Bullock (1975)

(page numbers in brackets)

Notes on the text

The complete report is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various chapters.

Preliminary pages (i-xxxvi)
Foreword, Membership, Contents, Introduction

Part 1 Attitudes and Standards
Chapter 1 (3-9)
Attitudes to the teaching of English
Chapter 2 (10-35)
Standards of reading
Chapter 3 (36-44)
Monitoring

Part 2 Language in the Early Years
Chapter 4 (47-50)
Language and learning
Chapter 5 (51-74)
Language in the early years

Part 3 Reading
Chapter 6 (77-96)
The reading process
Chapter 7 (97-114)
Reading in the early years
Chapter 8 (115-123)
Reading: the later stages
Chapter 9 (124-138)
Literature

Part 4 Language in the Middle and Secondary Years
Chapter 10 (141-161)
Oral language
Chapter 11 (162-187)
Written language
Chapter 12 (188-193)
Language across the curriculum

Part 5 Organisation
Chapter 13 (197-212)
The primary and middle years
Chapter 14 (213-219)
Continuity between schools
Chapter 15 (220-237)
The secondary school
Chapter 16 (238-242)
LEA advisory services

Part 6 Reading and Language Difficulties
Chapter 17 (245-265)
Screening, diagnosis and recording
Chapter 18 (266-276)
Children with reading difficulties
Chapter 19 (277-283)
Adult literacy
Chapter 20 (284-295)
Children from families of overseas origin

Part 7 Resources
Chapter 21 (299-313)
Books
Chapter 22 (314-327)
Technological aids and broadcasting

Part 8 Teacher Education and Training
Chapter 23 (331-346)
Initial training
Chapter 24 (347-356)
In-service education

Part 9 The Survey
Chapter 25 (359-510)
The teaching of English

Part 10 Sumary of Conclusions and Recommendations
Chapter 26 (513-560)
Conclusions and recommendations

Appendix A (561-576)
Witnesses and sources of evidence
Appendix B (577-584)
Visits made

Glossary (585-595)
Index (596-609)


The Bullock Report (1975)
A language for life

Report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock FBA

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1975
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





A language for life

Report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan Bullock F.B.A.





LONDON
HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
1975


[page ii]

Crown copyright 1975





ISBN 0 11 270326 7.*


[page iii]

Foreword

BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

This Report deserves to be widely read. All our education depends on the understanding and effective use of English as does success in so many aspects of adult life.

The Report concerns all who have responsibilities in education. Many recommendations are addressed to schools and teachers and call for a change of approach and redirection of effort rather than for additional resources. As the Committee acknowledges, recommendations with financial implications must be subject to current constraints; for the time being action on those which would involve additional resources must be postponed. Within this limitation I hope that local authorities and teachers at all levels will look carefully at the recommendations which concern them, as my Department will at those which concern the Government.

We are all greatly indebted to Sir Alan Bullock and his colleagues. They have given us an authoritative statement which will be of value as a basis for further discussion and development for many years to come.

REG PRENTICE

DECEMBER 1974




[page v]

9 September, 1974

Dear Secretary of State,

I have the honour to present the Report of the Committee set up by your predecessor, Mrs Thatcher, in 1972 to inquire into the teaching in the schools of reading and the other uses of English. As the Committee's Chairman I should like to place on record the great help I have received from Dame Muriel Stewart, who has acted as Vice-Chairman throughout the inquiry. The Committee's debt to its Secretary, Mr R Arnold, HMI, is acknowledged in the Introductory chapter. I should like to express here my personal appreciation of the assistance he has given to the Chairman and of the close cooperation in which we have worked.

Yours sincerely            
ALAN BULLOCK    
(Chairman)

The Rt. Hon. Reg. E. Prentice, JP, MP.




[page vi]

MEMBERSHIP OF THE COMMITTEE

Sir Alan Bullock, FBA (Chairman), Master of St Catherine's College and Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford.

Sister Basil Burbridge, Headmistress, St Margaret Mary Junior and Infant School, Carlisle.

Professor JN Britton, Goldsmiths' Professor of Education in the University of London.

Mr Alastair Burnet, Editor, The Economist.

Miss J Derrick, Senior Lecturer, Language Teaching Centre, University of York.

Mr JJ Fairbairn, Head of Education Department, St John's College, York.

Mr HK Fowler, Chief Education Officer, Derbyshire.

Mr Stuart Froome, Headmaster, St Jude's CE Junior School, Englefield Green, Surrey.

Mr David Gadsby, Managing Director, A & C Black Ltd, Publishers.

Mr CR Gillings, Headmaster, Midhurst Intermediate School, West Sussex (resigned 1 September 1973 on appointment to HM Inspectorate).

Mr WK Gardner, Lecturer, School of Education, University of Nottingham.

Mrs DMR Hutchcroft, OBE, Headmistress, Saltford Primary School, Bristol.

Miss AM Johns, Headmistress, Henry Fawcett Infant School, London SE11.

Mr D Mackay, Adviser/Warden, Centre for Language in Primary Education, Inner London Education Authority (resigned 1 November 1972 on appointment to a post in the West Indies).

Mr Michael Marland, Headmaster, Woodberry Down Secondary School, London N4.

Professor JE Merritt, Professor of Educational Studies, Open University.

Mr AJ Puckey, Primary Adviser, Nottinghamshire LEA.

Mrs V Southgate Booth, Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Studies, School of Education, University of Manchester.


[page vii]

Dame Muriel Stewart, DBE, Chairman, Schools Council.

Professor J Wrigley, Professor of Curriculum Research and Development, University of Reading; Director of Studies, Schools Council.

Mr R Arnold, HMI, Secretary.

Mrs GW Dishart, Assistant Secretary.

Appointments shown are those held by members at the time the Committee was constituted.




The estimated cost of the production of the Report is 95,900, of which 14,700 represents the estimated cost of printing and publication, 68,700 the cost of administration, and 12,500 the travelling and other expenses of members.


[page ix]

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: The scope and nature of the Inquiry; and acknowledgements

PLAN OF THE REPORT

PART ONE

ATTITUDES AND STANDARDS

Paragraph  Page
CHAPTER 1 ATTITUDES TO THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH

Dissatisfaction with standards of English
1.1-1.33
Opposing views of English teaching1.4-1.84
The needs of English teaching1.9-1.107

CHAPTER 2 STANDARDS OF READING

Definitions of literacy
2.1-2.210
Comparisons with other countries2.311
The extent of adult illiteracy2.412
The influence of television on reading2.5-2.912
The opinion of witnesses2.1015
Comparisons with pre-war standards2.1115
The NFER Surveys2.12-2.2116
  The limitations of the Watts-Vernon and NS6 tests2.13-2.1616
  The sampling of the 1971 survey2.1718
  The interpretation of the results2.18-2.2118
The results of local surveys2.22-2.2321
Reading achievement and social class2.24-2.2522
The reading standards of seven year olds2.26-2.2823
The reading standards of eleven and fifteen year olds: a summary2.2925
Implications for action2.3026

ANNEX: The 'ceiling effect' of reading tests
2.31-2.3426

CHAPTER 3 MONITORING

The value of monitoring national standards of literacy
3.1-3.236
The criteria for a monitoring procedure3.3-3.536
The setting up of the procedure3.537
The age at which monitoring should be applied3.637
The nature of the proposed reading tests3.7-3.838
The monitoring of standards of writing3.9-3.1239
The feasibility of monitoring spoken English3.1340
The principle of the question pool and light sampling3.14-3.2341
  The question pool3.15-3.1841
  Light sampling3.19-3.2142


[page x]

Paragraph  Page
  The administration of the tests3.2143
  Selective application in certain areas3.2243
  The work of the survey team3.2343
Preparatory research and development work3.24-3.2543

PART TWO

LANGUAGE IN THE EARLY YEARS

CHAPTER 4 LANGUAGE AND LEARNING

Language and inner representation
4.1-4.447
Language and thought4.5-4.848
Language and discovery4.8-4.1049

CHAPTER 5 LANGUAGE IN THE EARLY YEARS

The acquisition of language
5.1-5.351
The influence of the home on language development5.4-5.952
Study of young children's language needs by secondary school pupils5.11-5.1354
Methods of helping parents to play a part in their children's language development in the home5.14-5.2057
  The ante-natal clinic5.1457
  Home visiting5.15-5.1858
  Television programmes5.19-5.2061
Early language experience in school5.21-5.3262
  Talk and early writing5.21-5.2362
  Language programmes5.24-5.2964
  The teacher's appraisal and aims5.30-5.3267
The case for additional adults in school to help in children's language development5.32-5.4167
  The guiding principles5.3267
  The role of trained aides5.33-5.3668
  The role of nursery nurses5.33-5.3668
  The participation of parents5.37-5.4070
  The implications for accommodation5.4172
Home-school liaison5.4273
The implications for staffing ratios5.4373

PART THREE

READING

CHAPTER 6 THE READING PROCESS

Controversies about the teaching of reading
6.1-6.377
The definition of reading6.4-6.679


[page xi]

Paragraph  Page
The Primary Skills6.7-6.2680
  Letter and word perception6.7-6.1280
  Learning to recognise letters6.13-6.1583
  The relationship between sounds and letters: problems and solutions6.16-6.2684
The Intermediate Skills6.27-6.3889
  Learning to anticipate6.28-6.3589
    Letter and phoneme sequences6.28-6.3189
    Word and syntactic sequences6.32-6.3491
    Meaning and the use of context cues6.3592
  Using the intermediate skills in combination6.3692
  The use of Cloze procedure6.3793
  Anticipation and the vocabulary of reading schemes6.3893
Comprehension skills6.39-6.4194
  Literal comprehension6.4094
  Re-organisation6.4094
  Inferential comprehension6.4194
  Evaluation and appreciation6.4194
Flexible reading strategies6.4295
Acquiring and organising information: general implications6.43-6.4495

CHAPTER 7 READING IN THE EARLY YEARS

The pre-reading stages: the parent's role
7.1-7.697
  Bringing books into the home7.2-7.597
    Voluntary efforts; radio and television7.297
    The contribution of the Children's Librarian7.398
    The role of the school7.4-7.598
Reading readiness7.7-7.11100
  The notion of mental age7.7100
  The criterion of intelligence7.8100
  Vision and hearing7.9-7.10101
  The guiding principles7.11102
The early stages: general principles7.12102
Building up a sight vocabulary7.13-7.15102
  Interaction between the child's reading and writing7.13-7.14102
  The use of a word bank7.15103
Reading schemes: criteria for selection7.16-7.20104
  Content and attitudes7.17104
  The language they use7.18-7.19105
Reading schemes: their use7.21-7.25107
  General principles7.21-7.22107
  Look and Say schemes7.23107


[page xii]

Paragraph  Page
  Phonic schemes7.24108
  Reading schemes in perspective7.25109
Colour coding and diacritical marking7.26109
The Initial Teaching Alphabet (i.t.a.)7.27-7.29110
The organisation of reading activities in the classroom7.30-7.32112

