A former primary school teacher of 30 years believes prep students are being “set up to fail”.
Kathy Margolis resigned from teaching 18 months ago after experiencing and disagreeing with changes to the education system.
She now heads the Protecting Childhood group, whose members believe more play-based education is needed for children.
Ms Margolis said the group was concerned by recent advertising encouraging parents to hire tutors to prepare their children for prep, as well as pre-prep readiness courses on offer.
“Every parent wants the best for their children, but with the constant media attention they are being fear-driven to do more,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Steve Austin.
“Prep means preparation; prep should be preparation for school.
“We’re setting them up to fail, as all the evidence states that earlier [education] is not always better.”
Ms Margolis said children were being pushed to learn earlier and therefore losing their love of learning.
“If this system is setting them up to fail by pushing them too hard when they’re not ready and making them hate school, then something has to be done. The system is simply wrong.”
She said more play-based learning needed to be reincorporated into the education system.
“Prep replaced preschool, and preschool was a lovely play-based program and children that age learnt through play.
“Play-based education is how they learn their social skills and how they learn to share, take turns, empathise and moderate their own behaviour.
“When you take play away from these children you’re taking away their opportunity to learn these things.
“When children are in a lovely, rich play-based environment, where they can be happy and have fun and learn at their own pace, then we have a chance to help them develop.”
Many parents told ABC Radio Brisbane they are choosing to hold their children back a year to start prep. (Flickr: woodleywonderworks)
Ms Margolis said children were now expected to be able to write from the first day of prep.
“Not every child has the fine motor skills or development to write on the first day,” she said.
“To expect them all to reach those standards at the same time when they are at different levels is why we’re setting some of the children up to fail.”
She hoped that by speaking out more parents would come forward and voice their opinions on the current state of prep education.
“The results aren’t improving and we’re doing more of the same and no-one is listening to the educators or the teachers that know what they’re talking about,” Ms Margolis said.
On the ABC Radio Brisbane Facebook page, parents shared their thoughts on prep:
Muffy Morgan: “After the disaster it was for my daughter, I’ve kept my son out of school an extra year and if he shows signs of struggling I’ll home school him with my daughter.”
Rachael McCall: “I don’t understand why we aren’t following more of the education outlines of Scandinavian countries (that are outperforming us). The children are formally schooled at an older age and do more play-based learning prior to formal schooling.”
David Courtenay: “Prep is the new grade one. Don’t worry about the education aspect. Get the fine and gross motor skills happening along with socialisation (play) and the rest will happen when it’s ready. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Karen Staunton: “I have my third boy in prep this year. He could have gone last year. We made the decision to keep him at kindy instead. Now he is powering through prep and loves it. If you can keep your child at home for another year definitely do it.”