School literature list backed

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The Independent Online
PUPILS will be compelled to study a canon of great literature under a new version of the national curriculum agreed yesterday.

It will bring renewed conflict between ministers and English teachers, who said last night that the canon was 'ignorant and foolish'.

After a three-month review of all 10 national curriculum subjects, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority agreed to cut back the curriculum to free one day a week in the timetable.

John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, ordered the review last spring after teachers complained that the curriculum was overloaded. He is expected to approve the document, which will be made public in May. The new curriculum will be introduced into schools in September 1995.

The authority, whose chairman is Sir Ron Dearing, also backed controversial changes to make team games compulsory for 14- to 16-year- olds, and to ensure that British history takes between two-thirds and three-quarters of history lessons.

The main parents' organisation doubted whether team games were the most sensible way of persuading teenagers to keep fit.

However, the fiercest opposition will come from English teachers. The authority rejected the views of a teacher-dominated advisory group on English, which voted 9 to 4 against a compulsory list of authors.

Anne Barnes, chairman of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said last night: 'We all want children to read great literature but making a random selection, which may or may not be the best literature of the past, is an ignorant approach.'

She added that when the working party was appointed English teachers had felt their views were being heard, 'but it seems to have been just a sop'.

Authority members believed that the list was vital to ensure that all children studied some of the pre- 20th century literature that is part of our heritage. On sport, they argued that 90 per cent of schools already offered team games for 14- to 16-year-olds.

Margaret Morrissey of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations said parents and governors at each school should be left to decide about compulsory team games for teenagers.

'We think PE should have a strong place in the curriculum, but anyone who has children of that age knows how difficult it is to get them off to school in the morning if they know they are going to be racing up and down an icy hockey pitch.'