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Yes, minister it's the way we sell them

You sent for us, minister?

Ah, come in, come in. I need advice. We seem to have a small problem with our new booklet for parents.

Which one, minister? We've written 28 over the past few weeks.

And jolly informative they are too, Alan. Let's hope somebody reads `em. The one that's worrying me is about the new early years framework.

Really, minister? We thought that was rather good. It tells the parents how nursery and reception children will be learning through play and developing their abilities at their own pace.

Didn't we have all that in the Seventies? Plowden et al? Reading by osmosis? Children learning spatial awareness by rolling round the classroom in a barrel and chucking sand at each other?

Oh, I think we've moved on a little bit since then, minister. We've developed 69 targets for the child to get to grips with. They're catered for from the moment they leave the womb. No time to waste if we're going to make English education world class, eh?

Absolutely, Anthony. I applaud your sentiment. The trouble is, I can't see any mention of these targets in the booklet.

Well spotted, minister. And there's a good reason. You see, lots of experts think we shouldn't put this kind of pressure on the very young. Nonsense, of course, but we can always ride roughshod over academics. Trouble is, the parents don't think much of targets either. There's rather a lot of parents. And they vote.

So you've left the tricky bits out of the booklet altogether. Fool the voters, eh?

I don't think we'd use that phrase, minister. Our view is that we've just left out the bits that the lay person might not understand. And we don't talk about targets.

No targets? Good Lord, what are we going to do without those?

Ah, that's the cunning bit. Instead, we have "the child's learning and developmental requirements".

I see. And what are those?


Excellent! Targets and data and assessment and results and quadrant graphs are all vital to us, of course. That's how we show that standards are constantly being driven upwards. That's how we recognise and root out failure.

Absolutely, minister, although sadly the entire teaching profession doesn't seem to agree with us.

Not everyone can be enlightened, Justine. Now, is all this mucking about . what you call play-based education . going to work this time round?

Absolutely, minister. Provided there's lots of good training for teachers. That's why it failed in the Seventies. Teachers weren't really equipped to use these methods properly. Now, on the continent .

Yes, yes, Alan, you're going to tell me they throw a lot of money at it. Well, we have to be prudent. We're heavily committed to spending on important bodies such as the General Teaching Council, the National College for School Leadership, the consultancies who find out what good teaching is .

But if we don't show commitment, minister .

Look, if you ask me - and you should because I'm in charge - I think we've got all the bases covered. The parents think we're giving `em what they want, the academics are satisfied for the moment, and we still get all our data because we'll just put a lot more pressure on the teachers. They never complain.

They might refuse to do it.

Easy one to get round, Jonathan. We'll make the targets - sorry, the learning and developmental requirements - compulsory.

Business as usual, then, minister?

Exactly so. Thank you all very much. A very productive session. Ah, coffee?

Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London.

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