How I became a Dementor

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Poet laureate Andrew Motion is quite right to suggest that many English lessons are boring ("Poet laureate castigates English", TES, March 17).

However, he is wrong blame schools for choosing the wrong texts or authors to study. It would be wonderful if we had any real choice.

When I sit down with my department at the start of the year, the books most likely to inspire our pupils are not usually at the forefront of our minds.

Particularly at key stage 4, we are far too preoccupied with how to fulfil a whole raft of silly requirements and assessment objectives. The result of this is that, far too often, it is "AO1", "AO3" and "social and cultural context" that rings in my pupils' ears rather than the great life-changing pearls of wisdom that I should be trying to communicate.

This, I'm afraid, is the inevitable and depressing consequence of the current obsession with assessment and accountability that English teachers and, more importantly, their pupils have to endure.

The whole English curriculum at key stages 3 and 4 needs a radical overhaul. It needs to be far more flexible and we need seriously to consider what it is that we are trying to achieve. The transmission of skills is important but then so is engagement, excitement and enthusiasm.

As I trawl through the board's "pre-released material" with Year 11 ("Consider, class, the implications of the word 'material' when applied to literature"), it would be nice to feel like a great inspiration to my pupils rather than one of Harry Potter's Dementors.

Alex Smith

8 Foord Close

Dartford, Kent

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