No end of year prizegiving.

A look at Silverdale School's recent decision.

Kate Friedwald  |  Nov 2018

I’ve been asked my opinion a few times now around Silverdale School no longer handing out end of year awards for academic achievement. I usually refrain from commenting on these matters as it can be so easy to have your words skewed by the media, or by anyone reading on social media. But after thinking, reading the stories and comments about it I thought why not? I’m a free agent, I have an opinion and I now have a platform (this blog) to express this opinion.

Now Silverdale School is local to me, It is the school we are currently zoned for and I have been privileged enough to both facilitate PLD and relieve there in the past. In all my interactions it is a great school, with fantastic teachers and progressive thinking. I wouldn’t hesitate to send my girls there when the time comes.

So what is my opinion? At first I thought hold on a minute it is not on to recognise sporting achievements and not academic. Then I realised that is not what this is about. I support and commend Cam, the principal and his staff for taking this move. Not because it’s bold or because it might save time for teachers (have read that as a reason some believe the decision was made) but because it didn’t align with their school values, simple!

Why offer such rewards for sports and not academic subjects? Well sport is generally competitive, the goal is to win the race, win the competition, win the game. For example cross country, long jump, swimming, basketball – all designed to put an individuals or teams physical abilities up against another’s. We teach kids in school to give sport a go, we encourage them to improve and we celebrate when they have won. Sport is easy to tell when someone, or a team, has won, as that is ultimately the point in it.  Academic subjects on the other hand are designed to improve a child’s abilities in order for to apply these skills and knowledge to succeed further in life. Writing for example encompasses many different types of genres that kids can improve their skills through. Poetry, persuasive, speeches, reports, recounts etc.  The idea is not to be the best poetry writer as who could possibly say one child’s poem is better than another’s?

That is far too subjective. Then if one child is a great poet but another is a great report writer who gets the schools writing award? Should schools create a competition for each area of writing (similar to each event in athletics), and issue awards based on this?  Writing, like other academic subjects are about children continuously improving, applying their new knowledge and skills and being the best they can be.

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The same could be said for sport? Yes it sure could. Children participate in daily fitness to learn about and reep the rewards of healthy physical activity. This daily fitness contributes to their performance in sport but we don’t reward students for being the best at shuttles or push ups do we? No as these are skills and ability that contribute to a child feeling healthy as well as their ability to compete in competitive sport events where the reward is received. Rewarding achievement in sport is appropriate as that is how sport is recognised well beyond education institutions.

Whether it be sport or academic, I am sure Silverdale School, like others will continue to recognise kids that have entered and won competitive events.  Great teachers will challenge those excelling at writing to enter a piece into a competition or even better for printing in an appropriate publication. Wouldn’t that mean more to a child than “winning” at something they didn’t even know was a competition in the first place. Teachers will continue to offer encouragement and praise to kids for trying hard and improving, they will continue to ensure kids are proud of their progress and receive intrinsic (see above image) rewards as motivation to seek further improvement.  I don’t for one moment believe Silverdale School will stop doing this.

“Cotton wool gone mad?” No way! “Kids know who’s top of the class anyway” Do they? They know who they think is a great writer, they know who the teacher praises for making great improvement in a particular aspect of writing but as the area is not competitive they don’t know who is the best as no such person exists. They receive intrinsic motivation through teacher and peer feedback, though experiencing a feeling they have tried hard and improved. Through finding a reader that loves their style of writing. Through reaching their intended audience and receiving positive feedback from those readers.  The same intrinsic reward is received through putting in the effort during daily fitness and feeling healthy about oneself.

Now this is why I don’t usually comment on these sorts of matters.  I feel I have written a rambling novel already but I could seriously keep going on the subject.  Well done to Cam and his team for this move, I am sure it has received far more negative publicity that required. Hopefully reading the above has made you think about things in a different light. Children will continue to be praised for progress across all curriculum areas and there will continue to be competitive opportunities out there for kids in all areas if desired.

What are your thoughts?

 

Kate