Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You Can Call Me ‘Al’

‘The Guardian Education’ carried a lengthy interview with the new children’s commissioner for England, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green (to give him his full title). It started well. He stated that he was concerned at the numbers of unhappy children and schools’ ability to cope with them.

He cited the problem of constant school tests,

“Children feel under such pressure from endless testing, they do not feel they have the time to enjoy themselves. What is the purpose of education? Is it for the attainment of government targets, or is it to provide children with life skills to become confident adults?”

But just to show he’s ‘on message’ he reverts to ‘Blairspeak’ – you trot out a platitude that no one can disagree with.

“Of course we have to have measures of achievement, but to subject very young children to regular testing is a worry.”

A worry? Obviously child-friendly ‘Al’ doesn’t do over-statement. What about the most pernicious form of testing the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests (SATs) which alongside that spawn of the devil, league tables, have blighted and distorted education in England (they aren’t used in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)? What does ‘Al’ have to say on this? Nothing. Look at the web site. Nothing.

Maybe he inhabits the same moral home as those Labour MPs who retain their CND cards but voted to spend billions on replacing Trident, or those with an Amnesty International card who remained silent about abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraid.

Really it’s not surprising, who gave ‘Al’ the job? The government. Naturally they’d want a ‘safe pair of hands’ and not any old ‘loose cannon’ who would ‘rock the boat’ (you can probably guess what the grammar target has been for this week and yes, rule one is - don’t mix your metaphors).

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