HMI: Curriculum Matters

Background notes

1 English
2 The Curriculum
3 Mathematics
4 Music
5 Home economics
6 Health education
7 Geography
8 Modern foreign languages
9 Craft, design and technology
10 Careers education and guidance
11 History
12 Classics
13 Environmental education
14 Personal and social education
15 Information Technology
16 Physical education
17 Drama

English from 5 to 16

The text presented here is from the second edition (1986) which included responses to the first edition.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Foreword (page v)
1 Introduction (1)
2 Objectives at 7, 11 and 16 (3)
3 Some principles of English teaching (13)
4 Some principles of assessment (16)
5 Conclusion (22)
6 References (23)

The responses

I The responses in outline (25)
II Degrees of accord (28)
III The objectives (31)
IV Matters arising (34)
Conclusions (42)
Appendix: Objectives for English (44)

The text of English from 5 to 16 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 13 June 2011.

English from 5 to 16
HMI Series: Curriculum Matters No. 1

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1984
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science

from 5 to 16

Second Edition
(incorporating responses)

Curriculum Matters 1


[page ii]

Crown copyright 1986
First published 1984
Second Edition 1986

ISBN 0 11 270595 2

[page iii]


Foreword to the second edition

English from 5 to 16

1 Introduction: the aims of English teaching
2 Objectives: at 7, 11 and 163
3 Some principles of English teaching13
4 Some principles of assessment16
5 Conclusion22
6 References23

English from 5 to 16: the responses

I The responses in outline
II Degrees of accord28
III The objectives31
IV Matters arising34
V Conclusions42
Appendix: Objectives for English44

[page v]

Foreword to the second edition

English is a key subject in the school curriculum. It is essential to the development of pupils as individuals and as members of society. It is an enriching and satisfying subject in its own right as well as a tool and a channel of learning in all subjects for all pupils in England and Wales. The development of agreed national objectives for English teaching is therefore a particularly important part of the Government's policies for raising standards in schools, outlined in Better schools (1).

The series of HMI documents entitled Curriculum Matters is intended to stimulate discussion about the curriculum as a whole and about its individual components. English from 5 to 16, the first in the series, deals with curricular aims and objectives; it sets out views on the aims and objectives of English teaching and on the related professional issues of the principles of English teaching and the assessment of pupils' progress in language. Like the other documents in the series, when it was first published in 1984 it invited responses from readers. This second edition of English from 5 to 16 incorporates an analysis of those responses and HMI's commentary on them.

The intention is to carry forward a professional view about the objectives of the 5 to 16 curriculum so as to advise and inform those concerned with developing the policy statements which are to emerge. Another purpose is to inform and stimulate further discussion focussing on the purposes, principles and objectives of English teaching. For, while national policy statements will set out broadly agreed objectives, the professional debate about the objectives and approaches advocated and about translating them into practice must continue - among teachers above all, but also among parents, employers, elected members and governing bodies.

The responses to English from 5 to 16 made clear that a prerequisite to a national policy statement about the teaching of English is agreement about what all our children should be taught about the English language and how it works. Such agreement is necessary if they are to grow up to be informed, effective and sensitive users of our language: in control of it, rather than at its mercy and open to manipulation by those who use language to persuade and to confuse. Without such agreement and without some generally accepted ways to talk about the workings of our language, we are not in a position to determine what pupils and teachers need to know or how to set about teaching it.

1. Cmnd 9469, HMSO, 1985.

[page vi]

It is essential that this document should be read as a whole, since all sections are interrelated. For example, the lists of objectives must be seen in relation to the defined aims and to what is said about the principles of English teaching and assessment.

[page 1]

1 Introduction: the aims of English teaching

1.1 Achieving competence in the many and varied uses of our language is a vital part of the education of pupils in our schools. All teachers, whatever their other responsibilities and whatever age groups they teach, have a contribution to make to this process, since (where English is the only or principal medium of instruction) all areas of the curriculum involve teachers and pupils in using English: the teachers' responsibility lies in the models of language they provide, in the ways they require pupils to use English, and in the attention they give to the language aspects of pupils' performance.

1.2 However, in every school there are teachers who have direct responsibility for the development of their pupils' competence in English. This paper is principally addressed to them; but also to heads of schools, LEA advisers and officers, and those responsible for initial and in-service training of teachers. It is hoped that the paper will also be of interest to parents and employers.

1.3 The way in which the teaching of English is organised (and even what it is called) varies with the type of school. In most primary schools it is usually in the immediate charge of the class teacher, who takes a class throughout the school day and teaches English both as a distinct aspect of the curriculum and as part of other areas of work. In many primary schools there is also an English or Language 'consultant' whose role is to advise and assist class teachers over the teaching of English. In secondary schools, English is usually separately timetabled, and taught by designated teachers who in most, but by no means all, cases have specialist qualifications in the subject. In middle schools, older classes are sometimes taught by specialists, and younger ones usually by class teachers. Despite these different organisational patterns, however, the aims and principles of the teaching are, or should be, the same; and the development of pupils' ability to use their language should be continuous and progressive throughout the years of schooling.

1.4 All who teach English are explicitly concerned with every aspect of the growth of their pupils' command of language; and this is a complex matter because language is complex. It is the principal means by which we think, define what we experience and feel, and interpret the world in which we live; and the principal means by which we communicate with other people. Very often, as in a discussion, the definition of ideas develops in the process of communication. We use language in many different ways for many different purposes, for it is essential to most human activities.

[page 2]

1.5 Before starting school, most children already have considerable experience in and command of at least spoken English (though this will not necessarily be true of those Welsh children and those from ethnic minorities for whom English is not the language of the home: their oral command and competence will be in languages other than English. These pupils may need special provision). The subsequent development of this competence in English takes the form of:

an increase in the range and variety of purposes for which pupils can understand and use language;

correspondingly, an increase in the range and variety of appropriate forms, techniques and styles of language that they can respond to and use.

These principles apply throughout the primary and secondary phases of education and apply to all four modes of language - speaking, listening, reading and writing.

1.6 Those four modes constantly interrelate. As the Bullock Report puts it

... language competence grows incrementally, through an interaction of writing, talk, reading, and experience, the body of resulting work forming an organic whole. (1)
The promotion of that interaction should be a basic principle of the teaching of English. It is nevertheless helpful to consider in terms of each of those modes what the aims of English teaching should be. We suggest the following:

  • Education in the spoken word should aim:
    to develop pupil's ability to speak
    with confidence, clarity, fluency and in appropriate forms of speech,
    in a variety of situations and groupings for a variety of audiences, for a range of purposes of increasing complexity and demand;
    and correspondingly to develop their capacities to listen with attention and understanding in a similar variety of situations and for a similar range of purposes.
  • In the area of reading, the aims should be to enable pupils:
    to read fluently and with understanding a range of different kinds of material, using reading methods appropriate to the material and the purposes for which they are reading;
    to have confidence in their capacities as readers;
    to find pleasure in and be voluntary users of reading, for information, for interest, for entertainment, and for the extension of experience and insight that poetry and fiction of quality afford;
    to see that reading is necessary for their personal lives, for their learning throughout the curriculum, and for the requirements of living and working in society.

    [page 3]

  • As to writing, the aims should be to enable pupils:
    to write for a range of purposes;
    to organise the content of what is written in ways appropriate to the purposes;
    to use styles of writing appropriate to the purposes and the intended readership;
    to use spelling, punctuation and syntax accurately and with confidence.
  • There is a fourth aim which applies over all the modes of language. This is to teach pupils about language, so that they achieve a working knowledge of its structure and of the variety of ways in which meaning is made, so that they have a vocabulary for discussing it, so that they can use it with greater awareness, and because it is interesting.

    1.7 It is likely that there will be little disagreement about these broad aims, with the possible exception of the last. They need, however, to be translated into objectives. Some objectives will be constant throughout the period from 5 to 16, though applied to increasingly demanding purposes. Others become appropriate as the pupil grows older. What follows is an attempt to define objectives in terms of what may reasonably be expected of most pupils at the ages of 7, 11 and 16; briefly to suggest some principles of teaching by which the objectives may be attained; and finally to suggest some means by which progress may be assessed.

    2 Objectives

    2.1 Objectives in English are more difficult to define than objectives in some other subjects. Any use of language, oral or written, involves the complex interplay of many variables, and its success as a piece of definition and communication depends upon that interplay.

    The objectives that follow, therefore, are not offered as sets of discrete sub-skills to be taught and tested in isolation through 'exercises'. They are aspects of language competence which should occur in the pupils' experience of using language for the range and variety of purposes referred to in paragraph 1.5 above. As the Bullock Report says it is not the case:

    " ... that language abilities can somehow be extracted from context, taught in the abstract, and fed back in ... the handling of language is a complex ability, and one that will not be developed simply by working through a set of text-book exercises". (2)
    The Report goes on, however, to emphasise the responsibility of teachers for ensuring that pupils' ability to handle language is progressively improved and extended:
    " ... we have equal lack of sympathy with the notion that the forms of language can be left to look after themselves. On the contrary, we believe that the teacher should intervene, should constantly be looking for opportunities to improve the quality of utterance."

    [page 4]

    Essentially, then, the objectives can best be attained by setting tasks which require communication for real or realistic purposes and in which particular skills need to be used.

    2.2 Of course we have to accept that pupils vary in ability, in motivation, in the support their backgrounds afford, and in many other ways. Differences of ability must be taken account of. In some subjects this may be done by setting out objectives in an ascending scale of difficulty, or by defining a limited range of skills and content that most pupils should be able to master and then adding others which are suitable only for the abler. This is not appropriate in English. Since the various aspects of competence intermingle in various combinations in any utterance, all those defined in the following lists of objectives are necessary and are therefore targets to be aimed at by most pupils. Differentiation according to ability will occur in two ways: in the difficulty of the tasks to which the skills are applied, and in the degree of success achieved by individual pupils in carrying out those tasks. For example, most 16 year olds should be able to read and understand a wide range of reading matter, but the difficulty of the texts presented to them must be matched to their various abilities. And whereas most 11 year olds should be able to explain a process, some will do so more clearly and effectively than others. Of the objectives defined, none has primacy and none should be neglected in favour of any other: the aim should be for each pupil to achieve the highest level of performance of which he or she is capable in every aspect of language use represented in the lists of objectives. Some teachers may, at first sight, find the scope of the objectives formidable; but it is better to seek to equip pupils as fully as possible with the rage of competence in language that they will need in actuality than to limit objectives to an easily attainable minimum.

    Objectives for 7 year old pupils

    2.3 When children first embark on the period of compulsory schooling they are likely to differ considerably in their pre-school experience of language. For example, their experience of listening and speaking at length will vary; some will have had books read to them and may have begun to read, while others will not. Their teachers, therefore, face a formidable challenge in enabling all or most of them to achieve the objectives set out below. Nevertheless, it is vital that firm foundations of competence and of interest are laid in the early years of schooling. If they are not, the effects may be long lasting, or even permanent. If a basic level of literacy and articulateness is not attained by the age of 7, it becomes very difficult to achieve competence in other learning, much of which relies on the ability to read, to discuss, and to record in writing. The effects may persist, and become increasingly disadvantageous, throughout the primary stage and beyond. It is often the case that children of normal intelligence who have reading difficulties at the end of the primary phase are seriously under-achieving at 16.

    [page 5]

    2.4 At the age of 7, therefore, most children should be able to:


    Listen to simple instructions and carry them out accurately Comprehend the main ideas in simple items of information or explanation given orally

    Listen actively, so as to be able to ask questions, make comments, and respond in other relevant ways to what they have heard

    Maintain their listening attention for a reasonable length of time when their interest is engaged

    Follow an uncomplicated plot in a story and recall the main events Listen responsively to the language and the patterns of sound and rhythm of rhymes and poems


    In all oral activities, speak sufficiently clearly and audibly to be understood

    Narrate simple experiences and series of events Explain what they are doing when involved in a task

    When taking part in a group task, discuss it constructively with the other children

    Express their feelings to known adults and to other children Ask relevant questions

    Describe what they have observed Converse confidently in social situations Speak in role in dramatic play

    Use gesture and movement in association with the voice when effective communication demands it


    Read and understand labels, simple notices and written instructions Read with understanding simple stories, rhymes and passages of information, to themselves and aloud

    Know the alphabet, and apply their knowledge of alphabetical order when consulting simple dictionaries and other reference books

    Have sufficient fluency and motivation to become engrossed in books because of the interest and enjoyment they derive from them

    [page 6]

    Use books as sources of information to support aspects of their work in the classroom


    Write legibly

    Write about personal experiences in prose and in poetry

    Associate their writing with pictures, graphs, plans and diagrams Record simple investigations and other practical experiences accurately, and comment on the results

    Write simple stories of reasonable coherence Write informal letters to relatives and friends

    Set down directions and instructions when there is a clear purpose for doing so

    Write descriptions in which the salient features are conveyed clearly Use a sufficiently wide vocabulary for the purposes of their writing

    Use a sufficient variety of sentence structures to express not only sequence (" ... and ... then" etc) but other relationships between events, experiences and ideas (" ... when ... because ... if", etc)

    Use full stops and capital letters appropriately.

    Objectives for 11 year old pupils

    2.5 At the end of the primary phase of education, most children should have reached a level of competence in English which will allow them to embark upon secondary schooling, in all aspects of the curriculum, without hindrance or handicap; and which will assist their personal and social development as they move from the world of childhood into the exciting but often stressful and confusing world of adolescence.

    2.6 By the age of 11, therefore, most children should be able to:


    Listen to fairly complex instructions and carry them out accurately Comprehend the main ideas in information conveyed orally

    Follow the plot of a story or a broadcast play written for this age group Listen responsively to poetry and verse

    Follow a speaker's line of argument

    [page 7]

    Listen with patience, attention and understanding to other speakers in a discussion


    Speak clearly and audibly, with appropriate expression and with sensitivity to the response of the listener or audience

    Have some ability to match vocabulary, syntax and style to the requirements of different situations and listeners, and be aware of the need to do so

    Converse confidently and pleasantly in social situations Participate courteously and constructively in discussions Frame pertinent questions

    Make clear statements of fact

    Describe in appropriate terms what has been seen or experienced Explain a process accurately

    Give instructions or directions clearly and succinctly Make confident and effective use of the telephone

    Narrate a story or experience in such a way as to hold the listener's attention

    Express feelings and ideas accurately

    Put a point of view and sustain it in discussion

    Show imagination and adaptability in improvising language in imagined situations

    In all speaking, make appropriate use of eye contact, gesture, facial expression, pause, tempo, and intonation


    Have formed the habit of voluntary and sustained reading for pleasure and for information

    Know how to find books they need or want in a library Use a variety of strategies to establish word meaning

    Follow the gist of a story or shorter narrative passage so as to be able to recount it and discuss it

    Select, interpret and collate evidence gathered through reading and apply it to a particular enquiry or task in hand

    Read aloud prose and verse so as to communicate the meaning of the text effectively

    [page 8]

    Read critically, distinguishing fact from opinion

    Be able from a text to draw inferences, make predictions, and form judgements

    Follow a series of written instructions or directions

    Use a dictionary, an index, and general reference books such as encyclopaedias, atlases and gazetteers; and other informational matter such as timetables, catalogues and brochures

    Interpret non-verbal information, such as maps, signs and symbols, associated with the texts they read

    Distinguish between the literal and the figurative


    Write clearly about personal experiences and the thoughts and feelings generated by them

    Write stories and poems, using where appropriate descriptive or figurative language to make the reader imagine the experience vividly

    Record experience and events accurately

    Explain processes such as how to make something, how to playa game, etc Frame instructions and directions clearly

    Write accurate descriptions of people, places and things

    Write in order to persuade the reader to the writer's point of view Write informal and formal letters for a variety of purposes

    Make notes as an aid to learning, as a prompt for the memory, and as an aid to planning

    Have some ability to adjust the form, content and style of writing to the nature of the task and the needs of the reader

    Exercise sufficient control over spelling, punctuation (at least the full stop, question mark and comma), syntax, and handwriting to communicate their meaning effectively

    Use and control not only simple and compound sentences, but, where appropriate, complex sentences, in which ideas are linked through the use of main and subordinate clauses

    Organise material into paragraphs

    About language

    They should know:

    The rules of spelling

    [page 9]

    The difference between vowels and consonants

    The functions and names of the main parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adjective and adverb), and be able to identify these in their own writing for the purpose of discussing what they have written

    The difference between statements, questions, commands and exclamations

    The terms 'subject' and 'object' and be able to identify them in their own writing

    That a sentence has a subject and a verb, and that the two must agree That word order determines meaning.

    They should:

    Be aware of differences between tenses, and recognise when the past, present, or future tense is being used

    Know that language can be literal or figurative, and be aware of the difference when they use or respond to language

    Be aware of some of the ways in which written language differs from spoken language

    Objectives for 16 year old pupils

    2.7 At 16, pupils have reached the end of the statutory period of schooling. Some will continue their school education to a higher level; some will enter further education or training; some will enter the world of work, and some, sadly, will fail to do so. All, whatever their educational or vocational future, will face the personal and social demands of adult life. For all these purposes, they need competence in a range of uses of English.

    2.8 At 16, therefore, most pupils should be able to:


    Listen to instructions of some length and complexity, ask relevant questions to elucidate them if necessary, and carry them out accurately

    Comprehend information conveyed orally

    Listen with concentration to extensive exposition or discussion, noting down the salient points

    Listen critically to attempts to persuade them, so as to recognise specious arguments and 'loaded' language


    Describe clearly experiences they have undergone

    [page 10]

    Give instructions or directions so that they may be understood and carried out by someone else

    Clearly explain a process of some complexity

    Narrate, with some feeling for the shaping and delivery of the narrative Engage in cooperative discussion in order to clarify or explore a matter or to produce an agreed outcome

    Argue a case

    In discussion or argument, be sensitive to the language limitations of others and able to accommodate to them

    Be sensitive to the listener's reception of what is being said, and ready to elucidate, amplify or rephrase as necessary

    Make and take telephone calls, giving and receiving information accurately

    Give short talks on matters of which they have knowledge

    Be aware of the need to match the way one speaks to the purpose, context and audience; and be able to do so in a range of situations, social and otherwise (ie use the appropriate 'register' of language)

    Be aware that spoken language differs from written language in important ways, and requires different strategies (such as emphasis, pause, repetition) to achieve clear communication

    Use the grammar and vocabulary of Standard Spoken English where necessary or appropriate

    Speak clearly, audibly and pleasantly, in an accent intelligible to the listeners)

    Read written material aloud so that its meaning is fully expressed Use the resources of the voice (modulation, tone etc) expressively

    Use and be sensitive to non-verbal accompaniments to speech, such as eye contact, facial expression, gesture, stance, and the manifestations of responsiveness to other speakers


    Read and understand a range of reading matter including literature (prose, poetry and drama), and information materials in a variety of formats (books, newspapers, documents, leaflets, official forms, material in graphic form, timetables, etc). The range should take account of all the likely reading needs and interests that pupils will have after 16, in their personal and social lives, in further or higher education, and in employment

    [page 11]

    Read whole books of some length and requiring some persistence Recognise and distinguish between explicit and implicit meanings in what they read

    Read newspapers, magazines and advertising material critically so as to distinguish between unbiassed information and attempts to manipulate the reader; and apply similar critical attitudes to television reporting and advertising

    Have some awareness of the relevance of imaginative literature to human experience; recognise some of the ways in which writers of fiction, poetry and plays achieve their effects; and have some ability to judge the value and quality of what they read

    Have some ability to apply similar judgements to entertainment in other media - theatre, cinema or video films, television and radio

    Have experienced some literature and drama of high quality, not limited to the twentieth century, including Shakespeare

    Above all, regard reading as a normal and habitual source of pleasure, interest and information


    Write clearly and perceptively about personal experiences and their response to them

    Use writing to explore an issue and arrive at a conclusion

    Write imaginatively in prose and poetry, with some awareness of structure and stylistic effects

    Write accurate descriptions of people, places and things

    Write direct and reported speech as appropriate

    Record experiences and events accurately

    Explain processes clearly

    Frame instructions and directions clearly and succinctly

    Write to request something

    Write in order to persuade the reader to the writer's point of view or to a course of action

    Write personal and formal letters for a variety of purposes, including applications for employment

    Compose a curriculum vitae to attach to a letter of application for employment

    Expound an argument or thesis

    [page 12]

    Make notes of material heard or read as an aid to learning, as a prompt for the memory, or as an aid to planning

    Summarise the salient points of material heard or read

    Adjust the form, content and style of any piece of writing to the nature of the task and the needs and expectations of the reader

    Exercise control over spelling (including the apostrophe), punctuation (at least the full stop, question mark, comma, and quotation-marks), and syntax

    Paragraph, and organise paragraphs into passages of appropriate form and length

    Set out written material in tabulated form when appropriate

    About language

    They should:

    Know the functions and names of all the main parts of speech (noun, pronoun, adjective, article, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction) and be able to identify them in their own writing or in what they read, for the purpose of discussing language

    Be able to distinguish between sentence, clause and phrase in what they write or read

    Be aware of differences in usage, eg between formal and informal modes Recognise differences between standard and dialect forms of the language Be aware that language embodies values, conveys attitudes and defines relationships; and that it is by no means always concerned with the objective transmission of information

    Be aware of 'register' (the use of different styles of language for different purposes)

    Be aware that meaning is not confined to the content of what one says or writes: it is determined by how one says or writes it. The 'how' will affect the listener's or reader's understanding and response

    Recognise that language is a spectrum which ranges from simple factual statements to complex uses of the sound and texture of words, of rhythm, of imagery and of symbol; and that such effects are not confined to poetry but occur in daily life (eg in advertising)

    Have a vocabulary for discussing stylistic effects, including 'simile', 'metaphor' and 'cliché'

    Recognise that we constantly use figurative expressions; that alertly used they are a great help to expressing meaning; but that thoughtlessly used they impede meaning and indicate slovenly thinking.

    [page 13]

    3 Some principles of English teaching

    3.1 Teaching English well is a complex and demanding art, and there is much more to be said about it than this brief document can encompass. It is suggested, however, that teaching should be based on the following salient principles.

    3.2 Teaching English at any level needs to be founded on understanding of the nature of language and the way in which it is acquired and developed. The teacher must have a clear grasp of the range of purposes for which we need and use language. We need it for the transactions of our everyday lives. We need it for personal and social relationships. We need it for reflecting on and understanding our experiences, for responding to the world about us, and for understanding and sharing the experience and insights of others. We use it to resolve problems, to make decisions, to express attitudes. Part of the skill of the teacher is to show how the various uses of language illuminate each other: how, for example, the language resources used in a poem differ from and complement those used in a set of instructions for carrying out a process. Good teaching of English, at any level, is far more than the inculcation of skills: it is an education of the intellect and the sensibility.

    3.3 In infancy, we begin to acquire language because we need it, both to make sense of our world and to communicate. The same principle holds good throughout and beyond the period of schooling: the most effective way of developing language competence is by applying it to an increasing range and variety of real needs and real purposes, in which something of genuine interest is communicated. The teacher's responsibility is to devise programmes of work appropriate to the age and stage of the pupils in which such needs and purposes arise.

    3.4 Schools must ensure that progress in the pupils' learning takes place. This requires schemes of work which deal with aims, objectives and methods, planning of programmes of work, assessment, recording, and re-adjusted planning in the light of what the assessments show.

    3.5 The planning of programmes of work and the assessment and recording of the progress of individual pupils should be continuous throughout the primary years as pupils pass from class to class. This requires liaison between class teachers under the leadership of the head and/or the language consultant. In secondary schools these responsibilities lie with the English department.

    3.6 It is no less essential that there should be adequate curricular liaison between contributing and receiving schools when pupils pass from the primary to the secondary phase of education. There should be agreement between the schools about what pupils should be expected to have learnt

    [page 14]

    and experienced by the time they transfer. Records in agreed form which contain reasonably full assessments of the individual child's progress in all the language modes should be passed to the receiving school and used there as the starting point for further development. The secondary school must in turn ensure that programmes of work are progressive and that careful assessment and recording of the pupil's development take place.

    3.7 Learning about language is necessary as a means to increasing one's ability to use and respond to it; it is not an end in itself. It should arise from the activities of talking, listening, writing and reading for real purposes; and take the form of encouraging children's curiosity about language.

    3.8 There is much confusion over whether grammar should be explicitly taught. It has long been recognised that formal exercises in the analysis and classification of language contribute little or nothing to the ability to use it. One consequence of this, however, is that many pupils are taught nothing at all about how language works as a system, and consequently do not understand the nature of their mistakes or how to put them right. We suggest that if some attention is given to the examination and discussion of the structure of the language pupils speak, write, read, or listen to for real purposes, their awareness of its possibilities and pitfalls can be sharpened. In the course of this, it is reasonable that they should learn such grammatical terminology as is useful to them for the discussion of language. But what and how much terminology they should be taught at any given stage must depend on how much they can assimilate with understanding and apply to purposes they see to be meaningful and interesting. The least able at using language are the least likely to understand the terminology, let alone apply it in any useful way. As the Bullock Report (3) remarks:

    Explicit rules and facts about language ... have direct practical value to a pupil when
    (a) they solve particular problems in the tasks he is engaged on, or
    (b) he is able to reconstruct for himself the analysis that led to the rule
    3.9 Punctuation needs more attention in English teaching than it sometimes receives. It is a systematic aspect of the written language and essential to meaning, for it performs two vital functions. One is the grammatical function of making clear the relationship between parts of sentences and of paragraphs. The other is the rhetorical function of indicating tone, attitude, feeling and emphasis. In speech, both these functions are carried out by such means as pause, pitch, pace, intonation and volume, often accompanied by facial expression and gesture. In the written language, accurate punctuation is the necessary substitute for those resources.

    3.10 Language exercises from text-books or work cards are not effective means of initiating the learning of language skills. Such learning arises

    [page 15]

    from the purposeful use of language. An exercise may be a useful way of helping a child to reinforce something he has learned through using language; but it should relate to an identified need.

    3.11 Talking, listening, reading and writing should constantly and naturally interrelate. The time available for teaching English, whether throughout the curriculum in a primary school or as a specialist subject in a secondary school, should be so used as to ensure that all four modes occur in appropriate proportion.

    3.12 The language children bring with them from their home backgrounds should not be criticised, belittled or proscribed. The aim should be to extend their language repertoires. This should include enabling them to use the grammar and vocabulary of Standard Spoken English when that is appropriate if they do not already do so.

    3.13 Accent or pronunciation is a different, though related matter. There is a rich and fascinating variety of English accents related to localities and regions not only in the United Kingdom but elsewhere in the world where English is the native language. Moreover, in any region, there is a range of accents related to social status, education and other factors such as vocation. No one form of English accent, however, is inherently superior to any other. What is necessary is that pupils should learn to speak clearly and intelligibly; and if their accent is difficult for those outside their speech community to understand, they should be able to modify it when necessary.

    3.14 Drama, ranging from the role play of infants to improvisation and the scripting of plays by older pupils, is an important means of extending the pupil's language repertoire, his confidence in speech, and his awareness of how other people speak and behave. It is an essential part of language teaching in primary and secondary schools. If in the secondary school there is a separate drama department, its work should be closely related to that in English; if not, drama work should be part of the English programme.

    3.15 In both primary and secondary schools, the reading habit should be fostered by providing time for 'private reading', a suitable range of books, advice on what to read, and, especially in primary schools, an environment which encourages reading as a pleasurable activity.

    3.16 The ability to read responsively and critically should be fostered by group attention to a range of reading matter. This should include fiction, poetry and plays; but it should also include reading for information and for the understanding of public affairs.

    3.17 The teacher's guiding principle in helping children to progress as

    [page 16]

    writers is to start with what they want or need to say and then to help them to say it more effectively. Few adult writers are satisfied with the first drafts they produce: they redraft to ensure that they have said as well as possible what they mean. The same principle should apply to children's writing. Constructive discussion of what they have written, of how far they have succeeded and of how they might do better still is of fundamental importance.

    Whatever the language task, its purpose and requirements should be discussed with the pupils in advance so that they understand both what they are to do and why they are doing it.

    4 Some principles of assessment

    4.1 It is desirable that assessment of pupils' progress should take two complementary forms: continuous assessment of day to day work and, in the junior and secondary stages, periodic testing.

    4.2 Periodic testing is a valuable means of assessing progress across a class or year group and, for the staff concerned, of checking that criteria and standards of judgement are shared and common. The tests, however, should involve realistic tasks based upon curricular objectives. The range of tests developed for the Assessment of Performance Unit's (APU) language programme, and described in their primary and secondary language surveys4 and other documents, affords valuable models because they are based on the range of language activities which occur in good practice in schools, and, indeed, particularly in the case of oracy, point to ways in which practice may be improved. Although these tests were devised for purposes of national sampling, the principles and techniques involved could be adapted for the purpose of schools; and we commend them to the attention of teachers.

    4.3 However, periodic tests are inevitably limited in scope: they cannot assess performance in all the activities that occur in the teaching and learning of English; and there is inevitably some degree of artificiality about them since they are in the nature of special occasions.

    4.4 It is essential, therefore, that in the day to day work of teaching English the progress of pupils towards attaining the defined objectives should be continuously and methodically assessed. The following principles of assessment are offered as guidelines for this process.

    4.5 Any piece of language production or reception involves a complex of activity, and the relationship of the elements which produce meaning varies with the nature of the utterance. It is consequently never possible to

    [page 17]

    arrive at a precise objective measurement of success in a piece of English work; attempts to do so usually concentrate on obvious surface features and ignore more important and complex elements. Assessment of work in English is not a matter of precise measurement, or, usually, of simply marking things as right or wrong. It is a matter of the application of judgement, based on experience and knowledge of what to look for and an awareness of the whole as well as the parts. It is subjective; but subjective judgements based on professional knowledge and experience and clearly stated criteria are far preferable to the spurious objectivity of assessing the few aspects of English work that can be mechanically marked and ignoring the far more important ones that cannot. It is impressionistic - but good impression marking involves awareness of the elements that contribute to the success of an utterance or a response. This principle holds good for assessment in all language modes - the spoken word, reading and writing.

    4.6 Moreover, language is always about something. It follows that assessment is not merely of a pupil's success in operating the 'skills' of language; it is inevitably and properly concerned with the quality of what is said - with the depth, validity and perspicacity of the writer's or speaker's thoughts, with the logic of their development, with the aptness and truth of his or her perceptions and the sincerity of his or her feelings. In teaching English we are teaching pupils to think clearly, to be self aware, and to be responsive to their experience of the world of people and things about them. We must therefore assess their progress as people using language for the purposes necessary to people, not as mere language operators.

    4.7 The assessment of a particular piece of work should relate to the purposes it was meant to achieve. For example, writing a set of instructions demands different skills from writing a story. The teacher needs to decide what the requirements of the task are, and to assess how far they have been met.

    4.8 Assessment should establish and make clear to the pupil what has been successfully achieved, as well as what has not been. It is all too easy to notice obvious errors such as spelling mistakes, and fail to notice that the sentence in which they occur is otherwise successful in conveying a thought in apt vocabulary and well handled syntax.

    4.9 When pupils are unsuccessful, and particularly when they make recurring mistakes, the nature of their difficulties needs to be identified so that corrective action can be taken. General instructions such as "Improve your punctuation" are useless; the pupil needs to have a clear indication of what is wrong in order to put it right.

    4.10 Assessment needs to be longitudinal. This involves reviewing all of

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    the pupil's work over a period of time, such as a term. It is then possible to see in what ways progress has been made and in what ways it has not, which enables future work to be planned.

    4.11 Assessment must be followed up, so that it leads to improvement. Strengths should be built on by being applied to more demanding tasks. Weaknesses must not be allowed to persist: the pupil should be shown how to do better and should be expected to do so.

    4.12 The following suggestions may be useful in considering performance in the different language modes.

    The spoken word

  • Whatever the task, the main criterion for assessing pupil's competence in speaking is the communicative effectiveness of what they have said. Different tasks make different demands. What needs to be assessed, therefore, is the pupil's success in achieving the purposes for which he or she is speaking. This is best done by impression marking based upon awareness of the elements involved in effective use of and response to the spoken word.

  • It must be recognised that spoken language differs in significant ways from written language. Even a prepared and scripted speech has to take account of the fact that listeners cannot refer back as readers can, and that what is said must consequently be less compressed than it could be in written form; that the syntax must be less complex; and that repetition and recapitulation will be necessary to get points across. In the much more usual situation of dialogue, the speaker must constantly monitor the response of the listener and adjust to it. This can involve repetition, rephrasing, deliberate hesitation to allow time for response: such speech is more like thinking aloud than the 'finished product' of a piece of writing. The listener, too, adopts different strategies from the reader. The listener may ask questions; may prompt reformulation by indicating, in words or by facial expression, that he or she has not fully understood or accepted what is said.

