Put it in the bin, please

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Jack Frost visits most houses in the small hours of a winter morning, but not ours. He came to us one April afternoon and stayed for months. A huge cardboard figure, cut out around the largest boy in reception, he languished in our rocking chair, shedding occasional bits of silver foil, blue crepe paper and cotton wool.

Today he left, smuggled out of the house about an hour after the children left for the first day of the new term. Gradually other items of school detritus are finding their way to the bin as I begin surreptitiously to clear up after my children's teachers.

At the end of every term it's the same. "Mrs Shiftstuff says can we bring a carrier bag in every day this week for our work?" And home it all comes, massive models and piles of paper that the little blighters expect us to critique and keep.

It takes weeks to wade through it. "You said you'd look at my work tonight..." I did? Oh, god, I did. Magic e and egg sums (unfathomable) from the infants, number squares and diagrams of the inner ear from the juniors.

Look, I don't want this stuff all over my house. It's messy and, frankly, dull. I know you teachers aren't used to hearing this, but I trust you. I don't need all this proof that you're doing your job.

"Daddy, these are number bonds up to 40..." I want an educated child, not every cough, spit and paper clip along the way.

I have nightmares about secondary education. Not the declining standards, the drugs at the gate or the lack of teachers, but that subject called Resistant Materials.

It's great to have a painting or two and some creative writing, but a folder with half a dozen things in it and one model per child would be ample.

Instead of a sensible snapshot we get hundreds of photocopied sheets - every minute of the term is laid out on my sitting-room carpet. Why can't the teachers bin it?

I did think of giving my children's teachers a black binbag of my old shorthand notebooks - proof of how I do my job for consumers of journalism - but I have a horrible feeling they'd all come back home as papier-mache.

Jill Parkin is a parent

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