Laureate says primary school tests kill joy of books

An uninspiring regime of testing and targets in primary schools is damaging education and turning a generation of children off reading, Britain's laureate for children told Reuters.

Michael Rosen is an enthusiastic exponent of reading to children of all ages, but the laureate said the government's obsession with measuring educational success using standardised tests known as SATs and league tables for schools has left little room for meaningful engagement with books.

"What's happened since they invented SATs...is they've taken literature out of the curriculum and in its place put worksheets which don't look at whole books, they just look at passages," Rosen said.

SATs are tests taken by 7 and 11 year olds in Britain based on a government-approved national curriculum. They are used to help calculate a school's performance and its ranking in published league tables.

Speaking over lunch at a cafe near London's South Bank after recording a literature programme for BBC radio at the recreated Shakespeare's Globe theatre, Rosen said SATs tests have sharply narrowed horizons in the classroom.

"It has been disastrous because instead of kids finding out why books are fun and enjoyable and interesting, instead they've just had these little slabs of text thrown at them, and the questions are the most boring, irrelevant questions."

SATs for 14-year olds were scrapped last year and Rosen thinks that a threat from the teaching unions to refuse to administer the tests, may succeed in putting the final nail in the coffin of the whole system.

Rosen said the government believes that it can measure the outcome of every learning experience.

"The whole point about literature is that it doesn't have learning outcomes. It has feelings, it has weighings-up, it has wonderings. This is why it's so important and powerful, and they haven't clocked it," he said.

HECTIC SCHEDULE

Rosen, a hugely engaging and hilarious performer of poetry, who has written or edited well over 100 books, has had an even more hectic schedule than usual during his two-year stint as laureate which ends next month.

As laureate he has performed in front of well over 34,000 children and more than 8,500 teachers, librarians and student teachers, the Booktrust charity has calculated.

In between touring schools, broadcasting for the BBC and lecturing at London's Birkbeck University, Rosen has also been busy writing.

Soon due for release are "Bear Flies High," an anthology entitled "The A-Z of Poetry" and a fiction book called "I'm Number One" about a bullying robot. He is also working on a YouTube-style poetry website for schools.

Then there's an exhibition at the British Library entitled "Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat!" celebrating 400 years of poetry for children running until June 28, which Rosen curated. There is also the Roald Dahl funny prize established to recognise the best humorous books for children.

Having young children, an eight-year old daughter and four-year old son (as well as three older children and two step children), has provided Rosen with plenty of material for new books and poems.



MOTHER'S MILK

It was the work of Rosen's parents' as high-profile education reformers in the 1960-70s that helped foster a love of poetry and fiction.

"There were concepts to do with learning through, talk and discussion, discovery and investigation that I got almost literally with my mother's milk," he said.

But it was their roots in the Jewish east end of London that Rosen ascribes to his family's literary talents.

Both came from very poor Jewish backgrounds in the east end working in the garment and boot trade.

He said an upbringing steeped in east European and then east end London's Jewish life was immensely rich in linguistic diversity and cultural engagement.

"Being taken to the Yiddish speaking theatre. All that is so linguistically powerful," Rosen said.

"You've got a different script, a different language, another mother tongue from the country of origin, might be Polish, might be Russian, so you've got all this stuff going on."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star