Updated: Feb 26
As a parent you may be able to speak to your school governors to suggest that they recommend your child's teachers undergo some Continuing Professional Development or in service training.
What do you want your child's teachers to know?
Often we would like our teachers to know what to do to prevent;
Hand writing problems developing.
Numeracy problems become a real difficulty.
Literacy difficulties getting worse.
Some of these can be prevented by quality first teaching which actually understand the dynamics of how a child's learning a thinking develops across the ages.
In the early years we can do so much to prevent these form ever becoming an issue if we teach correctly.
Unfortunately our teachers spend approximately one tenth of their training looking at how to teach hand writing, reading and spelling!! (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0091732X18821125)
This has improved from where it was in 2006, when Rose wrote his damning report on how we teach these skills in the UK.
Primary school teachers are very unlikely to be graduates from a science or maths based degree and many of them suffer from maths anxiety and difficulties in maths of their own, This is why the maths for teachers assessment had to be introduced. The level of maths that your child's teacher needs to have to pass this test is below GCSE level 5.
This should not be a problem as often some of the best early years teachers can be the ones who struggle the most with the subject as they understand the pitfalls and how to overcome them.
With maths this is often not the case though.
Many maths teachers realise that the small amount of maths the students are expected to be able to do can be learned off by heart.
The same goes for the small number of sight words the students need to read, they can be learned by heart.
Neither of these things remains true as your child progresses through their education and, if they have learned to learn by heart, they will continue to try this as the first option for adding new information.
The child will soon struggle and the absolute limit of their memory may actually be reached. New learning will push out old learning and anything not revisited on nearly a daily basis will be forgotten. It will start to look like your child is doomed to never learn anything new.
At this point, to try to persuade the student to go back to the beginning to relearn how to learn can be very difficult as most of the early years materials, they now need to go back to, feel way too babyish for them.
So what to do?
I make and use materials with no cartoons in them and grown up words, aimed at KS3 and above. I use maths resources which are non-gendered, ethnically unbiased and non-age related.
It would be nice though, if I never needed to do this and this would be less likely if;
I could teach your primary school teachers how to teach for understanding.
Teach the understanding of maths, the basic numeracy of maths and the basic way the units of maths fit together, such that they would always teach this properly right from the start.
Teaching a child to memorise the tables and the addition facts with no understanding only provides a false sense of security in the early years. No understanding means that they will only be ever able to do basic maths.
I could teach your teachers to teach phonics properly and never teach your child to guess, as guessing is always a lot less work than decoding, but is the limiting factor in your child's reading as they get older.
To teach the teachers never to teach by learning by sight, sight reading is just another name for teaching memorising and guessing when memorising fails.
Guessing from the context of the text, from the words in the sentence, from the type of word which must come next and from the shape of the word, the first letter in the word and finally, the worst - from the picture, is all a way of ensuring your student will not learn to read novel text in a normal adult style book in the future.
The two above problems will only affect the lower portion of each class. Many students don't have underlying problems in maths or literacy and so can work out the understanding and the phonemic code for themselves. They can work out this despite all the barriers we put in their way to their learning.
Our students are truly amazing.
But those that can't do this.
They remain those for whom reading, spelling and maths will always remain difficult.
What a shame, when it didn't have to be this way.