Teacher Talk

Ruth Moore is deputy head of Hasland Hall, a comprehensive in Derbyshire, where she teaches English. Between 2000 and 2002, she chaired the National Association for the Teaching of English
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The Independent Online

Do you agree with the findings of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, that pupils lack stamina for finishing books because they are increasingly taught using short extracts?

Do you agree with the findings of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, that pupils lack stamina for finishing books because they are increasingly taught using short extracts?

No. I think children are more discerning readers now than they used to be. English teachers are constantly trying to introduce new texts, but they're restricted by the curriculum, and this report comes from the very body that approves that curriculum. Key Stage Three Shakespeare, for example, is assessed on a number of scenes from particular plays - but while that represents a very small part of the teaching, it gives the appearance of teaching by extract.

What about the charge that children don't read enough different texts?

I think that's quite false. Children read more modern books than they used to. A lot of schools have a high turnover of new fiction, because teachers don't want to teach the same things every year. My personal reading has been nothing but teenage fiction for the last five years. We're ordering new books every year to keep up.

What do you think children should be reading?

AQA, the biggest exam board, has a list of novels pupils can read. That's why some teachers end up doing Lord of the Flies year after year. I don't think there should be prescribed authors, because having a canon of literature narrows our idea of what literature is about. I'd rather have a curriculum based on the skills children are learning than one based on content.

Has English teaching become too structured and damaged children's creativity, as the QCA suggests?

Students need learning structures to encourage creative responses. It's a shame that there's so little opportunity in Key Stage Three and the GCSE curriculum for creative writing, but it's the prescriptions of the QCA that are to blame.

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