“I just don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

I listened to this young teacher’s lament. “I just don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

She’s been teaching for 7 years and is a fabulous teacher. She’s bright and bubbly, fun, switched on and the kids love her. She is a great teacher. And yet I fear she is going to be another statistic of our failed education system. She has already lasted longer than the average graduate. It makes me so sad but I know exactly where she is coming from because I’ve been there.

The long and grinding days are hard enough with all the afterhours planning and the marking but we accept that. The constant flack we get from the media and sometimes the general public hurts but we manage to accept that as part of the job as well. The staff meetings and parent teacher interviews, fetes, camps, discos, we accept them as par for the course.

What it is impossible to accept is the feeling that we are letting our students down. “I give those struggling more time than I should and I scaffold them through it but they still fail. I’m failing them.” It’s the tears cried for our students that end up making the job impossible. It’s the never ending guilt of doing what we know is not best practice.

It’s the pushing of them too hard and too fast, the stress and anxiety that we inadvertently cause them. It’s not teachers like her or like me who are failing kids. It’s the system that is failing these kids and it’s failing teachers as well. (Kathy)


“Let’s focus on what makes a difference to student outcomes” – YES Simon Birmingham, let’s….

“Let’s focus on what makes a difference to student outcomes”

Yes, let’s…let’s focus on the need for children up to at least 6 to learn through play. Let’s focus on the need for children to get plenty of movement in their day to develop their gross and fine motor skills, as well as social cues.simon

Let’s focus on the evidence that earlier introduction of formal literacy and numeracy tasks, such as phonics and worksheets, actually leads to lower results and plateaus by age 10.

Let’s focus on the evidence that children who start formal education and learn to read at age 7 have passed their peers by age 10.

Let’s focus on the fact Australia has one of the youngest school starting ages in the OECD.

Let’s focus on the impact that the NAPLAN regime has had on the narrow focus of teaching in the first term of those NAPLAN years.

Let’s focus on the increasing rates of childhood anxiety and depression, which many child psychologists are linking to the early starting age, the push down pressure of the curriculum and “standards” pressure and lack of developmentally required movement and play.

Let’s focus on the evidence that homework in primary school is of little to no benefit and that indeed it may have a negative effect.

Let’s focus on the fact that schools being publicly ranked on league tables leads to unreasonable pressure on teachers to “perform”, when their performance is entirely dependent on the unique set of children that comes across them.

Let’s focus on the evidence that children in underprivileged families will have less access to early education, time with their parents, are read to less, may not be adequately fed or cared for and thus are in no position to “perform” at school.

Let’s focus on the fact in countries where results soar teachers are respected and highly qualified, not subjected to corporate-style “KPIs”.

Let’s focus on the fact that the only people who benefit from compulsory iPads, apps and computers in their early years learning are the manufacturers of the devices and their applications. Follow the money.

Let’s focus on the fact that the examples we are following – the UK and US – are below us on their standards.

Why in the hell are you and the Labor party so seduced by this corporatised ideological sabotage of what actually makes up good education, and leads to, not just good “student outcomes”, but happy, creative, critical thinking, well balanced, healthy children, young adults and adults.

Simon, you are wrong. You are going down the wrong track. The Productivity Commission is treating this as an economic issue, an economic policy. That’s where this country is fundamentally going wrong.

Education is not an economic issue. The entrepreneurship, innovation, productivity and value that our future adults provide the economy is a welcome side effect of good education. But it’s not the goal. Education is about shaping our future generation. The values, the creative, critical thinkers, the problem solvers, the cultural and social fabric of our Australian society in 20, 50, 100 years time.

Absolutely nothing on NAPLAN tests contributes to that. Absolutely nothing on PISA indicates that success.

What does indicate that success – or rather, failure – is our growing youth suicide rate. Suicide is the leading cause of death for boys 15-29. Our growing obesity rates. Our growing drinking problems and associated violence.

The solution to all these problems and social issues is education.

But not by cramming their heads with content, junk to regurgitate on standardised tests.

Julia Gillard. Peter Garrett. Christopher Pyne. Yourself. ACARA. You’re all getting it wrong.

