest of the school…and that the assessments were to take place during normal school hours.

So it looks like there might be some interesting conversations at the P&C meeting next week!

10 Responses to “Someone should do something”

  1. Liz says:

    Very frustrating, Mim. As a working mom who has to do all of that kind of figuring, I would be pretty irate.

    And, on a side note, I read your blog with my fake Australian accent in nmy head. Ha!

  2. Shrinking Tardie says:

    Very strange – I hadn’t heard about the program before and just went and had a flick around on the website. It would appear that it’s designed to happen a month or so after school starts (rather than the first day!) and that it’s done during the regular school day.

    I’m all for teacher’s knowing where kids are at – I wish Em’s school had done that in Kinder – but only if they then use it for something meaningful (which I doubt)…but a 45 minute appointment – sounds like a load of b/s to me.

    Nat

  3. Mim says:

    Nat, when we had Orientation back at the beginning of November the parents were told a bit about the program and that the school hadn’t quite worked out how they would run the testing. At that point I believe they still expected to have the kids start as normal, though they were foreshadowing having to do weird things such as having some kids come at 9:00 and be tested and the rest of the class showing up later in the morning. One great big mess all round.

    The stuff on the website looks to me like the classic decree by the Dept that “such-and-such will happen” without any provision for accommodating the effects of that decree on the rest of the school. Such as perhaps providing funding for relief teachers who could look after the classes while the teachers are doing the testing.

  4. aussiehen says:

    In theory it sounds like a great idea and as a mum of a child likely to have a learning disability I’m all for extra contact and involvement of the school/teacher/parent/child.

    However as you’ve just commented Mim it smacks of the Dept issuing a grandiose scheme and the school having to implement it any which way they can which leads for frustration on everyone’s part.

    I can just imagine the bureaucrats patting themselves on the back for this one a la The Hollowmen

  5. Shrinking Tardie says:

    Mim,

    Totally agree with what you wrote mate (as usual!). It amazes me that the powers that be seem to think through the difficulties of trying to test a child (and end up with results that are reliable and valid) while you have 20 something other little darlings running around. What a fricking nightmare!

    I’m just incensed that we’re behind Kazakhstan in maths and science and yet the government is funding STOOPID things like the net censoring and something else (that I can’t for the life of me remember now but I do recall being pissed off).

    The entire education system needs a broom put through most of it. But that, I’m afraid, will never happen.

    Nat

  6. Shrinking Tardie says:

    The thing I was pissy about was 45 million dollars to bring the Soccer world cup to Australia. Why? It’s not that I’m anti-sport – not at all – being an ex state rep netballer and swimmer I’m all for competitive sport. But when science consists of shoving a bean in cotton wool and simply watching it grow, and maths is taught from a book with little to no room to move away from the set way of rote learning, why the heck should our tax dollars go towards spending money on soccer????

    Humph. You really shouldn’t get me started on this sort of stuff Mim – it’s no good for my blood pressure 🙂

    Nat

  7. Ariane says:

    That’s completely insane. Why is it that when the Dept makes stupid decree, it all rolls down hill to the parents. Or as you say, mostly mothers.

  8. Mim says:

    Update: An email has been sent (not be me) and responded to by someone from the DET who rang back pretty much straight away. In part, here’s what I was told about that phone call:

    Their recommendation is that the assessments occur after the kids have settled in, with time for the teachers to work out the “early birds” and “late birds” as she put it – ie, assess the ones who have settled in well first and give the others more time so that the assessments are realistic and useful, and not carried out when the kids are nervous and overwhelmed.

    The expectation of the department was that kinder would begin at the same time as the rest of the school…and that the assessments were to take place during normal school hours.

    So it looks like there might be some interesting conversations at the P&C meeting next week!

  9. Shrinking Tardie says:

    YAY – chalk up one small victory for common sense!!!

    Nat

  10. Lisa66 says:

    Mim, this already happens in Victorian schools (for a few years now), however the implementation is different. My experience was that all Prep (kindergarten) children had Wednesdays off school for the first month.(This has happened for many years in Vic.) The other 4 days Preps had the same hours as the other kids. On one of the Wednesdays during that first month every child was scheduled for a 45 min appointment with their teacher.

    Parents knew about this appointment and their child’s hours of attendance months before the beginning of the new school year.

    As a former teacher I believe the one on one time at the beginning of the year would be extremely valuable.

    Sounds to me like this particular school has been remiss in its organisation and delivery of the program.

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