Rhyme, but no reason;Letter

28th May 1999 at 01:00
SO YOUR average inner-city child, possibly of an ethnic background dissimilar to white Anglo-Saxon, possibly living in an environment where "my garden" is a communal patch of littered concrete, is meant to respond with empathy to poetic images of flower-pots and window ledges, to "the primrose sun and diamond lace", to a historic analysis of 16th century nursery rhymes. Get real!

This year's reading test was a travesty of a standardised test designed to reflect national attainment in reading levels among all our 11-year-olds.

It could have been James Berry or Benjamin Zephaniah, Anne Fine or Grace Nicholls, George Layton or Philip Ridley, Marjorie Blackman or Gareth Owen - creative writing of a more contemporary nature would surely have been a more suitable choice. At least at key stage 3 and GCSE the students have prior knowledge as to the type of literature on which they are to be questioned.

The poem ("Spinner" by Gwen Dunn) was "poetic", I suppose in a Walter de la Mare sort of way, and would have fitted in perfectly with an 11-plus examination circa 1963. But the National Literacy Strategy, which we have been dutifully and keenly following, has encouraged us to focus upon a far wider range of genres, and take into account poetry and story that reflects cultural diversity as well as richness of meaning.

Oh well, we're all right I suppose: our Year 6 live in leafy Bromley, rakes and marigolds are a common sight in the well-mown garden suburbs, and the children so enjoy my nursery rhyme recitations at the end of a hard school day!

Sonia Case, Literacy co-ordinator, Darrick Wood junior school, Lovibonds Avenue, Orpington, Kent

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