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30th May 2008 at 01:00
Why study English? New guidance on teaching it says the central purpose is good test scores

Why study English? New guidance on teaching it says the central purpose is good test scores

The central purpose of teaching English to 11- to 16-year-olds is to improve their exam results, according to new guidance setting out how the subject should be taught.

The move has upset some English teachers, who argue that league tables are being put ahead of improving pupils' learning experiences and love of reading.

The key stage 3 framework for English, which comes into effect in September, says: "The renewed framework . is designed to support schools in raising standards and closing attainment gaps, with the particular aim of increasing the proportion of pupils who make two levels of progress within a key stage and who attain grade C or above at GCSE."

Similar new frameworks have been published for the first time since 2001 for maths, science and ICT. They are not so explicit in stipulating the maximisation of test and exam grades.

Clive Bush, director of the secondary national strategy, which published the framework this month, said it was meant only tohelp teachers. New government targets stipulating that nearly half of pupils must achieve two levels' progress at KS3 in English were published last year.

Mr Bush said: "Teachers are going to be judged on their pupils making two levels' progress at key stage 3. The reality is that we need to help teachers achieve that."

He said that the framework and supporting materials provided a wide range of strategies to help pupils make progress.

But the National Association for the Teaching of English said it feared the guidance will exacerbate the narrowing of the curriculum.

Simon Gibbons, chair of NATE's secondary committee, said: "The rhetoric about the new secondary curriculum and framework is that they offer more opportunities for students and more freedom for teachers.

"The truth is that this is about driving up `standards' in a very narrow sense of that word. It is about improving statistics and school league table positions rather than improving the experience for the individual child."

Although the maths guidance is less explicit about the goal of raising test results, it includes advice on how teachers can target teaching in different aspects of the subject to raise pupils from a level 5 at KS3 to a C at GCSE; from level 6 to grade B; and from level 7 to grade AA-star. It also sets out which aspects of mathematical understanding are crucial to a child achieving a target grade, and which are less important.

Subjects, page 11.

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