Good grief. Have not blogged this story for a number of days, as have been waiting to feel sufficiently calm to comment appropriately. Ahem, breathing deeply....
It seems that whilst the struggle in the Spectator and other arenas continues between the paternalistic and the libertarian strands that present an on-going tension in Conservative politics, it is clear from the news that Mr Cameron thinks that all children should be reading by the time they are six, that education remains firmly within the paternalistic fold.
What are they thinking? Apparently only those children with serious learning difficulties will be exempted from this target. Duhhhhhh...(sorry, be calm....another deep breath.) The Tories need to know that this could well cause an awful lot more children to be labelled with serious learning difficulties when they actually have nothing of the sort. They need to know that many perfectly normal children are simply not neurologically ready to read at six. Phonics will be neither here nor there to these children. Yet give their brains a chance to mature, and they learn to read incredibly quickly - within the space of months. So instead of labouring away for years to get them to a certain standard of reading, as teachers do in schools, you wait till children are reading ready, and they then can do it in a TINY NUMBER OF HOURS.
Over and over again I have actually witnessed this for myself. It is the case that many children in the HE community who have no ostensible learning difficulties of any sort whatsoever, don't learn to read until they are 7, 8 or even much older and yet once they've started, are reading incredibly efficiently within a very short space of time. And just in case you are wondering, since their learning isn't predicated upon reading - yes, it is true - information can arrive in other ways, these children don't fall behind.
The Observer article mentions the fact that there are plenty of highly successful people who didn't learn to read until later than is currently expected:
"it was revealed that Zenna Atkins, now chair of the schools inspection authority Ofsted, was illiterate at the age of 11 and 'couldn't read the back of a cornflake packet's instructions'. "
Again I know this to be perfectly likely. A very successful businessman with accountancy credentials recently told me that he would never have got into grammar school at 11, his reading and writing were so poor. He was only grateful that there used to be a second entry exam at age 13. I wonder how profitable it would have been to have labelled this man a failure at a young age.
Actually, there are so many examples of successful people out there who did not learn to read at the required times, that it could almost make you wonder if there are some problems with early reading. Perhaps it means that one doesn't develop a satisfactory auditory memory, or it could alter one's eyesight for the worse, as is currently thought to be the case in the some Far Eastern countries, where children do close work from a very young age, and up to three quarters of them now need glasses.
Oh well, even if the Conservative party cannot make the leap towards leaving it up to the learner, at least James Bartholomew, (of Spectator fame) has made the connection between home education and educational freedom.