LETTER: Need to speak and write English

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The Independent Online
From Mr Ian Small

Sir: Gillian Shephard's "new" initiative to record oral scores at GCSE English is actually nothing new at all ("Shephard to penalise 'grunting' youngsters", 12 October). Until 1993, GCSE English grades did record both a written and oral component. Then the National Curriculum Council in its wisdom (led, sad to say, by an English specialist) cancelled that information and helpful addition, against the advice of professional English teachers and the Headmasters' Conference who felt that the different qualities of spoken and written English should be properly recognised.

Boys and girls need to be able to use the language effectively in both its written and spoken forms, in order to demonstrate their competence. So we are delighted that Mrs Shephard is returning to good practice and good sense. With some luck might we soon see the return of a proper valuation of GCSE course work (which diminished on the whim of John Major)?

I shall be quite happy to make the case for that either orally or in writing, whichever Mrs Shephard would prefer.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Small

Headmaster

Bootham School

York

12 October

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