Parents of a 3-Year-Old Slip Through the Net

‘How do you say that about a 2-year-old?’ Amid scandal, parents reckon with the politics of shame

When it comes to their children, parents know full well that their children are not always what they seem. They’re not good at sports. They seem to be quite popular at school. And then they decide to do badly in an exam. It’s not unusual. Many kids slip through the net.

It is, however, uncommon for parents to come into the news when their children slip through the net. That’s what happened to the parents of one 3-year-old boy.

At first, when the news of his failure to complete his GCSEs after four attempts came out in the media, they were not happy. They were upset. They got angry. They felt abandoned. But, as the story went round the world, they said nothing.

They kept their child’s name out of the papers. They stayed in the background. But at some point, with the parents of a toddler having achieved their goal of breaking the silence on a child who had made it all but impossible to report a failure, it is easy to understand why some parents can be justifiably upset when they are told their child is doing badly.

On the day of the story, one parent of a toddler boy called Paul wrote an open letter in The Telegraph. One of the parents of a 3-year-old girl called Eliza, a student at the same school as Paul and his brother, wrote a letter addressed to David Cameron in The Guardian. These parents, who did not want to be named for fear of the shame their children faced if they were punished at school, simply offered to send their children to any school in Britain.

They knew they could not do that. The schools they were thinking of sending their children to only had class sizes that were too big. They were not prepared to risk sending their children to a school that had a class of three or four children for a room with a maximum capacity of 30.

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