Reading only for exams

24th November 2006 at 00:00
We are squeezing the life out of our most important subjects by forcing constant literacy tests on pupils, according to a polemical pamphlet published by the English Association. It will be released in December to mark the association's centenary. The pamphlet argues that British pupils, despite performing well, are among the least interested in reading in the world.

"Back in 1922 George Sampson complained that the fledgling subject of English was solely seen as something that could be examined, tested, marked," said Geoff Martin, an association fellow. "That obsession with testing remains anenduring characteristic of English today. It has led to a narrowing of the curriculum and an apparent loss of confidence by teachers in how to teach the subject in a way that ignites youngsters' enthusiasm."

The association contends that in an era of global competition and an internet economy, a passion for English is needed now more than ever. "It is not just another of those whinge-fests," said Mr Martin. "It's a plea to scrap micro-control and reignite the core of creativity."

* 'One hundred years of English teaching: the problems that won't go away', can be obtained from the English Association on 0116 252 3982; email

A paean to prose and poetry, page 27

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