Readiness is all

21st September 2007 at 01:00
With regard to the correspondence of Professor Colin Richards (TES, September 7) and subsequent responses to it, what is it with educationists? What reason can there be for insisting that all pupils of the same age be obliged to face a rigid curriculum of the same subjects, taught at the same time in the same room, irrespective of whether they are ready or not other than the convenience of administration and the men with the measuring sticks?

To quote Stephen Leacock's My Discovery of England (1922): "The American professor deals with his students according to his lights. It is his business to chase them along over a prescribed ground at a prescribed pace like a flock of sheep. They all go humping together over the hurdles with the professor chasing them with a set of 'tests' and 'recitations', 'marks' and 'attendances', the whole apparatus obviously copied from the time-clock of the business man's factory. This process is called 'showing results'. The pace set is necessarily that of the slowest and thus results in what I have heard Mr Edward Beatty describe as the 'convoy system' of education."

School should begin when children are ready. There should be no penalty for late starters. No significant advantage need be gained by starting earlier: the readiness is all. Pupils should progress in each learning area as they become ready. No one should be taken to the next stage until he or she is equipped for it. No one should be held back because others have not yet covered the ground. Date of birth or day of year should not be material: the ripeness is all.

John Harrison

Independent training consultant,


East Sussex

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