Leading article: The dangers of over-reach

Share

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, is due to announce an ambitious review of early years learning tomorrow. There can be no disputing that reform is needed in the primary education sector. A spate of respectable international surveys has shown that UK children are nowhere near as well-served by our education system as ministers have been claiming in recent years. And a good deal of evidence suggests that problems in education start early. Unless a child is engaged and enthused by schooling by the time they leave primary school, they are unlikely to catch up.

The Government's climb-down on primary school testing is welcome. Mr Balls now states that pupils will be examined on reading and maths when they are ready, rather than at a fixed time in the school year. Ministers had previously maintained that uniform testing of all primary pupils was essential, despite growing protests from teachers and parents about the dominance of the exams. Free nursery care for children from poorer backgrounds and more help for the families of disabled children are also suggestions that deserve support.

But the Government should ensure that it concentrates its energies on areas where it can make a difference, rather than deluding itself that it can remodel everything in young people's lives through Whitehall edicts. For instance, Mr Balls is also ordering a review on advertising's impact on young children. This will look into links between adverts and dissatisfaction, anxiety, eating disorders and underage drinking. The minister is also looking into ways to get parents more directly involved in school activities and to increase the provision of safe play areas for children. There is nothing wrong with these proposals in themselves. The manner in which advertisers are increasingly targeting children is a cause of justified concern. So too is the increasing scarcity of safe places in which children can play. But bundling up these proposals with a review of the primary curriculum suggests a government in danger of overreaching itself. It needs to learn to walk before it can run.

The language in which these proposals have been spun "10-year plan", "root and branch reform" should also sound alarm bells. This sort of rhetoric is more about political positioning than educational priorities. It echoes one of the worst aspects of the Blair era, when ministers would promise revolutions but fail to deliver even the most basic improvements in public services in a competent manner.

It is right that a progressive government should concentrate on education, since this is where the life-chances of young people are evened out. But without delivery, the best intentions in the world count for nothing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prevention is better than cure if we want to save the NHS

Tanni Grey Thompson
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show  

Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

Lee Williams
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before