Tell it like it is

16th January 2004 at 00:00
TEACHING SECONDARY ENGLISH. By Mark Pike. Paul Chapman, pound;60

Mark Pike is a lecturer in English education and head of the PGCE course at Leeds University, and he nails his colours to the mast in the first chapter. There, via references ranging from the philosopher Heidegger to the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, he argues for the supremacy of the "picture" over the "diagram", and promises to meet the challenge of implementing the Framework for Teaching English in a way that starts with the individual.

What this book does extremely well is to describe the way things are in terms of the requirements of the Framework, the curriculum and the new specifications - and for this reason it is likely to be most useful to those contemplating English teaching in the maintained sector from outside - returnees, aspiring NQTs or those in the independent sector.

For anybody already within the state system, however, large chunks of it will seem as helpful as a road map in a traffic jam. The author does try to indicate how these curricular blueprints might be realised in an exciting, student-centred way, but it somehow fails to convince.

Dr Pike's 11-letter mnemonic for ensuring each lesson has been properly planned is offered apparently without irony and his chapter on implementing integrated schemes of work at GCSE reads more like the formulaic pronouncements of an examination board grandee. Once at KS5, he is more convincing - his suggested approach to presenting John Donne to A-level students is quite inspirational, and underlined for me what this book might have been had its author felt less constrained by his position. As it stands, he says little to challenge the status quo or to acknowledge the huge strains that the current counsel of perfection places on committed English teachers, and this is a regrettable omission.

Iain MacDonald teaches English at Truro School and is author of The Wildword Guide to Effective, Low-stress English

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