Cox (1989)

1989 Cox Report (text)

The Cox Report (1989)
English for ages 5 to 16

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1989
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Background notes

The National Curriculum English Working Group was commissioned by Secretary of State Kenneth Baker to make recommendations on attainment targets and programmes of study for the English component of the new National Curriculum. It was chaired by Professor Brian Cox, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of English Literature at Manchester University, who had been one of the principal writers of the right-wing Black Papers in the 1970s.

You may be puzzled by the bizarre arrangement of the chapters in this document. Cox himself explained it thus:

The Report was submitted to Mr. Baker and Mrs Rumbold by the civil servants, and again I was not invited. There was some question about whether the Report should be published in its entirety, for Mr Baker and Mrs Rumbold were worried that there were sections which the Prime Minister [Thatcher] would not like. On the other hand, if they refused to publish the whole Report this would anger the teaching profession and provide the journalists with a sensational story. A compromise was agreed. They were reasonably satisfied with Chapters 15 to 17, which included the attainment targets and programmes of study, and so, as I have already explained, it was decided to print these first. I decided not to protest, because at least the whole Report would be published, and teachers would be able to read the total rationale. It was agreed that chapters 15 to 17 should be printed on yellow-tinted paper, with the following explanation at the top of the contents page: 'For ease of reference, chapters 15 to 17 have been placed at the front of the report, adjacent to the proposals, and are printed on tinted paper.' At least I was able at future lectures to raise a laugh by pointing out that by printing chapter 15 first the Report provided an example of the pervasive influence of post-structuralism' (Cox on Cox: An English Curriculum for the 1990s pages 11-12 (Hodder & Stoughton 1991).
I am grateful to Charlotte Murakami, who not only alerted me to the absence of the Cox Report from the website, but also went to the trouble of tracking down a library copy, scanned it, and sent me the pdf files. She also provided the above quote. Thank you, Charlotte.

Other reports on the teaching of English include:

Newbolt (1921) The Teaching of English in England;
Bullock (1975) A language for life;
Kingman (1988) The Teaching of English Language;
Warwick (1994) Implementation of English in the National Curriculum; and
Ofsted (2012) Moving English forward.

Readers may like to note that the 1988 TGAT Report (Task Group on Assessment and Testing), referred to in Cox, is also online.

Summary of the report's proposals

  • there should be five attainment targets in English for pupils in key stage 2, and four in key stages 3 and 4, grouped for assessment and reporting purposes into three profile components - for speaking and listening (attainment target 1), reading (attainment target 2) and writing (attainment targets 3, 4 and 5);
  • for each attainment target there would be statements of attainment defining up to ten levels of attainment specifying what pupils should know, understand and be able to do, appropriate for pupils of different ages and abilities;
  • at the end of key stage 2 pupils would be expected to have reached levels 2 to 5, at key stage 3, levels 3 to 8, and at key stage 4, levels 3 to 10;
  • the attainment targets, the associated statements of attainment at each level and the ranges of levels appropriate to each of key stages 2 to 4 should be included in the Order to be made under section 4(2) (a) of the Act;
  • programmes of study set out the matters, skills and processes which pupils should be taught in order to achieve the attainment targets. The programmes of study in chapters 15 to 17 of the Report offer a sound and comprehensive coverage of the essential content which pupils will need to tackle and they should therefore form the basis for the Order to be made under section 4(2) (b);
  • some parts of some attainment targets and programmes of study should not apply to certain groups of pupils with special educational needs;
  • for pupils taught mainly through the medium of Welsh, the programmes of study but not the attainment targets for English in key stage 2 will need modification;
  • the attainment targets and programmes of study should be introduced for all pupils in England and Wales in the first year of each of key stages 2 and 3 in autumn 1990, and of key stage 4 in autumn 1992.

The report online

The complete report (including the appendices) is presented in a single web page.

There were a couple of oddities about the printed version.

First, the pages were not numbered. I have added page numbers for this online version, but if you intend quoting from the report it would probably be best to refer to paragraph numbers.

Second, as mentioned above, the chapter order is odd. The report begins with chapters 15 to 17 - 'for ease of reference', - and these were 'printed on tinted paper'. I have retained the chapter order as printed, but I have not attempted to reproduce the tinted paper!

Also, the printed version had two columns to a page, with footnotes shown at the bottom of each column. This arrangement would be awkward on a computer screen, so I have not attempted to reproduce it. Footnotes (with their original numbering) are therefore shown at the foot of each page.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 9 July 2012.