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We need an English dialogue

AS heads of English in Herefordshire we are writing to express our concern and annoyance with the introduction of the revised key stage three tests for English. Our concerns centre on the following.

Schools have only just received the sample materials and information about the test format. This is very late and gives us little time to adjust our planning to sufficiently prepare our pupils with confidence.

The revised tests are unwieldy and overly complex. In particular, there appears to be little explanation for the emphasis on the study of two extracts and their comparison in the Shakespeare reading paper.

The lack of choice for the writing assignments is also a concern and the relationship of the second writing task to the Shakespeare play creates an uneasy link, which will not bring out the best in our pupils.

The requirement to respond to three different texts in reading paper 21 seems unnecessary and overly burdensome, particularly for weaker candidates.

It is a great pity that schools were not invited to pilot the tests this year; for English departments to then be consulted about the nature of the tests and for them to be introduced carefully and thoughtfully, having received all training necessary for the beginning of the academic year 2003 at the earliest.

There appears to be a culture of urgency about all recent initiatives with regard to English. We are tired, anxious and frankly fed-up with having to respond immediately to the latest glossy folder that seems to appear almost monthly in our schools.

Since July 2001, we have had the English strategy at KS3, changes to the requirements for GCSE English and English literature and for some, AS-levels and the new A-levels to contend with. This does not include the booster units, guided reading and writing, transition units and literacy across the curriculum work, all of which have largely fallen on English departments to absorb and deliver.

To conclude, we would like to establish a dialogue; to feel that our views and judgments count and that there is understanding and account taken of the enormous changes that we have had to deal with.

Sallie Peacock

Queen Elizabeth high, Bromyard

James McNallie

Aylestone school, Hereford

Tim Buckle

Bishop of Hereford's Bluecoat school

Frances Field

Lady Hawkins school, Kington

Robert Hughes

Literacy consultant

Caroline Preston

Wigmore high school, Leominster

Phillip Preston

Weobley high school, Weobley

David Carter

Haywood high school, Hereford

Alison Hewith

Fairfield high school, Peterchurch

Ben Abbott

John Kyrle high school, Ross-on-Wye

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