Friendly fire in the nursery

11th January 2008 at 00:00
The wisdom of Henry Walpole.

Welcome back. It's all still there, isn't it? The unmarked books, that hard-to-reach tinsel you stapled across the ceiling by balancing three chairs on top of each other. Already the training day has faded into a horrific nightmare of death by PowerPoint, an overdose of Educrap and a resultant massive headache.

Now, time for resolutions. Remember to call child back into classroom whom I have sent out for 5 minutes, rather than leaving him there for the whole day? Don't smirk, you know you've done it too. Fill in my planning sheets before the lesson? Crazy. A-ha, I've got it - this year I am going to try to welcome each exciting innovation in education with a positive attitude.

To this end, well done the DCSF (is it just me or does it now sound like a discount furniture warehouse?) and its new idea to improve educational standards: encouraging boys to plays with toy guns in the nursery. Apparently staff should "resist a natural instinct" to curb this sort of play as it "helps create the right conditions for boys' learning".

Leaving aside what this new "get-'em-young" attitude may be telling us about our government's long-term military commitment in the Middle East, foundation stage practitioners had better start re-planning their topics.

Inevitably there will be different approaches depending on the school's social situation. Some nurseries will be buying fake Uzis and reactivated handguns ("Just like the man mummy calls daddy has at home"). Private nursery pupils presumably will be issued with plastic blunderbusses and monocles.

House prices will soar near schools where they give children wooden, ethically sourced toy guns ("When my Joshua is in the outside play area, role-playing a jungle war, at least I know I'm doing my bit for the environment").

At first, there may be more work for staff. Schools will have to set their nursery nurses the task of changing the home corner into a crack house.

Do they sell iron grilles and burnt tin foil accessories in the GLS catalogue? I can't wait to see the free play rota. "Now, Adam and Omar, you can do printing at the art table, stack the bricks, or role play a tour of duty in Helmand province. But please be careful of the teddy bear wedding in the reading corner: I don't want to have to hold any press conferences to explain away 'friendly fire'."

There will also have to be some adjustments for parents' evening when reporting back on the children's progress. "Sebastian seems to be having some trouble with his attitude to guns. He still needs help when carrying out a pretend pistol-whipping. I'm afraid if this continues we may need to make a referral to the educational psychologist."

Happy New Year. It's going to be a great year for education.

More from Henry in a fortnight.

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