The statistics from the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests have been released today, and as per usual are making up part of the main course in the days media meal. Bless the media machine, it so much wants to say that one third of children fail to reach the expected standard at age 11, but the minor (and it is very minor) irritation of the results being a rise on last year means that they are not going on an all out attack. The rise is not particularly significant, nor indeed are the tests themselves – what does a Level 4 mean anyway? For most it means months of coaching, parrot fashion learning, pushy parenting, unnecessary and unfruitful stress. But the arguments around whether the "SATs" (as everyone calls them, although there haven't been SATs in England for many years), is well documented and debated.
What strikes me this morning, listening to Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, is yet again schools are being used as the punch bag. So when ill informed, trying to get a soundbite, journalists state that 33% of children are "failing", Nick's immediate response is to talk about schools and standards of teaching and learning, blah-de-blah-de-blah.
At not one point does he mention that, actually, if your kids can't read, write and do simple arithmetic at age 11, then blaming the school is a red herring, take a long honest look at your own parenting.
It is not the job of the state to raise the nation's children.
Take a look at the type of questions we are talking about on the KS2 SAT papers page.
Now, if a child can't do this sort of work, is that the fault of their teacher? Hell no it is not. Frankly it is bad parenting tantamount to child abuse (I use this term deliberately because children falling below these levels at this age are far more likely to die younger – I think that justifies the term).
The parents of these children should be bloody ashamed. And no politician wants to say it. They should be really bloody ashamed.
It was not school that taught the rest of us to read and write. It was good parenting. It was hours spent singing, talking, telling stories, listening, caring, being interested, encouraging, monitoring, being enthusiastic and taking responsibility. It was the understanding that, from day one, education and learning were as much to do with the familty (if not a lot more) than to do with the building that we went to from age 4.
It is the first 2 or 3 years that really count – this is where the development of the brain is at its most important. Parents who didn't bother with the bedtime stories, the counting things in traffic, the talking about prices in a supermarket or role playing shop keeper at home, the sounding out of words on signs or in comics, the hours and hours and hours of play... if you didn't bother, you should be bloody ashamed. Your children are damaged for life. And it is not the fault of teachers, it is not the responsibility of the state. It is your role.
And some of the bleading heart brigade will whine on about it being difficult because the parents are themselves illiterate. Well so what! Learn together. It is not an excuse.
I am not saying that schools are perfect and that there aren't improvements that we can make, but I am saying that it is unacceptable for the government to simply ignore a crucial part of the story.
So, Nick Gibb, Michael Gove, David Cameron: a challenge. Stop pussy-footing around, stop taking the easy option, and actually stand up for what matters. Good parenting. Then schools will not let you down.