In the early Primary School years artistic activities in particular are introduced to the children, which lay down the basis for more conceptual/intellectual skills. For example, drawing, precedes writing, writing, precedes reading.
Accordingly, any over-emphasis on the assessment of intellectual skills at this age would be considered contrary to the developmental needs of the children. Pressure on children to prematurely acquire reading skills, and to push numerical skills in an intellectual way, which would require continual testing, has been known to cause distress in children and to often become a barrier to learning at a later date.
Any testing of these learning skills is done discreetly and no pressure is put to bear on children who show no great interest in intellectual pursuits. An experienced teacher can quickly ascertain whether children have learning problems and therefore take remedial action in a variety of ways, e.g. early signs of dyslexia can be corrected by walking, moving, and drawing mirror pictures.
Far more importance is given to the capacity to focus, listen, follow instructions, the cultivation of memory, and the ability to finish an assigned task.
The teacher keeps records of completed work with emphasis being placed on quality and the ability to work to the full extent of the child’s capacity.
By the end of Class 3 most students are expected to have mastered basic literacy and numeracy skills. Any students found to be struggling with these skills are quickly identified and directed to the Literacy and Numeracy Assistance Program, which is partially funded by the Federal Government. (The two Literacy/Numeracy assistance teachers work in close liaison with the teachers and spend time with the classes and help monitor the progress of the students.)
Assessment and evaluation of the children, their health and development, their work and skills and the performance and effectiveness of the teacher is regarded as being of great consequence in the Steiner-inspired Art of Education.
Assessment and evaluation at Shearwater is viewed as part of the on-going process of our holistic education program. Taking many forms, it determines the basis of a healthy communication between teacher, students, parents, community and the natural, cultural and social environment. Crucial to this process is the capacity of the Class Teacher and his ability to meet the needs of his Class and the parents’ expectations.
In order to receive the recurrent Commonwealth funding, the Federal Government requires schools to furnish parents with bi-annual reports on the academic progress of their enrolled children.
Shearwater, which recognizes the importance of reporting students’ progress and values highly parent/teacher communication, already has been issuing reports on a regular basis. However, the reports now insisted on by the Commonwealth Government, are required to take a particular format and grade students’ performances in all subjects taught, as well as place them in a system of quartile ranking.
Shearwater is expected to comply with this demand and will do so, even if it has also voiced it objection, along with many other independent schools and state school teachers who see this as an invasion of the child’s freedom to learn according to their individual capacity and need – particularly so in the early years of Primary School.