In this battle, it's pupils who get the bum deal

3rd April 2009 at 01:00

There's nothing like having four baths a day, drying your bottom with a hair dryer and sticking an extra large panty liner down your Y-fronts to make you contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and the role of the Year 6 teacher.

I sense confusion, so let me get straight to the - dare I say - bottom of things. The fact is at present I'm making a slow and painful recovery from a haemorrhoidectomy. And while there is never a good time to undergo that particular surgical procedure, during the run up to key stage 2 tests is definitely the worst.

I have long been critical of a high-stakes testing regime for primary schools, but lying on my back waiting for the anaesthetist to miscalculate dosages and cut me off in my prime, I would have given anything to be back in the classroom urging and cajoling those little warriors through yet another hard-fought revision session.

It wasn't until I was safely in the recovery room, however, and coming to terms with the fact that I was alive if not exactly well, that the truth dawned on me. Threading my way back to consciousness through the razor wire of pain and the mists of anaesthesia, I had a revelation.

I don't normally have flashes of religious insight, but at that moment it occurred to me that the journey through Year 6 is like the parable of the lost sheep. I tell thee now; there shalt be more rejoicing in the staffroom over one predicted level 3 who got a level 4 than all the expected level 4s put together.

And that set me thinking about Daniel and my booster group. Booster groups are the educational equivalent of a military squad on a suicide mission. They are the tiny bands of borderline achievers whose success or failure determines whether or not schools meet externally imposed targets.

The squad's mission is to reach expected levels in KS2 tests. Their chances of doing so are statistically about the same as Gordon Brown saving the world from economic disaster. Daniel is the least likely of the unlikely. But if by some miracle he succeeds, who benefits?

Daniel has been at our school since he was three (longer than most teachers - apart from Miss Crotchford, who has occupied the same chair in the staffroom since 1942 and is quite possibly dead). He enjoys school, is well-liked, and works to his ability. The leavers' assembly, the Year 6 residential and the leavers' party will give him enough happy memories of primary school to see him through to adulthood. They may even lighten the gloom of his first serious credit card debt and bankruptcy application.

If Daniel achieves national expectations, those extra sessions in educational boot camp will have been worthwhile. But let's not kid ourselves that his interests came first.

There is a war on out there, with teachers, schools and local authorities on one side and the Government and Ofsted on the other. Daniel may be first over the top, but it's our arses he's fighting for.

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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