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!