Chronicle 21 – Hitting the target but missing the point

The COVID pandemic has revealed many things, not all of them very welcome, and empowered people to speak out openly although not always to good effect. The crisis has the potential to shake up rigidly held beliefs, like the nature of schooling and the role of the curriculum.

With the debate raging in England as to whether to open schools, a Guardian Today in Focus podcast interviewed Oli de Botton, head of a large London school. about the capacity of schools to comply with the changing guidelines about leaving lockdown. More generally, he insisted that children need to be confident speakers, fluent readers and good writers but that was “not the same thing as the arcane minutiae of grammar.` The headmaster pursued, saying that concentrating on the finer points of grammar “has a pernicious effect on the curriculum. It narrows it down to the small minutiae the teacher has to teach.” He summed up the warping effect of over-concentration on details and the attention paid to grammar as follows. “You end up hitting the target but missing the point.”

Worrying about the curriculum when we have so many more urgent and important issues to deal with might seem frivolous. But it is one of many underlying structural changes that need to be addressed if a new normal is to emerge.

A selection of the author’s photos this week

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