Trainers forced pupils' imagination to run wild

9th October 2009 at 01:00

Even before William finished tying his laces, something remarkable happened. His feet began to tingle and his toes began to twitch. Then a sensation like electricity tore through his body. The next thing he knew he was running faster than he had ever run before. Faster than a speeding bullet. Faster than Usain Bolt after a night on the curry. Now the world was his Oyster card! Nothing could stop him! He could do anything!

Except achieve level 4 in his English writing Sats.

This term, in the early part of the school year, there is a mood of optimism about. Primary teachers are preparing to celebrate the passing of the dark age of prescription. They are turning their faces towards the dawn and a brave new world of educational enlightenment.

This is mainly due to Sir Jim Rose's review of the primary curriculum, which explicitly recognises the importance of imagination and creativity in the junior phase, and is sympathetic to the view that learning is "narrowed by the key stage 2 national curriculum tests, the focus of Ofsted inspections and the National Strategies".

Pity the message didn't get through to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority when it set the 2009 key stage 2 long writing test last term. It might have produced something more inspiring than a drab illustration of a drab pair of trainers and a drab request to pretend you have tried them out in order to write a report on them.

I imagine giving William a pair of gel-implanted, triple-sprung, gold- embossed trainers and saying, "There you go, sunshine. Oh, and by the way, I'd like a detailed, three-page report on them by Monday morning!"

The excitement on the faces of my Year 6 pupils when they opened that test paper was something to behold. Particularly the way it drained away to leave little furrows of perplexity, which turned to disappointment and finally to resignation. All except William's, that is. His perplexity was momentary. He brightened as the creative juices began to flow. And I thought to myself, "Oh shit!"

I tried to send several telepathic messages, which were as follows: "Forget adventurous adjectives. veto voluptuous verbs. avoid deliciously delectable adverbs. dismiss super similes that taste as succulent as a sausage in the mouth. the trainers are not metaphorically speaking the winged sandals of Hermes. And William, do not write a story!"

Why, when children are at their imaginative peak, when narrative, drama, fantasy, and creativity are second nature, do we ask them to perform the most functionally mundane, uninspiring literary tasks? Ah, I remember! So we can measure them against notional government targets.

Anyway, I've learned my lesson. There will be none of that narrative nonsense this year. You can stick Skellig and Harry Potter where the sun don't shine! We will be concentrating exclusively on report writing. So, children, open your copy of The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Final Report at the beginning and copy out three sentences demonstrating the author's use of technical language.

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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