Stop assessing young children and let them be - Argus Friday 20th 2015

Posted Friday 20th November 2015   By Ericka Waller

My daughter has not had any days off sick, is never late and is yet to be on 'red' for bad behaviour at school, so I was looking forward to Parent's evening this week. I'd nipped into town in the morning and bought some Fuzzy Felt (for her) and a Domino Rally (for me) to hand out as 'well done' gifts, mine being well done for making her. I wasn’t prepared to be told my daughter is significantly behind what rest of the class is achieving, and that I was responsible because I was not reading, writing and doing maths with her every night.

When I tried to protest that she is only five-years-old, I was told that she should still be able to recognise all her numbers, hold a pen ‘better than she does’, and read.

It was an ambush about what my daughter cannot do.

Apparently, I should be aiming for her to be 'Satisfactory', OFSTED's benchmark for compliance. Imagine that?

"What a satisfactory daughter you have madam. Well done on cutting her childhood short and battering her with pointless education”

I suppose it would be marginally preferable to 'Mrs Waller, your daughter needs improvement', which is what I got hit with.

There was nothing about the things she can do. The things that make her unique. There was no celebration of my Daisy-girl. The sunniest, kindest, most intuitive of my daughters. All they found was her lackings.

I guess uniqueness won’t give school the statistics they require, so are not important enough to mention.

Breeding an army of early-reading, time-table parroting, subservient future Conservatives seems to be the agenda - average-achieving drones.

New research suggests that starting school at seven has been found to dramatically improve both concentration and grades as an 11 year old. Denmark, Finland and Sweden, some of the ‘happiest countries’, all send their children to school aged six or seven. Maybe this is what makes them cheery.

I don't want a five-year old know-all. I had kids to make me feel clever. That won't last long once she starts reciting the capital city of Burkino Faso or the order of the planets, then asking me if she is right.

I love my little under-achiever. She wants me to read to her, and attempts to pay for things in high-fives. I don’t mind doing up her coat buttons, because her pincher grip is not good enough yet.

Worryingly, things are set to get worse as the government is now calling for reception children to be assessed. I wonder what they hope to find out?

When I was in Reception, I was too busy guarding the 'Home Corner' with its plastic iron and long dressing up clothes, to go and split the atom.

I remember my Jennifer Yellow Hat, Roger Red Hat books being duller than ditchwater. Luckily we only had to read for five minutes a week before going back to playing with sand and water.

Why not let five year olds sit round with bowls on their heads and talk about poo, (without being able to spell it)? Childhood is so short. Innocence, once lost, can’t be returned to, despite what Enigma claim in their song.

And finally

I really hope someone buys me a set of ‘Pencils for her’ from John Lewis this Christmas. My current pencils are blue, which I realise now means they are for boys. Silly me.

The ‘pencils for her’ are pink. I hope they are scented with unicorn breath and pack a bit less lead than smelly boy’s pencils. I find those heavy to hold, and feel unfeminine when writing my housework and shopping lists.

In fact, I did not realise how much my stationery had been oppressing my sexuality, until I saw the ‘Pencils for her’

It’s not just that they are pink, they have really handy tips for living written on them too, like ‘Buy The Shoes’ and ‘Stop And Smell The Roses’.

Everyone knows us ladies are good at multi-tasking. We can mull over these important issues whilst simultaneously writing coffee-dates in our ‘Forever Friends’ diaries.

Sadly I won’t be able to use the ‘Girl Boss’ one because I don’t manage anyone, but it’s sure given me something to aspire to!

I’d keep the ‘Glitter And Bling’ and ‘Glamorous’ ones in my matching pink handbag so people know what matters to me. I don’t know what ‘La Vie En Rose’ means so I will probably keep that one at home, along with ‘girl boss’.

I’ve been practising doing my best curly handwriting in preparation, swapping the ‘tittles’ (that is the actual word for the dot about the letter ‘i’. I asked my dad to look it up for me) for hearts and sunflowers.