Is there too much pressure on kids these days?

Somehow or other, oldest is nearing the end of his first year at secondary school. He’s done amazingly well and we’re really proud of him. He and I are quite similar, so I can’t help but compare his experiences with my own at that age.

Happily, he hasn’t experienced some of the things I did – like ‘shirts vs skins’ in PE lessons – but it feels like I still had an easier time of it. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s too much pressure on kids nowadays. And this doesn’t just apply to his age group – I’m basing it on his siblings’ experiences at primary school too.

Homework is an obvious area. While the younger two don’t have anything besides reading and a maths app – a welcome change from how things used to be at their school – oldest has loads. And significantly more than I did at his age. Some of it is so difficult as well – notably maths. He’s learning stuff in year seven that I didn’t do until year ten. Luckily, he seems to understand it – I can’t get my head around some things even when I google the methods!

The grading system has changed to numbers instead of letters now – this confused the hell out of me at first, but maybe that’s something to do with my natural affinity with English and deep-rooted fear of maths. In addition – sorry, accidental maths reference there – it seems that he is being graded at final GCSE level already.

It’s great to know that he’s doing well – he’s already at a pass in most subjects, which is fantastic for year seven – but I do wonder whether this creates too much pressure too soon. I get that it can be motivational. I also think I would have done better if I worked to end grades earlier on. But in year seven? I’m not so sure. It’s already a massive step up from primary school.

Speaking of which, the ten-year-old recently completed a scholars programme via school. He was invited to take part so, obviously, we’re very proud. But the level of work he had to do was incredibly high. His final assignment was a 1,000-word essay on visual narratives in classic art. A little bit much for that age, in my opinion – especially as it’s a niche subject. I learned a lot while trying to help him with it, but there’s no way I would have understood some of the concepts when I was 10.

He also has a job of sorts at school. He’s one of the Digital Leaders, which means he helps younger kids with IT skills. He has a photo ID lanyard and everything. It’s a nice touch but, again, it feels like making it ‘official’ adds slightly more pressure than there needs to be.

Meanwhile, youngest has the year one phonics screening to look forward to this week. I don’t doubt she’ll do very well as she’s an accomplished reader, but is it really necessary to put six-year-olds through a test? Especially as the last two years have been so unusual and disruptive.

It just feels that kids need to know much more at much earlier ages these days. I don’t blame schools or teachers for any of this – it goes right up to the so-called ‘top’. Ticking boxes is all very well and sheds some light on attainment levels, but it doesn’t tell the full story.

Some pressure is good – no parent wants their children to grow up lazy and not reach their potential – but too much is counterproductive. Taking the pandemic into consideration, pushing them more could do more harm than good and create a generation of anxious adults who are old before their time.

What do you think? Are kids under too much pressure compared to when you were young?