  • Probably the easiest aspect of assessing pupils' listening is their response to some exposition, explanation or set of instructions given by the teacher or another pupil. They can be asked questions which reveal their understanding: these should not be limited to those requiring brief factual answers, but should include questions requiring pupils to respond in their own words at some length. But, also, questions from the pupils should be invited; and these will reveal how far they have understood and assimilated what has been said. If the exposition has been in preparation for a task, the pupils' success in carrying it out will reveal their understanding of it.

    [page 19]

  • More complex, however, is assessing performance when the pupil is a participant as both listener and speaker in a discussion. What needs to be noted in assessing performance in his listening role is:
    Whether he listens with attention and patience to other speakers, or is simply waiting his turn to speak. What he says when he does speak will probably reveal this

    Whether his demeanour encourages the speaker, ie does he look responsive, inattentive, or impatient?

    Whether his own contributions take account of what others have said, whether by agreement, disagreement, requests for further information or explanation, pertinent questions, or developing and taking further the ideas he has heard; and whether they are relevant

    Whether he responds courteously, reasonably and, if necessary, tactfully

  • In assessing pupils' utterances, the elements to be borne in mind are:
    audibility and intelligibility

    the relevance and cogency of what is said

    the appropriateness of the organisation and sequential structure of what is said

    the appropriateness of the choice of words

    the clarity and coherence of the syntax and its appropriateness to the needs of the listener


    awareness of the listener and sensitivity to whether he or she is "getting the message"

    use of the register (style) of language appropriate to the situation and the relationship between speaker and listener

    appropriateness of tone, intonation, use of pause, emphasis, tempo etc

    use of non-verbal features (gesture, posture, eye contact, facial expression)

    confidence and conviction


  • 'Reading' is a simple word for activities ranging from the decoding of print to critical appreciation. Whatever the level, however, it must involve the understanding of meaning: simply voicing words is not reading. As was said in Language performance in schools. Primary survey report No. 1 (4), reading is as complex a process as thinking; and assessment of it needs to

    [page 20]

    recognise this and to assess the reader's full response, not just, for example, his understanding of individual words or phrases. Thus, assessment of reading is also a matter of impression marking.

  • There are several ways by which reading, after the earliest stages, can be assessed, which may be used separately or in combination, ie:
    By asking pupils to read passages aloud, having given them time to read them silently and consider them. This is not the same as the kind of "hearing children read" which simply checks whether they recognise and voice the individual words on the page. The purpose is to determine from their expression of what they read how far they have understood and responded to it. This form of assessment can encompass at one extreme the 6 year old making sense of a simple sequence of sentences and at the other the 16 year old interpreting with his or her voice the nuances of demanding works of literature

    By asking questions, to be answered orally or in writing. Questions should not be limited to localised features of the text, but should require understanding of and response to extensive passages or the whole text. They should not be confined to literal understanding, but should direct attention to the writer's purposes and the range of ways by which these are achieved

    By setting written work in which the pupil writes about what is read

    By written or oral tasks which involve pupils in reproducing the meaning of the original in a different form

    By tasks which involve selecting and re-ordering information from one or more pieces of reading matter

  • The abilities to be looked for through such tasks are indicated in the lists of reading objectives in paragraphs 2.4, 2.6 and 2.8 above. What we wish to stress here is that, once fluency is achieved, assessment should be based on what pupils are actively reading for real interest and real purposes, rather than on exercise material. It is all too common to find that the progress of primary pupils is assessed by how far they have got through a graded reading scheme, rather than by their understanding of and interest in material read for a purpose, for curiosity or because it is enjoyable. It is all too common to find that the reading of junior and secondary pupils is assessed in terms of their ability to perform 'comprehension exercises' on out-of-context passages in text books or on work cards, rather than on their response to, say, the class reader, to newspaper and magazine articles, or to informational material, such as brochures, of the kind that they do or will need to use.

  • Finally, where a pupil is found to have difficulties with reading, it is essential to diagnose the particular nature of the difficulty and provide a specific remedy for it.

    [page 21]


  • In the early stages, children's written language has a close affinity with their spoken language. As they progress, however, they should develop control of written modes appropriate to an increasing range of purposes. As with the spoken word, the main criterion for assessing writing is whether or how far it achieves its purpose. Different purposes require different styles and make different demands on the writer's competence. For example, reporting a series of events demands less complex grammatical structures than deploying an argument; and writing a business letter requires greater conciseness than writing a story.

  • However, as is said in the APU's second report on language performance in secondary schools: (5)
    The ability to write, although dependent on separable skills, consists not merely of the mastering of techniques (such as spelling, sentence division or punctuation), but of their incorporation into a complex of cognitive and social abilities. Because writing is not simply a hierarchy of skills, but one of the means by which we make sense of the world and communicate it to others, the assessment of children's writing needs to go beyond a consideration of basic skills; the ability to organise thought, to control the expression of feeling or to sustain a viewpoint for a particular readership are aspects of writing which assessment cannot afford to overlook.
  • The best form of assessment of writing, therefore, is impression marking, which assesses a script as a whole communication, not as a summation of discrete performances in a set of skills. But impression marking can sometimes be unduly influenced by obvious characteristics such as poor spelling and weight these disproportionately to the qualities of the composition as a whole.

  • Therefore, the teacher needs to have in mind what the main elements of writing are, both so that the overall assessment will be a balanced one and so that particular strengths or weaknesses in what has been written can be identified and discussed with the pupil. We distinguish the following elements:

    Content:the nature and quality of what the pupil says and its appropriateness and relevance to the task.
    Organisation:the ordering and sequencing of what is said, and its suitability for the task.
    Appropriateness and style:the choice of vocabulary and sentence structure suitable to the kind of task being done and the intended readership.
    Grammar:the relation of words to each other in accordance with the accepted usages of Standard Written English (unless writ-

    [page 22]

    ing in a non-standard form for a specific purpose).
    Punctuation:which supplements grammar in determining the relationship of words, phrases, clauses and sentences.
    Spelling:which is certainly a matter of convention, but not therefore to be regarded as unimportant, since inaccurate spelling can obscure meaning.

  • Consideration of these elements must, of course, be related to the stage of development of the pupil. But whatever the age and stage of the pupil it must also be related to the nature of what is being written. The point is most clearly exemplified in imaginative writing, particularly but not only poetry, where grammar may be, as it were, bent to achieve particular effects and punctuation may be omitted to produce, quite deliberately, the possibility of alternative relationships between ideas. Creative uses of language may sometimes reject accepted usage and forge their own disciplines, and it is legitimate and desirable for young writers to experiment in such ways. But such liberties with language need to be accompanied by clear awareness of how and why accepted usage is being rejected and of what is needed in more utilitarian communications.

    5 Conclusion

    This paper has been, of necessity and by design, brief and unelaborated. It has put forward suggestions and assertions which in a longer document would be the outcome of extended exposition. It is hoped, however, that it will at least provide a framework for general agreement about the aims, objectives and general principles of English teaching - or an incitement to others to provide a better framework. For present practice in the teaching of English in our schools varies greatly, and such agreement is urgently needed.

    [page 23]

    6 References

    1 A language for life. Report of the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan [now Lord] Bullock FBA. HMSO 1975. Para 1.10

    2 Ibid. Para 1.10

    3 Ibid. Para 11.1

    4 Assessment of Performance Unit reports:-

    a. Language performance in schools. Primary survey report No.1. HMSO, 1981.

    b. Language performance in schools. Primary survey report No.2. HMSO, 1982.

    c. Language performance In schools. Secondary survey report No.1. HMSO, 1982.

    d. Language performance in schools. Secondary survey report No.2. HMSO, 1983.

    e. Language performance in schools. 1982 primary survey report. DES, 1984.

    5 Para 4.14 of reference 3d, above.

    [page 25]

    I The responses in outline

    1. English from 5 to 16* caused a great deal of interest both within and outside the teaching profession. Responses were seldom from individuals speaking for themselves - most were the results of considerable discussion, often by large groups. These provide a record of a great deal of activity in the months between publication and the deadline for receiving responses. The document was clearly successful in promoting discussion. It seldom left readers indifferent; it prompted many respondents to express matters of belief, principle and practice which were close to their hearts. The responses received were placed in the following categories:

    (a) Primary and middle schools 310 responses

    (b) Secondary schools and sixth form colleges 330 responses

    (c) Local authorities 62 responses

    (d) Further and higher education 59 responses

    (e) Representative bodies (other than c and d) 63 responses

    (f) Individual members of the public 89 responses.

    TOTAL: 913.

    2. To identify clear general approval or disapproval for the document as a whole was difficult, especially given the carefully detailed nature of most of the responses. However, in rounded figures, approximately 30% of the responses broadly approved of the paper, 20% generally disapproved of it, and 50% fell between such clear positions and expressed reservations. This last group shaded from the largely approving to the largely condemnatory, with the greatest weighting towards the critical end of that spectrum.

    3. There was general welcome for the fact of a document about the English curriculum from HMI. One of the clearest statements of this kind came from the University of Southampton:-

    "It is excellent that we have a document of this kind and length to discuss and use as a basis for development. In spite of the criticisms that may be made of details, the general intentions are most worthwhile and the role of such statements in establishing a common language for the discussion of curriculum issues, and an agreed agenda of key items, is crucial."
    Few comments were so clear or emphatic as this, but it fairly represents one of the strongest and most positive veins of response. It is manifest, in this and similar responses, that the attempt to establish common ground is widely felt to have been an important and worthwhile venture. However, this welcome was frequently qualified by anxiety, and sometimes suspicion, from many within the profession. In this regard, the themes which chiefly

    *65,000 copies were distributed free
    20,000 copies have been sold by HMSO.

    [page 26]

    emerged were fears about centralisation and the professional integrity and independence of teachers and comments about a 'lack of realism' which was widely felt to characterise both the nature and the demands of the objectives.

    4. The main sections of the document evoked differing responses. Broadly, there was a good deal of approval for the aims, principles and assessment sections, though with regard to assessment there was clear professional dissent from the notion of periodic testing which was viewed as time-consuming and as an externally imposed process. The character of this cautious support can be gauged in several ways, not least by noting that many responses (wrongly) suggested two hands to have been at work in the document - one writing those sections they liked and another those which they disliked.

    5. Responses from the public, category (f), and from institutions which were not directly representative of teachers, were often at variance with those from the profession. Seventy-four per cent of the letters from the public were unreserved in their approval of the paper, but it was clear also that some 20% of these respondents were reacting to a specific report in one daily newspaper and not to the document itself; indeed only 11% of the letters in category (f) dealt with each of the document's sections. Many of these particular respondents wrote as if declining standards in English were a proven fact and they called for rigorous and prescriptive teaching on points of usage, many of which are themselves matters of dispute. From industry and the world of work there were disappointingly few responses and they varied in emphasis according to the specific activities of particular industries. In general, they evinced a concern with writing, chiefly spelling and punctuation, and some urged schools to pay greater attention to letter writing. Others, taking a broader view, suggested expansions of the objectives in ways which stressed the active and responsive use of language by young people. Thus, among the suggestions of the Institute of Personnel Management were such additions to the objectives as:

    "Listening: listen to dialogue or conversation in order to be able to contribute to the development of argument ... About language: be aware that language is a living entity: it grows and develops. New usages are constantly being introduced ... "
    It is clear that much mutual benefit might derive from a dialogue between industry and the teaching profession. Crucial to such an exchange would be a discussion of the roles of education and training and the differences between them, of the perspectives they share about the development needs of young people and how schools might be assisted to develop more work which has the "real or realistic purposes" for language activity recommended in English from 5 to 16.

