At the chalkface: Average

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

How dare she? Doesn’t she realise she’s letting the school down? Doesn’t she realise she’s doing nothing for its league position? It must be better than average.

Daisy is in the 11th year. She is an average pupil. Someone has to do it. But average is not good enough anymore. Who said? The sometimes Minister for Education, Michael Gove. He famously pronounced that all children must be better than average, all must achieve above average test scores.

Marvellous. And to bamboozle their tiny minds just a little bit more, he made it tougher to be average by making the tests more difficult and opaque, thus lowering the mean score. Or not. What a clot!

Still, however we define it, Daisy is average. She’s been measured and found to be average. She’s been predicted grades for her summer exams. They’re all pretty average. 4 or 3. C or D. No more, no less.

Daisy isn’t bothered by these things. Despite the school becoming only an exam factory, a swotting shop, a fever of facts, a nest of stress, she chooses not to be complicit in the conspiracy. She remains calm, sane and balanced.

How dare she? Doesn’t she realise she’s letting the school down? Doesn’t she realise she’s doing nothing for its league position? It must be better than average.

She needs to work on her stress levels. Shall we put her in detention? No. She cares not a jot.

The head frightens management to frighten teachers to frighten pupils like her: “Keep the pressure up!”

The classroom has a countdown poster on the wall: “You have x days and x hours and x seconds of study time left!”

Dear me. I suppose it works. Most pupils turn into crazed drones and go quietly bonkers. But not Daisy. She remains serenely immune.

Well, good for her. She refuses to join the frenzy. Most exams bore her. She’ll give them the attention they deserve. They’re nowhere near as important as her teachers say. And she’s passionate about subjects, which aren’t on the syllabus, like modern dance and playing the drums.

Her family also refuse to join in. They don’t even recognise average. It is meaningless, an insult. They just let her be. She has other virtues like kindness, patience and humour. She is eminently sane. It goes a long way. Her chums laugh a lot and also flirt dangerously with the average. There are thankfully more of these children than is rumoured. More than average.

I’ve had my share of wretched, trembling, hot-housed, high-flyers with helicopter mothers and a Valium habit. Daisy’s going to be alright. She just won’t be photographed by The Telegraph leaping about on results day. Anyway, she’s not blonde.

So let’s hear it for average, sane, cheerful pupils like Daisy, who will thankfully fail the rigours of the Gove test all ends up.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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