Woodhead's partner in morale-boosting video

11th July 1997 at 01:00
You've read the policy; now see the movie. Chief inspector Chris Woodhead said this week that the methods promoted in two videos launched this week would boost morale among primary teachers.

They demonstrate the use of direct teaching methods which engage the whole class at once in reading and arithmetic. "You're looking at something that will make teachers' lives easier," Mr Woodhead said. His comments, made at the launch of the Office for Standards in Education videos, were supported by teachers and heads featured in them.

Three schools feature in the literacy video, Literacy Matters, and three in Teachers Count, the maths film. Literacy Matters begins with a look at phonics teaching at Kobi Nazrul primary, Tower Hamlets, whose head, Ruth Miskin, is the partner of Chris Woodhead and an adviser to the National Literacy Project.

The east London school's inclusion is bound to raise eyebrows. "This is the new First Family of the education service," said Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

But Melanie Irwin, a teacher at Kobi Nazrul, said: "If you're getting results you don't feel haggard and worn. It's satisfying," Other teachers in the videos spoke of being freed from the "panic" of trying to hear 30 children read individually by working with the whole class and with groups organised by ability. Fun was very much part of the equation, too, they stressed.

"It's dangerous the way the myth of the demoralised profession is promoted, " said Mr Woodhead.

The videos show in detail how the literacy and numeracy hours, advocated by the present Government, work: teachers engage children in whole-class and group sessions on the structure of language and the development of mental calculation methods.

Kate Frood, headteacher of Kentish Town CE primary school in London, said the methods she used required hard work. "It's much easier to get them doing those crappy old workbooks,"she said.

Mr Woodhead said the videos "challenge current expectations". He is now waiting for the Government's plans for wider dissemination of the strategies developed by the National Literacy and Numeracy Projects, which use the literacy and numeracy hours.

Mr Woodhead insisted: "These are not prescriptive videos. Nobody is saying this is how it must be done. But by showing what works, I believe we are offering primary teachers valuable guidance on how to achieve high standards. "

Despite his assurances, some teachers may see the videos as a further attempt by the Government to preach how to teach.

Literacy Matters (video and workbook for key stage 1) and Teachers Count (key stages 1 and 2) cost Pounds 11.75 each from CFL Vision, PO Box 35, Wetherby, LS23 7EX. Tel: 01937 541010; fax: 01937 541083

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