Back to school
Perhaps Tony Blair was right. It really is education, education, education. It is to school we turn for two things that say an awful lot about the state we’re in this week.
First, to Michael Gove’s national curriculum reform for English schools. The Westminster education secretary revealed plans to have children in primary schools learn and recite poetry and learn a foreign language from the age of seven. Such was the handwringing by some over the announcement you’d think he was bringing back the birch.
Young minds soak up languages; as they get older this becomes harder. This policy has been in place in Scottish schools for a time. Kids in those schools aren’t wilting as they, excitedly, see new panoramas open to them. It makes all sorts of sense.
And what is wrong with learning some poems? We have enough trouble trying to get kids to sit still, naysayers scoff, so how can we make them learn poetry?
By showing the joy of words. By showing how rhythm can sometimes lead to meaning. By encouraging an open, enquiring mind. A Gradgrind-like focus will stifle excited growth.
One such open, enquiring mind was, we learned, constrained last week. Nine-year-old Martha Payne became a Twitter sensation when it was revealed that her blog, in which she had photographed and detailed school dinners, was effectively banned by her local council, Argyll and Bute. Despite a late change of mind, there is no way they can emerge from this with any credit.
This was a week that saw Gordon Brown fix Robert Jay, QC, with a stare that could petrify Medusa and make Roy Keane look like an Andrex puppy. Jay later made David Cameron squirm uncomfortably as the PM ‘forgot’ just how often he had met Rebekah Brooks for Sunday lunch. (Isn’t once in six weeks still quite a lot?!)
Perhaps if the PM stopped playing Fruit Ninjas on his phone for long enough he could take pictures to remind him of each occasion. Martha could show him what to do.