CHAPTER 8 READING: THE LATER STAGES

Reading in the middle and secondary years: the objectives
8.1-8.5115
Reading as a specialist subject: the arguments8.6-8.8116
Reading throughout the curriculum8.9118
Reading for learning8.10-8.19118
  The reader's purposes8.12119
  The organisation of reading and the use of bibliographical skills8.13119
  Effective reading8.14-8.18120
    Literal comprehension8.15120
    Inferential comprehension8.16121
    Evaluative comprehension8.17121
    Flexible reading strategies8.18122
  Self-assessment and development8.19122
Preparation for the reading needs of adult life8.20122

CHAPTER 9 LITERATURE

The value of literature
9.1-9.3124
The need to expand voluntary reading9.4 -9.11126
  The teacher's record of the pupils' reading9.5127
  The balance between narrative and information books in school9.6127
  Promoting interest in books9.7-9.8128
  The availability of good fiction9.9128
  'Relevance' in children's books9.10129
Approaches to literature in school9.12-9.21130
  The influence of examinations: negative and positive9.13-9.14130
  Literature in thematic work: disadvantages and strengths9.15-9.18131
  The teacher's knowledge of literature9.18133
  Individual reading and class reading9.19-9.21133
The value of poetry9.22135
Approaches to poetry in school9.23-9.27135
  The teacher's knowledge of poetry, and the collection of resources9.25-9.26136
Literature and the influence of the teacher9.28137


[page xiii]

Paragraph  Page

PART FOUR

LANGUAGE IN THE MIDDLE AND SECONDARY YEARS

CHAPTER 10 ORAL LANGUAGE

TALKING AND LISTENING: 10.1-10.31
Teacher-pupil dialogue in the classroom: nature and characteristics10.1-10.4141
The teacher's understanding and evaluation of oral language10.5-10.9143
  Accent and 'correctness'10.5-10.6143
  The differences between speech and writing10.7-10.9143
The improvement of pupils' oral language ability10.10-10.15144
  Language as an instrument of learning10.10144
  The teacher's role10.11145
  Exploratory talk in small groups10.11-10.12145
  Oral work in larger groups10.13-10.14146
  The value of discussion10.15-10.18148
    The Humanities Curriculum Project10.16-10.18148
Listening10.19-10.21150
  The quality of listening10.19150
  The improvement of pupils' listening10.20150
  Listening exercises: their disadvantages10.21150
Resources for oral work in schools10.22-10.23151
Continuity and development in pupils' oral language10.24152
Examinations in oral language10.25-10.29152
  Variety of syllabuses10.26153
  Disadvantages and advantages10.27-10.29153
Research and development work by teachers10.29155
Oral language: implications for adult life10.30156

DRAMA: 10.31-10.42
Approaches to drama in schools10.31-10.33156
The value of drama for language development10.33-10.38157
The qualifications of drama teachers in secondary schools10.39159
Examinations in drama10.40160
Drama in secondary schools: some discussion points10.41-10.42160


[page xiv]

Paragraph  Page

CHAPTER 11 WRITTEN LANGUAGE

INTRODUCTION: 11.1
Language use and language study: general principles11.1162

WRITING: 11.2-11.14
Varieties of writing in schools11.2 -11.8162
The writer and his 'audience'11.9166
Marking and correction of writing11.10-11.11167
The teaching of spelling11.12-11.14167
  A policy for spelling; consultation between teachers11.14169

LANGUAGE STUDY: 11.15-11.40
Language study: definitions11.15169
The prescriptive view of language11.16-11.17169
The use of exercises11.18-11.20170
Improvement in language competence11.21-11.25172
  The need for explicit instruction11.21172
  Strategies for progress11.22-11.25172
Linguistics and language teaching11.26-11.29174
  'Language in Use'11.27-11.29174
Examinations in written language11.30-11.40176
  The case for examinations11.31-11.32176
  The slowness of change11.32-11.33176
  GCE O Level: some developments11.34177
  CSE11.35-11.37178
  Examinations in language: general principles11.38-11.39180
  Language at A Level or its equivalent11.40180

ANNEX A: Spelling
11.41-11.49181
  Causes of poor spelling11.42-11.43181
  The use of spelling lists11.44-11.47181
  Spelling: caught or taught?11.48183
  The findings of the survey11.49183

ANNEX B: Handwriting
11.50-11.55184
Concern for handwriting standards11.50184
Handwriting in primary schools: the survey results11.50184
Criteria for guidance11.51-11.54184
  Models of handwriting: some arguments reviewed11.52185
  Materials, techniques, and the need for practice11.53185
  The development of speed and style11.54186
The appearance and presentation of written work: its importance to the process of writing11.55186


[page xv]

Paragraph  Page

CHAPTER 12 LANGUAGE ACROSS THE CURRICULUM

The general principles
12.1-12.2188
The primary school12.3188
The secondary school12.4-12.8189
  Language use within subjects12.4 -12.8189
  Talk and writing as a means to learning12.5-12.7189
  Reading as a means to learning12.7-12.8190
The teacher's own use of language12.9191
A language policy across the curriculum: some developments12.10192
The organisation of a language policy across the curriculum12.11-12.12192

PART FIVE

ORGANISATION

CHAPTER 13 THE PRIMARY AND MIDDLE YEARS

Pre-school provision
13.1-13.2197
Co-operation between infant school, nursery, playgroup and home13.3198
The organisation of primary schools: introduction13.4198
  Vertical grouping and the integrated day: the arguments reviewed13.5-13.7199
  Vertical grouping and teaching methods: the findings of the survey13.8-13.10200
  Organisation in the primary and middle years: the guiding principles13.11-13.15204
The size of classes13.16-13.17206
Accommodation13.18208
The staffing of the schools13.19-13.23209
  The need for additional staff in special circumstances13.19-13.21209
  The teacher with responsibility for language and reading13.22-13.23210
  The role of the head of the school13.24211

CHAPTER 14 CONTINUITY BETWEEN SCHOOLS

Infant and First School - Junior and Middle School
14.1-14.6213
  Co-operation between schools: the guiding principles14.1-14.2213
  Contacts between teachers14.3214
  The transmission of information, records and examples of work14.4-14.5215
  A common policy for reading14.6216


[page xvi]

Paragraph  Page
Junior and Middle School - Secondary School14.7-14.16216
  Cooperation between schools: general14.7216
  The transmission of information, records and examples of work14.8-14.11216
  Expectations of pupil achievement14.12217
  Contacts between teachers14.13217
  Contacts between pupils14.14-14.15217
  Continuity and liaison: the urgency14.16219

CHAPTER 15 THE SECONDARY SCHOOL

Specialist English and the integrated approach
15.1-15.9220
  English in integrated studies15.2-15.4220
  English as a separate subject15.5222
  Specialism and integration: the guiding principles15.6 -15.7222
  Reading as a specialised activity?15.8223
  Drama as a separate subject?15.9223
Pupil grouping15.10-15.12224
  Streaming, setting, and mixed ability teaching: the findings of the survey15.10224
  Pupil grouping: the guiding principles15.10-15.12224
The staffing situation15.13-15.14226
  The teachers of English: the findings of the survey15.13-15.14226
  The qualifications of English teachers15.14227
  The involvement of teachers of other subjects15.14227
Timetabling: the effects upon English teaching15.15-15.16229
The Head of English Department15.17-15.19230
  The head of English department: role and responsibilities15.17230
  The head of English department: pressures and problems15.18230
  The head of English department: supply and support15.19231
  Clerical and ancillary help for the English department15.20231
Accommodation and facilities for the teaching of English15.21-15.26232
  The allocation of rooms: the findings of the survey15.21232
  Accommodation and facilities: the guiding principles15.22-15.25233


[page xvii]

Paragraph  Page

Consultation in the design of accommodation
15.26235
Classroom control: implications for methods of English teaching15.27235
English teaching: an instrument of policy15.28-15.30236
The role of the head of the school15.31237

CHAPTER 16 LEA ADVISORY SERVICES

English Advisers: inadequacy of present provision
16.1-16.2238
Advisory support: a definition of need16.3239
The concept of an English advisory team16.3-16.10236
  Membership of the team16.3-16.6239
  The importance of an English specialist adviser16.5239
  The appointment of advisory teachers16.6240
  The adviser for language of children of families of overseas origin16.7240
  The activities of the team16.8-16.10241

PART SIX

READING AND LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES

CHAPTER 17 SCREENING, DIAGNOSIS, AND RECORDING

SCREENING 17.1-17.14
A definition of screening17.1-17.2245
The extent of present measures17.3245
Screening: the arguments reviewed17.4-17.6246
The age at which screening should be carried out17.5-17.7246
The nature of the screening procedure17.8-17.14247
  Systematic observation in the infant school17.8247
  Information from the pre-school stage17.10248
  The 'at risk' register and the individual profile: relative merits17.11248
  The transmission of screening records17.12249
The application of a standardised test: the arguments reviewed17.13249
  Testing: the guiding principles17.13-17.14249

DIAGNOSIS AND RECORDING: 17.15-17.25
The case for continuous diagnosis17.15250
Current practices in diagnosis: the findings of the survey17.16-17.18250


[page xviii]

Paragraph  Page
  The use of the word recognition test17.16251
  The use of the graded reading scheme17.17251
  Hearing children read17.18252
The value of the informal reading inventory17.19-17.20253
Structured observation and recording17.21254
The use of check-lists17.21254
The use of diagnostic tests17.22255
Teacher, educational psychologist and doctor: a team approach to diagnosis17.23-17.24256
In-service training in diagnostic techniques17.24256
The outcomes of diagnosis17.25257

ANNEX A: Results of an inquiry into assessment procedures applied by Local Authorities
17.26-17.33257

ANNEX B: Descriptions of three different forms of screening procedure
17.34-17.36261

CHAPTER 18 CHILDREN WITH READING DIFFICULTIES

Relevance of other chapters to this subject
18.1266
Backwardness and retardation18.2266
The notion of failure18.3266
The need for a systematic approach to reading18.4267
The extent of the problem18.4267
  Factors influencing reading retardation18.5 -18.9267
  Intelligence18.6268
  Emotional disorders18.7269
  Social handicap18.8269
  Unevenness of local provision18.9270
Effectiveness of 'remedial education'18.10-18.12270
  Some research findings18.10-18.11270
  The factors essential for success18.12271
Patterns of organisation of remedial help in school18.13-18.17272
  The variety of provision in primary schools18.13272
  The relationship between remedial help and the general curriculum18.14272
  The variety of provision in secondary schools:18.15-18.17273
    Guiding principles18.16274
    Resources and responsibilities for 'slow learners'18.17274


[page xix]

Paragraph  Page
Remedial help provided outside the school18.18274
  Provision for the child with special difficulties18.18274
  The work of reading centres and clinics18.18274
  Staffing of the centres and clinics18.18274
LEA Advisory Service18.18274
Conclusion18.19275
  The implications for social action18.19275
  The importance of preventive measures18.19275

