We’ve had a half term report and there’s been much tearing out of hair and critical analysis of where it’s all going wrong.
Our 9 year old son has scored below average in one of his tests and the teacher’s comments were very ho hum indeed. ‘Could do better’ didn’t even begin to cover it. What was his mark?
The average was 99%.
I’ll be talking about the education treadmill and the ever increasing speed of its conveyor belt in my next post, but in the meantime, here’s a little look at how school reports have changed in 35 years.
(My reports from the Lycée are thankfully lost, but I’ve mocked one up in the form of a Diploma they awarded for endeavour. Everything looks a bit better with decorative scrollwork round the margins don’t you think? Even a death certificate).
When fishes flew and forests walked, I went to a vast French school where education meant getting beaten up daily by the bigger kids in an asphalt playground that had no beginning or end. My parents weren’t French, but spoke the language up to a point and were eager to be part of the Common Market as we used to call the EEC. So, while they remained in Little England, they thrust their eldest children through the doors of a wider European community to experience complex and sophisticated cultures outside of our own. The toilet floors were awash in a permanent pool of pee, we had radishes or powdered mash for lunch and a dining hall smelling of detergent. In class they stood you in a corner with a dunces hat on if you didn’t understand and shouted at you in a foreign language.
My sister and I would often come home covered in bruises, and, worse still, my apple and a miniature box of squashed but comforting Sunblest raisins would be filched by some ratty kid who had a stronger sense of survival than I did. It would’ve helped if someone had explained to me at the age of four what the fuck was going on – none of the lessons were in English.
The French reports painted a picture of a little girl painfully at odds with the regime, out of her depth and unable or unwilling to join in. They never saw me smile.
I stayed for two years.
Whether my parents had taken against President Charles de Gaulle who’d vetoed the UK’s membership of the EEC, or had eventually found a French-English dictionary, who knows, but one day, aged just 7, I found myself installed in a small private school where bowler-hatted dads paid through the nose to have their daughters waft around in a uniform that included white gloves to play in the park and giant blue Victorian bloomers. Not very European, but at least the reports were in English.
To be a success at this new school, you needed to have won the ‘Deportment Badge’ that week. This mainly involved walking with a straight back and having as little ink, snot or spinach stains on your pinafore as possible. A girl called Alice seemed to win it every week which rendered the rest of us less prepared than her apparently for genteel society.
This is one of my first reports; I think we were being trained for high office.
I clearly remember my father’s pained expression when he realised it had cost him cost him £300.
Incidentally, this is not a drawing of my own sorry attempts with needles and wool, but my older sister’s scarf. She was knitting it for her boyfriend at the time but had no idea how to finish, so just kept going with the alternate blue and white wool. He was a Chelsea supporter when she started, though by the time she’d finally learned how to cast off about 100 metres later, he may have begun to follow another football team. Or died.
The next term, another of my impressive reports appeared:
Here’s roughly what it looked like:
Fast forward a generation, and our son receives this report at the end of last term.
Constructive criticism, and a detailed account of his achievement, together with encouraging remarks to bolster self confidence -
But FFS, it’s a BLOODY PARROT PAINTING. Tell it like it is, man! He did some splogdy artwork and wasn’t concentrating. I think my own childhood report was MILES better.
Incidentally, no doubt the ex-Michael Gove’s education ‘reforms’ have left their mark, leaving a legacy which still filters through schools’ art departments and subliminally informing us that children should absorb everything by rote and not think for themselves. How convenient.
Yes, the subtext is obviously that they should learn …
… PARROT FASHION
Now would you rather have had mine or my son’s report, and what’s the funniest one you’ve ever seen?
A prize of my children’s book, ‘The Barmies‘, if it makes me laugh out loud.