The language of allotments – surely more suited to the education of children?


I’ve been thinking about the words and phrases that surround our education system and wondered about the effect it might be having on children.


At a time when many are calling for children to start school at a later age than 4 or 5 and many who are concerned about the unnecessary testing and seemingly endless assessment of children it struck me that the whole vocabulary around our education system is riddled with metaphors of military and ultra masculinity.


Why is that?

Where did it come from?


It seems that the education world is full of exacting, harsh vocabulary:


We hear of

  • Goal setting
  • Targets
  • Top marks
  • Hard outcomes
  • High standards that we must ‘drive’ upward
  • Exclusions
  • Children who pass or fail

and that horrible word – ‘cohorts’.  The word cohort has come to mean a group of children we put together for a particular educational reason but originally meant one of the ten legions of a roman army; a band of 300 -600 fearsome warriors. Is that how we want to think of our children?


Other phrases have included ‘No child left behind’ and Catch Up Programmes. And the most recent one that politicians seem to favour:  The Global Race.


I mean? - Where are we going in such a hurry all the time?  We all know that children develop at different rates, have different needs and abilities but we continue to test, screen, push and accelerate children in our quest to meet spurious and artificial goals. And we all know the damage it wreaks.



What if we adopted the language of allotments and gardening and transplanted them (pun intended) into our work with children?

We would be aware that we had different trees, plants, flowers and vegetables in our garden.

Even weeds would be welcome as they have their place in the natural balance too.


We would understand that the things in our garden each year will grow at different rates and need a variety of nutrients for them to thrive.


We would tend and nurture our garden, talking and cajoling each spurt of growth and understanding when pruning and rest was necessary.


Our expectations in terms of what each produced would be different, but valued anyway.


Each flower, fruit or beautiful leaf that was healthy and thriving would be celebrated for its own beauty and the unique contribution it makes to the garden community.


As I ponder the power of the word to create and affect our children, I really believe  we should be more mindful of the language we use in education.


If we want our young learners to flourish maybe we should adopt some of the language of horticulture?


What we say is often at the ‘root’ of everything.


And maybe WHEN when we 'plant' our children into formal education should be founded on individual needs and rates of development with the intention of growing a 'Flourishing Learner'


flourishing learner

Comments are closed.