'You go in empty and come out bursting with ideas'

28th February 1997 at 00:00
The sentiments of a pupil who attended a Better English Campaign poetry event are echoed by Trevor McDonald (above) as he welcomes teachers to this year's Education Show which he opens at the NEC on March 6

Where can you find everything from books to percussion instruments, from computers to fountain pens, from CD-Roms to seminars by leading educationists? Most teachers will know immediately that I am talking about the Education Show. As a relative newcomer to the world of education, I found the sheer variety of things to see and hear at the show came as a revelation. I can understand why so many teachers take an in-service training day to visit it. I feel honoured that The TES has asked me to open this year's show at the National Exhibition Centre and I am looking forward to a little Inset of my own when I see what goes on there.

In just over a year as chairman of the Better English Campaign, I have come to realise just how much young people rely on the imagination and ingenuity of their teachers to gain the practical skills they need to succeed in the increasingly competitive world of work and, more generally, to enable them to enjoy fulfilling lives.

The Better English Campaign aims to make young people aware of the importance of effective spoken and written English for making the most of their opportunities. This does not mean speaking BBC - or even ITN - English. We are not trying to get rid of local dialects. But young people also need to be able to use the national and global language of standard English - which can be spoken in any accent. The English language is one of the most potent weapons young people have at their disposal. We can all help them to enjoy it and use it well.

Teachers are good at finding imaginative ways for young people to apply the language skills they learn in the classroom. As the popularity of the Education Show demonstrates, it is useful and encouraging for teachers to be able to draw on support and ideas from many sources. We have been delighted to be able to channel wide-ranging support of this sort through the campaign's activities. Some of our supporters, including the National Association for the Teaching of English, the Basic Skills Agency, Collins, Penguin Books and, of course, The TES itself, are represented at the show.

At the moment, we are working with careers advisory organisations, education-business partnerships and companies to develop a scheme called Better English, Better Job, to help employers give young people experience of mock interviews and other aspects of applying for jobs. With CSV Media, the media arm of Community Service Volunteers, we shall be running local media campaigns promoting the importance of communication skills and encouraging people to investigate local courses.

We are also working with the Poetry Society and others to raise the profile of activities that enable young people to share with writers their creativity and enthusiasm for language. Indeed, the day before the Education Show, I shall be visiting a campaign event in which poets will be exploring the theme "Say What you Mean" with pupils from Lambeth and Southwark in south London.

The campaign ran two poetry events last July, one at the Poetry Society's Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden - which The TES helped us with - and one at the Northern Poetry Library in Morpeth, Northumberland. It struck me while writing this article that both these events showed clearly how one day can make a real difference to someone. At Morpeth, many young people found new ways of expressing themselves - two boys were observed spontaneously reading their own poetry to one other, and one group had the memorable experience of producing an astonishingly evocative film poem. Pupils leaving London to return to their homes all over the country left comments about the day. One said it was "like a fresh look and a fresh listen", another that "you go in empty and come out bursting with ideas". I am sure that everyone who visits the Education Show will be echoing these sentiments.

* Trevor McDonald is presenter of ITN's News at Ten and chairman of the Better English Campaign. He will present the prizes for the TES Books and Resources Awards after opening the Education Show on March 6

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today