Diary Of A Primary School Mum: 'Free fruit's great, but when do the lessons start?'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"We had an apple today AND a tomato," said Oliver. "And the tomato was really BIG."

He and his twin sister Claire giggle, circling their fingers in the shape of a large orange. Despite remnants of said tomatoes being splattered across their tops, this new-found enthusiasm for fruit and veg is rather thrilling.

If Gordon Brown is looking for proof that the National School Fruit Scheme (each four- to six-year-old is entitled to receive a free piece of fruit each day) is working, then my children are it.

They can't wait to announce what they were given for their morning snack and on the rogue occasion that baby carrots were offered, the twins were tickled pink.

Even news that more than 80 per cent of the produce handed out apparently has "low levels of pesticide" hasn't completely dampened my enthusiasm.

I'm about as political as an amoeba and if I weren't, I might consider campaigning for all ages up to 11 to be entitled to a piece of fruit, with pesticide or otherwise – but that might appear ungrateful.

The freebies, you see, don't stop at the banana and easy-peel citrus. Last week the twins were each given a copy of Funnybones, a fabulous book about a bunch of scary skeletons, as part of a separate scheme to encourage kids to read. And best not to forget that the twins' education is being paid for by the state.

"Did you have any lessons today?" I ask them, praying for an answer in the affirmative, now that they've been at school for three whole weeks.

Oliver, by some twist of fate which has nothing to do with me, seems to have taught himself to read, while Claire doesn't lag far behind. I'm keen for them not to regress.

"No," says Oliver.

"What do you do all day then?"

Without lessons I cannot understand how the time is filled from 9am to 3.30pm without the children getting bored. How on earth does teacher Miss Perry keep them occupied?

"We played, er, I think," he replies.

This is the erudite kind of response I can expect and the other mums are equally frustrated by their four-year-olds' inability to spill the beans.

I dig further, hopeful, because my best friend is a primary school teacher and has explained that they teach through play.

"Yes, but did you learn anything?"

Oliver has a think.

"Yes," he says. "We learnt the difference between hard and soft and rough and smooth."

Despite them having known this for the last two years, I am delighted to get a sense of what's going on in the classroom.

Claire cocks her head, looking thoughtful.

"We learnt some 'Squealy'," she says.

Did I mishear, or with Hallowe'en fast approaching, was 'Squealy' some sort of ghoulish game?

"Every day," Claire continues, "Miss Perry does the register in a different language and today it was 'Squealy'."

"No," Oliver corrects his sister. "It was Swahhh-HEALY."

I'm a great believer in languages, be it French or Swahili, but by night-time, when my husband has returned home from work, the latent pushy parent in me lets rip.

My decibel volume is raised in a flurry of excitement. "How are they ever going to get to grips with the three Rs when all they seem to be learning about is rough and smooth and Swahili?"

My husband shakes his head, and I think he's about to agree with me that perhaps this school isn't as good as we'd first thought and we'd made a mistake in sending them there.

But instead he says, "What's wrong with just letting our kids enjoy their childhoods?"

Comments