Take a step back from your ideological blindness, step away from your sycophantic educational department advisers who tell you what you want to hear based on this ideology. Look broader.  Open your eyes to what works. Open your eyes to what isn’t.

Open your mind.


Tarnya Smith MP’s speech for Protecting Childhood

View Tarnya Smith MP’s adjournment speech HERE

Transcript from MP Tarnya Smith’s speech to Queensland Parliament on behalf of Protecting Childhood

Queensland Parliament Hansard Green

SUBJECT: Mount Ommaney Electorate, Education Sector MEMBER: Mrs SMITH

Mount Ommaney Electorate, Education Sector Mrs SMITH (Mount Ommaney—LNP) (11.50 pm):

Age appropriate education makes for happy, healthy teachers, children and parents.

That was the message given to me by a group called Protecting Childhood when it met with me in my electorate office in April 2016. My role as the local MP for Mount Ommaney is to raise concerns of individuals and local groups and advocate on their behalf, and one such way is by sponsoring petitions. Protecting Childhood told me that teachers in Queensland are being forced to teach an age inappropriate and crowded curriculum which is pushing students too hard too fast. Teachers feel that their role has effectively turned them into data collectors where they administer copious numbers of standardised tests and reports which neither inform them of the knowledge or the understanding of each child’s abilities or needs. This does nothing to enhance their learning or give children the best possible start in life. Protecting Childhood feels that children are disengaging from learning in a system which sets many of them up to fail. The self-esteem of some children is being damaged and both teachers and children in the system are suffering from stress and anxiety. As a local member and a mother of three, I know that Queensland teachers go to work every day with the children’s learning needs as their main focus and we need to ensure that children and teachers’ best interests are at heart when considering the content of this petition. Protecting Childhood through its petition, which garnered over 7,000 signatures, calls on this House to— 1. Observe international evidence-based best practice and ensure: (a) children are six years of age or older to commence being formally taught an incremental age-appropriate national curriculum (b) all learning prior to age six, including prep, is play-based (c) the data collection and reporting burden on teachers is reduced to maximise engage teaching time 2. Organise an independent investigation into the true depth of child and teacher distress in primary schools related to current age-inappropriate curricula and top down pressure to perform and assess too soon. One of the things we did when in government was give the power back to local schools to make local decisions. Local schools and parents know best about the educational needs of their children rather than bureaucrats in the city. We should continue to empower our local schools and school communities to find the right balance to meet the educational needs of our students. I am supportive of any initiative that will ensure that Queensland students receive the education they deserve and I look forward to hearing the feedback from local parents, schools and educators regarding the results of this petition. Finally, I want to acknowledge the Protecting Childhood group. Its efforts to galvanise parents and teachers to stand up for their children and teachers, and for children and teachers who are yet to experience the classroom, should be placed on the record and commended.


Children are not just future economic resources

I feel the need to respond to Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham‘s speech, at the ADC Education Summit, in Melbourne last week. You can read the transcript here.

I acknowledge that our Education Minister is doing what he believes to be best. My concern is that he views children solely through a lens of an Economist. Sadly, this narrow view undervalues the importance of an authentic childhood, free of adult pressures. It is imperative that we allow children to grow and develop at their own pace. Unfortunately, for Mr Birmingham, normal, healthy child development and the way children learn, may not fit with his economic timeline. As difficult as it is to loosen the political grip and let the system be guided by the needs of children – we MUST give Education back to children and Teachers. Children cannot be expected to magically be ready to fit the system – you cannot prepare a child for a developmental milestone that they haven’t reached yet! The well-being of children AND the economic prosperity of the country, depends on it.

Please let our children be children. It is such a short window of time to crush with imposed standards and comparisons.

Now to address the speech:

Undeniably the primary role in many ways of our education system, from a child’s earliest years to their completion in higher education and training is to prepare our young people predominately for the jobs of the future.

“Undeniably” the biggest mistake that our education policy makers make, is that they primarily see children as “future economic resources” and not as worthwhile, whole people RIGHT NOW. If education meets the holistic developmental needs of children, the “economic outcomes” will undeniably, take care of themselves.

