Pupils face tests on Shakespeare and spelling at 14

ALL 14-year-olds are to be tested on a Shakespeare play and English grammar in national curriculum tests next year, John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday.

Mr Patten showed that his approach to the English curriculum would be traditionalist by describing the tests, which will also include an unseen comprehension and reading, as 'real education'.

The Government is looking at ways of rewriting the national curriculum for English to give more emphasis to grammar and spelling and to make teachers use more traditional methods.

Last month, Mr Patten called on schools to pay more attention to grammar and spelling and accused some English teachers of leading children 'up an educational blind alley'.

Pupils will be asked questions on a standard anthology of short stories, poems and extracts from literature, which they will study before the exam. Mr Patten said: 'Many excellent teachers already highlight these areas, and I am grateful to them, but I want these themes to become universal.'

The Government wants to change the English tests, which were tried in some schools last month, and it is inviting fresh tenders for next summer's tests.

Mr Patten, who described maths and science pilot tests for 14-year-olds held in the first week of June as a success, said yesterday that changes in English were needed 'to secure rigour and a proper test of the breadth and depth of pupils' reading'.

The tests will contain questions on a set Shakespeare play and on a collection of poems and extracts to reflect the breadth required by the national curriculum. There will be tests of basic reading skills, including grammar and vocabulary, comprehension and imaginative writing.

Critics of English teaching in schools, including the Prince of Wales, have complained about the disappearance of Shakespeare from some GCSE syllabuses.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'It's all very well Patten pontificating about teaching Shakespeare to everyone. I suggest he should go and try and teach Shakespeare to some of our budding football hooligans.'

On spelling, he said: 'If you can get to be vice-president of the United States without knowing how to spell potato, surely spelling can't be that important.'

Sheila Dainton, assistant secretary of the Assistant Masters' and Mistresses' Association, said: 'Shakespeare is fine. It is already studied in many secondary schools. As for poems and short stories, whatever happened to the novel? I am concerned by the increasingly interventionist role of the Government in dictating the components of the national curriculum without proper consultation.'

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that some children might have difficulty in adapting to the new approach in time for next year's tests.

The enjoyment of reading must be encouraged through a balanced approach - over-emphasis on one skill might harm a child's development, he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee