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Put down the pens and chat

The pens have gone down but the grades have gone up in a Ceredigion primary school that is encouraging chat in the classroom.

At Ysgol Llangwyryfon, near Aberystwyth, headteacher Sue Rees-Butterworth has moved away from the traditional image of pupils beavering away over books in a bid to give her young charges a wider perspective on the world.

Sue, and her staff of one teacher, a nursery nurse, and two community volunteers, encourage the 41 bilingual children to talk, question and listen rather than write.

"I came to realise the importance of stopping writing and starting talking.

Good oral standards must precede good reading and writing standards," she said.

Initially she feared the response her approach would receive from parents and inspectors. But she came to realise that success could not be measured in ink.

"With the arrival of the national curriculum we were all concerned with the contents of our delivery rather than what the children were getting out of it," she said. "As soon as you have parents evenings, governors' meetings, and visiting inspectors, you feel you need evidence to show them.

"Suddenly I felt I was making these poor children write all the time. But writing is such a laborious task that I decided I did not care what anybody said."

Instead, Sue encouraged group and discussion work.

"Group work ensures that all the children are engaged. If you say 'Don't tell me, chat to your friend', a wonderful buzz goes through the room, with everybody getting involved."


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