    6. Not only did the public and the profession respond, but the document

    [page 27]

    was widely reported in the daily press in articles which were lively, variously informed, partial, superficial and mischievous in their representation of its contents. The press in general displayed an eagerness to use the document to criticise teachers and the standards achieved by pupils and there was much rosy sentiment about the past. The headlines in particular were unhelpful; they concentrated upon the issue of 'knowledge about language' which they reduced to 'grammar', and dubbed the recommendations as a call for the restoration of practices which were clearly and specifically criticised in the document itself.


    Back to basics in schools. Schools are being urged to go back to basics by reintroduced traditional lessons on grammar, spelling and punctuation.
    This controversial call is made in a report released yesterday by the Government's Inspectors of Schools. Its aim is to tighten up on sloppy thinking and writing among children of all ages ... " (Daily Express 3.10 1984)


    The teaching of two of the three Rs - reading and writing - will revert to the best of tried and true principles of 30 years ago if recommendations by the Government's school inspectors are adopted.
    They want children to receive more teaching of the rudiments of grammar, punctuation and spelling, how to speak and express themselves properly.. " (Daily Telegraph 3.10.84)

    There were many similar headlines and the small team which read the responses formed an impression that such press reactions may have hardened teachers' criticisms; responses which arrived several months after the press reports were often more circumspect about the document in general and the language issue in particular than were those which followed hard upon them.

    7. In brief there was wide welcome for the publication of a document on the English curriculum, though different groups welcomed the paper for often contrasting reasons, with varying degrees of warmth and with emphasis upon the relative merits of quite different items. The objectives however evoked widespread disfavour, especially from the profession, and those which related to the fourth aim ('knowledge about language'), were strongly criticised. The responses also focussed on a number of specific matters raised in the original document upon which further discussion or clarification is called for. In the second part of the present paper, the broad areas agreement and disagreement will be explored further; in the third part the objectives will be more fully discussed and in the fourth a number of the

    [page 28]

    specific issues raised by respondents will be dealt with. The paper will conclude by highlighting and summarising those central matters which the responses have shown to be important for those with responsibility for the shaping of future policy with regard to the teaching of English in our schools.

    II Degrees of accord

    8. The respondents were drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests: even the majority group, the teachers, represented both differing phases of education and contrasting experiences and philosophies. From their varied viewpoints, however, respondents found much in the introductory discussion of aims upon which they were in broad accord with what had been suggested in the paper. Specifically, the clear recognition of the complexity and the responsibility of the English teacher's role was warmly endorsed (paragraph 1.4), as was the firm reiteration of the key principle of the inter-relatedness of the four language modes (talking, listening, reading and writing) and the clear statement that "the promotion of [their] interaction should be a basic principle of the teaching of English" (1.6). The model of developing competence in English as growing to match an expanding range of language uses (1.5) was also generally accepted. The first three aims (1.6) were also generally endorsed, though not always without qualification (see below).

    9. There was a measure of division about the title of the document and what it was taken to imply. Some regretted that 'English', as distinct from 'language', was the specific point of focus and asked if this signalled the end of attention to the pupil's development in 'language across the curriculum'. Others, taking a directly opposite view, welcomed the focus on English urging that responsibilities in this subject were already quite large enough. The first group may be answered by noting that Curriculum Matters No. 2, which discusses the curriculum as a whole, refers to more general language matters, but that it is the intention of the other volumes to focus aims and objectives for the individual subjects and aspects which make up that whole.

    10. The fourth aim, as predicted, prompted a good deal of disagreement and division; it will be discussed in paragraphs 37 to 39 below. There was also some unease about what was felt to be the infusion of a narrowly functional view of language in the statements of objectives; this will also be discussed below in Part IV. Some teachers in urban primary schools challenged the statement that "before starting school most children already have considerable experience in and command of at least spoken English ... " They seldom cited the obvious example of pupils for whom English is not the home language, but referred instead to widespread disadvantage among indigenous children, which they felt had been underestimated.

    [page 29]

    11. The arguments concerning objectives will have a separate section of their own, Part III. Many respondents from schools, local authorities and higher education, however, made points concerning the tone, layout and location of the objectives. They regarded them as being given greater prominence than the more important section on principles and in their 'peremptory' tone, and in many points of detail, they viewed them as inconsistent with the points of principle which they applauded. Many readers read messages in the positioning of objectives before principles and in their checklist layout. They saw this as a down-grading of principles and as part of a headlong rush to effect change at the surface, with little regard for the 'deeper structure' of English teaching.

    12. For most of Section 3, on principles, there was clear support. That there was substantial accord and that it represents an important development which holds promise for the further progress of pupils in schools is well worth recording. And it is all the more important to do so given the natural tendency of many of the respondents to discuss only briefly the points they agreed with and to handle at greater length and in detail those which made them either anxious or angry. Among the specific points from Section 2 which were strongly and widely commended at meetings of teachers around the country were the following:

    i. the clear understanding that: "the most effective way of developing language competence is by applying it to an increasing range and variety of real needs and purposes, in which something of genuine interest is communicated" and that it is "the teacher's responsibility to devise programmes of work ... in which such needs and purposes arise". (3.3)

    ii. the firm assertion of the importance and complexity of the teacher's role: "Good teaching of English, at any level is far more than the inculcation of skills." (3.2)

    iii. the strong support for drama as: "an essential part of language teaching in primary and secondary schools". (3.14)

    iv. the clearly stated understanding that: "Language exercises from textbooks or work cards are not effective means of initiating the learning of language skills." (3.10)

    v. the unambiguous endorsement of the long-standing recognition that: "formal exercises in the analysis and classification of language contribute little or nothing to the ability to use it." (3.8)

    vi. and that: "The least able at using language are the least likely to understand the terminology ... " (3.8)

    Similarly, there was particularly strong support for the document's emphasis upon the importance of drafting in the writing process; it is not widely practised and this accord might be a prelude to significant progress.

    [page 30]

    13. The brief discussion of the use of drama to assist learning was given general welcome and support. Drama specialists underlined the endorsement of their subject as "an essential part of language teaching in primary and secondary schools". Several other respondents regretted its brevity and a number urged an emphasis on the place of drama as a subject in its own right in the curriculum, in addition to its use in mediating other learning. A separate and more detailed discussion of drama may appear in the Curriculum Matters series in due course.

    14. Section 4, on assessment, also prompted a largely favourable response and was widely regarded as helpful and humane. Two items in particular were strongly commended:

    " ... few aspects of English ... can be mechanically marked. It is impressionistic - but good impression marking involves awareness of the elements that contribute to the success of an utterance or response. This principle holds good for assessment in all language modes ... " (4.5)

    ... "assessment is not merely of a pupil's success in operating the 'skills' of language; it is inevitably and properly concerned with the quality of what is said ... We must therefore assess (pupils') progress as people using language for the purposes necessary to people, not as mere language operators." (4.6)

    These, along with additional emphasis on seeking positive achievement (4.8) in pupils' work, were felt to hold important implications for teachers and examiners, especially with the inception of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).

    15. The suggestion of periodic testing was very widely rejected. An externally imposed national monitoring apparatus which used simplistic objective tests was envisaged and deeply distrusted. The apprehension was that such tests would inevitably determine the curriculum and in a narrow and mechanistic fashion. Disappointingly, few respondents appeared to be aware of the work of the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) (1) referred to, which in no sense matches the feared models. Nor was it seen that periodic tests might be of a school's own devising and planned both to assist the assessment of individual progress and measure the effectiveness of the school's curriculum and delivery.

    16. There were few other detailed or general comments on assessment, except for the warning that non-verbal features (gesture, posture, eye contact, facial expression) in relation to the spoken word differ according to culture and may need great sensitivity. There was also the observation that assessment in the spoken word, especially across the wide range of aspects set out, would be a new experience for most teachers who would, therefore, require specific training.

    17. The brevity of English from 5 to 16, mentioned in its conclusion,

    (1) Details of APU's work and publications are available from APU, Room 4177A, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SEI 7PH.

    [page 31]

    prompted many comments about matters of emphasis and omission. Several of these receive attention in Part IV of the present paper, but one of the commonest does not. The detailed discussion of methodology is beyond the scope of the Curriculum Matters series of essentially short papers, though this does not preclude its discussion in other HMI publications.

    III The objectives

    18. The bulk of comments on the objectives were strongly expressed and either critical or anxious. Several clear strands could be discerned:

    i. some were opposed to statements of objectives in any form;

    ii. many were fearful of centralisation and saw this as being associated with the listed objectives;

    iii. many viewed the objectives in the document as prescriptive and as narrowly drawn and functional in character (and also as potentially dangerous in their curricular consequences or in the hands of those outside the teaching profession);

    iv. there was a widely expressed feeling that there were too many objectives;

    v. allied to (iv) was a particularly well-argued case that the objectives were too heterogeneous in character, that they embraced matters of widely differing orders of importance and that the assertion that among the objectives "none has primacy" was indefensible;

    vi. above all, there was a clear belief among the great majority of respondents that the objectives were age-related targets for attainment by 'most' pupils. Within this very large group, all but a handful viewed the objectives as too inflexible and demanding to be applied to most pupils. Many also argued that the very process of attempting to define age-related targets for attainment was an unsafe exercise in view of what is known about language development. During the rest of this paper each of these points will be addressed either directly or indirectly.

    19. Those who opposed objectives in any form were a very small minority, but many others urged the much greater importance of the matters of principle and practice which they had welcomed. Still in a minority, but echoing the fears of a wider group who had expressed anxieties about a thrust towards centralisation, were those who were opposed to any model of objectives emerging from HMI or the DES. These wider anxieties often derived from a fear that the interests of pupils would be prejudiced by what they saw as a diminution of the teachers' exercise of professional judgement on curriculum matters. Others welcomed the offering of objectives as being of assistance in shaping their own curricula. Together, the responses ranged from the sharply hostile to the adulatory, but the majority were critical or wary of what were offered as objectives.

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    20. The great majority of readers responding to such phrasing in the text as 'most pupils should be able to' saw the objectives as standards of attainment which most children should be able to reach by the ages specified. There were two main strands of reaction to this: most said vigorously that they were too demanding and referred both to the widely varying rates of development of individual pupils and to the greatly differing circumstances which can affect the language performance both of individual children and of whole school intakes. Others, taking this view a step further and referring to A language for life and the detailed investigations upon which it was based, concluded, with Bullock, that:

    ... "it is certainly unrealistic to attempt to tie particular competences to given age-points," (paragraph 11.22, p. 172, A language for life HMSO, 1975).
    They believed that this was what had been attempted and that, as should have been anticipated, the attempt had foundered. What such responses make clear is the need for a better shared understanding of the meaning and tolerances of objectives for individual subjects. There are important matters here which will be explored further below:

    i. the age-related character of objectives which is common to the Curriculum Matters series as a whole;

    ii. the dual nature of the objectives in English from 5 to 16 (ie as including kinds of language experience and expectations);

    iii. the degrees of specificity with which expectations may be discussed at different levels in the education system.

