Tired old stodge at key stage 2

28th May 2004 at 01:00
One has known from the beginning that the key stage 2 tests were inherently absurd and reactionary but a plea of mitigation could sometimes be entered on the grounds that imagination or knowledge or a little smidgen of intellectual challenge were invested in some of the tests set for the English writing papers.

Not this year.

The short writing test is short on just about everything. It's a drawing of an "accident" involving a fox and a car that a child on the way home from school is supposed to have witnessed. The task is to describe the accident.

It's short on imagination - the task specifies that neither fox nor driver was hurt.

It's short on logic-the car has done a potentially fatal swerve across the road from the left-hand carriageway.

It's short on sense the driver is gazing in puzzlement at the back of the car even though it is the front with the bust radiator where the damage is.

It's short on knowledge of animal behaviour - the fox that caused the accident has hung about following its near demise and is now making its insouciant way through the gates of a large building while the driver gets out of the vehicle to stare at the back of the car.

It's short on artistic merit - the drawing has the suburban banality of a 1956 Ladybird book.

The longer writing test is short of any real interest or challenge but long, certainly long, on tedium.

Various of our Year 6 children have been reading Mallorie Blackman, Tolkien, Philip Pullman and Mark Haddon, to name but a few, over this year.

They have been given the opportunity to write imaginatively and have written with verve across a range of genres. They have written songs and sonnets. They have, in short, had a rich and varied literary diet at the end of which they are "tested" (whatever that means) on the equivalent of a stodgy old Spam sandwich.

My reaction is like that of Gordon Ramsay to inexcusably bad food. I'm sure it's one shared by many of us.

Why, then, are we still serving up this terrible stuff? Why don't we just stop?

Graham Jameson 75 Bousfield Road New Cross, London SE14.

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