Plain talk is just too banal for words

27th June 2003 at 01:00
GUESS what a teacher's job is? Yes: it is making sure their pupils succeed.

And what is a government official's job? It is making sure that teachers are aware of this blindingly obvious fact.

Officials from the Department for Education and Skills' standards unit have been beavering away to produce a paper which lays down what teaching and learning are all about.

After weeks of deliberation, they have come up with the remarkable conclusion that teachers should ensure that every learner succeeds, that they should set high expectations for their pupils and that they should make learning enjoyable and challenging. The critics are scathing.

Professor Ted Wragg, of Exeter university, said: "These are platitudes and self-evident banalities. If you did the same thing for the medical profession, it would say GPs should try not to kill patients but cure them.

Why say it? What's the point?

"It is ludicrous that people are paid to sit in offices and write this stuff."

Sheila Dainton, education policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "Teachers find these principles limiting and banal.

"They don't resonate with teachers whose first principle would be to halt the interference of government in their day-to-day work."

But there is still hope, John Lister, spokesman for the Plain English Campaign, said: "The principle of plain English is to ensure people can understand what you are talking about.

"Sometimes jargon is used because there is a fear of stating the obvious.

"On the up side, the DfES hasn't tried to dress it up. We would congratulate it on its style and leave the education experts to decide on the worth of the content."

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