Following the announcement that the government is introducing 15 hours of free early education for 240,000 of the poorest two-year-olds in the country, the mechanism for selecting those children has been launched. Dubbed the ‘Two-Plus’, the exam is designed to determine those most in need of being plucked from their families and forced into full-time education before they’re ready for it. Only those who fail the test with dreadful marks will qualify for the free education.
Candidates face questions on a range of subjects including “Can you bang these two bits of primary-coloured plastic together?”, “Do you need a wee-wee?” and “Can you paint me a picture of Michael Gove?” The fail mark is expected to be fairly low although the Department of Education reserves the right to adjust it after the results have been announced if there is criticism that the exam was too difficult.
The introduction of the Two-Plus faces criticism from several organisations, however. Educationalists question the benefit of imposing formal teaching on very young children while several childcare charities have said that education is secondary to a child’s well-being at that age. But the biggest threat to the success of the Two-Plus could come from the middle classes. The competition for free education places is likely to be so fierce that families could deliberately move into deprived areas in order to be considered. There is even an on-line guide for parents on how to fail the Two-Plus by coaching toddlers to eat Play-Doh, throw toy cars and say they hate Mozart.
Department of Education spokeswoman Lady Olivia Bentley was dismissive of the criticism, pointing out that the Two-Plus is not just a one-off test. “It’s all about turning failure into success so we will be reviewing the situation regularly and offering re-sits to children where it’s appropriate to do so,” she said. “It’s important for these most vulnerable and pitiful children to learn that ‘if at first you don’t fail miserably, try try and try again.’”