Teaching beheaded by targets

19th November 2004 at 00:00
The timetable is full. We have juggled our breaktimes and tweaked lunchtimes, moved and reduced assembly until there is not a spare ounce of flesh. And yet we must fit in more.

"Teach a foreign language, take guided reading out of the literacy hour and put it somewhere else, don't neglect PE and games. What about citizenship?"

We have recently been advised to make more time available for literacy.

Better Sats results are a priority. We were bemused as to how a spare moment might be found. The advice, however, was cross-curricular.

It was pointed out that history and geography provide ample opportunities to cover non-narrative literacy objectives. Through writing reports, accounts, newspaper articles, guide books, interviews, adverts and persuasive texts of all kinds we could double our coverage.

And so we begin to craft lessons for Henry VIII's interview with Sky TV, the shockhorror tabloid headlines of "bloody beheadings", a guide to Tudor London for Latin tourists, and speeches assenting or dissenting from the view that Henry VIII was a good king. We have found a way of ticking off those literacy objectives without squeezing the humanities any further.

There is just one problem. What are we actually teaching in these lessons? Is it history when we promote techniques of report writing, or geography if we write postcards from the Indus Valley? What do we tell the children the lessons are for? To practise sentences or rock formation?

During my own teaching practice I was reprimanded for producing worksheets that tested comprehension rather than an understanding of cause and effect.

Does that no longer hold true?

I suspect the answer is more sinister. There is an insurrection brewing as literacy and numeracy targets now reign more powerfully than Henry VIII ever did.

Suzanne Brown is head of Queen's CE Junior School, Nuneaton, Warwickshire.Feeling aggrieved? Write us a 400-word Sounding Off. Send it to susan.young@tes.co.uk

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