We will rely upon some of those young people to be the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future. In these cases their education doesn’t just need to skill them to get a job but BhPDeyxCYAAhCBTalso needs to provide them with the skills to create jobs for others.


Politicians constantly sprout the need to educate for “innovation” but their proposed method is to “standardise“….think about that for a minute. *irony*


Australia will continue to invest at record levels in early childhood education, through schools and into tertiary education, focusing on evidence-based measures designed to get the maximum improvement in education outcomes.

Results from PISA 2012 show that while our students are still performing well compared to their peers in most other countries, their performance in reading and mathematics has significantly declined over the last decade.

I begin to question the validity of the “evidence”, when the evidencebased evidence-measures are derived from the evidence utilised by the evidence obtained from the government’s standardised testing regime. Evidence needs to come from unbiased sources, in other words sources that don’t have a vested interest in the statistical outcomes, such as: international best practice, consultation with educators at the coal-face and peer-reviewed research.

Not to mention, that the outcomes have significantly declined over the past decade, since the introduction of the so-called “evidence-based measures” aka NAPLAN and the “C2C” in Queensland.

From the high-chair to higher education we must ensure that the silos of our education system are coordinated.

Our schools are now “silos”? A silo (from the Greek σιρός – siros, “pit for holding grain”) is a structure for storing bulk materials. Our children are now bulk materials to be stored until adulthood??


We must ensure at the outset that children are school ready, the baton is then handed over to our school system to ensure that when the student leaves the primary school they are equipped for success at secondary school, prior to successfully partaking in further training or higher education. 

There is a wide range of normal child development. Readiness is about the child – not the adult’s expectations. Normal development is a broad range – not a point in time – and can differ as much as 18 months in 4 and 5 year olds. You cannot make ALL 4/5 year olds “school ready” simply because someone in a ivory tower wishes it. That’s like expecting ALL 9 month old babies to walk! Yes “some” babies walk at 9 months – the problem begins when adults imply that the babies who aren’t walking at 9 months need remedial intervention. There is nothing wrong with babies, who are not ready until 12, 15, 18 months. Earlier doesn’t equal better long term outcomes. Likewise, school starting age and formal literacy and numeracy at 4 or at 7 will result in the same long term ability – the problem is with forcing or coercing a child who is not ready, causing damage their self-image because we are placing unreasonable adult expectations on them.tumblr_lsdbzsSikk1qb3hj3o1_1280

Results such as these are important indicators for all of us; governments, principals, teachers and parents, that w
e need to do more and to look at the reasons why despite record funding growth over a number of years, we are not seeing sufficient comparable improvements in student outcomes.

Yes! As a country, we DO need to look at the reasons why we are not seeing
improvements in student outcomes. NO – imposing more of what is not working, is not the answer! Perhaps, human beings don’t like being treated as government data? Children are PEOPLE with complex social, emotional,
physical AND cognitive needs. Teachers and children are disengaging BECAUSE our Government is systematically devaluing the most vital part of teaching and learning – THE RELATIONSHIP! Heartbreakingly, while Teachers can leave, most children don’t get that choice.


They work hard to educate and get our students ready for their adult life, but we can and we indeed must do better. That is why the Turnbull Government has outlined reforms to deliver earlier identification of literacy and numeracy problems, enabling earlier, consistent interventions, stronger reporting standards and minimum competencies among future teaching graduates. 

Mr Birmingham is missing the critical point, that education is not about “getting ready for adult life”, it IS life for our children RIGHT NOW. More and more quantifying of outcomes in the name of accountability and transparency, fails to recognise that Education is not an exact science. It is an ART. Good education is qualitative, not quantitative. The key ingredient in children engaging and learning is found in the relationships they form with their Teachers and peers. More testing and reporting doesn’t equal more learning!

and seriously????!!!, if a Teacher can complete a 4 year university degree, they have proven that they have “minimum competencies” in literacy and numeracy.


One of the key reforms that the Turnbull Government announced in May is to see students needing to complete both an English or humanities subject and a maths or science subject prior to obtaining their ATAR. 

