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Tried and sorely tested

Many children, now turning 11, have had an experimental education, says Cathy Byrne. The Dearing Review has been welcomed by most: it has made the national curriculum shorter, more manageable and will reduce the overload on teachers. Great.

The only good thing to be said for the national curriculum mark I was that it was not tested on animals - but it should have been tested on some humans.

The whole system was rushed into place untested and untried. Instead of conducting sensible trials on small numbers of children, the entire schools system was used as the pilot with consequent waste of time, money and energy.

Imagine a large firm putting into effect sweeping changes without first trialling them.

Imagine pharmaceutical companies distributing a new drug without research and experiment. It just wouldn't happen.

Picture a child, now turning 11, who was in Year 1 in September 1989. There must be thousands of them who were in the first "cohort" to be put through the national curriculum maze, the first to submit to the first and most unworkable key stage 1 SATs and who, having been on the system's treadmill with all its changes of direction and trauma for teachers, will enter secondary school next September under Dearing's national curriculum mark II. Those children will have spent their entire primary education as laboratory animals attempting to jump through hoops that have been found unnecessary and inappropriate.

Do we inform parents of this? Do we put aside money in case these children want to be compensated for the inadequacy of their education? Are we surprised that many families have opted for the private sector which has been able to avoid the greater lunacies of recent change?

It is all very well saying that Dearing is the bee's knees and that we have now got the national curriculum cracked. As teachers, we are able to start each year with a fresh slate. Never mind about last year's bog-up, we'll get it right this time.

By contrast, each child gets only one bite at the cherry on offer each year - and there are thousands of children who have been offered rotten fruit since they first started school. What about them?

Cathy Byrne is a primary teacher in Hull and mother of a Year 6 pupil.

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