Our two-year-olds need a childhood, not lessons in Latin

Susan Oliver Susan DavisSUSAN OLIVER, pictured left, wants the borough’s teaching professionals to come forward and make their voices heard, perhaps even to challenge the controlling orthodoxies of Michael Gove and Ofsted

Children should be taught in schools from the age of two

I thought the headline in the print edition of The Independent was an April Fool’s joke, but then I checked the date.

The story refers to a declaration from Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief schools inspector and head of Ofsted. Whether he has ambitions for total domination of the country’s children is up for you to decide.

I mean, what’s next? “Madam, after you come home from the delivery room, please drop your baby at the nearest academy. It needs an education.”

It’s time to question the drive to institutionalise children at an ever earlier age. Of course, it’s always done with the stated intent of helping. The Independent article refers to a recently released report on early years education that said, “poorer children can be up to 19 months behind in important skills such as reading and numeracy”, implying that with more formal education earlier on, children would be on a level playing field.

Yet that is a meaningless goal – it’s just a way to cloak a power-grab in expertise. “Give us total command over your child and we’ll give your child a proper education” is a deal not to be trusted.

In The Guardian, Sir Michael turns up his nose at people like me who dare to question his authority. “Let us not pander to those people who think children’s childhoods are being stolen.”

Gosh, Sir Michael. The concept of protecting childhood has been championed ever since the Victorians. Why do you want to reverse that?

Sending two-year-olds to school is a radical step and it’s dangerous that it seems there is nothing to stop the combined force of Ofsted and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. Why are we so readily willing to be subservient to these people?

It is the epitome of the "Nanny State" that Gove and Ofsted want to supervise our pre-school aged children's potty training

It is the epitome of the “Nanny State” that Gove and Ofsted want to supervise our pre-school aged children’s potty training

We’re not getting a well-rounded opinion of what’s good for children. A single report, from a government official, should not have so much influence.

The scarcity of opinions in the field is what gives these despots more authority than they deserve. So where is everybody? Why aren’t more teachers speaking up?

The answer became more apparent to me during the recent Riesco debate during which the collection was described as a popular educational resource, that many teachers in the borough brought pupils there, and so forth. Yet few teachers came forward publicly to defend or to support the sell-off. Why the silence?

I speculate it’s the discomfort of facing fellow teachers and headmasters after vocalising an opinion. Schools can be social pressure cookers in which to work, particularly for people who are trying to change things or who are willing to voice an unpopular idea or observation.

But I think the need is so great that we can no longer stand the silence. So much is happening in Croydon in regard to our youth and the nation’s educational policies that we need to hear from them. Inside Croydon has in the past published contributions from teachers, parents and students which has protected the identity of the author(s) (I am informed that “Gene Brodie” may even be a made-up name, and that more than one Croydon teacher has written under that pseudonym). This website will continue to do so, in order that, once verifying the source, the actual participants in education get to express themselves.

I’d also like to see a yearly Croydon Teachers’ Summit where we get to know individual teachers and start to hear other voices besides Gove’s, Ofsted’s and the occasional speech from the teacher’s unions. Teachers may be shy to come out of the woodwork but the greater risk is powerlessness. The public also needs a better picture of what’s going on behind school doors in Croydon, particularly in light of the recent spates of knife crime and gang-related violence.

People appear afraid to speak out and the education Establishment is using considerable political muscle. Just read the Guardian article to see how Sir Michael Wilshaw is stirring up class tribalism. Why’s he doing that? Because it’s a classic strategy to gain power. Divide and conquer.

Here’s the beef: Westminster wants to supervise toilet-training and nursery songs. It’s a grim form of government control and we have every right to protect our children from such an intrusive force.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Our two-year-olds need a childhood, not lessons in Latin

  1. A serious education forum is not a bad idea to really look rigorously at evidence based work being done in the Borough and beyond. Dulwich College hosted a very useful event in the Autumn of 2013: Research Ed 2013 Working Out What Works ( http://www.researched2013.co.uk ) .
    Do we have a group who might organising say four such meetings a year?
    We as a community really do need to engage with this issue if we are to ensure that we have the skilled population we want to support a high-tech economy.

  2. In some European countries school does not start until age seven and they have better results.

  3. I went to school at the age of 6, like all other children in Italy still do.
    Children do not belong to the state but with parents.
    Subservience can, of course, be instilled at 2 years of age and nurtured from then on.
    I remember the now leader of the Council telling me, in Katharine Street after a gruelling night at a Planning Committee session, that he dreamed to be in power for at least 20 years so that the country would change.
    I was horrified then.
    8 years on, I am still fighting against his dream in every possible way.
    England is in peril.

    Post scriptum: I started learning Latin at the age of 11 which was early enough.

  4. Anne Giles says:

    Excellent article. Children need play time and time with their parents. In Argentina we started school at 6.

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