Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 17:18 UK

English 'losing out' to literacy

child writing
Children had too little freedom in literacy, she said.

English lessons are dying out and being replaced by literacy, the leader of a teaching union claims.

Children no longer have the freedom to read for pleasure or express themselves in writing, says Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Children were reading extracts rather than whole books and this meant the love of reading was being lost.

The government insists whole books are read and says it is committed to making reading part of children's daily lives.

Dr Bousted told delegates at the ATL's annual conference in Liverpool: "English is no more. It has been replaced by a newcomer - literacy.

"Literacy, as a subject, is based on the naming of parts. Children rarely read whole books; they read parts of books - extracts.

For those children who spend their lives at home cocooned in front of the television, interacting with no-one, this loss will be incalculable
Dr Mary Bousted, ATL

"These extracts are mined for adjectives, and adverbs, and active verbs, and nouns. The belief is, once the parts have been named, then they can be used, independently in the children's writing.

"But they cannot choose what they will write; they cannot choose the form they want to write in - that would be far too dangerous."

She added that the concept of pleasure had gone.

"I don't want to get misty eyed about the past, but it is clear to me that something important has been lost - for both teachers and taught.

"And that is the heart of the subject - the subject which is dear to my heart - the subject of English."

She said Ofsted had encouraged a literacy strategy without speaking and listening, because the former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead had convinced ministers that these were not needed.

"For those children who spend their lives at home cocooned in front of the television, interacting with no-one, this loss will be incalculable," Dr Bousted said.

The former English teacher also complained that teachers' lives were "being made a misery" by a constant regime of inspection and "ridiculous" control.

"Is there any profession which is more watched over, more regulated and more directed than teaching?"

Lessons had become a "common pattern", she said. She painted a picture of teachers obeying a dictated formula for every lesson, which included:

• starter, middle section and plenary

• explanation of learning objectives

• pace and activity

• interactive learning

Such rigid structures were causing teachers to lose their professional pride and feeling of autonomy.

And children were "bored rigid" by the same lesson structure again and again, she added.

The government denied teachers were over-inspected, and said literacy had not led to the death of reading and the enjoyment of language.

"The government is firmly committed to making reading a daily part of children's lives and we have a range of initiatives to encourage all young people to take an interest in reading for pleasure," a spokeswoman said.

"It is right that schools should come under rigorous scrutiny and assessment by a body independent from ministers.

"This makes sure that parents can be confident standards are being maintained, that achievements are properly celebrated and that any problems can be identified and resolved."

A majority of parents valued inspections, she added.

Dr Bousted did however, praise the government's work to raise standards and help the most deprived children.

"There is much to congratulate this government for," Dr Bousted said.

"It has put its money where its mouth is."

But it was still telling teachers what to do.

Print Sponsor

'Urgent need' to improve literacy
05 Oct 05 |  Education
School literacy scheme attacked
02 Nov 07 |  Education
Primary education 'too narrow'
20 Feb 09 |  Education
Heads told to get tough on basics
03 Sep 07 |  Education

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific