The stuff of nightmares

25th January 2013 at 00:00

It is my classroom but not as I know it. All the colourful and educationally supportive displays that took me hours to put up have been replaced with functional lists of multiplication facts, quotes from The Book of Proverbs and framed portraits of Michael Gove. The children's tables have been marshalled into columns, the floor cushions have disappeared from the reading corner and my dressing-up box has been declared off-limits.

More worrying still is the fact that my teaching assistant, Mrs Himmler, appears to have been replaced by someone even scarier. Sergeant Killbody is more cuboid than humanoid and could have been hewn from granite if it wasn't for the fact that he lacks that material's natural warmth and all-round cuddliness. He is dressed in camouflage gear and wears a beret.

Right now, Sergeant Killbody is standing guard over the children. They, in turn, are bent over their desks scratching tirelessly with their new government-issue fountain pens. It is so quiet you could hear the pin drop from a hand grenade. There is a sense that careless talk might cost lives. This is why I become nervous when Aidan raises his hand and says, "Excuse me, Mr Eddison?"

Before I get the chance to reply Sergeant Killbody intervenes. "That's Mr Eddison, Sah, you 'orrible boy."

"Mr Eddison, Sir, I can't spell mischeevous, or mischeivus - or is it misschievas?" says Aidan.

While I impersonate a fish, Sergeant Killbody's barked command sees the door burst open. Two military policemen enter the classroom. They march over to where Aidan is sitting, lift him into the air and carry him away.

"What will happen to him?" I ask.

"He is to receive a learning intervention, Sah," says Sergeant Killbody. "This will help with his special educational needs, Sah." There is a pause. "I believe the children are waiting for their next spelling, Sah."

"What? Oh, yes." I look down at my list. "Mosquito... mosquito... "

I wake up in a cold sweat. It takes a moment for me to realise that it was a bad dream. It is a relief to think that such a ruthless education system could never become reality. Or could it?

The news that the government is to fund military-style boot camps to help train hard-to-teach pupils is scary but it's not the scariest thing. A Gove New World is fast approaching. Gove's planned reform of the primary curriculum is taking shape. Having rejected the advice of the expert panel appointed to help him, he is now developing one in his own image, shaped not by professional opinion but by his own political prejudice.

Listen carefully, comrades, I will say this only once. The new primary curriculum is to be a one-size-fits-all programme of learning that prescribes what is to be taught and when. It will take no account of the fact that all children are individuals. It will ignore their different abilities, learning styles and needs. It will turn a blind eye to their life experiences and to the distinct challenges each must face. Is that clear?

By September 2014 this Govellian nightmare with its prescribed spelling lists will have invaded our schools. The sound of classic poems learned by heart can already be heard in the not-too-distant future. Listen carefully and you will hear the days of learning by rote advancing towards us, marching to Gove's own beat. Old ways good, new ways bad; old ways good, new ways bad.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield.

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