Rebellion over Shakespeare

1st December 2006 at 00:00
Plans to consult English teachers over the format of Shakespeare tests for 14-year-olds backfired when their representatives said they would campaign for the tests'

abolition.

In September, the National Association for the Teaching of English wrote to The TES to warn that the assessments were "reductive" and teachers should not take part in consultations.

"One violently opposed to the death penalty would hardly debate the best method of execution," wrote Simon Gibbons, chair of its 9 to 14 committee.

Bravely, the National Assessment Agency then wrote to the association, telling it the test format would not change and asking it which of six plays, including As You Like It, Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet, pupils should be tested on from 2009.

The teachers' body replied that it was not against the teaching, or the testing, of Shakespeare. But, they said, today's tests were wrong. Their "impoverished" vision of literary study was turning away pupils from the Bard, while the use of Shakespearean extracts to test children's reading ability was "restrictive and inappropriate".

The reply added: "Not only will we not ask our members to participate in your so-called consultation, the outcomes of which are predetermined in ways we cannot support, but we will actively campaign for the abolition of current testing,"

* warwick.mansell@tes.co.uk

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