Tables 'kill off love of reading'

4th March 2005 at 00:00
League tables are killing off children's love of literature, David Bell, the chief inspector, said this week in a speech to mark World Book Day.

Teachers are using poems as literacy manuals, mining them for their use of adjectives and metaphor so that the beauty of the language is lost, he said.

"If we don't expect pupils to engage passionately with what they read, why should we be surprised that they can't see the point of taking a book home?" he asked.

Mr Bell, a staunch supporter of league tables, said schools need to resist pressure to teach to the tests and promote enjoyment of literature.

Re-establishing the link between reading and pleasure would help pupils to overcome social disadvantage, he said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has evidence to show that access to books and an enthusiasm for reading can add more to a young person's educational progress than their family background.

Pupils who were asked by inspectors about the importance of reading said it helped them do well in tests or get a job.

Few mentioned the pure joy of reading or its role in acquiring knowledge, he said. Many problems in the teaching of reading identified by the Bullock report 30 years ago are still common today, and technological changes have increased the number of reading skills pupils need to learn.

"The problem for schools is that the skills needed to read a novel are vastly different from those required to search on the internet, read and compose a text message or review a number of different reports on a handheld device such as a Blackberry... as Alastair Campbell found to his cost," he said. He called for a National English Centre to promote good practice in the teaching of reading and "put an end to all those unhelpful arguments about what schools should do and what practice works best".

A report by the Centre for Policy Studies says the national literacy hour has failed nearly 1.2 million children and called for pupils to be taught using synthetic phonics.

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