Grant Woodward: Parents can’t have it both ways over SATs

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The Government has gone too hard, too fast, but parents need to look at themselves too.

SIX out of 10. Crumbs. I’m glad it was just a mock online English – sorry, literacy – SAT test I was doing and not the real thing.

Not exactly covering myself in glory, but then I’m reassured by the fact the average mark is currently hovering around the 45 per cent mark.

Still, who knows what a subordinating conjunction is anyway? More to the point, who actually cares?

And that’s my main gripe with the Standard Attainment Tests. It’s not the fact kids are being tested, more what they’re being tested on.

Are the intricacies of English grammar – ones I was certainly never taught at school – really a priority in today’s constantly shifting jobs market?

I thought we were trying to prepare children for the real world, equipping them with the life skills they will need to survive and thrive.

Where does a subordinating conjunction fit into that? Aside from teaching English under Nicky Morgan, in what job will that kind of knowledge prove essential?

A friend of mine, a dad-of-three, flies into a rage when his kids’ teachers bang on about handwriting.

He believes that perfecting penmanship is a criminal waste of time when today’s youngsters ought to be spending it on computer programming so they can compete in the global economy in a couple of decades.

Although I happen to think handwriting is important, he’s got a point. The world has moved on and education needs to move with it.

At the same time, parents can’t have it both ways. It’s a 21st century disease to be obsessed with school league tables in order to secure the best possible education for little Charlie or Chloe.

But how do you think they come up with those tables? That’s right, by testing children and collating their results.

So it’s frankly ridiculous to berate the education system for daring to test children.

I don’t really have a problem with testing kids at the age of five and six either. How else will teachers know where they need extra help?

Every time I’ve looked round a school, parents always ask how the school copes with “the more able pupils”, the inference being that their little darling is on their way to becoming the next Albert Einstein.

In fact, I’m more concerned with how good the school is at identifying areas where my children are struggling and giving them the extra help they need to get them back on track, with us doing our bit at home too.

But how are they going to do that if they don’t test the children? And actually, schools say they’re making sure the younger ones don’t even know they’re being tested at all.

Which they won’t, unless of course their mum and dad make a big song and dance about it.

So I don’t think testing is necessarily the problem. And if you want to talk about pressure, how about the old 11-plus, which didn’t just dictate what set you were in for maths but the course of the remainder of your education?

But there does need to be balance – and I don’t think the Government is getting that right at the moment.

The tests feel as if they’ve been rushed in and they’ve spooked schools and parents by going too hard, too fast.

Yet parents need to take a look at themselves too. They talk about wanting their children to be pushed at school, but then cry foul when they get what they want.

Mums and dads need to make children realise that yes, tests are important but they’re not the be all and end all. They don’t have to dictate the rest of your life.

Schools, meanwhile, must teach them that making mistakes is part of growing up. In fact, it’s healthy because it builds resilience and toughens you up for the knockbacks and brickbats of later life.

And here’s a sobering thought. At the moment, the UK sits 23rd and 26th on the international league tables in reading and maths. Doing nothing simply can’t be an option.

A state-run Beeb gives me chills

THE TV Baftas the other night were useful on a couple of counts.

Firstly because they confirmed my long-held suspicion that Lenny Henry has never actually been very funny.

And secondly because they provided a much-needed chuckle at the levels of luvviness that exist within your average BBC production.

One by one the stars of the small screen lined up to have a pop at Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, whose white paper on the future of the Corporation is published today.

Personally, I agree with his call to force the Beeb to disclose all salaries over £450,000 a year – which will allow we who pay their salaries to judge if we’re getting value for money from the likes of Chris Evans, Gary Lineker and Graham Norton.

But I also think the BBC should be forced to tell the nation how much it pays those members of its staff who aren’t in the limelight – because I know for a fact it’s often a pittance.

Still, no matter what your grumbles are with the Beeb, the Government’s bid to pack its board with its own people should send a shiver down the spine.

If this isn’t a fully-fledged state takeover of our public service broadcaster then what is? Vladimir Putin would be proud.

And don’t forget the Tories’ track record of cosying up to Rupert Murdoch.

It has its faults, but the idea of a Government-approved BBC is the stuff of Orwellian nightmares.

Ban on Church ad makes no sense

I WOULDN’T have a problem with those new bus adverts praising Allah if it weren’t for the fact that the Church of England was banned from running an advert at Christmas.

And the last time I checked, the whole point of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Christ – and Britain is a Christian country.

The bus ads are part of a campaign by an Islamic charity to raise money for international aid. It’s a deserving cause and I hope they’re successful.

They also say they want the adverts to help change the “negative climate” surrounding the Muslim community.

Again, this is a worthy ambition – not least when Donald Trump’s around.

The trouble lies with the idiotic advertising authorities who, by banning the C of E advert and allowing this one, have shown they’ve got one rule for one and one rule for another.

We are all the same and should be treated the same. This sort of double standards doesn’t help anyone.

Sarah Champion MP

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