English questions

Valerie Coultas  examines another aspect of Gove’s curriculum offensive

Education Minister, Michael Gove, believes that educational policy has been in thrall to progressives and who believe that ‘children should be left to discover at their own pace to follow their own hearts’. Gove has a rigid rather than a rigorous approach and that he is opposed to interdisciplinary collaboration and to areas that he conceives of as ‘soft’ knowledge, such as Media Studies.

Gove’s policies for learning are clearly visible in his approach to the teaching of English where he believes that:

‘Our literature is the best in the world… It is every child’s birth right and we should be proud to teach it in every school’ (Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 2010) The New Standards for Qualified Teacher Status, have one clear statement on spoken English and this is the necessity for all teachers to ‘take responsibility for promoting  ..the correct use of standard English whatever the teacher’s specialist subject’. This is the government’s response to language across the curriculum,  all teachers must promote the ‘correct’ use of standard English!

The new programmes of study for English have no separate strand for oracy and the main focus is on reading, writing and spelling and grammar. But the value of formal spoken English  is reinforced and ‘there will be an expectation that pupils master formal English through recitation, debate and presentation’.  The ‘elocution model’ is therefore reinforced and the talk for learning model set aside.

Many teachers and writers , on the other hand, suggest that Standard English is one form of dialect that pupils should be familiar with but that it is not intrinsically superior to other forms of dialect. Pupils should have opportunities to use standard English where it is the appropriate spoken register when in role as a lawyer, TV presenter for example but it does not have to be imposed in more informal discussions.

Though there are some nuances, the links to the authors of the Black Papers, influential on Thatcherite education policy in the 1980s and who were strong defenders of the English Literary heritage and standard English as a superior dialect are therefore clear                                                                                                       

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