CHAPTER 19 ADULT ILLITERACY

The problems of the illiterate and semiliterate school leaver
19.1-19.3277
The tasks identified19.2277
The reasons adults give for seeking help19.4278
The growth of recognition of the problem19.5278
The difficulties of estimating the number in need19.5278
The need for information and guidance for those requiring help19.6-19.7278
  The schools19.6278
  Press, radio, and television19.7279
  Social agencies and others19.7279
  Coordination of information19.7279
Existing provision19.8279
  LEA classes19.8279
  Voluntary schemes19.8279
  Other19.8279
Group instruction: some problems19.9-19.10280
The need for privacy19.11280
The strengthening of provision19.11-19.13280
  Financial help for voluntary schemes19.11280
  The role of local authorities19.12281
  Flexibility of tuition arrangements: individual and group19.12281
  The training needs of tutors19.13282
The special requirements of immigrants19.14282
Implications for materials, research and evaluation19.15282
The need for centrally collected information19.15282
Conclusion: implications for action at school and afterwards19.16283


[page xx]

Paragraph  Page

CHAPTER 20 CHILDREN FROM FAMILIES OF OVERSEAS ORIGIN

Children from families of overseas origin: the present position
20.1-20.2284
  The assessment of need20.2284
The variety of individual problems20.3285
The long-term problems20.4-20.5285
  Poor attainment: survey findings20.4285
  Cultural identity20.5286
  Implications for book provision: ethnic bias20.5286
The language needs of immigrant children20.6-20.9287
  West Indians - Creole dialect20.6-20.8287
  Children for whom English is a second language20.9289
  Problems of teacher supply and training20.9289
Organisation of language teaching20.10-20.12289
  Some guiding principles20.10289
  Second level language learning20.11290
  Lack of sustained language help: staffing implications20.11290
  Need for language help across the curriculum20.12291
The role of advisers in immigrant language development20.13291
Special provision within nursery and infant classes20.14292
Teacher training implications20.15292
Communication between school and home20.15-20.16292
The role of members of minority communities20.16293
Bilingualism20.17293
  Implications for schools20.17293
  Need for further study20.17293

PART SEVEN

RESOURCES

CHAPTER 21 BOOKS

The printed word
21.1299
Book provision in primary schools21.2-21.6299
  A book policy for the school21.3-21.6300
  Sources of information about books21.4-21.5300
  Exhibitions and educational book rooms21.4300
  A teacher with responsibility for books21.5300


[page xxi]

Paragraph  Page
  Organisation21.6301
The School Library Service21.7-21.11301
  Examples of its work21.8302
  Consultation and cooperation between teachers and librarians: joint activities21.9302
  Expansion under local government reorganisation21.10303
Pupils' need for continuity of book provision between the different stages of schooling21.11303
Libraries in secondary schools21.12-21.16304
  Staffing and accommodation21.12304
  Task of the librarian; joint courses for teacher-librarians; dual qualifications21.13-21.14304
  Resource Centres21.15-21.16305
Standards of book provision21.16-21.18306
Expenditure on books21.18-21.27306
  AEC recommended levels21.18-21.19306
  Capitation allowances21.20-21.23308
  Problems of resource allocation21.23310
  Small schools21.23-21.25310
  A standing working party21.25311
  The effects of inflation, and of cuts in government expenditure21.26-21.27311

CHAPTER 22 TECHNOLOGICAL AIDS AND BROADCASTING

The use of technological aids: guiding principles
22.1314
Advantages of technological aids22.2314
Technical support for teachers22.3314
The production of materials22.3314
Implications for teacher training22.4315
The tape recorder22.5-22.6315
Machines for teaching reading22.7317
The use of film22.8-22.10318
Reprographic facilities22.11320
The extent of provision required: some criteria for guidance22.12320
Educational broadcasting22.13-22.24321
  Radio: national and local22.13321
    Teacher participation in programme production22.13321
  General output television: its use in school22.14322
  Educational television22.15-22.16322


[page xxii]

Paragraph  Page
  Use of video-tape recorders22.17324
  Problems of copyright and performing rights restrictions: need for revision22.18324
  Need for research and evaluation of output22.19325
  Finance22.20325
  The need for more programmes for (i) parents and young children (ii) children with learning difficulties22.21325
  'Sesame Street' and 'The Electric Company': implications for British programmes22.22-22.23326
The use of general output television to stimulate interest in language and and literacy22.24327

PART EIGHT

TEACHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING

CHAPTER 23 INITIAL TRAINING
23.1-23.5331
Existing provision for language and reading23.2-23.5331
  Inadequacy of present provision23.2-23.3331
  Variations between colleges23.4332
  Conflicting demands upon time: the influence of academic studies23.4332
  The lack of co-ordination between theory and practice23.5332
Some current developments23.6-23.7333
Co-operation between colleges and schools23.8-23.9335
Practical experience with children23.8335
The appointment of teacher-tutors23.9336
A language course for all intending teachers23.10-23.11336
  A summary of recommendations for the language knowledge required of all teachers23.10336
  The nature of the course23.11337
One year post-graduate certificate courses23.13-23.18338
  Language requirements in the PGCE year23.14-23.16338


[page xxiii]

Paragraph  Page
  Some methods of work on language in PGCE23.17-23.18340
Language and the Diploma in Higher Education23.19-23.20341
  One year training following the award of DipHE23.19-23.20341
  Need for a substantial language course23.19-23.20341
Implications for staffing and resources23.21-23.22342
  Need for lecturers qualified in language and reading23.21342
  Lack of suitable accommodation and ancillary help23.22342
Improvement of the students' own language ability23.23342
Two examples of the proposed language course23.25-23.26343

CHAPTER 24 IN-SERVICE EDUCATION

The unity of initial and in-service education
24.1347
Aspects of the induction year24.1-24.3347
  The primary school teacher24.2347
  The secondary school teacher24.3348
Methods of in-service education24.4348
Innovation in education24.4348
The school-based approach to in-service education24.5349
The responsibility of the head of the English department24.6349
Availability of courses in reading and language24.7-24.8350
  Numbers of courses24.7350
  Teachers' comments24.8350
Provision of courses: need for variety of approaches24.9351
Regional courses: ATO/DES courses24.10351
  Need for more regional courses in English24.10351
Full-time courses
  Opportunities for secondment24.11351
  Higher level courses24.12352
  Open University24.13352
Importance of adequate numbers of teachers with advanced training24.14352
  Proposals for a progressive programme of training24.14352
Role of the LEA English advisory team24.15353


[page xxiv]

Paragraph  Page
The development of language/reading centres24.16353
  Relationship with professional centres24.17354
A national centre for language in education24.18355
  Guiding principles24.18355
  Proposed activities24.18355
  Considerations for siting and funding24.18355

PART NINE

THE SURVEY

CHAPTER 25 THE SURVEY

I Introduction
25.1-25.14359
II Primary Commentary25.15-25.23365
III Secondary Commentary25.24-25.31402
IV Questionnaire Tables25.32444
V Technical Notes25.33-25.41502

PART TEN

SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CHAPTER 26 SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
513
PRINCIPAL RECOMMENDATIONS
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
515
A NOTE ON RESEARCH552

NOTE OF EXTENSION BY PROFESSOR JN BRITTON
554

NOTE OF DISSENT BY MR STUART FROOME
556

APPENDIX A LIST OF WITNESSES AND SOURCES OF EVIDENCE
561

APPENDIX B VISITS MADE
577

GLOSSARY
585

INDEX
598


[page xxv]

List of Tables and Diagrams

TablesPage
1 Watts-Vernon Test (Maintained Schools and Direct Grant Grammar Schools). Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 15.0 years19
2 NS6 Test (Maintained Schools only). Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 15.0 years19
3 Watts-Vernon Test (Maintained Schools only). Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 11.0 years, since 194819
4 NS6 Test (Maintained Schools only). Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 11 years 2 months, since 195520
5 Improvised drama in classes with 6 and 9 year old children158
6 Ways of teaching reading - Approaches used with 6 year old children in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes201
7 The frequency with which teachers hear children read - 6 year olds and 9 year olds - in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes201
8 The frequency of reading practice - 6 year old and 9 year old children - in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes202
9 Records of reading and writing by 6 year old and 9 year old children - in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes203
10 Distribution of class size for 6 year old and 9 year old pupils206
11 Qualifications of teachers teaching English in secondary schools, as supplied by the heads of the schools227
12 Allocation of rooms for English in secondary schools233
13 LEA advisory services in England: distribution of advisory posts by subject238
14 Number of occasions on which 6 and 9 year olds read to the teacher in a week, by reading ability of the pupils252
15 Assessment of reading ability by LEAs - Age at which pupils were tested and number of instances258
16 Assessment of reading ability by LEAs - Varieties of tests and incidence of use258
17 Assessment of reading ability by LEAs - Percentages of children assessed as having reading difficulties260
18 Capitation and book allowances to primary schools - 1972/73 recommended figures of AEC308


[page xxvi]

TablesPage
19 Capitation and book allowances to secondary schools - 1972/73 recommended figures of AEC308
20 Formula for additional allowance to small schools - example of policy of one LEA310
21 Number of teachers attending in-service training courses during the year 1966/67350

The tables listed below are all contained in Part Nine - The Survey.