But we’ve seen for too long, too many students increasingly drop out of maths or science studies during their secondary years of education, thereby closing the door to opportunities to them in the future, or requiring make-up classes when they actually go on to further learning. 
Vocational education cannot be viewed as a second best option. Students in schools need to understand through high quality career advice that apprentices in traditional trades often enjoy higher employment outcomes than university graduates, better wages than many university graduates and have a higher likelihood of being self-employed or starting a business. Quality in our VET system is just as important as quality in our university system.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses! Just because the current drive is “STEM” doesn’t mean EVERY student MUST study it. By year 11 and 12, students should be able to structure their studies to meet their interests and their work/life goals. Help and support them to succeed! Let them become innovators and entrepreneurs, pursue a trade OR go to university, IF that is where their focus lies. Give teenagers more control over their futures. “Study without thought is labour lost; thought without study is dangerous” (Confucius).

They increasingly drop out because it isn’t relevant to THEM. By the way – the lower paragraph contradicts the others in your speech…more irony.

The Turnbull Government will also act on the evidence that clearly shows that the single most important in-school factor for children is teaching quality. 

Vocational education cannot be viewed as a second best option. Students in schools need to understand through high quality career advice that apprentices in traditional trades often enjoy higher employment outcomes than university graduates, better wages than many university graduates and have a higher likelihood of being self-employed or starting a business. Quality in our VET system is just as important as quality in our university system.

So let them TEACH. Stop blaming Teachers for unattainable outcomes and “plateaus” and please….stop treating Teachers as data collectors!

We need to make sure that the research underpinning our education system is thorough and findings widely shared so that adaptations of those methods of learning and teaching that are most effective can occur across our system, not withstanding the boundaries of states or territories or the divisions between early learning, schools, universities, TAFEs or other educational training divides.

Completely agree with the last point.

So the NAPALM results are out. Oops did I say that out loud?

So the NAPALM results are out. Oops did I say that out loud?

Sorry I meant the NAPLAN tests. There is a reason that the tests are often referred to this way. I know referring to them this way is politically incorrect and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone but when you see the first hand effects of the tests on some children it is devastating. As a teacher it is hard not to groan when I hear the word NAPLAN because of what it has become. It has become a way for politicians, media and public to judge children, teachers and schools. Schools have become businesses and NAPLAN results via MySchool are a way to uphold a school’s image and competitive advantage.

Perhaps the "plateau" is a side-effect of standardisation.
Perhaps the “plateau” is a side-effect of the standardisation model?

There is pressure placed on teachers to prepare their students to perform on the tests, and as a result, everything else drops in priority until the tests are finished. All the while these teachers are doing their best not to place too much importance on the tests, mindful that the last thing they want to do is stress the children.

Three months later, the results are released and education political football season begins. Politicians, media commentators and public wax lyrical about what’s wrong with our teachers and kids. All the work to reassure the children that the tests aren’t important is undone.

This year has been no different. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s press release titled “NAPLAN results: Plateau not good enough” is a disappointing disparagement of Australian schools, teachers and children with the intent only to justify his government’s policy to reject needs-based funding as per the Gonski model.

Birmingham intends to introduce Year 1 literacy and numeracy assessment – NAPLAN by another name – and annual reports to parents on literacy and numeracy standards, adding to the burden of data collection, assessment and reporting already felt by schools, children and teachers.

Results are “plateauing” because there’s only so much you can achieve by a narrow focus of education aimed only at a narrow test. We have likely reached a glass ceiling. Introducing online testing will do little to break it.

There are many things that are important in the development of a child and that will help in determining how well he/she does in life. NAPLAN is not one of them. It can’t tell us whether your child has an innate talent for science, art, music, sport, drama; or whether they are a kind, caring friend, whether they have a social conscience and are a champion of important causes. It saddens me how over time these tests have been given so much power. NAPLAN practice books, tutors for NAPLAN, NAPLAN results used by elite private schools to determine acceptance of students.

The reality is NAPLAN really isn’t that important except to the politicians. We all have different talents and abilities. We all have different passions and there is a place in the world for all of us. NAPLAN results do not determine that place.

