Death by tickbox

  • by

This government has affected me personally in many ways, most of which have involved some form of expense. But perhaps its most malign effect on me has been to turn me into a Daily Telegraph reader. I don’t mean literally (although [their website->http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/index.jhtml] is quite good) I mean figuratively. I froth at the mouth a lot nowadays. I am a grumpy old man. I am ‘Disgusted of Eynsham’.

But it’s not my fault. I mean look at this latest initiative. [According to the Guardian->http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,2033424,00.html] ‘Every nursery, childminder and reception class in Britain will have to monitor children’s progress towards a set of 69 government-set “early learning goals”, recording them against more than 500 development milestones as they go.’

The idea is that ‘When children enter compulsory schooling, they should be able to read simple sentences using a phonics-based approach, count reliably up to 10 and sing simple songs from memory, as well as respecting others’ beliefs and learning to share and take turns.’ Why not go the whole hog? I’d like to insist that, by the age of 6 they will
a) have a personal pension plan
b) will no longer find the word ‘poo’ remotely funny and
c) will have a comprehensive knowledge of the relevant health and safety requirements as applied to school canteens, play grounds and ancillary areas.

I mean what are you going to do if your child fails to meet any of these 500 development milestones? Issue them an ASBO presumably. This government seems to believe that you can solve everything if you have a long enough list of tickboxes. Everything these days has to be ‘statutory’, you can’t have informal any more. So, we can’t be having ‘playgroups’, we have to have pre-school. And they have to be Ofsted inspected. We can’t just allow kids to grow up, we have to see them through their development milestones. There are websites offering copies of SATS tests so that parents can prepare their seven year olds. And heaven help you if you want to play conkers without an eye-guard, protective gloves and a full suit of armour.

When I first read Orwell, many years ago, I thought that Big Brother would be dressed in a military uniform and be accompanied by a gun. Now I realise it’s more subtle than that. Big Brother arrives armed with a clipboard, and a very, very long list.

See? I told you I was Telegraph material.