Cameron’s bizarre response at PMQs reveals how out of touch he is with the real Britain

Emily Apple

David Cameron was challenged at Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) to answer some of the grammar questions 11-year-olds are supposed to answer for their SATs.

Green MP Caroline Lucas asked the Prime Minister if he could “explain what the past progressive tense is”, to “differentiate between a subordinating conjunctive and a coordinating conjunctive,” and to “set out his definition of a modal verb”.

A clearly unprepared Cameron was unable to answer and claimed this was because:

The whole point of these changes is to make sure our children are better educated than we are.

This response would not have been quite as outrageous and bizarre if Cameron hadn’t attended one of the most elite schools in the country – Eton. Previous to this, Cameron went to the exclusive Heatherdown Prep where it is claimed he was in the elite form for the brightest pupils.

According to Viscount Goschen, who was at Heatherdown with Cameron, it was a “charming little school” with “lovely grounds with a miniature steam railway we could ride, and where little boys in blue suits and Wellington boots spent a lot of time building dens in the woods.” Furthermore, there were three separate toilets provided for sports days at the school – ladies, men and…chauffeurs.

So, just like the experience of education that most people in the country have then? Is Cameron claiming that he was ill served by his expensive education which led to Oxbridge and becoming Prime Minister? Would he have been a better Prime Minister if he’d studied archaic grammatical terms? How can he even know what education was like for the majority of the population when he was cushioned in this elite bubble?

You could be forgiven for thinking Cameron should have been better prepared given this came a day after schools minister, Nick Gibbs, failed to correctly answer a similar grammatical question posed to him in a radio interview. In a similar vein Gibbs claimed that:

This isn’t about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children – unlike me incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school – we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly.

This statement is more pointless posturing with no logical backbone. If, as minister of schools, Gibbs really feels that his lack of grammatical education has impacted his academic or professional life (he has a law degree from Durham), then surely he should resign and go back to school himself.

SATs have come under increasing pressure, both because of the new testing of 6 and 7-year-olds, and the type of questions being asked of 10 and 11-year-olds.  As Caroline Lucas pointed out in a series of tweets:

This view is backed by parents and teachers. Cameron, as he stated in PMQs, may be “delighted” his children are taking their SATs, but he is in a minority. This column from a secret teacher sums it up:

Apart from lesson objectives, all these children are really being taught is that school is a chore and a burden. Because of their Sats, these children are anxious and unhappy, rather than excited or inspired.

Teaching children of any age should be about inspiration and excitement – it should be about thinking, questioning and thirst for knowledge. It also needs to be about having fun and learning through play. Anyone cynically minded would think the current education system is more about producing children who can follow orders and tick the right boxes rather than discovering inquisitiveness and creativity.

As Tuesday’s “Kids Strike” showed, there are options for parents – and for the sake of the next generation we need to keep up this pressure and show we will not cooperate with a school system which is hurting our children.

Get involved!

– Sign the petition against primary age testing.

– Contact your local MP to let them know your views.

Featured image via Wikimedia

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