Barber expects too much of teachers

11th December 1998 at 00:00
Only those who have time to exploit their close reading skills will fully appreciate Professor Michael Barber's article "Great expectations for literate future" (TES, November 27). The overworked teachers to whom I have spoken might conclude from a hasty skimming of the piece that their experiences are, unfortunately, local blips in an otherwise untroubled landscape.

His opening paragraphs are littered with nouns such as "skills, expectations, focus, fun" reinforced by adjectives such as "excellent and positive". One needs to persevere to discover that there is much more to the "problems", which are mentioned only to be dismissed.

The second half of the article deals with "major challenges" facing teachers - all-too familiar territory to those who have been teaching for the past 10 years. As I pointed out in a letter last year, whatever initiative has been introduced in whatever phase, it is teachers who have had to labour to make it work.

So yet again we get the promise of "further training", the assurance of "incentive support" and the confirmation that "flexibility is permitted and common sense and professional judgment essential" - all implicit acknowledgement of an "innovation" making unreasonable demands on teachers.

So alarmed are we by the anecdotal accounts available so far that we have launched a nationwide survey of our primary teachers, "gathering evidence of the impact of the literacy strategy in primary schools". Perhaps, when we have the firm evidence, Professor Barber will find time to talk to our members to compare their experiences with his.

John Beattie. President. Association of Teachersand Lecturers. London WC2

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