Anger over 'distorted' report

15th December 2006 at 00:00
I am quoted in your December 1 issue ("The A to Z of English") as lamenting school leavers' propensity for lazy "information harvesting" - in an article notable for its own curious selection and omission.

Your report on the Stirling event distorts both intention and reality of the day's discussions.

Far from being a harangue by vindictive academics, blaming teachers for "slipping standards", the conference was a constructive dialogue on the institutional factors that make the transition from studying English at school and university a challenge for teachers and their students.

The focus was on what university English departments should be doing in response to "assessment-led" student attitudes, for example, rather than finding fault with teachers who are expected to foster learner autonomy within a secondary system obsessed by measuring outcomes.

I am sure my academic colleagues left the event with a renewed appreciation of the pressures under which secondary English teachers work.

That you cite me as bemoaning "a litany of problems" illustrates both a deficit of journalistic accuracy and the potential for the press to reinforce "us and them" attitudes in the facile pursuit of controversy.

The editor replies: Dr Hames implies that academics and teachers were equally represented at this event. In fact, few teachers attended and only one gave a presentation.

The TESS attempted unsuccessfully to contact this presenter after the event, to address the points made by academics. Comment was therefore sought from another member of the teaching profession.

Scott Hames

University of Stirling (on behalf of the conference organisers, Dr Bethan Benwell and Dr Dale Townshend)

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