22 Size and response characteristics of the survey sample of schools compared with the total population of schools from which it was drawn
361
23 Total time devoted to teaching English in secondary schools364

PRIMARY
24 Size and type of schools in the sample365
25 Organisation of classes - Vertical Grouping368
26 Number of teachers and above-scale posts368
27 Schools which made use of a Teachers' Centre in connection with the teaching of English370
28 Attendance by teachers of 6 and 9 year olds at courses on aspects of English teaching371
29 Associations concerned with reading and the teaching of English, etc.371
30 Methods of teaching reading to 6 year olds372
31 Methods of teaching reading to 6 year olds in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes373
32 Media and schemes etc. used in the teaching of reading, by size of school374
33 Media and schemes etc. used in the teaching of reading, by type of school375
34 Number of occasions on which 6 and 9 year olds read to the teacher in a week, in vertically grouped and non-vertically grouped classes376
35 Loan of books by the LEA/County/County Borough Library to primary and secondary schools377
36 Incidence of audio-visual aids by size of school378
37 Incidence of audio-visual aids by type of school379


[page xxvii]

TablesPage
38 Testing of children with published reading tests, by type of school379
39 Use of different reading tests, by size of school381
40 Classes, groups or individual tuition in reading outside registration classes, by type of school382
41 Special registration classes for poor readers383
42 Special help given to children with low scores on reading tests, by type of school383
43 Teacher rating of reading ability - 6 and 9 year olds384
44 Number of teachers by whom 6 and 9 year olds are taught in a week, according to reading ability384
45 Attendance at relevant courses by teachers of withdrawal groups or classes385
46 Number of books in the possession of 6 and 9 year olds, according to reading ability386
47 Variety of writing by 6 and 9 year olds, according to reading ability387
48 Time spent on poetry and verse by 6 and 9 year olds388
49 Time spent listening to stories by 6 and 9 year olds389
50 Time spent on oral English by 6 and 9 year olds390
51 Time spent on improvised drama by 6 and 9 year olds391
52 Time spent on writing by 6 and 9 year olds392
53 Time spent on topics by 6 and 9 year olds393
54 Time spent on individual reading of stories by 6 and 9 year olds394
55 Time spent on reading practice by 6 and 9 year olds395
56 Time spent on comprehension and vocabulary exercises by 6 and 9 year olds396
57 Time spent on language work by 6 and 9 year olds397
58 Time spent on spelling by 6 and 9 year olds398
59 Time spent on handwriting by 6 and 9 year olds399
60 Percentage of schools with teachers in excess of number of registration classes, by size of school 400
61 Distribution of peripatetic teachers by size of school401
62 Percentage of schools using particular items of audio-visual equipment in connection with the teaching of English402

SECONDARY
63 The sample secondary schools402
64 Secondary school organisation of English teaching403


[page xxviii]

TablesPage
65 Comparison of class sizes of remedial and other classes - 12 and 14 year olds406
66 Time spent on English by 12 and 14 year olds408
67 Number of periods of English per week for 12 and 14 year olds409
68 English lessons over one hour in duration for 12 and 14 year olds410
69 Time allocated to homework in a week for 12 and 14 year olds411
70 Amount of time spent by teachers in English teaching, by size and type of school412
71 Number of teachers by whom 12 and 14 year olds are taught English in a week413
72 Qualifications of teachers teaching English, as supplied by the heads of the schools414
73 Topics and duration of courses attended by teachers of English during the 3 years to January 1973415
74 Associations concerned with reading and the teaching of English etc.416
75 Reading ability of 12 and 14 year olds as assessed by teachers417
76 Time spent on English by 12 and 14 year olds, according to reading ability418
77 Qualifications of teachers teaching English to 12 and 14 year olds, according to pupils' reading ability419
78 Qualifications of teachers teaching English to 12 and 14 year olds, by type of class420
79 Allocation of rooms for English, by size and type of school422
80 Number of periods in a week when the library was timetabled for other than library use423
81 Provision of library books423
82 Audio-visual equipment available for the teaching of English425
83 Testing of reading attainment by standardised reading tests426
84 Use of different reading tests426
85 Size of classes of 12 and 14 year olds428
86 Comparison of time spent on English in a week by remedial and other Classes - 12 and 14 year olds429
87 Special provision for 12 and 14 year olds with reading and language difficulties430
88 Special provision considered necessary and special provision actually made for 12 and 14 year olds with reading and language difficulties431
89 Methods of making special provision for 12 and 14 year olds with reading and language difficulties432
90 Attendance by teachers at courses on remedial education433


[page xxix]

TablesPage
91 Time spent on different English activities by type of class - 12 and 14 year olds434
92 Proportion of time spent by 12 and 14 year olds on copying and reproductive work and written corrections, by type of class436
93 Categories of language activity436
94 Proportions of time spent by 12 and 14 year old pupils on comprehension, vocabulary work, and grammar, by type of class437
95 Proportions of time spent on different kinds of reading activity, by type of class - 12 and 14 year olds438
96 English activities of 12 and 14 year olds, by type of class I440
97 English activities of 12 and 14 year olds, by type of class II442

TECHNICAL NOTES [not online]
98 Range of percentages within which there is a 95 per cent chance that the population percentage will lie506
99 Percentage differences between two samples from the same population that could be given by 5 per cent of pairs of samples506
100 A comparison of the distribution of the types of school in the sample and in the total in England 507
101 A comparison of the regional distribution of schools in the sample and in the total in England508
102 A comparison of the average size of school in the sample and average size of school in England 509
103 A comparison of the sizes of school in the sample and in the total in England509
104 A comparison of the pupil-teacher ratio of schools in the sample and in the total in England509
DiagramsPage
1 Movement of distributions of scores showing no ceiling effect27
2 Movement of cumulative distribution of scores showing no ceiling effect27
3 Movement of distribution of scores showing a ceiling effect28
4 Movement of cumulative distribution of scores showing a ceiling effect29
5 Scores in the reading tests of 1948-70 inclusive (11 year old pupils in maintained schools)30
6 Scores in the reading tests of 1948-71 inclusive (15 year old pupils in maintained schools)30


[page xxx]

DiagramsPage
7 NS6 score distributions for 11 and 15 year olds in Northern Ireland31
8 Percentile distribution of scores for 15 year olds in all maintained schools in England, 197132
9 Pattern of pupil participation in a class discussion147
10 Methods of grouping for the teaching of English in the sample secondary schools - 12 and 14 year olds225
11 Proportions of time spent by teachers in English teaching, by type of school228
12 Average number of library books per pupil in secondary schools307

The diagrams listed below are all contained in Part Nine - The Survey.

13 Histograms showing sizes of classes of 6 and 9 year olds
367
14 Histograms showing sizes of English teaching groups for 12 and 14 year olds405
15 Methods of grouping for the teaching of English in the sample secondary schools - 12 and 14 year olds407
16 Language activity by type of class - 12 and 14 year olds437


[page xxxi]

INTRODUCTION

The Scope and Nature of the Inquiry;
and Acknowledgements

The decision to set up the Committee of Inquiry was announced shortly after the publication of the NFER Report 'The Trend of Reading Standards', and it was understandable that it should be widely regarded as an inquiry solely into reading. This was reflected in much press and public comment and in many of the letters we received. In fact it will be seen from our terms of reference that reading was not singled out for special attention but was placed in close association with other language skills within the context of teaching the use of English:

'To consider in relation to schools:
(a) all aspects of teaching the use of English, including reading, writing, and speech;
(b) how present practice might be improved and the role that initial and in-service training might play;
(c) to what extent arrangements for monitoring the general level of attainment in these skills can be introduced or improved;
and to make recommendations.'
These terms of reference have allowed us to base our Report on the important principle that reading must be seen as part of a child's general language development and not as a discrete skill which can be considered in isolation from it. We have, in fact, interpreted our brief as language in education, and have ranged from the growth of language and reading ability in young children to the teaching of English in the secondary school. Indeed, we felt it necessary to begin with the years before a child comes to school and to examine the influence of the home on early language development.

It was obvious that we should have to consider some limits to our field of inquiry. We therefore decided to go as far as, but not beyond, the statutory age for leaving school. This means that apart from a reference to examinations in language we have excluded any specific consideration of sixth form work and higher and further education. At the same time we felt a particular concern about the needs of those pupils who leave school unable to read, and we have accordingly stretched our brief to include observations on adult illiteracy. We felt equal concern about the language problems of children from families of overseas origin and have included a chapter on their special needs. A good deal of our time was naturally spent in discussing the difficulties of children who are retarded in reading, but we have confined our attention to pupils being educated in ordinary schools. Our inquiry did not extend to children receiving special educational treatment in separate schools.

It became clear to us from our early discussions and from the evidence we received that we must give attention to the provision of resources and to the internal organisation of schools, since both have an important bearing


[page xxxii]

on the development of language and the teaching of reading. Our first thought was to deal separately with primary and secondary education, allocating a part of the Report to each. We chose instead a form of presentation which would emphasise the continuity of English teaching, and this is explained in the plan of chapters which follows this introduction. Finally, we had to decide how far to go in discussing examinations. To have made a series of detailed recommendations about form and content would have extended our inquiry beyond what was practicable. At the same time it would have been unrealistic to leave examinations out of account, not least because they play a very large part in the experience of English of many pupils in the later years. We have therefore looked at some aspects of present examinations in English and at their influence on teaching and have given our views on the direction they ought to take.

Like many Committees before us, no doubt, we are anxious that the Report should be read and considered as a whole. Though individual chapters deal with given topics they are not intended to be self-contained, and those topics depend for their proper understanding on a knowledge of the background from which they emerge. This is particularly true of reading, not only for the reason we have already stated but because references to different aspects of the teaching of reading occur in various places throughout the Report. One of our main arguments is that there is no one method, medium, approach, device, or philosophy that holds the key to the process of learning to read. We believe that an essential condition for bringing about an improvement is a recognition that there is no simple nostrum and above all no substitute for a thorough understanding of all the factors at work. It is for this reason that we have made a policy of entering in places into considerable technical detail. We regard this kind of descriptive account as essential to an inquiry of this nature, since the Report is addressed to a wide audience. It is addressed in fact to all who are professionally engaged in education and to many more who have an interest in it - from parents to publishers. If there is one particular group, however, who have been in the forefront of our thinking it is the teachers in the schools. The quality of learning is fashioned in the day to day atmosphere of the classroom through the knowledge, intuitions and skill of individual teachers. Whatever else the Report may achieve we regard its first purpose as a support for them.

Throughout our work we have been made aware of the great public interest in the matters we have been investigating. From this point of view the setting up of an inquiry could hardly have been better timed. From two other points of view, however, the administrative and the financial, the publication of the Report comes at an awkward moment. The reform of local government has altered the shape and composition of many Authorities. Moreover, change is going forward in the structure of teacher training following the publication of the James Report and the subsequent White Paper 'Education: A Framework for Expansion'. With so much in a state of transition it has not always been easy to give our recommendations - for example in relation to professional centres and in-service training - the precision we should have wished. We hope, however, that the unsettling effects of change will be more than compensated for by the opportunities it creates to review existing


[page xxxiii]

practices. The financial circumstances of the country at the time when we were formulating our recommendations have impressed on us the need to be realistic. Some of the recommendations inevitably call for increased expenditure, and we recognise that it will take time before they can be implemented; but many could be put into operation by simple changes of practice which involve little if any increase in costs. By far the greatest number of our suggestions are intended for consideration by the schools themselves.

So much for the scope and limits of our inquiry. We pass next to the evidence on which we have been able to draw. The Committee agreed at its first meeting to obtain as complete a picture as possible of the actual practice in the schools. It was decided to draw up two questionnaires and these were completed in January 1973 by a random sample of 1,415 primary and 392 secondary schools. The survey was organised by the Secretary and Assistant Secretary to the Committee, and we are grateful for the help given them by statisticians of the Department of Education and Science, by Mr Stephen Steadman of the Schools Council, and by members of HM Inspectorate. This is the first time a survey of English on this scale has been attempted in this country. It could not have been undertaken without the willing cooperation of the local authorities and the heads and staffs of the many schools involved, and we wish to express our great appreciation of the trouble they took to help us. As the survey contains much information likely to be of interest to anyone concerned with education, we have printed the questionnaires and the results in Chapter 25, together with a commentary upon the findings.