Kathy Margolis

Stop using NAPLAN results as a boot to kick our schools, kids and teachers -Media Release

NAPLAN results were released this week and the usual political spin has accompanied them. Political leaders and ministers of education across the country have made announcements using the results to applaud, justify or condemn policy in relation to school education.naplan

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s press release titled “NAPLAN results: Plateau not good enough” is a disappointing disparagement of Australian schools, teachers and children with the intent only to justify his government’s policy to reject needs-based funding as per the Gonski model.

Birmingham intends to introduce Year 1 literacy and numeracy assessment – NAPLAN by another name – and annual reports to parents on literacy and numeracy standards, adding to the burden of data collection and reporting already felt by schools.

Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones has highlighted the improvements in Year 3 results to justify the push down encroachment of formal learning on prep and early years learning. Protecting Childhood contends that these results are achieved in spite of the curriculum, not because of it.

NAPLAN was designed to be a snapshot of specific areas of the nation’s students’ progress at a point in time. It has morphed into being the focus of curriculum itself. It is no coincidence that by focussing only on how to improve NAPLAN results do we actually achieve the opposite, and cause unnecessary stress to children and teachers in the process.

Protecting Childhood wants to stop seeing children and teachers and standardised test results used as political footballs.

Our petition, http://bit.ly/1XDSx87 which closes on Friday 5th August, is demanding the Queensland Department of Education reinstates a play-based prep curriculum and that formal schooling does not begin before age 6.

The petition has amassed over 6700 signatures online.

Protecting Childhood asks Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham to ensure that NAPLAN school-by-school results are no longer released to the public. It does not provide transparency or accountability, but creates an atmosphere of pressure, competition and stress within our learning environments that is to the detriment of our teachers and children.

Boys, Boys, Boys

It was the first time I had ever heard Maggie Dent speak. She was engaging, wise, articulate and very funny. I laughed out loud but there were also tears. The talk was “Boys, Boys, Boys” and as a mother of 3 sons (all who are now adults) and an educator, much of what she had to say resonated with me on a very deep level.

kmboyspoolI too, feel very strongly that boys are getting a raw deal in our current education system, particularly in the early years. Maggie laments the loss of play. I lament the loss of play. When children play they are doing so much more than simply building blocks and digging in the sandpit. Of course it’s not just boys who need play but I’m talking here about our boys. Play is how they develop their social and emotional skills. It’s how they learn skills such as problem solving and decision making. It’s how they learn to take turns and develop empathy for others. When we take away play we are doing our boys a great disservice.

The push for formalised learning in prep is just simply wrong. There is so much research and evidence that tell us children thrive when formalised learning comes later. Look at Finland where this happens at 7. They are held up as the most literate and numerate nation in the world so what are we doing? I’ll tell you what we are doing. We are setting many little boys up to fail. Research also shows us that boys develop differently and at different stages to girls. At prep age they are usually behind the girls in terms of readiness.maggie dent

Now of course each individual is different but this is what the studies show. When we do something as simple as ask little boys to sit on the carpet and listen and they roll around, it’s not that they are being “naughty” it’s that we are setting them a task that they simply can’t do. Their fine motor skills also develop more slowly than girls. So what happens when we push things like reading onto 4 or 5 year old boys who aren’t ready? They won’t be able to do it no matter how hard they try or how hard we push. They disengage. They see themselves as dumb. We damage their little self-esteems. We have little preppies being suspended and expelled from school in numbers never seen before.

Let’s look down the track. Maggie mentioned the statistics of youths being killed in accidents where risk taking was involved. She mentioned youth and adult suicide. She mentioned motor vehicle deaths. Overwhelmingly the statistics show the majority of these involve our boys. We have a duty to look after our boys and to nurture them, as parents, as educators and as a society. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s not take their childhood away and let’s not set them up to fail.