    21. There is force in many of these criticisms and it is plain that what was being sought in the discussion of objectives was often misunderstood. It is accepted that the original paper did not set out its concerns in this regard sufficiently clearly.

    22. The age-related nature of the objectives is a characteristic of the Curriculum Matters series as a whole; the age-points suggested encompass the years of compulsory schooling and are those at which most, but not all, children might expect to change school. It is hard for those involved in education to argue on grounds of principle against an attempt to define in broad terms, what might be achieved by pupils at key points in their education. However, it is clear that though the arguments advanced in paragraph 20 are powerful they are answerable if the dual nature of the original objectives is acknowledged and adjustments made accordingly. The objectives of English from 5 to 16 embraced kinds of language experience which pupils might be expected to have been given by common age points and expectations with regard to performance. The arguments of respondents suggested that more common ground might be achieved by a threefold process of adjustment: the overall list of objectives could be reduced in

    [page 33]

    number and broadened in character; objectives for experience should be sharply separated from objectives with regard to expectations; expectations might be redrawn in more general terms to accommodate the great diversity of children's abilities and rates of progress, as emphasised by respondents, while still providing teachers with indicators as to progression. Illustrations of a process of revision which could be more fully carried out on these lines are offered in the Appendix.

    23. A reduction in the numbers and a widening of the objectives as noted above would accord well with the intention of seeking "broadly agreed objectives" which need "not mean that the curricular policies of the Secretary of State, the LEA and the school should relate to each other in a nationally uniform way". It would also accommodate "healthy diversity" and leave room for "liveliness and innovation" (Better schools HMSO, 1985, paragraph 37 - this White Paper appeared after the publication of English from 5 to 16). It would be particularly appropriate with reference to the kinds of language experience which children should be offered and would also answer some of the other criticisms offered by respondents (see paragraph 25 below). Such a re-casting in more general terms could both provide guidelines for and accommodate diversity of practice.

    24. It will now be clear that it was the objectives relating to expectations of performance which prompted the strongest dissent. The criticisms were both practical (especially of the objectives failing to match teachers' experiences of all but the very ablest pupils), and theoretical, not only with reference to Bullock (paragraph 20 above), but to the concept of the task-specific nature of performance emphasised by the APU. This suggests that the way a particular task is set is a significant determinant of a pupil's response; it weakens the force of generalisations about language performance which can be made in isolation from responses to known tasks. However, these are not arguments against the attempt to discuss expectations; rather they reinforce the twofold need for a clear understanding of the limited tolerances of the generalisations that can be made and of the roles of the different partners in education of the nation's children. Thus, although the expectations of pupils which can be set out in a national document can certainly be founded upon suggestions for broad categories of language experiences which most pupils should have been offered by certain ages, they must allow for a range of performance if they are to recognise the diversity of ability and rates of development which obtain among children. Within the broad brackets which can be offered in this way, however, schools and teachers, familiar with their intakes and with particular pupils, can and should be much more specific about expectations and differentiate tasks accordingly. The model for drawing up revised objectives for English which is illustrated in the Appendix and which has been assisted by the responses makes two further assumptions: that it is possible for the profession to agree the broad categories of language experience which should be offered to pupils and that these experiences will be delivered in lively and interesting ways. With these

    [page 34]

    points in mind, the discussion of expectations is possible in one way at national level while at school level it can and should be finely tuned to accommodate particular classes and indeed pupils. This is not to suggest that such documents as those of the Curriculum Matters series, or their successors, either could or should take over the curriculum planning roles or responsibilities of schools or English departments; they are frameworks of thinking to assist schools in that essential and necessarily unending process of defining and clarifying their intentions for their pupils and in doing so from a common starting point.

    25. The arguments made against the view that all objectives were equally important were convincing, the following being a particularly forceful example:

    "The worst feature of these miscellaneous objectives is that they lump together a few essential aims ... with many desirable but comparatively minor skills ... Some of the objectives are major aims that will underline the whole of a pupil's school career, others will only be introduced briefly at a particular moment; some are only slightly dependent on the teacher, others heavily so" (Response by Dr Robert Protherough of the University of Hull, printed in The Gadfly 1985.)

    This is accepted, but endless and sterile debate about the placing of individual items must be avoided. Moreover, most of the criticisms made by Dr Protherough could be eliminated or substantially minimised by revised objectives of the kind suggested above and illustrated in the Appendix. It is in the spirit both of the document and of the series as a whole to invite teachers and others to establish their own hierarchies. They might also wish to make additions and substitutions - again, this would accord well with the spirit in which the list was offered.

    IV Matters arising

    26. Distinct from the broad trends handled in the previous sections, respondents raised a number of important specific issues to which attention should be drawn. Some represented polarities of viewpoint, while others raised matters upon which the further comment which follows may suggest greater accord.

    Narrow functionalism

    27. Many readers felt that both the objectives and the document as a whole were narrowly functional. At least in part, such perceptions may lie in what is brought to the reading of a text - by fears, special interests or misleading press publicity. Certainly, the purposeful uses of language received strong emphasis in the document. They did so because, though not new in

    [page 35]

    themselves, they remain insufficiently explored in the generality of practice: a wide range of language tasks which acknowledges purpose, readership or audience and in which pupils are helped to make appropriate responses is not yet characteristic of most classrooms. A balanced curriculum includes all these aspects and is in no sense incompatible with literature, the aesthetic or the affective. To achieve better balance will make new demands of many teachers. The answer does not lie in finding room at the expense of literature or other work designed to promote personal growth (of which it might form a part) but in an overall re-appraisal of what is done - in short of aims and objectives. And such an appraisal should include a closer scrutiny, at school level, of the specific language diet offered to pupils and in particular of the place accorded to drills and to course book exercises, and their actual, as distinct from supposed, effectiveness.

    Standard English

    28. A number of critics, chiefly from urban areas, suggested that the paper had paid only lip service to non-standard forms of written and spoken English by talking of "not belittling or proscribing" the language children bring from their homes (3.12) instead of openly welcoming language variety. Others, with similar views, suggested that the paper had overvalued standard forms and still others suggested that this was to the particular disadvantage of children from families of Caribbean origin. Another group took exception to the phrase "Standard Spoken English" holding that it was a term not recognised in linguistics, that it implied an unwelcome imposition of 'middle class' forms and aspirations upon the majority and that it was in any case unrealistic.

    29. The term 'Standard Spoken English' was used in an attempt to distinguish between written and spoken forms. Some linguists will, no doubt, wish to continue a debate concerning its necessity, but the paper made it clear (3.13) that 'accent' or pronunciation was not an aspect of the concept. What is left is the grammar and vocabulary of Standard English - exactly those features of the language which, irrespective of a specific accent or pronunciation, characterise the wide range of formal and semi-formal uses for which it is employed in so many countries around the world. What is reassuring is the finding of the 1982 APU secondary survey of language performance in schools (1) which discovered that "all of the pupils in this oracy survey were able to adopt standard usage and a widely intelligible accent in a situation which they interpreted as requiring them to do so" (page 19 - our italics). This is precisely what was sought in English from 5 to 16 and substantially rebuts the claims of those critics who suggested that the paper was being unrealistic and over-demanding in this regard. It will be noticed that neither the APU quotation nor the discussion paper either mentioned or urged the use of Received Pronunciation (RP) and there is no intention of urging it here.

    (1) Language performance in schools: secondary survey report No. 1 HMSO, 1982.

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    30. "Standard English dialect (remember we are referring to patterns of grammar and vocabulary but not to pronunciation) has no local base. On the contrary it is accepted throughout the English-using world. And it is spoken with any accent. Consequently it is the only dialect which is neither localised in its currency nor paired solely with its local accent ... There are remarkably few variations in grammar in Standard English, whether the writer comes from Britain or Ghana or Canada or Hong Kong or India or the United States. There are a number of variations in vocabulary ... but they are quickly learned and rarely cause more than momentary hesitations in comprehension." (Peter Strevens: 'Standards and the Standard Language' in English Today Vol. 2 April 1985).
    In its extraordinary currency, its homogeneous form and in the wide range of uses for which it is employed, lies the importance of the Standard English dialect, and there can be no doubt that ease and familiarity in using and responding to it must be central to the work of all English teachers. In an English speaking country to deprive pupils of such ease and familiarity with standard spoken and written forms is to deny some of their rights as citizens. This is not to say that non-standard forms are inherently inferior, or limited in their capacity to convey meaning; in some respects indeed they may be 'superior' - it has long been recognised that non-standard dialects can embrace some kinds of activity and feeling with a force which may be lacking in standard forms and usages. A well-devised language education will recognise these aspects of standard and non-standard. It will also recognise the importance of repertoire. Confidence and encouragement lie at the core of a child's language development in school and for many pupils the most effective route toward a grasp of standard forms may well be through the non-standard. This is to reinforce long-standing educational principles concerning the development of competence and understanding by working from the familiar to the less familiar.

    The spoken word

    31. Many readers perceived in English from 5 to 16 what they regarded as a strengthened emphasis upon the importance of the spoken word. It was a point they welcomed and about which there were few, if any, dissenting voices. This consensus is a matter of the greatest importance and should be borne in mind when matters of reservation are dealt with below. Despite the welcome for the paper's discussion of the spoken word, the responses seldom added suggestions for its development and some noted that it was an area upon which teachers would need assistance. The in-service training implications of making widespread advances in this respect may be considerable.

    32. There were however three strands of criticism.

    i. It was widely suggested that the 'standards' implied by the spoken word objectives were too high, especially those for seven year olds - it was roundly asserted that few of us attain them in real life; as one primary school noted:

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    "Very few adults can 'listen' with patience, attention and understanding to other speakers; Members of Parliament certainly cannot! How can we say children should be able to?".
    ii. It was also suggested that the objectives betrayed a restrictive and socially weighted model of language which was itself inadequate for some important social situations - the expression of 'passionate dissent', the 'assertion of threatened rights' and the 'resistance of oppression' were among the points urged.

    iii. Some noted that in the objectives section talking and listening were handled separately: they were keen to stress the inter-relatedness of the two, the artificiality of their separation, and its ineffectiveness for developing active understanding. This important qualification is wholly accepted: it was indeed embodied in the principles section and is carefully discussed in the work of the APU from which English from 5 to 16 drew much of its framework on this issue.

    For the classroom teacher, the important points to carryover into daily practice are that: the spoken word should feature as a natural and substantial part of learning; that both talking and listening should occur and that they should usually be integrated; that they should frequently occur in conjunction with the other language modes (reading and writing) and that, wherever possible, they should be employed for "real or realistic purposes" in the curriculum, as commended in the original document.

