A worrying case of the non-chronologicals

18th July 2008 at 01:00
Miss Adams prods the words on her whiteboard and says: "Betsy, you naughty girl
Miss Adams prods the words on her whiteboard and says: "Betsy, you naughty girl. How will you ever get to level 2B if you don't know your learning objective?"

Betsy makes no effort to remedy the situation. But, then, it's not easy to write when you're a pink hippo. The rest of the class - three dolls and an assortment of cuddly creatures - stare on impassively.

Mrs Adams, Miss Adams' mum, is concerned about her daughter and would like my professional opinion. She thinks, because I'm a teacher, she should get it for the price of a glass of Chilean Merlot. Damn, she spotted one of my several weaknesses. What she doesn't know is that my consumption of red wine is inversely related to the quality of my professional opinion, which is doubtful in any case.

According to her end of year report, daughter is underachieving. Apparently, she has failed to meet age-related targets in literacy. A tense parent-teacher consultation subsequently revealed she has a specific problem with "non-chronological report writing" - and this despite an extensive research programme involving a visit to Smelly Foot Farm, close scrutiny of its visitor brochure and innumerable digital photographs of its resident creatures.

"She finds it hard to distinguish between the general and the particular," says mum. "So instead of goats, she writes about Gordon the Goat. Instead of chickens, she writes about Cameron the Cockerel. Instead of pigs, she writes about Prescott.

"And that's not the worst of it! She ignores headings and sub-headings, forgets key details, fails to assemble, sequence and categorise the gathered information, and refuses point blank to present it in a non-chronological report format."

Mum refills my glass to allow the enormity of her daughter's crimes to sink in, then hits me with the big one. "The problem is she insists on writing stories!"

Obviously, I am aghast. "What? A seven-year-old who can conjure up an entire class from a collection of toys? Writing a story instead of a non-chronological report? I've never heard of such a thing."

"I know," she says. "What should I do?"

"Do? Why, celebrate of course! Applaud the fact she has stood firm against the madness of a regime bent on testing to destruction; resisted the education police's attempts to homogenise and compare her by the lowest common denominator; refused to be constrained by bleak rows of tick boxes; and said "no" to being categorised by a dull and meaningless collection of learning objectives.

"Your daughter, Mrs Adams, has drawn a line in the sandpit. She has done what all children should do. She has refused the rehearsed response and used her imagination to understand the world around her. She is a rebel with good cause!"

I empty my glass in an act of solidarity and tousle daughter's hair. She is not amused: "If you're an Ofsted inspector," she snaps, "where's your clipboard?"

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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