Qld Petition passes 5000 – MEDIA RELEASE – update

Education advocacy group, Protecting Childhood, is proud to announce that its Queensland Parliament e-petition, “Age-appropriate education for happy, healthy children and teachers” has passed 5000 signatures, rising by more than 3000 in the past two weeks alone.tarnyapetitionlodgment

Protecting Childhood, which formed in
March 2016, is a collabo
ration of parents, past and present teachers and education professionals, psychologists and academics concerned with the short and long term impacts of Australia’s increasingly fear-driven, test-focussed, standardised school system.

Protecting Childhood has amassed over 2900 followers, led by an executive committee of six, including retired teacher of 30 years Kathy Margolis, and with 23 area representatives Australia-wide.

Our ambassadors include respected psychologists and authors, Steve Biddulph and Robin Grille and author, educator, parenting and resilience specialist with a particular interest in the early years and adolescence, Maggie Dent.

A mounting body of evidence indicates that later start of formal learning indicates better long term results. However, Queensland prep students are enrolled as young as 4.5 years of age and subjected to formal learning conditions from day 1.

Protecting Childhood’s petition, backed by Mount Ommaney State MP Tarnya Smith MP, is calling for the Queensland Parliament to conduct an inquiry into the impact of the national curriculum implementation and top down pressure, and to observe international best practice and ensure:

(a) children are six years of age or older to commence being formally taught an incremental age-appropriate national curriculum
(b) all learning prior to age six, including prep, is play-based
(c) the data collection and reporting burden on teachers is reduced to maximise engaged teaching time.

The petition closes on 5th August 2016, and is expected to be tabled in State Parliament by Mrs Smith the week beginning 15th August 2016. The petition can be found at http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-asse…/…/e-petition…

For more information, please contact Chris Cox on 0412 416 600, or email connect@protectingchildhood.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ProtectingChildhoodAER
Web: http://www.protectingchildhood.org

Epic rant

I’m sorry but I feel another epic rant coming on. I’ve heard yet another story that made my blood boil. A principal in a school announcing to the staff that education has changed in the last 5 years and if they didn’t like it then perhaps it was time to move on.

This happened because some older, wiser teachers had been brave enough to stand up and question the system. Might I say that I would put my children in these teachers’ classes in a heartbeat. They have so much knowledge and experience and they are really good teachers. How dare they be told that they should consider moving on because they challenge the system. Yes education has changed and change is not necessarily a bad thing. Goodness knows teachers are used to change! However we must question a system when we have a growing number of teachers and children suffering from stress and anxiety.

We must challenge a system that has year 2 teachers preparing 7 year olds to write a 5 paragraph persuasive text for next year’s NAPLAN. When we have a C2C geography unit which asks these same 7 year olds to mark continents, oceans and lines of latitude on a world map, when many of them have never even ventured outside their own town or city and are not ready to comprehend these concepts. When we have a year 4 poetry unit where children must analyse poems and find examples of spoonerisms and neologisms. We must question a system in which much of the curriculum is age inappropriate. And these are just a few examples of the many ridiculous things we are asking our children to do in the current crowded curriculum.

My initial post has been shared over 40 000 times and the support I have received from teachers and parents alike, has been nothing short of amazing. The only thing that came close to criticism was that it was said that I should have stayed in the system and spoken up. I promise you I did speak up. Those who listened were teachers who agreed and the others simply didn’t care.

I broke down in tears at a data meeting with my admin when I was asked how I could improve the students’ scores. They were tears of frustration because I knew how to improve those scores. I was a damned good teacher whose hands were tied by a prescriptive curriculum which didn’t allow me the freedom I needed to engage my students in a creative inspiring way that captured their interests. When I was told by someone that I couldn’t leave because they needed teachers like me, my answer was simple “the system has made it impossible to stay.” I simply couldn’t continue to teach like this. It would be very convenient, both for me and the powers that be, if I just walked away and shut up. And some days I feel like I want to. Sometimes it seems too hard a fight but if I give up then they win and another teacher will be silenced. 

Kathy Margolis

Prince Rogers Nelson

Overnight, news broke that Prince Rogers Nelson, better known just as Prince, passed away suddenly at age 57.

