Going backwards with age

Why do school students go backwards? Why do so many of the people who could hold a sensible and mature conversation in Year 7 become immature children who sit and giggle in Year 8, and diffident and uninterested teenagers in Year 9? Is it a question of expectations? Is more expected of those who are younger?

When I moved from Northern Ireland to Dublin in 1999, there were many things that were different. One of the differences that came as a great surprise was that children of primary school children might act as school crossing wardens. Groups of six children, in high visibility yellow jackets and carrying crossing patrol signs would stand in two lines of three across the road allowing younger children to cross the road between the lines.

Given the increasing concern for children’s safety and the desire to protect them from danger, it was a surprise to see school children performing such a responsible role. The children were from Sixth Class, an age group that corresponds with Year 7 in England (Ireland has Junior and Senior Infant Years before children reach First Class). Reflecting on the memory, I wondered if the law in Ireland still provided for Junior Traffic Wardens.

The Citizens’ Information Board, published its most recent guidance on the Junior Traffic Wardens Scheme in May 2019.

In many places, Junior Traffic Wardens (usually senior pupils of primary schools) operate in teams to provide the same service as the School Traffic Warden. Junior Traffic Wardens operate in teams of six and a signal requesting traffic to stop is given from both sides of the road. After traffic stops, the six Junior Traffic Wardens take up their position and guide younger children across the public road. All vehicles must remain stopped until all the Junior Traffic Wardens have returned to the footpath. To ensure that Junior Traffic Wardens can carry out their function properly, it is vital that they have a clear view of the road. Drivers should never stop or park in positions where they could obstruct the view of Junior Traffic Wardens or School Traffic Wardens.

How widely the Junior Traffic Warden scheme operates, I do not know, but it seems to reflect a maturity among the students that I would expect of their contemporaries in Year 7 in an English secondary school.

Were it possible to prevent the ensuing regression in behaviour, education would be a much simpler process and learning would be much more productive. Perhaps the answer is to find tasks that demand maturity.

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2 Responses to Going backwards with age

  1. decnine says:

    Maybe puberty has something to do with the transformation between years 7 and 9? They are evolving from (sort of) biddable infants and beginning to see themselves as proto adults. How well does schooling through Years 7-9 deal with the opportunities and responsibilities of adulthood? What priority might the consumers of schooling place on learning about the same?

  2. Ian says:

    You’re probably right.

    I fear also that there is an infantilization in schools, that the focus upon “grades” means that there is an emphasis on spoon-feeding, a lifting of the onus of responsibility, and a lack of building of resilience.

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