The Committee drew up a list of 66 individuals and 56 organisations from which it wished to receive written evidence, and a shorter list of those it wished to interview. At the same time, the Chairman issued a public invitation to anyone interested to submit written evidence, an invitation of which several hundred individuals and organisations took advantage. The evidence obtained from all these sources was the foundation on which the inquiry was built, enabling the Committee to draw upon an accumulation of experience, a wealth of research - both published and unpublished - and a very wide range of opinion. We are greatly indebted to all those who generously made these available to us, often at the cost of considerable trouble to themselves in preparing papers specially for the purpose. Another valuable source of evidence has been HM Inspectorate, and we have been grateful for the opportunity to draw upon their wide experience at various points in our work.

The Committee was also, of course, able to call upon a varied experience and expert knowledge from among its own members, several of whom produced drafts or papers of various kinds. 16 of the Committee are or have been teachers, 6 are involved with the training of teachers, either in universities or in colleges of education, and 5 have undertaken and published research relevant to the subject of the inquiry. We were also fortunate to have the expert advice of Professor J Sinclair, who gave the Committee much valuable help in its discussions on the place of linguistics, and of Mr A Yates, Dr R Sumner and Mrs C Burstall, of the National Foundation for Educational Research.


[page xxxiv]

Members of the Committee undertook a series of special visits to 100 schools, 21 colleges of education, and 6 reading or language centres. These visits, in various parts of the country, gave members the opportunity to see different methods of teaching and organisation and above all to talk to a large number of teachers in their classrooms. The Committee also studied, at first and second hand, the practice of certain other English-speaking countries. Evidence was received from Scotland, Canada, and the United States, and two members of the Committee, accompanied by the Secretary, paid a visit to North America, studying developments in schools, colleges, and universities. Over a period of two years the full Committee has met on 54 occasions, but the total of days devoted by individual members in visits and other kinds of consultation has run into many hundreds.

The Committee owes its gratitude to Mrs GW Dishart, its Assistant Secretary, and the members of the supporting team - Mr DA Robins, Mrs KF Briggs, Mrs P Diegeler and Mr K Price - who have been a personal help to members in so many ways throughout. To Mrs Dishart we owe particular thanks for her special contribution, not least in clarifying for the Committee all the material produced by the survey and arranging it for presentation.

The Committee's greatest debt is to its Secretary, Mr R Arnold, HMI, who has been a constant source of energy, ideas, and invention at every stage of the inquiry. Throughout its course he has produced a stimulating flow of original material and drafts for the Committee, and his wide knowledge of all the aspects of our subject of inquiry has been an invaluable resource. The ability and efficiency with which he handled a formidable volume of organisation under great pressure have impressed us all. He has crowned two years' hard work by turning the views and judgements of the Committee into a coherent Report written by a single hand.

(signed)

Alan Bullock
James Britton
Sister Basil Burbridge
JWA Burnet
June Derrick
James Fairbairn
Henry Fowler
Stuart Froome
David Gadsby
Keith Gardner
Diana M Rought Hutchcroft
Audrey Johns
Michael Marland
John E Merritt
Alan Puckey
Vera Southgate Booth
Muriel Stewart
Jack Wrigley

R Arnold, HMI (Secretary)


[page xxxv]

Plan of the report

The design of the Report is intended to reflect the organic relationship between the various aspects of English, and to emphasise the need for continuity in their development throughout school life. It would have been a simple matter to deal separately with language, taking it right through the age range, and then to have done the same for reading. It would have been equally simple to divide the Report into separate sections for the primary and secondary years, each containing every aspect of the subject as it related to the needs of that particular age group. However, both these methods would have conflicted with the principle that reading, writing, talking and listening should be treated as a unity, and that there should be unbroken continuity across the years. Against this has to be balanced the need to take certain topics out of context for concentrated attention, and it becomes obvious that some compromise is the best course. The chapters are therefore arranged in such a way as to avoid rigid divisions while at the same time allowing detailed examination of a given topic or the needs of a particular age group.

Part One opens with a review of current attitudes to the teaching of English and then goes on to examine the question of standards of reading, considering evidence from the most recent NFER survey and other sources. After introducing a number of issues which will be taken up in detail in subsequent chapters, the section ends with a case for a new system of monitoring national standards of reading and writing. As the introduction makes clear, we believe that the inquiry is essentially concerned with the development of language in education, and Part Two of the Report establishes this principle. It opens with a discussion of the way in which language and learning interact and goes on to propose various measures for improving language development in young children, particularly those from home backgrounds which put them at a disadvantage in certain ways. Only when it has been determined that reading is secondary to and dependent upon the growth of language competence in the early years is it introduced as a separate topic, and this is the subject of Part Three. We have already given our reasons for going to the length of setting out in detail what is involved in the process of learning to read. Chapters 6 and 7 are entitled respectively 'The reading process' and 'Reading in the early years', and they are intended to be complementary. Indeed, there is a deliberate overlap between them, and they should be read as one for a proper understanding of what is being advocated about the teaching of reading in the early stages. By the same token they should be related to other parts of the Report where topics given separate treatment have an important bearing on the development of reading. For example, the first two chapters of Part Five deal with organisation within schools and continuity between them, and implications for the teaching of reading enter into both. Even more relevant is the opening chapter of Part Six, where there is an examination of diagnostic procedures and the way they can be used to develop reading ability. Similarly, both chapters of Part Seven have much to say about reading, from the points of view respectively of the use of books and of technological aids.


[page xxxvi]

The second half of Part Three deals with the later stages of reading and with literature. It leads into a study of language at the same age level, which is the burden of Part Four, and the chapter on literature is the point of juncture. Both parts have related chapters on reading and language across the curriculum. There are thus five consecutive chapters which associate language and reading in the middle and secondary years, covering the age range 7 or 8 to 16 years.

Part Five examines organisational factors, with chapters devoted to primary and secondary schools linked by one on continuity. We have made a point of not dealing separately with middle schools, but the problems explored in relation to primary and secondary schools have equal relevance to them. The last chapter of this part of the Report extends the discussion of specialist support within the school to that of specialist support from outside, presenting a case for expanded LEA advisory services.

After the development of language and reading has been considered across the age-range and placed within the organisational framework it is possible to consider in greater detail the question of special difficulties. Thus, what is said in Part Six depends upon an acquaintance with what has gone before. The section is introduced with a chapter on preventive measures in the form of screening and diagnosis, and this is followed by a consideration of provision for children with reading difficulties in primary and secondary schools. The subject is extended into the post-school years with a discussion of adult illiteracy and the steps that might be taken to reduce it. The section concludes with an examination of the special needs of children from families of overseas origin.

Part Seven of the Report is concerned with the role of books and technological aids in the school and relates them to suggestions made in earlier chapters. The section ranges from the use of the library to educational broadcasting and contains proposals for a review of allowances. Teacher training is the last major subject and its placing in Part Eight is determined by the need to show the range of concerns of which initial and in-service training need to take account.

The concluding two sections are a presentation of the results of the survey and a summary of the Report in the form of a list of conclusions and recommendations.


[page 1]


Part One

Attitudes and Standards





[page 3]

CHAPTER 1

Attitudes to the Teaching of English

1.1 In any anxiety over a contemporary situation there is likely to be a wistful look back to the past, with a conviction, often illusory, that times were better then than now. And the times people claim to have been better are generally within the span of their own lives. Nowadays few would consider the Code and Schedules of 1880 as a model from which we have fallen; so was there a point in time between then and now when we had arrived at the optimal? Was there a standard which we can regard, if not as ideal, at least as a criterion by which to judge other times and conditions? These are not trivial questions and certainly not contentious ones. If we are to decide what kind of English is right for our pupils they are the kind of questions that need to be asked.

1.2 Many allegations about lower standards today come from employers, who maintain that young people joining them from school cannot write grammatically, are poor spellers, and generally express themselves badly. The employers sometimes draw upon past experience for comparisons, but even where they do not there is a strong implication that at one time levels of performance were superior. It is therefore interesting to find in the Newbolt Report (1) of 1921 observations of a very similar kind. There Messrs Vickers Ltd reported 'great difficulty in obtaining junior clerks who can speak and write English clearly and correctly, especially those aged from 15 to 16 years'. Messrs Lever Bros Ltd said: 'it is a great surprise and disappointment to us to find that our young employees are so hopelessly deficient in their command of English'. Boots Pure Drug Co. remarked 'teaching of English in the present day schools produces a very limited command of the English language ... Our candidates do not appreciate the value of shades of meaning, and while able to do imaginative composition, show weakness in work which requires accurate description, or careful arrangement of detail'. The last is very close to some of the observations made today, half a century later, and might almost have been taken from evidence submitted to us. We do not reproduce these to imply that things were never any better and that everything is therefore as it should be. To seek perspective is not to be complacent. But perspective is important, and a realistic assessment is the best point from which to move towards improvement. The issue is a complicated one. It is evident that the employers of 50 years ago were no less dissatisfied; but in any case we must ask with whom today's young employees are being compared. The situation is very much different from that before the war or for some time after it. Further and higher education has expanded enormously. More young people are staying on at school or going on to college, many of whom would at one time have gone into commerce and industry. Moreover, as the Central Statistical Office points out, there have been marked changes in the structure of employment in recent years. Agriculture and mining have employed a sharply declining proportion of the working population, manufacturing industry


[page 4]

has remained at about the same level, and the service industries now absorb over half the total work force. The changing pattern of employment is making more widespread demands on reading and writing skills and therefore exposing deficiencies that may have escaped attention in the past. What is more, the expansion in junior management has been considerable, and one dimension of competence at this level is the ability to produce a written report.

1.3 Factors such as these should be taken into account when observations are made about the standards of school leavers. However, they do not alter the fact that these standards are not satisfying present day requirements. Furthermore, it has to be remembered that it is not only employers who express dissatisfaction. Further and higher education institutions often remark on the inability of their entrants to write correct and coherent English. The Committee was furnished with examples of essays by college of education students, with comments by the Professor of English who had submitted them. These essays contained numerous errors of spelling, punctuation and construction, and were a disturbing indication that the students who wrote them were ill-equipped to cope with the language demands they would meet in schools. Observations to the same effect have been made to us by heads, who have complained of the poor standard of written expression of some of the young teachers who have joined their schools. These remarks by experienced educationists deserve to be taken seriously, the more so since they are not comparing the students with those of the past but measuring them against the demands of a professional function. It may be true that in commerce, industry, and higher education alike comparisons with past standards are misleading, but the clear implication is that standards need to be raised to fulfil the demands that are being made upon them.

1.4 In this chapter we shall be considering briefly the different approaches to English in schools today. Generalisations are commonly made to the effect that one or another set of attitudes has virtually swept the board. In fact, as our questionnaire results showed, and as our visits to schools confirmed, the variety of practice is wide. Some teachers see English as an instrument of personal growth, going so far as to declare that 'English is about growing up'. They believe that the activities which it involves give it a special opportunity to develop the pupil's sensibility and help him to adjust to the various pressures of life. Others feel that the emphasis should be placed on direct instruction in the skills of reading and writing and that a concern for the pupil's personal development should not obscure this priority. There are those who would prefer English to be an instrument of social change. For them the ideal of 'bridging the social gap' by sharing a common culture is unacceptable, not simply as having failed to work but as implying the superiority of 'middle class culture'. Of course, even where a teacher subscribes to a particular approach he does not necessarily pursue it exclusively, neglecting all else. Nevertheless, these emphases do exist and in considering our own recommendations we must examine them, since we believe that in their extreme form they oversimplify what is in fact a very complex matter.

1.5 Nor is the debate on purpose and method exclusive to this country. The historical determinants in the United States of America are different from those in Britain, and this must be remembered when parallels are


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drawn. However, the same unease has expressed itself there. It gathered into a national head after 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik, an event which caused the USA to look critically at many aspects of ifs education system. English was not identified with the national interest to the extent that the sciences and modern languages were. Nonetheless, its theorists and practitioners felt the same sense of urgency, and their self-examination emerged in 'The National Interest and the Teaching of English' (NCTE 1961), a publication which expressed the deep concern of the time. In the previous year the College Entrance Examination Board had issued a short description of the proper divisions of the secondary school English curriculum: English consisted of language, literature and composition, a view summed up by the label 'The Tripod Curriculum'. Looked at in this light the study of English could be reduced to manageable proportions, and each unit invited a view of itself as a discipline capable of being structured. According to Muller (2), English in the USA was, until the structuring started, an amalgam of journalism, play production, business letters, research techniques, use of the library, career counselling, use of the telephone, and advice on dating. He quotes Kitzhaber's remark that 'An English teacher can teach almost anything without anyone, including the teacher, realising that it is no longer English that is being taught'. Not surprisingly, the pressures we have noted issued in a definition of English which was as concerned with excluding the irrelevant as identifying the essential.

1.6 It is a characteristic of English that it does not hold together as a body of knowledge which can be identified, quantified, then transmitted. Literary studies lead constantly outside themselves, as Leavis put it; so, for that matter, does every other aspect of English. There are two possible responses for the teacher of English, at whatever level. One is to attempt to draw in the boundaries, to impose shape on what seems amorphous, rigour on what seems undisciplined. The other is to regard English as process, not content, and take the all-inclusiveness as an opportunity rather than as a handicap. The first response can lead to a concept of the subject as divisible into compartments, each of which answers to certain formal requirements. Thus there are many teachers, in both primary and secondary schools, who feel that English language should be extracted from context and studied as a separate entity. The weekly composition on a set title, comprehension, spelling, language exercises; this pattern is still common. The language work may take the form of a class activity or it may occur in a group or individual learning situation. If the latter, the nature of the experience can be governed by the assignment card. In either case the principle is that the child is engaging with the basic skills through the medium of controllable tasks. The second response can lead to a readiness to exploit the subject's vagueness of definition, to let it flow where the child's interests will take it. Its exponents feel that the complex of activities that go to make up English cannot be circumscribed, still less quantified; the variables are too numerous and the objects too subtle.

1.7 It would be absurdly oversimplifying to say that English teaching has, without light or shade, separated itself into factions with these ideas as the manifestos. For one thing few British teachers would subscribe to the notion of the 'Tripod Curriculum', mentioned above, still less to some of the practices that separate development gave rise to, e.g. the attention to rhetoric and analysis in the teaching of composition. (Indeed, it was by no


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means universally embraced in the USA. One American educationist said that, like Caesar, they had divided the area into three parts and then found the division so convenient they had assumed God must have made them). It is safe to assume that no one would any longer see English in terms of the LCC [London County Council] official Time-Table Form of 1920, which required the time allocation to be shown for each of the following 'subjects': (a) Composition, Written, (b) Composition, Oral, (c) Dictation, (d) Grammar, (e) Reading, (f) Recitation, (g) Word-building, (h) Handwriting, (i) Literature. Equally, not everyone would express a contemptuous disregard for standards and say that English was merely a free-wheeling vehicle for the child's emotional and social development. Thus, although there are certainly opposed emphases there is also an area of common occupation.

1.8 It. is extremely difficult to say whether or not standards of written and spoken English have fallen. There is no convincing evidence available, and most opinions depend very largely upon subjective impressions. These are not to be dismissed out of hand, but we have already shown how difficult it is to make valid comparisons with the past. We have also remarked that any speculation about standards all too frequently relates them to a particular kind of teaching. We received many letters which suggested that 'creativity' is now reverenced and that 'formal' work has virtually been banished. This is a particular area of contention where personal impression clearly counts heavily, especially since 'creativity' and 'formality' are hazy concepts. Exact or even approximate comparability of standards may be elusive, but parents and teachers alike know there have been new approaches and that some schools have operated them with remarkable success, some have adopted them uncritically, and some have set their face against them. Moreover, these approaches have frequently been discussed in the press, and they have featured prominently in publications of one kind or another and in teachers' courses. What is far from certain is how widespread is this change of emphasis. It is commonly believed that English in most primary schools today consists largely of creative writing, free reading, topic or project work, and improvised drama, and that spelling and formal language work have no place. When certain teaching methods attract a good deal of attention it is understandable that people should assume them to have become the norm. But what is the situation in schools? How general has been the shift of emphasis away from the formal to the 'permissive'? We decided at the outset that we would find out by enquiring of the schools themselves by way of detailed questionnaires. This survey is described in detail elsewhere in the Report, and from the tables of results it will be seen that a good deal of time is allocated to formal practice in English. The answers we received certainly did not reveal a picture of the decay of such work in the midst of a climate of unchecked creativity. Sceptics may say that the schools told us what they thought we wanted to hear, or what they surmised would present them in a respectable light. We do not believe this for one moment, but even if it were true, one is still left with a picture of what primary schools feel is the acceptable way to be teaching. Our survey gives no evidence of a large body of teachers committed to the rejection of basic skills and not caring who knows it. It is facile to assume that all manner of weaknesses can be ascribed simply to the wholesale spread of a permissive philosophy. One has to look more deeply. This we hope to do in the course of the Report, when we shall develop some of the points made here.


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1.9 We have in effect been discussing the first of the two responses described in paragraph 1.6, and we believe that the diagnosis and remedy it offers is an over-simplification. We take the same view of the second when it regards standards of performance as of slight consequence compared with the personal growth or social orientation of the pupil. Every good teacher is concerned with the social and psychological development of his pupil. But we refer here in particular to the notion of English in the secondary school as almost exclusively a source of material for personal response to social issues. Literature is experienced largely in the form of extracts and is filleted for its social yield. Talk is shepherded into the area of publicised questions, of acute issues of the day. The writing that emerges from both is to a large extent judged for its success by the measure of commitment it seems to reveal. Genuine personal response in such circumstances is not easy to express. These public issues have been dwelt upon at length by television and the press, and the cliché responses generated inevitably find their way into the children's writing and talk. We must make it clear that we are not contesting the place of social concern in the curriculum of the secondary school. But we are questioning the philosophy of those teachers for whom it has become the core and essence of the English programme. Of course it is part of the English teacher's task to develop social awareness and responsibility. By its very nature this subject involves the contemplation of immediate and vicarious experience into which such sensibility enters. Indeed, English is rooted in the processing of experience through language. The pupil uses language to represent the experience to himself, to come to terms with it, to possess it more completely. It is a major part of the teacher's skill to extend the range of that experience, at first hand and through literature, in such a way that new demands are made on language. It is our contention that for some pupils that range of experience has been narrowed. We know that some very sensitive writing and lively talk have emerged from encounters with contemporary social issues. We have read and heard it. But we have read and heard as much which has reflected the child's inability to produce a genuine felt response, where he has had to fall back on the ready-made cliché reaction.

1.10 Is it possible, then, to make some kind of provisional generalisation about standards? There may be little profit in attempting to compare today's standards with those of the past, but we underline our conviction that standards of writing, speaking, and reading can and should be raised. The first thing that is required is a redefinition of what is involved. These three abilities are usually described as 'the basic skills', but like the terms 'formal' and 'progressive' this is a phrase which merits more precise definition than it tends to receive. It is often read to mean that language abilities can somehow be extracted from context, taught in the abstract, and fed back in. The evidence is that one acquires language as a pattern, not as an inert collection of units added serially, a mechanical accumulation of abstracted parts of speech. So we are not suggesting that the answer to improved standards is to be found in some such simple formula as: more grammar exercises, more formal speech training, more comprehension extracts. We believe that language competence grows incrementally, through an interaction of writing, talk, reading, and experience, the body of resulting work forming an organic whole. But this does not mean that it can be


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taken for granted, that the teacher does not exercise a conscious influence on the nature and quality of this growth. The teacher's first concern should be to create the conditions necessary for fluency, but he then has a responsibility to help the child improve the technical control of his work. What is the quality of the child's verbalisation of his experience? With what fidelity and coherence does he communicate it to his readers? The child should be brought up to see this technical control not as an abstraction imposed from without but as the means of communicating with his audience in the most satisfying and appropriate manner. His development of this ability can be expressed in terms of increasing differentiation. He learns to carry his use of English into a much broader range of social situations, to differing kinds of audience. The purposes to which he puts language grow more complex, so that he moves from a narrative level of organising experience to one where he is capable of sustained generalisation. Considered in these terms the handling of language is a complex ability, and one that will not be developed simply by working through a series of textbook exercises. If we regard this approach as inadequate 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. In schools where the principles of modern primary school education have been misinterpreted this often does not happen. We have talked to young teachers who have so misunderstood them as to believe they should never directly teach the children.

1.11 If a teacher is to control the growth of competence he must be able to examine the verbal interaction of a class or group in terms of an explicit understanding of the operation of language. We believe that because of the nature of their training this is precisely what many teachers lack, and this has implications for initial and in-service training. In succeeding chapters we discuss language and its relation to learning, and in the course of the Report we emphasise that if standards of achievement are to be improved all teachers will have to be helped to acquire a deeper understanding of language in education. This includes teachers of other subjects than English, since it is one of our contentions that secondary schools should adopt a language policy across the curriculum. Many teachers lack an adequate understanding of the complexities of language development, and they often hold the English teacher responsible for language performance in contexts outside his control. A great deal of work remains to be done to help teachers learn more about the nature of children's language development, its application to their particular subject, and their own role in the process. There is also the important question of the deployment of staff in the teaching of English itself. The English in a secondary school is sometimes in the hands of as many as 15 teachers, only four or five of whom are specialists in the subject. Almost a third of the 12 year olds in our sample had their English with more than one teacher. In the survey the replies from heads suggested that no fewer than a third of all secondary teachers engaged in the teaching of English have no qualification in the subject (see table 72). It also revealed (table 70) that only 37 per cent of those teaching English spend all their time on it, while 38 per cent spend less than half. In some cases a shortage of qualified English teachers forces a head to assign a non-specialist to the subject. On the other hand there are schools where no


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strenuous efforts are made to acquire English specialists precisely because it is thought possible to make up English time from other members of staff. Similarly, if timetable construction is presenting a difficulty it is not unknown for the recalcitrant single period to be labelled English and given to whichever teacher is not already engaged. There are, of course, many examples of schools which go to great lengths to avoid any such disadvantages to English. Moreover, we are aware that some schools adopt as a deliberate policy the kind of integrated humanities work in which a teacher of another subject becomes responsible for the pupils' English. In the best of such schemes there is strong support from the English specialists, sound planning, and good resources. However, it remains true that large numbers of pupils are taught English in circumstances which would be considered unacceptable in many other subjects. The attitude still prevails that most teachers can turn their hand to it without appropriate initial qualifications or additional training. In our view such an attitude is based on an ignorance of the demands of English teaching and the knowledge required of its practitioners. In the course of the Report we shall attempt to illustrate these, since we believe that only if they are fully recognised can an advance in the teaching of English be achieved.

