Exams for three-year-olds?

By Cari Rosen, May 27, 2010
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Now that our offspring are turning two, at any gathering of parents and small fry there seems to be a single topic of conversation. Suddenly the only thing that anyone wants to talk about is school.

Despite the fact that (for those of us reliant on the state system) it is still well over a year until we are even allowed to apply for reception places, the very mention of the phrase "catchment area" causes instant mass hysteria, arm waving and fainting - it's a bit like being at a Beatles gig but with slightly more modern haircuts and no one called Ringo.

It is nearly four decades since I started primary school and a chat with a teacher friend confirms that everything has changed. Gone are the days of greaseproof loo paper which was about as absorbent as a sheet of shiny plastic and led to many a sticky-handed child becoming a pariah in the playground.

Gone are the days of rulers across the knuckles and the threat of the headmaster's cane. Gone are the days where PE was done with your vest tucked into your pants, the look topped off only by a pair of greying plimsolls.

Maybe this education thing was always as competitive as an Olympic final and my memories of a more innocent age, where no one lied about addresses, rented flats they never actually set foot in, or stabbed their next-door neighbours for living 0.0001 of a mile closer to a desirable educational establishment are coloured by the mists of time - and yet I think not.

In recent months the papers have been filled with tales of cheating parents who've been flouting the system so flagrantly that it's little wonder they get found out. And while - to my knowledge - no one that I know personally has ever stooped to breaking the law, one cannot deny that these are crazy times.

No two-year-old in the '60s or early '70s went to nursery to do anything but paint, sing songs and wet their knickers and yet a friend's daughter has already been offered a place in a "crammers" class before she's reached her second birthday. I know three-year-olds who have tutors to get them through entrance exams, toddlers whose every waking minute is filled with flash cards.

I want to shout: "Don't panic Captain Mainwaring [except no one would get the cultural reference] it never did us any harm to go to the local infants, where everyone walked to school and then went home and played in the garden and built dens without worrying about completing a part-time degree in brain surgery before they were seven and yet still managed to grow up and become teachers and doctors and lawyers and…"

But perhaps I too must move with the times, get real and work out what to do along with the rest of the parents.

Oh hell - where did I put those Ofsted reports?

    Last updated: 2:34pm, September 3 2010