Eyes of a Child


“A child of five would understand this.
Send someone to fetch a child of five.”
Groucho Marx

You are drifting along the canals of Amsterdam, gazing out of the windows at the houseboats that line the banks. Outside the windows is a world that exists below street level; a place of low bridges and tall narrow houses. The buildings loom over you in the drizzle, their hooks sinister in the grey afternoon. The man on the tannoy tells the story of why the houses look like they do. But even more interesting than the houses are the boats, moored up at the sides of the canal. People live their lives in these boats. How would it be if you got to do that too? You think hard about how that might be, bobbing on the water and living a watery life. “Mummy,” you say, “can I live on a houseboat one day?” (Mummy tells you that this should be possible, unless everyone votes for Brexit, which obviously they won’t do.) So you tuck the thought away in the back of your mind, for a later date.


They are talking about SATs at school. The older kids all did them last year. They got to bring in their teddies and eat sweets after the event. You know that you would do well at SATs. In fact, you could show off how well you can do. You could prove yourself ‘better’ than the other children at school. But your big brother didn’t do SATs. You were all too busy travelling the world. Mummy says it is entirely up to you. She does ask you to think about how it might feel if you didn’t get a good grade; if you were the child who didn’t pass the test. But she doesn’t go on and on about it. You have a look at last year’s test paper about The White Giraffe. You had just read the book at the time that the older children did the test, so it’s not so very difficult. You wonder why there are pages that say ‘Do not write on this page’ in the test. What would happen if you did decide to write on those pages? What would they do then? (You check with mummy and she’s not totally sure.)


Very soon you will start secondary school. You are brave now. You are ALL GROWN UP. You can jump off jetties into the river. Mummy says it is up to you whether or not you take these tests. That they are not about you, but about your school. Everyone says it is not a measure of you, but of your teachers. It is up to you to decide.

“Well,” you say. “If these tests are only designed to test my school, and not me, then I am happy to report that I have totally loved all my primary school teachers. They were all great. There was the one who held a duckling wedding, and the one who had a funny Danish name. There was the one who played with me when I was tiny, and who laughed at all our jokes. And there was the one who made me suddenly love books. Do you remember her, mummy?” (Yes, I say, I do.)

You blink slowly a few times and you take a moment to consider. And then you turn to me and smile. “I don’t think I want my teachers to be judged on what I do in some tests mummy. Maybe we could stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam for SATs week instead?” 

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