False ideal in three parts

2nd January 2004 at 00:00
I am writing to express my concern at, and my opposition to, a doctrine which is doing great damage to education in this country, and to the welfare of its teaching force. The humble lesson plan has never stirred up so much controversy in the 28 years I have been teaching, but the use being made of it now threatens to become a monster.

From the Department for Education and Skills, the Office for Standards in Education, and think-tanks, comes the idea that the only truly successful and effective lesson format is the three-part lesson.

This strait-jacket for creativity is bad enough, but it is divided into time-slots so that you deliver measured "episodes" of learning in accordance with minutes elapsed. A lesson, in order to be successful, must consist of a starter, a main activity and a plenary. It has objectives, which must be linked to literacy, numeracy and ICT. It must also differentiate for the individual needs of all pupils - the gifted and those with special needs.

Teams of people are showing us how to plan this way - are there enough hours in the day?

This idea is a sophistry, and a very dangerous one. Firstly, it ignores other and much more pressing issues which need to be addressed in education such as investment in more up-to-date methods of actually delivering learning, poor discipline and how to achieve better lesson outcomes. It seems not to have occurred to anybody that one can have the most perfect lesson plan yet not be able to deliver it.

Secondly, the-plan-as-panacea is assuming such proportions that it is turning into a set of criteria with which to beat the teaching profession.

The idea seems to be that if you fail to deliver your plan then it's your fault - you should have planned better. If literacy is low, numeracy woeful and ICT scanty then it is not becuase of poor strategy or misplaced investment, but because teachers are not doing their jobs properly.

This is an orthodoxy which deserves heretics. Perfectly good teachers are being made to feel that failure to deliver on impossile targets is their fault - and they flock to leave the profession.

JG Little With E Smith, G Buckett, N Gerrett, D Harding, P Wear, A Hulm, S White, P Coode, S Outlaw Summerlees Cottage Middle Quarter High Halden Kent

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