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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 04:35 GMT 05:35 UK
Literary greats 'key to English'
book shelf
Whole works should be read, not just extracts
Classic English literature should remain central to the teaching of English, a study suggests.

A survey of thousands of teachers, pupils, parents, writers and advisers found great support for the classics.

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said it was a "deep crime" never to have read key Shakespeare works, Paradise Lost or Great Expectations.

The consultation on the future of English teaching was by England's curriculum and exams watchdog, the QCA.

The idea was to ask people what would be important to English teaching in 2015. Nearly 270 responses were received, which the organisation says represent the views of about 5,000 people.

The main areas of agreement were:

  • the importance of speaking and listening
  • the value of the literary heritage but this is not static
  • the desire of teachers to have more time and space for creativity
  • the need for more contact with writers and actors
  • the need to connect the classroom with the work place.
  • spelling should remain a baseline skill
  • whole works should be read, not just extracts

The previous Children's Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, wanted every primary school day to end with a creative half hour where children enjoyed stories and drama, and recommended "soaking them in stories".

Although many teachers canvassed agreed on the importance of the classics, many also said this had to be balanced with the need to include new writers and to make sure the works studied reflected the culturally diverse world of today.

"Introduce pupils to great works from the past while not neglecting those of the present," one group said.

Other teachers, working in the inner city, said the compulsion to study Shakespeare and other classic writers "seemed wasteful" when time would be better spent on basic literary skills.

There has previously been criticism of the national curriculum for England's schools over the study of Shakespeare.

Critics claimed this area of study was being "dumbed down", with some qualifications not requiring much detailed study of the plays and some children being allowed to take media studies with English instead of literature.

Creativity squeezed

Teachers in the survey warned that time for creativity was being squeezed by the busy curriculum and demands for assessment.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) said the report did not represent finalised policies but would act as a "touchstone" for future planning.

The report said: "Underlying many of the comments is a sense that now is the time for renewal in the English curriculum.

"Many of the current structures of curriculum and assessment have been in place for some time and some fresh inspiration in the classroom is needed to encourage adventurous and ambitious teaching and learning.

"The place of the literary heritage is secure but the concept needs now to be refreshed in the light of changes in society so that their full cultural heritage is available to all pupils."

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12 Dec 03 |  Education
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17 Jun 05 |  Education
Shakespeare exam 'dumbed down'
07 Feb 03 |  Education
Views sought on English teaching
23 Feb 05 |  Education
Pupils 'struggling' with spelling
19 Jan 04 |  Education

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