Leave my babies alone, Mrs Shephard

16th August 1996 at 01:00
Thank you for your reasoned, reasonable editorial "One to five" (TES, August 2). With regard to "Primaries face 3Rs tests at five" I would like to beg Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard to leave my babies alone! I am a working mother and when I come home at night I like to make supper and afterwards my children (aged two and four) and I curl up with a book or two followed by a nursery songs tape and we all go to sleep. Later on I tuck them into bed and then I have the rest of the evening to myself.

I do not want to come home and ensure my younger child practises holding a book appropriately or school my older child into retelling the story from memory. Nor do I want to make sure they do writing or order objects by size.

On the weekends I want to take them to the zoo without making them count the animals or order them into size! I'd much rather talk about how the elephant uses his trunk or how big his ears are.

I do not want to keep them at home on Sunday until they practise writing numerals or demonstrate 1:1 correspondence by matching item to item. I want to take them to the park or to their nan for tea. And I don't want to make them count the cakes before they can have one.

Infancy lasts for only five years at the most. Surely this is the time for parents and children to be together without "tests". This is the time I want them to play, to love, to feel delighted and inquisitive about the world they see, to feel confident to explore and learn, to find out about living together in a family and community.

Baseline assessment at seven has not proved itself to be wonderfully useful and life-enhancing so why inflict it on my children when they turn five? I have much more important things to teach them than those which can be "scored accurately".

VALERIE KOTZEN 23 Albert Street London NW1

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