    33. The criticisms of (i) and (ii) above centred upon what was felt to be the restrictive nature of the objectives and what were seen as reasonable expectations. In effect what was proposed in English from 5 to 16 was a substantial increase upon much current general practice, of attention to the spoken word and of the variety and flexibility with which it is handled in most schools. This could go a long way to broadening the range of purposes in ways hoped for by many readers of the original paper. It would be an appropriate development and might well embrace additional uses of language. However, two further and perhaps cautionary points should also be made. The spoken word will be least effectively developed if improvements in speech or listening (or their assessment) are themselves at the forefront of classroom activity instead of their purposeful, integrated and well contextualised use. This applies as much to any broadening of the spoken word objectives (as in (ii) above) as to the original list. Secondly, the items of (ii) in the form in which they were sometimes expressed implied a particular political agenda for education. Nevertheless, in so far as those respondents can be interpreted as calling for a widening of the spoken word objectives to embrace more fully such issues as the presentation of and response to argument, reasoning and the use and validity of evidence, and the development of personal and social skills in speaking and listening across a broad front, their case is strong.

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    34. The criticism with regard to excessive expectations is in part allied to that concerning narrowness. Both are capable of resolution by the adoption of the different model for the drafting of English objectives which was discussed above in Part III. Such a reworking would underline the fundamental agreement which exists on matters of principle in this area and examples of a possible format are offered in an Appendix.


    35. On the importance of literature, there was probably more agreement between English from 5 to 16 and most respondents from the profession than was noticed by some readers and this paper provides the opportunity to clarify the matter. Some readers, detecting what they see as a growing neglect of literature in schools, and of poetry in particular, had hoped for greater emphasis and a more active advocacy of the case for literature than they found. As noted above, others felt the paper to be narrowly functional. Such perceptions are often highly reader-dependent, as are matters of emphasis. A properly functional view of language embraces the full range of its uses, including literature, the aesthetic and the affective domains which these respondents felt were missing or were insufficiently emphasised. There is no question of HM Inspectors supporting the relegation of literature to an inferior position in a brash new pecking order, as the gathering of references which follows will, it is hoped, make clear. With regard to aims for reading, English from 5 to 16 suggested firmly that pupils should be helped "to have confidence in their capacities as readers; to find pleasure in and be voluntary users of reading, for information, for interest, for entertainment, and for the extension of experience and insight that poetry and fiction of quality afford; and to see that reading is necessary for their personal lives, for their learning throughout the curriculum and for the requirements of living and working in society." (1.6). Among the reading objectives proposed for 16 year olds are items which, for all their restraint of expression, might well be used as rallying calls by the critics on this matter. There is the clearly stated belief that pupils should be assisted to "have some awareness of the relevance of literature to human experience", to recognise some of the ways writers achieve their effects, to develop an ability to judge the value and quality of what they read and "above all" it was suggested that they should come to "regard reading as a normal and habitual source of pleasure, interest and information". Similar comments may be found elsewhere in the document; together, they show a substantial understanding of the importance of literature in the English curriculum.

    36. English from 5 to 16 recognised the importance of literature; the claim of literature for a place at the heart of the English curriculum, which was made by some of the most passionate and articulate respondents, is also supported. Literature offers pupils the experience of books and the extension of their experience through books. Only in literature will they encounter language at its most highly wrought, capturing, shaping and

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    combining experience, thought and feeling. Part of the affective domain, it has also long been recognised that literature has a central role to play "in the development of each boy and girl towards maturity" (Schools Council 1965). (1) Literature can both extend pupils' understanding and sympathies and contribute to the development of their judgement and discrimination. If it is well taught, both will occur but, for a variety of reasons, the danger, in general classroom practice, is that these two strands may not be held in balance and that superficial, premature and second-hand written judgements will be developed to the detriment of genuine personal response.

    Knowledge about language

    37. Nothing divided the respondents more than the issue of knowledge about language. Colouring the whole debate were the experiences, recalled by many teachers, of exactly the old style of grammatical analysis headlined in some press reports. Those sit firmly in the memories of the majority as being "tedious and useless" and research findings were invoked to reinforce the point. What was not widely noticed, however, was that the original paper also explicitly excluded this line of approach (3.8).

    38. The case for teaching about language was variously viewed as unjustified, justified on weak grounds (as an aid only to performance in writing) and as understated - the latter point being offered by those with a professional interest in linguistics. Cumulatively, the case for the aim was strengthened by the deployment of additional arguments among which were the following:

    a. such teaching about language as occurs in schools at present is both chancy and incoherent;

    b. language is one of our chief defining characteristics as human beings; it is a major aspect of the environment we create for ourselves; it has as rightful a place in the curriculum as any other field in the humanities and sciences in none of which is it argued that their terminology should not be taught to pupils;

    c. teaching about the nature of language might help pupils to understand where English fits in the map of languages spoken in the UK (150 mother tongues) and beyond. This might assist in the promotion of linguistic and racial tolerance, the self-esteem of pupils for whom English is not the heritage language and motivation for foreign language learning as well as providing a number of insights of use in development.

    39. In a general letter to recipients of English from 5 to 16, it was asked what teachers should be expected to know about language and about language development in children. It was generally agreed that teachers should be well acquainted with these matters in order to assist their pupils.

    (1) English: a programme for research and development in English teaching. Schools Council Working Paper No. 3. HMSO, 1965.

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    Some noted that a substantial in-service programme would be needed to prepare teachers to handle the listed objectives. Others suggested that there had been a failure to implement the Bullock report's recommendation with regard to instruction in language for all prospective teachers. As for what should be taught, either to teachers or pupils, while there were a few individually helpful contributions, there were no clear trends except for the widespread and vigorous rejection of grammatical analysis and of teaching the terminology listed in the objectives. The situation is one in which the case for the aim has been somewhat strengthened by some of the responses, but the proposed objectives substantially minimised or rejected by the great majority. This suggests that there may be some grounds for believing that there may be wide accord with the aim though there is little agreement, as yet, about alternative objectives. There is also a clear need and some growing willingness to settle an agenda and ultimately a curriculum for this aim, but it is also plain that it will be a long time before the professional unity required to implement a policy can be arrived at. The growth of a stronger accord might be assisted by an enquiry to focus attention on the matter, with the ultimate object of drawing up recommendations as to what might be taught to intending teachers, to those in post and to pupils in schools. It should also be understood that further developments in this field are likely to entail considerable costs for curriculum development, dissemination and initial and in-service training.

    English in a multi-ethnic society

    40. A number of correspondents held that English from 5 to 16 had underemphasised the needs of pupils for whom English is not the mother tongue. The point to be made most emphatically is that whatever the reader's views of any particular set of aims and objectives there can be no question of suggesting separate ones for minority communities if the children of those communities are to occupy an equal place in an English-speaking society. The Swann Report states plainly that:

    " ... the key to equality of opportunity, to academic success, and more broadly, to participation on equal terms as a full member of society is a good command of English" (Education for all, Cmnd 9453 HMSO, 1985, Page 407, our italics.).
    It is right to scrutinise any set of objectives proposed to bring about such a "good command of English ... ", but it is unacceptable to propose separate objectives, for that is to propose separate development, with all the associations carried by that phrase. As suggested in paragraph 24 above, specific differentiation according to the needs of individuals or particular groups is the proper province of the teachers. This is not to imply that less is to be expected of the pupils concerned.

    41. Matters of methodology and resources, which may well need to be enhanced for children learning English as a second language or

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    consolidating their command of it, were excluded from the original writer's brief, but it was clearly acknowledged that "these pupils may need special provision". It can be added here that such 'special provision' should not be thought of solely in terms of isolated small group teaching and that it would be appropriate to include teaching materials and approaches which both recognise and draw upon the cultural backgrounds of the pupils concerned. Indeed, a fuller acknowledgement and utilisation of cultural diversity, suitably mediated, could enrich English teaching in general. Nevertheless, the kinds of development in English which should be sought for linguistic minorities are not distinct from those for mother tongue speakers of the language: if each is to progress towards equality both need to be helped to grow:

    in the range and variety of purposes for which [they] can understand and use language ... "
    and correspondingly, each should:
    ... increase in the range and variety of appropriate forms, techniques and styles of language that they can respond to and use." (1.5).
    42. Some critics called for mother tongue instruction for pupils for whom English is not the home language. It has to be said that a short document on the teaching of English, addressed chiefly to teachers of English, was not the right forum for entering that debate. The Swann Committee hearings and subsequent report were appropriate and a recommendation upon that issue has been offered. It can be added, however, that a public discussion of what might be taught 'about language' in the English class (see above, paragraphs 37 to 39) might well embrace matters of interest to those who have pressed the case for bilingualism in schools; that discussion, which is certain to raise the topic of standard and non-standard forms, may also be of support to speakers of dialects and creoles.

    Information technology (IT)

    43. A strongly expressed, but not widespread, criticism of English from 5 to 16 related to a lack of comment on the use of the computer. With regard to English it is clear that, far from reducing demands, IT may increase requirements for literacy, including writing, (though not perhaps for hand writing). However, aims and objectives for English are not made substantially different by IT, though they may be made more urgent and their fulfilment may also be assisted by the provision of 'work stations' in sufficient quantities to make IT a substantial and integral part of the daily curricular experience of all children. The potential for methodological development in English however is great. It is already plain that IT offers important potential to the teacher for motivating pupils. It can also support individualised learning and permit access to ever-increasing banks of

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    information both within and outside the school. The technology is enormously flexible allowing information to be handled and displayed in a wide variety of ways, including through word processing. Thus, drafting and the associated positive teacher intervention can be assisted, 'real' acts of communication may be promoted by electronic means, individual research can be supported and a variety of co-operative teaching and learning approaches can also be assisted.

    Media education

    44. Groups with specialist interests in media education expressed general welcome for what was said about the various media (film, television and video, audio, and non-book print), but suggested that it did not go far enough. They called for closer engagement with the social significance of the media and of language in general and urged the case both for media education in its own right and for a more full and circumspect use of the media in English and other subjects. Like 'knowledge about language', media studies require wider debate and are likely to call for substantial in-service training. The aims and objectives of media education need to be arrived at in respect of all the subjects of the curriculum. If an agreed curriculum on these matters is not arrived at, diverse and hidden ones will inexorably emerge.

    V Conclusions

    45. English from 5 to 16 was the first and to date the most controversial publication in an HMI series which breaks new ground both by being subject specific about aims, objectives and principles and by inviting response. The exercise has been most fruitful: it has shown much about the state of opinion on the central matters raised in the original discussion paper. In turn, these findings may be used to help to draw up an agenda for those concerned with national policy developments in the subject.

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      suggests both that for most readers the objectives were misaligned and that accord might be possible with substantially realigned objectives cast in broader terms.

