Let teachers be inspired to teach

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From: Mrs VM Jackson, Langthwaite Lane, Scawthorpe, Doncaster.

I FELT compelled to write in response to your article about falling literary standards (Yorkshire Post, March 16).

I qualified as a teacher in 1975, specialising in infant teaching and was employed for nearly 33 years in what was termed then as an EPA (educational priority area) school.

From the off I was told by an older member of staff to concentrate on “getting them reading – because if they can’t read, they can’t do anything”.

Because of the large classes we had at the time, I found it difficult to hear every child read to me twice a week, so I spent half an hour of my lunch time, every day, bringing children in from the playground one by one, to hear them read their reading book. These, four, five and six-year-olds thrived on the individual attention and grew in confidence and nearly all left my classes able to read something and aware that reading opened the door to knowledge.

Years later, when the national curriculum and the literary strategy came on board, I felt that I was being pushed into delivering little more than a watered down secondary curriculum, that gave little thought to the needs of individual children and their ages and stages of development. The planning was so exhausting that I soon gave up on my practice of hearing readers through lunch time. I was saddened by the fact that more of the teaching had become subject-based and it was becoming difficult to find time for the daily and much-loved story time where we shared not only stories, but also lots of poems, rhymes and songs with the children.

I became involved in the various literacy catch-up programmes, picking up some interesting ideas, but unfortunately these are designed to be delivered by teaching assistants. I have worked with some excellent and dedicated TAs but if the prescribed instructions for running the programme didn’t work with some individuals, they had neither the depth of knowledge or imagination to move them forward.

I had a thorough grounding during my training in the early 70s in child development and how to provide the right kind of learning experience for the child’s age and stage. The constant pressure from Ofsted and the Government to raise standards seem not to take into account the professionalism and dedication of teachers in general.

From: John G Davies, Alma Terrace, East Morton, Keighley.

YOUR comment “Aiming low” scarcely comes as a surprise (Yorkshire Post, March 16). The Government does a great deal of shouting and arm waving about how much it is doing to improve literacy, then promptly introduces counter productive measures.

Authorities on children’s reading and writing, not least Michael Rosen, have long been critical of the simplistic and managerial approach of this and previous governments. The artificial, contrived outlook has put children off reading; it has become chore instead of a pleasure.

As journalists, you will well understand the complex recursive processes involved in reading and writing, but from Michael Gove’s pronouncements one would think that it is a simple linear process and that Synthetic Phonics is the be-all and end-all of early reading.

It is the recipe of the weak learner, in the face of failure, to keep doing more of the same, convinced that things will improve, instead of taking a step back and re-examining their efforts and ideas.

Starting with the age that we begin “literacy” teaching might be useful because countries that do better in international comparisons do not start until much later, let alone test them so early. That early test gives the impression to the learner that reading is for passing tests, not for pleasure.

As an extreme example, the current Italian novelist, Gavino Ledda, never went to school because of family commitments, he was an illiterate shepherd until he joined the army and passed his school exams there, then took a degree at around 30 years of age. The drilling and skilling approach is sterile; transmitting a love of books, stories, words and language is as important, if not more so, in providing children with tools that can change their worlds, as they did for Ledda.

India doesn’t need our cash

From: Phil Hanson, Beechmount Close, Baildon, Shipley.

GEORGE Osborne has blamed the rise in prices of fuel at the pumps on uncertainty in Iran and the rapid increase in demand from fast growing national demand in India and China.

For the British economy to compete with these nations who do not have our exorbitant taxation and state organisations such as the NHS and education to fund, is it time to look for a cessation to the money we give India who clearly do not need our money?

The Indians have the cash but seek to develop national ego rather than feed their poor, as is demonstrated by their space shot ambitions.

If you like me agree that we should invest in our people rather than sending our cash overseas, write to International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell MP, he is the guy that gives over £500m of your money away each year and thinks it is great for India to buy jet fighters and send rockets to the moon at our expense!

As we have to compete on the world markets with India and China, countries who do not have our welfare standards, who do not give a toss about carbon footprints or the environment, they are the big threat to our future and yet we are giving these people handouts, it does not make sense!