Boys happy to write as Helena;Letter

12th June 1998 at 01:00
THE APPARENT discomfort felt when writing in the role of Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream by some boys (TES, May 22) is not typical of boys' reactions to this year's Shakespeare tests.

Similar questions have featured in previous years, requiring pupils to write in the roles of Juliet or Peter Quince, for example. No gender bias has been evident in the quality of pupils' answers.

This is just the sort of issue which our extensive pre-testing of questions, in different schools and with boys and girls across the ability range, is designed to investigate. The pre-tests showed that boys were as capable and ready as girls to write as Helena. This was backed up by surveys of pupils' opinions of the questions. Boys did not identify writing in the role of Helena as any sort of barrier. Effective English teaching engenders in both boys and girls a willingness and ability to understand both female and male characters.

Robert Bailey

Principal officer, key stage 3

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, London W11

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