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Romeo and Juliet essay plans online

Britain's largest local authority is providing essay plans that tell pupils what to write for GCSE English coursework.

On its website, Kent offers detailed guidance on what pupils should include in suggested essays on Shakespeare and even for creative writing coursework.

The advice includes an outline of how a suggested essay on Act 3, Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet should look, broken down into six headings. Teenagers are then provided with a list of 22 potential sentence starters, including "Juliet's duologue with her mother is full of dramatic irony, such as I"

and "Capulet flies into a rage, he throws insults at Juliet, such as I".

Another section on the site relates to a suggested "original writing" piece for the AQA exam board. The site suggests using an article from The Guardian in 2002 - a poet's first-person account of surviving the Nagasaki bomb - as inspiration for pupils' own accounts of how it might have felt.

They are given an essay plan or writing frame, broken down into five headings, and offered 16 bullet points on what to include.

Some schools are offering even more detailed guidance. The Ashcombe school in Dorking, Surrey, provides essay plans for the same Romeo and Juliet scene. The core of the essay is broken down into eight paragraph headings, each of which has a suggested opening phrase and a list of concepts pupils should consider.

Even the Government's secondary national strategy advises teachers to give pupils "lead-in sentences to help (them) get started" and "a checklist of points and techniques that need to be covered in coursework for a certain level of marks to be obtained".

The use of writing frames - or "scaffolding" - has been condemned in several exam boards' annual reports. But there are no clear rules against it.

David Blow, Ashcombe's head, defended his school's actions. "We will always follow whatever guidelines are given," he said.

A Kent county council spokesman said its material had not been queried by any board and that the website recommended that schools told exam boards what help their pupils had been given.

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