Creative urge

26th May 2000 at 01:00
CHRIS WOODHEAD, chief inspector of schools, sees no conflict between target setting, testing and the implementation of the literacy and numeracy hours, and the development of children's imagination and creativity. If we want creativity, we must drive up standards of literacy and numeracy. That was was his response last July to media coverage of criticisms by prize-winning authors about the impact of Government education policies.

The criticisms expressed by David Almond and other authors are echoed by teachers and parents. Modernising Britain is about improving basic literacy and numeracy but it is also about encouraging the imagination and creativity needed by successful economies.

Although many teachers think the literacy strategy is making a definite contribution to driving up standards, there is a feeling that the functional, mechanistic aspect of the framework and the literacy hour is resulting in skills-and-drills teaching. Language learning is about so much more than the naming of parts; knowing about similes is only part of it: understanding why writers use similes and being able to use them in your own writing is the point.

Language play is n important part of development. Children need opportunities to investigate, explore and engage in their learning. If English as it is outlined in the revised national curriculum Order is the statutory requirement in schools then we need to go beyond the literacy hour. We need to develop critical literacy and literate imaginations for all children. As Richard Hoggart says: "The simple conception of literacy so much promoted today is inadequate. At its best it is like a bag of fairly simple plumbers' tools, where we need a set of fine surgical instruments." (Literacy is Not Enough,1998.) Now that the literacy hour is established in schools, it is time to look at ways in which these concerns can be addressed. Some of these concerns are shared by the national literacy strategy team judging by the two latest training modules on writing and teaching and learning strategies. These modules emphasise the need for whole-class teaching to be interactive with pupils engaged in active learning, and not an unthinking commitment to exposition as the only form of teaching.


Angel Scott is a lecturer in English education at the University of Durham

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