References

1. The Teaching of English in England (The Newbolt Report): HMSO, 1921.

2. H. Muller The Uses of English: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc., 1967.





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CHAPTER 2

Standards of Reading

2.1 We have been discussing the general context of English and come now to the particular issue of standards of reading, about which a good deal of concern has been expressed. Many people who wrote to us took as their starting point the belief that standards of literacy had fallen. In the course of this chapter we shall examine the basis for this assumption by considering such objective evidence as we have been able to discover. An immediate difficulty is in arriving at a universally acceptable definition of the terms 'literacy', 'semiliteracy', and 'illiteracy', for the uncertainty surrounding them makes objective discussion far from simple. There is a good deal of emotion adhering to the terms, which too often robs them of the benefit of a true perspective. For example, in response to a survey on students' reading 52 university lecturers said all their students were 'illiterate to some degree'. One lecturer in medicine is reported to have said: 'All my students are illiterate when they come to university - the best are literate when they leave'. The 1950 Ministry of Education pamphlet 'Reading Ability' put it succinctly: 'In truth most definitions of illiteracy amount to this - "that he is illiterate who is not as literate as someone else thinks he ought to be".'

2.2 The same document defined 'literate' as 'able to read and write for practical purposes of daily life'. And in the following year UNESCO proposed the criterion 'A person is literate who can, with understanding, both read and write a short, simple statement on his everyday life'. It is a feature of definitions of literacy that they progressively demand more of the person who is to be defined as literate. Thus, a decade later UNESCO had modified its criterion to 'A person is literate when he has acquired the essential knowledge and skills which enable him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community'. The term 'functional literacy' was used by Gray in his 1956 international survey (1) to describe the minimal level of efficiency acceptable to the society in which the individual lived. He saw this in the case of the USA as the standard that would usually be achieved by pupils in grade IV (10 year olds). But in recent years it has been argued that the threshold should be raised to at least grade IX (15 year olds), since much of the reading material to which the adult in society is exposed is written at levels of difficulty far beyond the understanding of one who can merely render print into spoken language. A telling illustration of this was provided by the 'Survival Literacy Study', conducted for the US National Reading Council in 1970. The purpose of the study was to determine the percentage of Americans lacking the functional reading skills to 'survive' as participants in the social and economic life of the country. The reading material consisted of five application forms in common use in daily life, ranked in an ascending order of difficulty. The results showed that 3 per cent of all Americans were unable to read adequately the form of application for public assistance, 7 per cent a simple identification form, 8 per cent a request for a driving licence, 11 per cent an


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application for a personal bank loan, and 34 per cent an application for medical aid. In our own country it has been suggested (2) that there are at least a million adults with a reading age (3) of below 9.0 who cannot read simple recipes, 'social pamphlets', tax return guides, claims for industrial injuries, national insurance guides for married women, and most of the Highway Code. Indeed, in the study which analysed these reading tasks it was suggested that such material, and the writing in the simplest daily newspaper, required a reading age of 13 for 'a reasonable level of comprehension'. The ability to read a newspaper is obviously one of the most basic and important purposes of the achievement of literacy. In the USA one researcher (4) took a fairly representative sample of eight articles from news publications, applied a readability test to each, and administered the tests to pupils aged 9 to 18. He calculated that readers who could not answer at least 35 per cent of the items could gain little or no information from material at that level of difficulty. Only 33 per cent of the 12 year olds and 65 per cent of the 18 year olds reached this 35 per cent level, though the pupils were drawn from middle class homes in a residential suburb. In other words, one third of all his 18 year olds were unable to read and comprehend news publications they would be likely to encounter in everyday life. Many American government bureaux, publishers and trade unions have retained consultants to help them simplify prose. But it has often been found that even when this has been done the lowest grade of difficulty at which complex subject matter can be written approximates to a reading age of about 15. In other words, the level required for participation in the affairs of modern society is far above that implied in earlier definitions. It is obvious that as society becomes more complex and makes higher demands in awareness and understanding of its members the criteria of literacy will rise.

2.3 It would clearly have been beyond our resources to study in depth the question of comparability with other countries, nor would it have been profitable. If definitions of literacy present difficulties it is obvious that attempts to compare standards between countries present bigger ones. In the present state of research there is little to be gained from speculation on whether any one nation has the advantage over any other. Downing (5) makes this clear when he refers to claims made in Japan, Germany and Finland that the rate of illiteracy there is exceptionally low. He points out that the very low validity of comparative statistics on literacy rates casts grave doubts on the evidence. Moreover, literacy rates expressed as percentages do not indicate actual performance levels. Two countries may claim to have illiteracy levels as low as 1 per cent, yet the actual level of reading achievement in one of the two countries may far surpass that of the other. We are faced again with the question of relativity, for one country's concept of literacy may be very different from another's. Even weaker is the subjective anecdotal evidence about the achievements of a country's children. In a recent survey (6) reading comprehension was tested across fifteen countries. It was found that 'the differences among developed countries are of rather modest dimensions ... the variations do not seem very important or readily interpretable'. We can only conclude with Downing that 'league tables' of literacy levels based on current evidence can have little validity. Nevertheless, though it is difficult to compare standards objectively between the developed nations there is no doubt that some feel a sense of urgency about their own


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conditions. The USA is a notable example. In 1969 the then US Commissioner of Education announced that one in four American pupils had 'significant reading deficiencies'. He believed there should be a major effort to ensure that by the end of the 1970s no one would be leaving school 'without the skill and the desire necessary to read to the full limits of his capability'. In the following year the Right to Read Effort was established with the purpose of ensuring that by 1980 99 per cent of all Americans under 16 and 90 per cent of all over 16 would have functional literacy. Financed by the US Office of Education, it reflects the anxiety felt in the USA about the 18 million people who have been estimated as unable to read effectively.

2.4 Various figures have been suggested for the probable total of such people in England and Wales. We referred earlier to the figure of a million as one estimate, but some people have put it at twice that number, or even higher. It is, of course, impossible to be certain. In 'The Trend of Reading Standards' (7) 3-18 per cent of the 15 year olds in England were found to be semiliterate by the definition given in the 1950 Ministry of Education pamphlet. This defined a semiliterate as a person whose reading age was 7.0 years or more but less than 9.0 on the Watts-Vernon test. An illiterate was given as one with a reading age of less than 7.0. The percentage of 3-18 per cent represents nearly 15,000 young people on the basis of the known number of 15 year olds in school in 1970. The corresponding percentage of 'semiliterates' in 1948 was 4.3. Thus for the past 23 years or so between 3 and 4 per cent of the pupil population has been leaving school with this level of attainment. Given the total of 15 year olds in each year a simple multiplication sum would produce an indication of all the semiliterate adults who have left school since 1948. The result would, of course, leave many unanswered questions. All it would tell us is that when these people left school they had obtained a low score on a particular reading test. We cannot know what has happened to them since, though it is a reasonable assumption that their reading ability has remained poor. Extrapolation to discover the numbers of those who left with a similar attainment during or before the war would obviously be very unreliable. All estimates of the number of illiterates and semiliterates in the population must therefore be hedged about with reservations. Nevertheless, it is obvious that although they represent a small percentage of the total population their numbers are considerable. Strictly speaking, adult illiteracy does not fall within our terms of reference; but the more closely we have examined the evidence the more certain we have become that attention to it should be included in our recommendations. For it represents in human terms the consequences for those children whom a national survey shows as a statistic.

2.5 Before turning to the empirical evidence in detail we must mention another aspect of literacy which attracts a good deal of public attention. This is the influence of television, to which many references were made in the evidence we received. Some witnesses felt that the growth of visual methods of expression and communication has led to a decline in the use of language, and that this had contributed to an increase in reading difficulties. It was suggested to us that children today are more accustomed to watching television in their leisure time than to using the library for information, and that they are less likely than in the past to see their parents reading.


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One large education authority, itself a pioneer in educational television services, said that the hours children spent in watching television reduced their felt need to read and write. There is certainly evidence to suggest that children of school age are spending an increasing amount of time before the television set. According to a recent issue of 'Social Trends' (8) children between the ages of 5 and 14 watched an average of 21 hours of television a week in February 1969. By February of 1973 this had risen to 25 hours. Judging from the many letters we received, there is a widespread and strongly held view that this tendency is a growing threat to the development of literacy. Such opinions are essentially subjective, and there is, in fact, very little empirical evidence to show whether television has had any effects on standards of reading or on the amount that children read. In a major study (9) carried out in this country in the 1950s Himmelweit and her colleagues studied the effect of television upon children of two age groups, 10-11 and 13-14. They had the advantage of a control group, matched by ability, social background, etc, which had virtually no access to television, a condition which can no longer be reproduced. The study showed that when children were first exposed to television they read fewer books, but by the time it had been in their homes for 3 years they read at least as many as before. Only the reading of comics seems to have been lastingly affected. One of the most significant conclusions was that comparatively little reading was taking place anyway. 'It's not that they used to read a great deal and then television came and destroyed the ability; they always read extremely little.' The 10+ children were found to be reading on average 2.7 books in a month, and the 13+ children 2.5.

2.6 These figures approximate to those revealed by a study of children's reading by Whitehead (10) and his colleagues. In 1971, some 16 years after Himmelweit's research, they found that the 10+ children in their sample read on average 3.0 books per month, the 12+ children 2.2, and the 14+ children 1.9. This very recent study gives the firmest available indication of a relationship between the amounts of time children spend reading and watching television: '... it is clear that the amount of television viewing accomplished by most children cannot but restrict the amount of time available for other leisure activities, including reading, and we have in fact found an inverse relationship between amount of television viewing and amount of reading'. The authors point out, however, that behind this generalisation lie many individual variations. There exists a substantial number of light viewers (defined as those who watch television less than 3 hours per weekday evening) who read little or nothing; and of heavy viewers (more than 3 hours) who read a great deal. In interviewing the children Whitehead formed the impression that they could be ranged along a continuum. At one end would be those active or hyperactive children who participate in many activities, including reading, sport, hobbies, and television watching. At the other would be the rather inert and apathetic children with few discernible interests. Looked at in these terms the amount of reading a child does is one manifestation of his or her general temperament, personality, situation, and lifestyle. This having been said, it is still possible for there to have been a general 'displacement' of one form of occupation by another. It seems likely that each child has a fixed amount of time, appetite and energy available for leisure activities in general or 'media contact' in particular. If new activities


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or new media capture part of the available time and energy they will 'displace' by the same amount those which formerly played an equivalent part in the child's life. As children grow older they read less and watch television less, in proportion to the extent their social activities take them out of the home. Social Trends No. 4 (1973) shows that among the 15-19 year olds television viewing time had dropped to an average of 17 hours a week.

