This is the last summer holiday before my child goes to 'big school' and I'm dreading it already

Can you really mark a child’s imagination out of 3, alongside her spelling and numbers?

Shaparak Khorsandi
Friday 13 July 2018 12:59 BST
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No more hand-scrawled slips declaring that ‘she would rather stare out of the window at the clouds all day than do some arithmetic’ (me)
No more hand-scrawled slips declaring that ‘she would rather stare out of the window at the clouds all day than do some arithmetic’ (me) (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

I’m fighting the compulsion to get a puppy. Before you all shout “rescue a dog!” at me, I can’t. I already have two cats and two children under 12, so as far as rescue homes go we are below Cruella de Vil in terms of suitability. In any case, I didn’t say I was going to get a dog; I am merely fighting the compulsion to do so.

My youngest, you see, is going into Year One in September. She’s a June baby, so I had her to myself at home for a much shorter time than I had my September boy. To be honest, I am not coping with no longer having a nursery or reception-aged child in the house anymore.

“I’ll be in a YEAR,” she told me proudly on the way to school this morning. She will indeed. Year One. And there it starts. The “stand still”, “sit down”, “face the front” years. She will be tested and marked for the way she writes, reads – even the way she does roly-polys.

She came home yesterday with a little sheet in her bag which listed 17 skills, with a number from 1-3 next to each to let me know how she is doing at them. She got 3 for her “speaking”, which means she’s “exceeding’ the expectation for her age group” (she takes after her mother; I haven’t stopped talking since 1974).

Her “imagination”, however, is only a 2, which means it’s just at the level “expected” for her age group. It’s hard to imagine a five-year-old who doesn’t have a terrific imagination, so I imagine a 3 would mean that “your child is on acid”.

Can you really mark a child’s imagination out of 3, alongside her spelling and numbers? I can’t take this “Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile” seriously. A list of numbers telling me where my daughter is at understanding “people and communities”, and “The World” (2 and 3 respectively if you’re interested. My five-year-old understands “The World” better than she understands “People and Communities”) – who sets this nonsense?

And why are the poor teachers having to put this together? Can’t they go back to what they did in the Eighties and just tell us: “She loves to sing and her spelling is coming on nicely. Now if we can just stop her from biting the other children she’d been the perfect class member!”

Of course they can’t. They can no longer even write school reports that give even an indication that they actually know the kid they’ve been teaching for a year. Reports are now robotic, generic comments plucked from a database and glued together to vaguely describe how your child is doing.

No more hand-scrawled slips declaring that “she would rather stare out of the window at the clouds all day than do some arithmetic” (me) or “he has yet to learn that disrupting the class by jumping on the tables will not lay the groundwork for a successful career” (my brother, who, true enough, never made it in the end as a lap dancer).

These comments in our reports smarted at the time, of course, but surely they are preferable to the beige drone that teachers are forced to submit as “reports” these days, which don’t sarcastically slag the children off in the slightest.

Never mind. For now, it’s almost time for the summer holidays, when we can cocoon ourselves in family life and get up late. No early-morning rummage around the kitchen for a stuff to make a suitable packed lunch with, and wondering seriously if it would alright to make lemon curd sandwiches because that’s the only filling you have.

Six glorious weeks of not having to find shoes or trombones, and attempt, uselessly, to do French plaits. (I’ve looked at every YouTube tutorial, yet still send my daughter off looking like a bunch of carrots did her hair.)

I am not going to the Edinburgh festival this year because I want to actually enjoy a summer with my children that’s about them, rather than just drag them around to kids’ shows in Edinburgh while my mind is on my own performance, and whether or not I should agree to do a slot at a cabaret show starting at 3am hosted by a naked monkey. It’s fair to say I’m not exactly “in the moment” with the kids when I’m up at the Edinburgh festival.

So this is our last summer holiday before the youngest of my children disappears off into the world of Big School, and I’m left aching to have another baby to look after at home. Hence the compulsion to get a dog.

But can a puppy fill the gap? To an extent, but you can’t plonk it in front of CBeebies while you have a quick shower, and I doubt my mother would be as ready to drop everything and look after it for me when I’m off gallivanting.

On the plus side, no one will be earnestly marking it out of 3 for “looking nonchalant whilst farting”.

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