English primary schools may have some funny ideas about what four-year olds should be made to sign, but you can’t fault their euphemising skills.

Our eldest has just taken his 7-year old SATs, and the results are categorised as follows:

  • Level 3: Above the expectations of the national curriculum.
  • Level 2: Meeting the expectations of the national curriculum.
  • Level 1: Below the expectations of the national curriculum.

Hmm, but what to do about those who are below even Level 1? You can’t give them an “F”, as that would label them as failures. And “Level 0” would be even worse. So, after what was no doubt extensive brainstorming in the Department for Education, they came up with this:

  • Level W: Working towards level 1.

Good work, there. It remains to be seen whether this will do more to de-stigmatise those with special educational needs, or to stigmatise the letter “W”…

Still, I suppose this represents an advance on when I was two, and the health visitor conducting my two-year check informed my mother that she thought I was “backward”. When my mother told me that story a few years ago, she told it as an amusing anecdote in which the joke was (a) that anyone could have thought I was “backward”, and (b) what the health visitor must have thought when my mother’s reaction was simply to laugh at her (my mother, unlike the health visitor, had clocked that I was simply bored stiff by the whole process).

But when I heard it, I was left reeling at the thought of a health professional actually using the term “backward”.

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One Response to Euphemisms-R-us

  1. D.S.Ketelby says:

    I work in schools for a living – secondary schools, though. Recently, I’ve been working with a boy who spends many of his days isolated from the rest of the school population with just one teacher and sometimes one or two other ‘naughty’ or persistently late pupils. And what do they call the place where this boy spends his time? Why, it’s “the inclusion room,” of course.

    Mind you, I prefer another local school where the different buildings (which are also ‘houses’) are named after European capitals… if only for the laminated notice on the door of one building which reads: “Please wipe your feet on the coconut matting as you enter Prague.” If only the Wehrmacht had had that level of consideration in ’39.

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