What the 'elitists' say

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
The Government says liberals who criticise its focus on tests and targets are betraying working-class children

Times columnist Libby Purves, who believes Mr Blunkett would describe her as a wet liberal, said: "Where are these liberals who push their own children and write off those from different backgrounds? I have never met them. But I have met plenty of Conservatives who do.

"Mr Blunkett is trying to create a battle where there should not be one. For an Education Secretary who is educated and intelligent to get involved in the rubbish he was spouting this week is just heartbreaking."

Rick Rogers, author of a report on the state of the arts in teacher training for the Royal Society of Arts, said: "The argument has been polarised. The literacy hour does not always stifle creativity.

"But when people criticise the Government, it seems to be saying they just want to go back to the Sixties. That is just candyfloss on the argument, and does not address the real issues." He said the key to encouraging creativity was to ensure good teachers had enough arts training and experience.

Dr Steve Farrow, co-author of the Durham University study on homework which Mr Blunkett attacked, said: "Mr Blunkett said there are academics in Durham advising primary schools to set homework once a month.

"That is emphatically not what we are doing.

"We matched the frequency with which children reported doing homework with their attainment in SAT-type tests.

"Our findings raise difficult questions for the Government, but that does not mean we should not have asked them."

David Almond, teacher-turned-author who won the Carnegie Medal for his children's book Skellig, said: "Get kids into school fast. Get them assessed while they are in nappies. Get them going in literary clubs, numeracy clubs , lunchtime learning clubs, holiday learning clubs.

"Holidays? Let's cut them. School day? Let's lengthen it. Homework? One hour? No, let's make it two. Let's see children and teachers, work, work, work."

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