    • The discussion of: 'knowledge about language' has revealed a number of important trends: first and foremost there was substantial, though certainly not unanimous, agreement that children should learn something about their language and how it works. Beyond that agreement fades. There was strong hostility to formal grammatical analysis - on practical and theoretical grounds; deep divisions upon matters of principle, practice and content; from groups with a particular interest, a reinforcement of arguments for the 'fourth aim' (the need to teach pupils about language); quite widespread expressions by teachers of a willingness to know more about language for themselves, but few suggestions as to what they or their pupils might be taught. The analysis offered in the original paper which suggested that "many pupils are taught nothing about how language works as a system" remains true and may be a consequence of the strong feelings and divisions revealed. Whatever the causes it appears to be true that there exists a gap between intent (to teach all children about the language) and the means to bring that about (agreement about what should be taught and how). It is a matter in need of resolution if national policy is to address the matter with any hope of constructive action. It may be that a concentrated and thorough public discussion of the issues is needed; perhaps even a national enquiry is required to focus opinion and guide policy formation about what should be taught about our language and what needs to be known by teachers and pupils. It is likely that the findings of such an enquiry would need to be followed up by a substantial investment in initial and in-service training and in the development of suitable teaching materials.

    • Although English from 5 to 16 can be defended against accusations of narrow functionalism and eroding the status of literature, the strong expressions of concern and fear regarding these matters should be seen as part of the climate of opinion which those concerned with forming policies will need to take into account. They emphasise the strong commitment of English teachers to a broad interpretation of their subject as a humane discipline within which literature holds a key position.

    • Similarly, the multi-ethnic dimension has been raised as a topic about which there are strong emotions. Separate objectives for different groups are unacceptable, but the case for recognising ethnic diversity in English within the framework of commonly agreed objectives has been strengthened by the responses.

    • Those who raised the topic of media education emphasised the pervasiveness of the media in all our lives and the subtlety of the ways they shape attitudes and opinion; their case for more explicit attention in schools to the media and to key ways in which they influence and impinge upon our lives is strong but not confined to English.

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    Objectives for English

    What follows is a selection of illustrative examples of how, taking account of the reasoned responses to the original document, the objectives for the teaching of English might be recast. A number of general differences from the earlier pattern will be immediately obvious, as will many points of detail. In particular, the descriptions have been reshaped to distinguish more fully between suggestions for the experience of language use and expectations of performance. Both have been cast in broader terms: broad indicators are put forward both as a basis for the more detailed planning which schools and teachers need to undertake (in the light of their knowledge of intakes, individual pupils and particular tasks) and for discussion by the other parties to the education of our children. In response to the guidance offered by the respondents the expectations of pupils are not set out rigidly as staging posts, but are described in terms of the qualities, attitudes and skills which pupils should be seen to be acquiring at the age points given. This approach allows for the existence of wide individual variations among pupils while maintaining the expectation that high aspirations are appropriate for all pupils.

    The spoken word

    Objectives at the age of 7

    By the age of 7 all pupils should have had extensive experience of a wide range of situations and activities planned to develop their confidence in talking and listening.

    All children should have been encouraged to talk and listen to their peers and to adults in a wide range of groupings including:-


    small groups of varied size

    whole class groups

    groups larger than the class.

    For all pupils the range of general purposes and activities should have included:-
    collaborative and exploratory

    imaginative play and improvised drama

    listening to well-chosen and well-read stories, rhymes, poems, plays and other writing (with participation where appropriate)

    listening to and narrating unscripted stories

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    sharing experiences (gained in and out of school)

    asking questions

    answering questions

    giving and receiving explanations

    collaborative learning and problem-solving activities (getting something done together)

    using a tape recorder.

    For all pupils the activities should be planned and conducted to be enjoyable and to engage their interest. The teaching should be designed to develop, by informal and indirect means, children's powers of attention and their grasp of turn-taking as well as to assist them in gaining and holding the attention of their listeners.

    Across the range of activities listed above, it is also important that children should be helped, informally and indirectly, to extend and adjust their ways of speaking (eg in their choice of words, forms of address and degrees of formality or informality and non-verbal features) and of listening, according to purpose and context.

    The activities should have been conducted with a view to developing a grasp of sequence, cause and effect, reasoning, a sense of consistency and inconsistency and the relevant and purposeful use of powers of prediction and recall.

    Expectations at the age of 7

    By the age of 7 all children should have gained experience as talkers and listeners across the range of activities listed above and most should have gained confidence across the bulk of that range with variations between individuals and according to different tasks.

    By this age, all pupils should have been helped to regard the spoken word as a normal, natural and necessary part of school life and classroom activity and as one in which they are ready to take part.

    All children by this age should also be accustomed to working with others and to have had such experiences of talk and listening as to regard them as interesting and enjoyable.

    Most children should be able to vary the way they speak to meet most of the demands of the situations listed above, with differences according to task and individual ability.

    With appropriate support if necessary, most children should be able to vary pitch, intonation and enunciation and non-verbal features to deliver their meanings clearly.

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    Objectives at the age of 7

    By the age of 7 all children should have had experiences of writing and teaching designed to developed their confidence as young writers and to assist them in finding purpose and pleasure in the process of writing. They should be helped towards an implicit understanding that the written word differs sharply from the spoken in its procedures, conventions and demands. It should be an objective for the work of all children that close links be established between experience (both direct and indirect) and writing and that talk and reading should be customary preliminaries (and/or accompaniments) to writing. It would also be appropriate that various forms of narrative should feature most prominently and might embrace at least:

    accounts of experiences;

    the writing of stories;

    accounts of something the pupils have learned or read about or of learning activities in which they have taken part.

    Within these types of narrative it is important that children should be helped to begin, informally, to perceive that stylistic variations according to purpose and readership are customary and to make some response in their own work. This also applies to the letter writing to relations, friends and sympathetic adults which might also form part of the writing experience offered to most pupils at this age. Pupils should also be offered encouragement and support in writing poems and descriptions, expressing feelings, recording and commenting on investigations, offering simple explanations in which reasons are given and preparing instructions and directions for credible identifiable purposes.

    Children should also have had extensive experience of the teacher's attention and support, individually and in groups, which has included, generally and in relation to specific tasks, both diagnosis and assistance with the development of: clear handwriting, a grasp of spelling patterns, the establishment and extension of simple written sentence patterns and their elementary punctuation. This attention embraces the assumption that drafting (as distinct from simply preparing fair copies) should be a normal part of the writing process for most pupils.

    Expectations at the age of 7

    By the age of 7 all children should have been led to see writing as an important, purposeful, interesting and enjoyable process, to view themselves as capable of communicating on paper and to regard revision as a normal and unthreatening aspect of the writing process. In addition, most pupils should, with varying degrees of fluency and control, be capable of writing and punctuating simple connected sentences across the range of assignment

    [page 47]

    categories listed for them above, of using appropriate vocabulary and of showing in their writing their growing control of spelling. Most should also be expected to be beginning to show in their writing a tacit appreciation that variations are required for different tasks and readerships.

    Objectives at the age of 11

    In addition to the objectives for 7 year olds, which now imply both substantial and varied reinforcement and a wider range of experiences (both direct and indirect), most children by the age of II should also have had additional and purposeful opportunities in which to write:

    descriptions and accounts of personal and of vicarious experiences which embody both reflection and the expression of feelings;

    verifiable accounts or descriptions in which they record accurately what they have observed;

    short notes recording points from reference books and points made orally or undertaken to assist thinking and planning; (it follows that, most children by this age should have been given assistance and instruction in various forms of note-making, including diagrammatic and semi-diagramatic forms for a variety of purposes);

    to persuade;

    to request;

    to explain and give reasons.

    Note: At this age, it is personal and imaginative writing which should still form the bulk of the writing tasks undertaken. The additional purposes are listed as indicators of the new strands which now need to be introduced; if they are to be successfully handled by pupils the role and importance of discussion and carefully organised experiences cannot be over-emphasised.

    All children should also have had extensive experience of planned intervention and support, in accordance with their individual needs and related to appropriate tasks and contexts, with regard to the development of their writing skills. In general these will encompass: handwriting, spelling, punctuation, the development of sentence variety, control and organisation, paragraphing, and the proof-reading, editing and re-drafting of some of their own work.

    Most children at this age might be assisted to begin to take some explicit account of the need to vary their writing according to specific purposes, contexts and readerships.

    Expectations at the age of 11

    The expectations suggested for 7 year olds are subsumed within those

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    for 11 year olds, but now imply a greater range and higher demands with developments in confidence and positive attitudes. Greater maturity and the continuation of lively, supportive and purposeful teaching should also have assisted pupils to begin to appreciate the place of writing in helping them to fix and create meaning for themselves.

    Most pupils should display in their writing evidence of an increased awareness of the need to vary expression according to purpose and readership. In addition, most pupils, with variations of competence according both to individual ability and to the task in hand, should be capable of attempting most of the general writing purposes suggested above. For most pupils sentence control and fluency should have progressed to encompass an increased repertoire of patterns, an ability to produce longer and more complex sentences and to register sequence, cause and effect in varied ways, and the beginnings of an ability to organise and juxtapose sentences aptly in paragraphs. Most pupils should also have progressed in their grasp of spelling, punctuation and the use of appropriate vocabulary. For most pupils simple proof-reading and editing should have become more habitual and have developed towards a greater self-sufficiency.


    Objectives at the age of 16

    In addition to the objectives which would be listed for 7 and 11 year olds most 16 year old students should have been offered a substantial experience of:

    pleasurable and sustained encounters with a wide selection of fiction, poetry and drama (not confined to the 20th century).

    talking about literature with adults and peers which has required: an exercise of empathy with regard to a wide variety of human situations depicted in writing from a variety of periods; experience of different forms of writing occurring in a wide range of texts; the close interrogation of texts.

    a wide variety of writing activities requiring the close reading of literary and non-literary texts, but undertaken for purposes other than providing evidence of 'comprehension' as an end in itself.

    group and individual reading activities which have included, where appropriate, comparison, collation, the use of inference, assessment of attitude and intention (implicit and explicit), evaluation of evidence, and the implications of the selection, usage and ordering of words, images, constructions and organisation (including where appropriate the formal characteristics of verse).

    in a variety of forms, the exercise of judgements and the reasoned expression of views and preferences.

    a wide range of activities in which reading, discussion and writing and other media have been linked.

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    Expectations at the age of 16

    In addition to the expectations which would be listed for 7 and 11 year olds, most 16 year old students could be expected to have sustained the habit of voluntary reading; they could also be expected to have developed tastes and preferences for themselves and to have been so taught and assisted with their reading development as to be receptive to suggestions for new and wider reading. Positive attitudes to the reading of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama should be expected to have been sustained by effective teaching. Most 16 year olds should be capable of the fluent, silent reading of a wide variety of texts, including literature and information materials in a wide range of formats; they should be capable of sustained reading of material requiring some persistence and also able, in varying degrees, to adjust their reading strategies in accordance with the task in hand and the character of the individual text. Most should also be well on the way to becoming critical readers recognising: attitudes, intentions, bias, inference and implication in the language and organisation of non-fiction texts, and expressing reasoned views with regard to literary texts, encompassing both what is said and how it is said. A similar critical awareness should be developing with reference to other media. It is particularly important that, by the end of their last year of compulsory schooling, the English teaching of most students should have led them to an awareness of and responsiveness to the relevance of imaginative literature to human experience, to some appreciation of ways in which writers of fiction, poetry and drama express their meanings, both to be receptive to what is new to them and to have begun to be capable of discriminating with regard to what they read.