You can rewrite rules for teaching English

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
Let us pity the poor tabloid writers. They are obliged to oversimplify something as complex as reading, reducing it to a battle between different ways of teaching infants to decode. While we're at it, we should feel sorry for a number of politicians, as well. Go on, stretch your imaginations.

Whatever the papers, prominent MPs or ministers say, and however political the motivation to commission it at election time, Jim Rose's interim report on the teaching of reading, published today, is likely to contain common sense.

Unlike some other experts, the former chief primary HMI does not believe in magic bullets, and has already told schools through the pages of The TES to look for the magic within themselves. They know what their pupils need, and should not be waiting for people like him to sprinkle solutions like fairy dust.

Let us hope that the government employees and advisers who are rewriting the primary literacy framework have such an open view of teachers. Will they feel under pressure to make the strategy more prescriptive? Don't just sit and wait to find out. Tell them what you want. In his article below, writer and literacy consultant Pie Corbett is urging you not to keep your knowledge and experience to yourselves, but to share it with the quangocrats.

Tell us how you want the national literacy framework to change, too, at, and share your thinking with other teachers.

Meanwhile, speaking of both quangocrats and imaginations in the same breath, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority also understands that literacy is not as easy as abc. It is trying to tackle the full complexity of teaching English head on, with its English 21 project.

The latest publication in this non-prescriptive exploration of the future of the language, literature and their pedagogy is Taking English Forward, a response to the English 21 consultation results, which highlights the four Cs which emerged: competence, creativity, cultural understanding and critical skills. Respondents wanted more weight given to "the teaching of speaking and listening in its own right", and to creativity and imagination.

While it is easy to make jokes about the creativity ticklist which has been compiled (How to be creative: follow these rules...), the idea that you can teach children to be more creative is heartening. We tend to believe that creativity is a fixed attribute, like height or eye colour. It's also the way that we think about intelligence, but the Japanese, for instance, believe that you can teach children to be smarter.

The QCA suggests that children can develop their creative use of English in school in a number of ways. These include acting 'counter to the words", for instance by delivering humourous material tragically; experimenting with new poetic forms and writing alternative endings to their work and that of others.

A gaggle of other organisations has pledged initiatives to take English forward. Booktrust, for instance, plans to work with a range of literature organisations to strengthen links between schools and writers.


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