Father's day

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Like politicians, we shouldn't make promises, says Michael Cook

Once, politicians would promise us the earth and fail to deliver it. In the current election campaign, they aim to under-promise and over-deliver.

There are no great claims to change the face of the nation. Just an extra policeman here. A penny off this or that. Painful as it may sound, I think schools might learn something from them.

Because when Mrs Henderson announces that Blue Group are going to play an exciting board game with Poppy's dad this morning, there are cheers from jubilant Blue Groupers, and despondent groans from everyone else. I want to take it personally, but I think the joys of working with a parent helper are nothing compared to the delights of a game. I only hope we can deliver our promise.

To be brutally honest, the "exciting board game" is not a patch on Operation. Frankly, Sir, this is no Hungry Hippos. This is not the slam-dunk riot of battery-powered fun that today's discriminating five year-old expects. If I found it in my Christmas stocking, I'd rather hope Santa had left the receipt.

I can still remember a sense of betrayal at the age of 13 when I opted for history on a teacher's promise that studying the subject was "like being a detective". I had read some Raymond Chandler. I had seen The Sweeney. But, as it it turned out, O-level modern history did not offer the car chases, strong liquor or cheap women I had been led to believe were a key part of detective work.

And so it is with what I decide to call "Punctuation Mark Lotto" (it hasn't even got a brand name!). There is one counter between us. We take it in turns to go round the board. If we land on a "What?" "Why?" or "How?"

square, we make up a sentence starting with that letter. If we land on an exclamation mark square we make up a sentence ending with an exclamation mark. This is a perfectly valid and worthy educational activity. It requires reading, listening and verbal skills, and reinforces key elements of punctuation. But there are no winners or losers. It ends only when I say so. It doesn't buzz, shake, talk or glow. One disgruntled voice sums up the mood of my mini-electorate: "Is that it?" It's like being promised a Mandela, and finding you've voted in a Mandelson.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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