We all know him as the prodigiously talented, eccentric, religious pop icon of the 1980s. There’s nobody who wouldn’t recognise When Doves Cry or Raspberry Beret when they come on the radio.13082595_1768187866730107_2274240167272923738_n

Prince had an interesting early life. Growing up as an African American in Minnesota in the 1960s, racial tensions and socio economic disadvantage were common. His parents, who encouraged his musical gift as a young boy, separated in his early teens and eventually he moved in with neighbours, rather than be shoved from parent to parent.

Classmates remembered him as the painfully shy and quiet kid who you wouldn’t notice if you passed him in the hall. Teachers do remember him though, they remember him coming in at all hours to play basketball with his friends, which despite his short stature – he was only 5’2 – he was extremely good at. And they also remember him in the music room banging out music of his own composition on pianos, guitars, drums hours after sports practice had finished and when the cleaners were trying to get in! They would often lock the doors to the music room at recess to let him express himself.

He showed no interest in academic subjects. He wasn’t disruptive, but did only what was necessary. His test scores were anything but spectacular. In his mind, he didn’t see the point in spending time on academic studies, because he was going to be a musician, and that’s what he needed to focus on.

Despite many of his friends falling to drugs and gang violence, and the assumption that those who don’t commit to academic studies go the same way, Prince stayed out of that with a single minded focus on his music, and writing.

Indeed he wrote, starred, directed and produced his own film in high school.

At 15 he was offered a record deal, which he turned down because they wouldn’t give him the opportunity to produce the songs himself. Obviously not trusting that a 15 year old knew what they were doing.

By 18 his first album was released, and he played every single instrument on that recording. He had his band who performed with him on tour, but so particular about his art he wanted to make sure what was recorded exactly matched his vision.

What does this have to do with Protecting Childhood and what we’re trying to achieve with the education system?

Let’s imagine Prince was born in Australia in the mid-2000s. Imagine he was in late primary with his passion for music.

Would he have the opportunity to spend hours in the music room unattended to hone his craft?
Would it be tolerated that he would “break in” to the gym or the hall to play basketball or music with his friends at night or on weekends?

His lack of interest or application to academic study would see his NAPLAN scores very low. He would be categorised as a “high need” student, and recommended to go onto an individualised learning plan – ironically, an individualised learning plan is what all children should be organically receiving, but that’s another story.

He would likely receive poor reports, and based only on the associated data, school hierarchy would likely recommend remedial study and advise parents to force him to do more literacy and numeracy worksheets.

He may even have been diagnosed as having ADHD or ASD due to his single minded focus on music and lack of attention when “academic” curriculum items were the focus of the day.

Or worse, he might just completely sail under the radar – sitting quietly and non-disruptive. Not making a fuss. Adequately passing within the tolerances. Receiving reports that say he’s adequate and well behaved and nothing else to do, but perhaps encouraging to spend more time on homework and less time mucking around with music. His gift going unnoticed and unrecognised.

He might have been lucky. He might have had one of you wonderful teachers who recognise that children with a gift like this need to be given the environment to flourish and chase that gift. Relaxing on the other items not because you don’t believe they’re important, but that if he recognised he needed them he would dedicate time to them, and with his intelligence he would easily and quickly catch up.

But our system discourages that kind of mindfulness and attention to individuals. There’s little doubt Prince’s “Data” would raise alarm bells. No child left behind! He can’t afford to fall behind on his persuasive text and reading level.

Of course, utter nonsense. He was a musical artist in the truest form. Music is one of the ultimate creative mediums, which has a very strong base in mathematics. His lyrics were poetic, deep with thought and understanding of his emotions and the emotions of others. His music connected with people.

He was not illiterate. He was not innumerate.

If we continue down this path of standardised education; standardised assessment; assessing all children as if one size fits all, children like Prince Rogers Nelson, unique diamonds, might well be discarded, dissuaded, disillusioned into believing they are a failure.

Imagine how much poorer the world would be today if that had happened in the 1970s.

How much poorer will the world be in 2040 if the Prince of today has been discouraged because the data said they weren’t good enough, and their teachers and parents buy into it?

We can’t let that happen.
We won’t let that happen.

Read more about “The Quiet One”:

Written by Chris Cox