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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 4
3 Stop league tables for five-year-olds 4 Minimum pricing – a pointless policy? 5 In whose name? 6 Mind and mystery Ian Flintoff 7 Old sailors’ tales John Lewis 8-9 Letters 10-13 A Quaker and the Underground David Burnell 14 A Quaker/Conservative coalition? Margie Savory 15 Grace Cathedral Stuart Donnan 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: The escalator in Southgate Underground station. The uplights were designed by Charles Holden. Holden not only designed many underground stations but also took great care of the details, such as the light fittings within them. Photo by Steve Cadman on Flickr CC:BY.
Image on this page: The administrative centre of the University of London, Senate House, in Bloomsbury was designed by Charles Holden in the early 1930s. At the time it was the second tallest building in London after St Paul’s Cathedral. Photo: David Burnell. See pages 10-13.
Correction: The word ‘executed’ in Jill Allum’s article (21 January) should have been ‘persecuted’.
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the Friend, 28 January 2011 Frances Laing and her daughter Ruth. Photo courtesy Frances Laing.
Stop league tables for five-yearolds
A Quaker mother has pioneered a campaign against the introduction of school league tables for fiveyear-olds. Frances Laing of Chester Meeting has attracted over a thousand signatures for a petition calling on the government to abandon the idea.
Her concerns began in November, when coalition ministers revealed they were considering a proposal to publish school-by-school results on the progress made by five-year-old children.
At present, the progress of fiveyear-olds is formally assessed but the results are not published on a school-by-school basis. The assessments consider factors such as the ability to count, to blend sounds together and to understand that different people believe different things.
League tables are currently published only when pupils are tested at the end of primary schools and after GCSEs.
News of the proposal shocked Frances, who has a five-yearold daughter, Ruth. She told the Friend said that the requirement to measure progress is already ‘putting a lot of pressure on children and on teachers and on parents’. She said: ‘The futures of young children are being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency’.
Frances explained that she has found conversations with teachers to be more helpful than formal reports of progress.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education (DfE) told the Friend that the proposal is ‘under consideration’ rather than a firm policy. It has already been highly criticised by the National Union of Teachers.
Frances said she has been ‘bowled over’ with the support she has received since launching an online petition, ‘Stop School League Tables for Five-Year-Olds’ on 6 January.
Signatories include the children’s author Michael Rosen, Labour MP John McDonnell and a number of teachers.
One primary school head teacher backing Frances’ campaign told her: ‘You don’t fatten a calf by weighing it’.
Green MP Caroline Lucas last week tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM 1285) criticising league tables for five-year-olds. While EDMs are not debated, they function as parliamentary petitions, allowing MPs to express support for a particular viewpoint.
The EDM attacks ‘an unprecedented development’ that ‘puts both young children and their teachers, parents and carers under unwarranted stress’.
The DfE said that it is inaccurate to use the term ‘league tables’ as this implies that testing will be involved. A spokesperson insisted that the government is not ‘considering league tables for fiveyear-olds’.
But a spokesperson for Caroline Lucas described the DfE comment as ‘disingenuous’. She said ‘league tables don’t have to be about testing’, and that the term still applies when school-by-school comparisons are published.
Symon Hill the Friend, 28 January 2011