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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 14:11 GMT
Author attacks school literacy strategy
Philip Pullman
The system is wrong, says Philip Pullman
The award-winning author Philip Pullman has dismissed government guidelines on the teaching of English in primary schools as "half-baked drivel".

The writer, who won the Whitbread book of the year prize for his novel The Amber Spyglass, says the national literacy strategy is smothering creativity.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Philip Pullman said the strategies said nothing about nurturing a child's enjoyment of books.


He said he had once advised a teacher of 11-year-olds to tell her class to cheat during a story-writing exercise for their national tests.

For the test, the children had to spend 15 minutes setting out a plan for their story, then the next 45 minutes writing it.

Writing in the TES, he said: "After flinching in horror, I advised her to tell the pupils to write the story first and make the plan afterwards, so that the plan and the story would match and they'd get a better mark. In other words, cheat.

"But in a system that has nothing to do with real education, nothing to do with a true, wise, open, rich response to literature, but everything to do with meeting targets and measuring performance levels, then the only way for honest people to survive is to cheat, and to do so with a clear conscience."

Mr Pullman also attacked the writing skills of those who had drawn up the literacy programme for primary schools.

"We have this half-baked drivel slapped down in front of us like greasy food on a dirty plate," he said.


The department for education has rejected the author's criticism.

A spokesman said: "There is overwhelming evidence that the national literacy strategy, which is based on strong research evidence, has raised standards.

"As a result, more children can, and want to, read stimulating books like Philip Pullman's.

"More children have the reading and writing skills that they need for their future learning.

"The literacy strategy does not stifle creativity and enjoyment. Our guidance to teachers makes clear that we want children to be interested in books, to read with enjoyment, and to develop their powers of imagination and inventiveness."

See also:

27 Aug 00 | Education
Secondary school spells trouble
23 Jul 00 | Education
Doubts over children's writing test
14 Dec 99 | Education
Poor writing worries inspectors
28 Apr 99 | Education
Numbers up for 11-year-olds
13 May 00 | Education
Big rise in school testing
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