“Four out of ten pupils could not read, write and add up properly by the time they left primary school this summer, the Government said yesterday.
Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister, hailed the test results as the best ever”
The Times, from which this quotation came on 8 August, is strangely uncritical of the fact that 40% of our children leave primary school illiterate and innumerate, and did not even seem to notice the hubris in Adonis’s reaction. New Labour has had more than ten years to make good Tony Blair’s commitment to “education, education, education” and we no longer notice that its creatures boast even about its failures.
Adonis was hired specifically to improve the figures. Improving the figures is not, of course the same thing as improving education. You can improve results by lowering the hurdles. Adonis forms a nice bridge between the civil servants and the politicians. The former view childrens’ formative years as their own playground, a place where they can tinker with new ideas and fiddle with whatever this week’s modish theories are. The latter want “initiatives” and targets, social engineering and the illusion of choice. Adonis brings them all together.
The victims are not just the children themselves, whose schooling (that is, the actual acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding) is sacrificed to the theorists’ games and the politicians’ targets. Our whole culture, in the widest sense, is disappearing irretrievably as schools and children are forced to aim for the low ground, the subjects where the targets are most easily met.
Whole departments are closing down, those which passed on learning in the difficult subjects, science, mathematics and languages. The rot has already reached the universities, which are compelled to take on more students with fewer real skills between them. Those now reaching university are the generation whose whole secondary education has taken place under Blair. God help us when the Blunkett generation of primary school children reaches university.
The Times article was headed “Primary school children miss all government targets”. How very remiss of them, how very ungrateful when all that money has been spent grooming them to meet the government’s targets. They don’t want targets, they want to learn things, basic things like reading and adding up. 40% of them have been denied that, by a government which has had ten years of power and which gained that power by a promise of “education, education, education”. And Lord Adonis boasts about it.