Summer term is bonkers busy. I said this to another mum while trying to arrange a meetup. And it is. Sports days, school trips, end of term discos, fetes, reports and parents evenings. It’s exhausting. But is it THE most hectic term? And why does school term stress bottleneck?
The weeks before Christmas are equally stressful. But there, of course, you have the obligatory work and family festive celebrations thrown in. Chuck in coughs and colds and I think this term edges out summer on being the most stressful.
As someone who thinks carefully about avoiding excessive chaos, I find all end of term stress perplexing and a bit of a bore. Firstly because in our family we’re supporting a child with anxiety and need to be mindful of over stimulation. Excessive amounts of end of term activities do not help here. But secondly, because some of it seems so unnecessary. And I wonder, on top of the over academisation of our kids, whether this is good for our children?
Our journey through primary school so far has been a bit of a shock. Mostly the learning journey the kids are on and how intensely studious it is from Reception. My daughter had homework from the age of 4. There is a growing movement to ‘let kids be kids’ and that’s no accident. There’s little evidence our staunchly academic system produces productive members of society. This ‘on paper’ approach to academic achievement from successive governments since 2010 misses the many soft and social skills required in the real world. I hear from University lecturer friends that students arrive at higher education lacking original thought and problem-solving skills.
I do believe the schools do their best to spread things out. Sports Days and school fetes are held a little earlier and I’ve noticed some schools hold smaller events throughout the year for parents to attend, such as singing assemblies or walk around artwork displays at the end of the day.
There is legitimate concern about children’s mental health in the U.K. It’s vital parents support children through their emotional, social and development journey, particularly at school. But with so much to juggle at the end of term, it’s a wonder teachers or parents, especially the brave PTA volunteers or governors, don’t have meltdowns. How are we to keep our cool while being drawn into mega agendas?
Of course, most of these mega agendas are around raising the extra funds the schools need to educate our children. And that’s it right there. School community events do so much more than raise money but I certainly have noticed a rising pressure to raise more funds than ever. I don’t have any concrete budgetary comparisons but the £493 per pupil cut in funding, as highlighted by the Save Our Schools campaign is not going to help.
What can we do about this? We can figure out easier ways to raise funds, which fit better around our lives but still add value. We can find ways for an increased number of volunteers to give up their time but less frequently. Employers must be more flexible for school activities such as Sports Days and trips, so it’s not always the same parents supporting them. And these activities, in my view, are equally as valuable as sitting in a classroom learning tests.
And we can continue to campaign, raise awareness of the fact that we are not prepared to sacrifice our child’s well-being for excessive testing and academisation nor stringent cuts.
But most of all we can take a deep breath and do what we can to get the best out of summer term without going bonkers. Don’t be afraid to back off, say no and bring some balance into your life before school holidays start.