Lady's not for bouncing;Letter

26th February 1999 at 00:00
SO HELEN LIDDELL now knows more about English teachers' views than we do. Although a paltry minority feel ready to offer the new courses next year, she still blindly refuses to see the enormous problems created by the utter incompetence of those who have written Higher Still English - the Higher Still Development Unit .

Despite the continuing inadequacy of materials, some departments think they can offer the courses next year. Yet there has been next to nothing delivered on the Intermediate level 1, where the need is most pressing, and what has been is unrealistically difficult for students at this level.

The promised listening tape is apparently held up because of "copyright difficulties", there is only one example at each level of the textual analysis task, and student exemplars so far received, far from helping us understand assessment, exacerbate the confusion. No English department can possibly be ready to deliver. You cannot deliver what has not been seen, understood, accepted and approved.

Has Mrs Liddell ever spoken to a real English teacher to find out what our concerns are? She should be asking herself, how is it that the HSDU has so spectacularly lost touch with the people who really know how to teach English?

The Scottish Association of Teachers of Language and Literature intends to re-examine fundamental practices in the teaching of English: studentteacher ratios and the roles of internal and external assessment. But in the short term what most English teachers want is a set of courses that are universally approved, that are student and teacher-friendly and that meet the needs of young people today.

Mrs Liddell tells us she does not want to be "bounced into changes . . . based on the activities of a very small number of people". If every English teacher would write to her, as I have, to dispel her minority jibe, it would be very interesting to see whether she did indeed have the rubbery flexibility to get rid of the HSDU, even send them back to the classroom, appoint some sensible practitioners, and, at a fraction of the present cost, deliver what we all need.

Eddie Poyner Bonnington Avenue Lanark

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