Impatience of politicians costs dear at the chalkface

3rd October 1997 at 01:00
Sir Ron Dearing's version of the national curriculum was introduced in 1995 and with it came the promise of five years without change, a respite welcomed by primary teachers after the large-scale upheaval of the previous six years.

After a little more than two years, primary teachers are once again being asked to step up a gear to assist the Government in its drive to raise standards of literacy and numeracy when teachers are already committed to this task, using their many skills and professional artistry to contribute to the nation's educational well-being.

We are being told that literacy hours will be introduced in September 1998 following the training of headteachers, governors and schools' literacy co-ordinators in the summer.

The hypothesis behind this experiment appears to be that didactic teaching methods will improve standards. However, no one knows whether we shall see the dramatic improvement that it is assumed will take place.

My school colleagues and I, like thousands of others around the country, have devoted many hours to developing schemes of work and partnerships with parents. Through our professional associations we have highlighted the workload issues. Health and morale are at a low ebb. Is it fair that legislation should once again propel us at breakneck speed into adopting new strategies for teaching basic skills?

I am disappointed that David Blunkett's call for partnership and dialogue with the professionals at the chalkface has been forgotten after such a short time in office. While accepting the new Government's urgency to make progress, I condemn the arrogance of those in power, and their advisers, who perceive that their knowledge and understanding of classroom practice is superior to those who teach.

Given time, we can help youngsters to develop their literacy and numeracy skills. Putting pressure on us, the children and their parents is not a long-term solution, a lesson which the former government discovered to its cost.

STELLA DARKE

Yenton 41 Wonford Street Exeter

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