What it is to be welcomed

26th April 1996 at 01:00
On seeing the last word in the headline "Welsh early-years targets welcomed" (TES, April 12) I was tempted to consult a dictionary to discover if my understanding of the rarely-used verb could be independently confirmed. Later, when I read that the early-years document had been welcomed, not only by the Welsh, but also by the English, I wondered if it must be the first signs of spring. My cause for wonderment was the fact that something as amazing as the welcoming of anything from the Government should be tucked away on page five when it surely warranted banner headlines.

The reasons for such a phenomenon came as no surprise when I discovered that the Welsh document in question had probably earned its welcome by evoking the indescribable magic of childhood and inseparability of work and play through its skilful use of poetry and paradox. This clearly stimulated thoughtful consideration and reflection on the part of its readers - unlike its counterpart: "Desirable Learning Outcomes", whose very title appeals to those who work with children in much the same way as a sheet of MFI instructions for assembling a kitchen unit might appeal to an existentialist philosopher.

The lesson for any government wanting to produce documents welcomed by teachers is surely a simple one. Many, if not most, of our really worthwhile curriculum activities are not amenable to mechanistic measurement. Any curriculum based solely on measurable outcomes is arguably a tool produced for the purposes of inspection and inspectors alone rather than a means of providing a programme of desirable activities for children. Teachers are more than teaching machines and children are more than product outlets. If the Welsh document expresses this truth, its welcome comes as no surprise. The English can only hope that the new Severn Bridge will prove to be useful when it comes to spreading the message across the border.

ALAN MILLARD

Marine Parade West

Lee-on-the-Solent

Hampshire

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