Need for rehearsal is message that bears repetition

28th June 1996 at 01:00
A major factor in children's under-achievement in maths and reading has been the teachers' fear of being criticised by Her Majesty's Inspectors for using rote-learning methods.

After the Plowden Report, teachers who gave regular interactive learning sessions for the rehearsal and revision of basic number bonds, tables and phonic skills were criticised for rote-learning. Aural activities which benefit pupils with a poor visual memory, but a good verbal recall, were frowned on as "chalk and talk" and disparaged by advisers.

Many of the pupils who have slowly acquired basic reading, writing and number skills by the end of July will have forgotten those skills by the time they return to school in September. Quite a number of schools which were criticised by the Office for Standards in Education were affected by this problem.

If teachers spend time revising, they are criticised for not challenging their pupils sufficiently. If they don't revise, it is assumed that the pupils have not been taught the basic skills.

The need for rehearsal to consolidate and acquire facility with basic skills should be recognised and recommended by the national curriculum and OFSTED.

J LENNOX BARNES (Retired deputy head) 100 Etherington Road, Hull

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