“Struggling children who do not catch up by January will not manage to” – Head of School

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A Head of School at a primary school stated that struggling children who don’t catch up by January will remain struggling until the end of the scholastic year. This was said in relation to Maltese primary schools’ literacy requirements in Year 1, in an interview with Charmaine Bonello for the purposes of her PhD at the University of Sheffield.

The Head of School was putting forward her concerns as regards to young children’s preparedness for Year 1. She said that they need to prepare well for Year 1, so that there are no stumbling blocks. This is because a child who struggles at this stage without managing to catch up by January will struggle till the end of the year.

However, a Head of the Literacy Department at one of the schools being studied said that the formality in activities is creating a race. She said that in primary schools, activities should be presented in a less formal way. This is because even in Kindergarten, things have become a race against time. She added that with such a system, children who are at risk of being low achievers start to lose the race before they even start it.

Bonello noted that the idea of “preparation” to formalised education in the first years of Maltese primary schools seemed to cause parents anxiety. This anxiety was directly linked to whether their son was ready or not for formalised education. She documented the following discussion between three parents:

  • Lara: I give him extra work to write letters. He worries when the teacher tells him that the letter he wrote is not correct.
  • Lorna: I do the same too.
  • Lara: Private lessons might do for your son.
  • Lorna: Yes, that’s what I was thinking of.
  • Lara: I will take mine too.
  • May: That’s what I told the teacher, instead of sending him to a summer school I will take him to private literacy lessons. I need to prepare him for Year 2.

Year 1 teachers in all the three schools studied in Bonello’s PhD seemed to agree that some boys struggled with the existing formal schooled reading and writing practices. The same thesis put forward that parents and teachers believe that first year primary school children have too much homework.

1st-year students have too much homework – parents