Diary of a Primary School Mum: Claire's writing? Cuming on veri wel thancyoo...

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The Independent Online

Experimental art, experimental dance and now experimental writing! An ingenious new discipline designed by Miss Perry to turn the little ones into independent scribes. Words are sounded out phonetically, written down as they ought logically to appear, sometimes to hilarious effect. So hilarious that Miss Perry came to find me in the playground. "Claire's such a lovely girl," she praised. "And her handwriting's coming along so nicely. What did she come up with today? Oh yes, 'sgootu'."

Confused? Can't find "sgootu" in the Oxford concise? To explain, in phonics "u" is pronounced "uh" – thus "sgootu" is supposed to read "scooter". Gems galore paper the walls of the classroom in Reception's illustrated rendition of "The Three Little Pigs". Bubble captions tell the tale. "U must bild a haws". "I am veri scered of the big bad wlf." "The hez on my chini chin chin." "I wil huf and puf and blo hows dn."

Try experimental writing in foreign tongues and it becomes even trickier. "Does oui mean 'yes'?" Oliver asked during a recent trip to France. "And do you spell it w-e-e?" His enthusiasm didn't wane. "What about merci," he said. "Is that spelt m-e-r-s-e-e?" With the silent "h" in the French pronunciation of "hotel" and the silent "n" in bonjour, my son didn't stand a chance. Claire was also inspired by our jaunt across the Channel and so desperate to speak the language fluently that she asked to go to her after school French club. When I tried to enrol her, my mother slapped my wrists for being overly pushy. "She's only little," she reprimanded. "It's too much pressure for her. Don't you think five full days a week at school is quite enough already?"

Pressure – what does my mother know? The twins are mollycoddled and pampered and everything they do at school is based around play. Unlike in their grandmother's time when even five-year-olds allegedly had their own desk and proper, regimented lessons started from day one. I asked my best friend, who's a primary school teacher, if she thought children today were under too much pressure. "By Year 2 with all the SATs they quite possibly are," she admitted, "because they're very aware that they're taking exams and how well they actually perform in them. But in Reception if they are feeling pressure, then they shouldn't be. Staff should be finding ways to help them enjoy going to school, otherwise they could be put off in the long term."

Check out the twins' social diaries (compared to my sadly sparse one) and they're having the time of their lives. Play dates, drama clubs, even a Valentine's Ball for heaven's sake. Ah, the Valentine's Ball. On the surface it appeared a saccharine, harmless affair. Dig deeper and boys as young as seven were expected to ask a girl to the dance. A problem as they grow older, as five-year-old Oliver pointed out, seeing as in their class boys outnumber girls nearly two to one. And he's a shy little fellow. "I'm going to have nobody to dance with," he worried. The pressure (if the creases on his small furrowed forehead were anything to go by) was already getting to him – thus a big dose of humble pie was eaten because my mother (dare I say it) might actually have a point.

Thank goodness for Claire, a princess in shining armour. "I'm going to dance with Oliver at Valentine's," she promised. She took her brother's hand and hugged him tight. "Don't worry," she comforted with regal poise. "I'll look after you."

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