2.7 Though the experimental evidence is limited we believe that the general effect of television watching has been to reduce the amount of time spent in private reading. Enough has been said to show that such a conclusion must be qualified in certain particulars. For one thing it cannot be taken for granted that if there were no television, books would automatically be the magnet. The Himmelweit study showed that television had not produced a sudden aversion from books. The Whitehead survey suggested that many children give little time to either. What cannot be known is whether there would have been a steady increase in book reading over the years if television had not intruded. It is a reasonable assumption, however, that at least a proportion of those 25 hours of weekly viewing would be spent in reading.

2.8 Another charge laid against television is that it develops a mass culture, sometimes dreary to the point of mindlessness. Many of our correspondents claimed that it not only reduced interest in the written language but debased the spoken language as well. Radio was held to be at least as guilty in this. Between them radio and television spread the catch phrase, the advertising jingle, and the frenetic trivia of the disc jockey. This is a large question, involving a discussion of cultural change which would take us beyond our terms of reference, but it is clear that the content and form of much radio and television utterance makes the teacher's job a great deal more difficult. On the other hand, both media have effects on children's language growth which are by no means always negative, a point which is developed in Chapter 6. Moreover, there is no doubt that television and radio are sources of material of the highest quality, which can and should be put to good use in schools at all age levels. Recommendations to this effect are made in Chapter 22.

2.9 There is one issue that has to be faced squarely. Nothing this Committee can say in isolation will change the viewing pattern of those evening hours which children spend in front of a set. The control of programmes lies with the broadcasters and the bodies to which they are responsible; and the control of viewing lies with the family. We share the opinion of many of our witnesses about some of the material the children see, but the problem is a difficult one. The broadcasters will say that they have to offer adult entertainment and that the parent is responsible for what he allows his child to watch. The parent may see the issue in much less simple terms; he experiences influences and pressures which make domestic censorship hard to introduce or maintain. We have to take care not to go beyond our terms of reference in suggesting that much more serious thought should be given to the influence of television on children. This is a large issue, and we are confining ourselves to that part of it which relates to the use of language. Broadcasting still contains within it a vigorous tradition of public service, and it is not insensitive to constructive comment. The professional educator is particularly well placed to offer that comment. The child who is watching 25 hours of television


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a week is spending almost as much time in front of a set as he spends in a classroom. That fact alone makes it a part of his experience so influential as to generate serious obligations on the part of those who provide it.

2.10 In trying to reach conclusions about standards of literacy we had access to two sources of information. One was the testimony of expert witnesses; the other the empirical evidence of surveys. Though these witnesses were not unanimous they showed a common tendency to be cautious in stating an opinion on standards. The following are from the submissions of prominent researchers, who were among the few witnesses who commented directly on standards from a study of the statistical evidence:

'There is no convincing evidence that there has been a reduction in standards. Nowadays, more people have wider needs for literacy in different contexts in everyday life, and where limited abilities occur they are brought before our attention'.

'The most that can probably be said about the movement of reading standards in the last third of a century is that there was a considerable downward movement during the war years followed by an upward movement in the 20 years after the war which may have levelled out in the last few years. Whether pre-war standards were caught up and overtaken is more difficult to say, but other evidence suggests that standards of older children are rather higher and those of younger children lower than those prevailing in the 1930s'.

'Though the NFER Report showed that the improvement in reading standards appears to have ceased, the improved standard of 1960 has been maintained. Nevertheless, more and more children are leaving infant school unable to read, and fewer teachers in junior schools seem to be equipped to teach the basic reading skills'.

Most witnesses did not commit themselves to a view, or where they did they acknowledged that it was essentially based on their own personal impressions. The unequivocal expressions of opinion were contained in the general correspondence we received, and here there was a majority view that standards had declined, or at any rate were at a standstill.

2.11 Later in the chapter we shall consider some of the reasons offered for this suggested lack of progress; but first we must examine the research evidence available to us. This is derived in the main from the series of national surveys carried out by the NFER for the Ministry of Education and later for the Department of Education and Science. The first of these took place in 1948 and has provided the basis for comparison against which subsequent results have been measured. This and later surveys were summed up in the report 'Progress in Reading 1948-1964' (11), prepared by GF Peaker HMI for the Department of Education and Science. It was claimed that during the 16 years of the surveys there had been an advance of 17 months of reading age for 11 year olds, and 20-30 months for 15 year olds. Not all reviewers have agreed that this represents what the report described as a 'remarkable improvement'. Several pointed out that the 1948 test scores were naturally depressed as a result of the war and that they therefore presented a low baseline which would flatter subsequent results.


[page 16]

A fundamental reference point in the thinking of some witnesses was the pre-war situation. But it is very much open to question whether it is possible to relate present day standards to those of before the war. In 1948, when the Watts-Vernon was calibrated against those tests employed pre-war, the sample used for the comparison was a judgemental one arrived at on a local basis. The pre-war tests themselves were not standardised by means of a national sample. Thus there is no firm statistical base for comparison, and in terms of tackling today's problems it is questionable whether there is anything to be gained from attempting it.

2.12 The most recent surveys in the series, and the first since the 1966 summary, were 'The Trend of Reading Standards' (1972) and 'The Reading Standards of Children in Wales' (1973).(12) It should be said at once that it is not easy to make accurate assessment of the results of such surveys without studying them in depth. Indeed, we found in taking evidence that informed people have interpreted the NFER researches in different ways. We accept both publications as responsible and accurate research reports. The limitations of their research, which we shall describe below, are fully discussed in the publications by the authors themselves. It is to the English report to which this section will be largely devoted, since it has generated a good deal of concern about the reading standards of today as compared with those revealed by the 1964 survey.

2.13 The best point at which to begin is to consider the tests from which the results have been derived. The two tests, the Watts-Vernon and the National Survey Form Six (NS6), are narrowly conceived. The first was devised in 1947 as a silent reading test of the incomplete sentence type. It has 35 items and lasts 10 minutes. The second was developed in 1954 along similar lines but with more items (60) and a longer duration (20 minutes). We do not regard these tests as adequate measures of reading ability. What they measure is a narrow aspect of silent reading comprehension. This is not the place to define reading ability, which is analysed in detail in a later chapter, but we must record here our view that the tests in question are able to assess only a limited aspect of it. Both tests are technically reliable in the sense that they measure the same features to the same degree on different occasions. But their doubtful validity is now apparent, in that they measure only in part what they purport to measure*.

2.14 The problem is therefore one of attempting to assess the product of a variety of contemporary aims and methods with instruments constructed many years ago. The Watts-Vernon test was 23 years old and the NS6 16 years old at the time of the last survey. The report gave examples from them to illustrate how they had aged: the use of such words as 'mannequin parade' and 'wheelwright' in the NS6 and 'haberdashers' in the Watts-Vernon. It pointed out that children of today were less likely to use the term 'bathing' for 'swimming', and may be unfamiliar with such expressions as 'four rules of arithmetic' and 'pacific settlement of disputes'. This is a more

*'... the format of the tests does set limits on what aspects of the ability to read with understanding they can and do measure. Since the largest unit of language in these tests is the sentence, they do not measure, at least not to any significant degree, what might be called the inferential aspects of reading, such aspects as the ability to follow an argument or extract a theme'. (The Trend of Reading Standards: Start and Wells, p. 17).


[page 17]

telling limitation than might as first sight appear. If with the passage of time even two or three of the items become less familiar the effect upon the test results could be important. The comparable mean scores obtained over 23 years differ so slightly that this kind of increase in the difficulty of a few items can have a disproportionate influence upon the result. In other words, if in these items the pupils are at an artificial disadvantage compared with their predecessors then there is an underestimate of their ability. Where changes in mean scores are extremely small from one survey to the next, every item counts.

2.15 Another serious limitation of these tests is that they do not provide adequate discrimination for the more able 15 year old pupils. In other words, many of these pupils are capable of dealing with more difficult items than the tests contain. A fuller account of this 'ceiling effect', as it is called, is given as an annex. The 'ceiling effect' was noted as a defect of the Watts-Vernon test as long ago as 1956, and indeed the introduction of the NS6 was a response to it. There is now evidence to show that the 'ceiling effect' of the NS6 itself is causing problems, since at the senior level in particular many of the items are too easy. Indeed, according to the Welsh report it is perhaps now more serious than for the Watts-Vernon. The NS6 test was used alone in the 1972 survey (13) of reading standards in Northern Ireland. Because of the closeness of the achieved sample to the design sample it is possible to assess the special features of NS6 with somewhat more confidence than is possible from the English and Welsh surveys. And the most significant feature to emerge is the extent to which NS6 fails to allow able 15 year olds to score at a level which reflects their ability.

2.16 A histogram from the Northern Ireland report has been reproduced as Diagram 7 in the annex. This represents the scores for all the 11 and 15 year olds. The difference in the distribution is remarkable. It will be noted that the scores of the 11 year olds are well spread out but that those of the 15 year olds are 'piled up' towards the top end of the scale. This is a clear indication that the more able 15 year olds found the test too easy. The author of the report concludes that 'scores for such pupils may be artificially depressed by the low ceiling of the test. It also follows that the test discriminates adequately only among the pupils whose reading scores are in the lower half of the range'. Some idea of what this suggests about the performance of the more able readers can be gained from a scrutiny of the later items in the test. Quite apart from making demands upon vocabulary they require the reader to handle complex abstractions with some confidence. And yet questions of this calibre have proved too easy to stretch the older and brighter children. When these children are achieving near maximum scores there is little scope for them to improve their performances and thus to affect the mean score. If in their case the kind of ability measured by the tests were improving, the tests themselves would probably be incapable of detecting it. This fact, and the ageing of the tests, would be sufficient to produce a levelling-off in the rate of increase in scores. The principle of extrapolation cannot be applied indiscriminately. It is not necessarily the case that a well-established trend in a certain direction must continue almost indefinitely. Thus, the roughly uniform increase of mean scores on the tests through the 1950s and into the early 1960s encouraged expectations of continued increase at the same rate.


[page 18]

This clearly could not happen. Improvements made by the poorer performers can raise the mean score for the age group, but the increase over the years can hardly be expected to go on at the same rate. For these reasons it is important to consider not only the mean scores but also the distributions of scores on tests which are suspected of having these limitations.

2.17 In both the English and Welsh surveys the sampling was inadequate in a number of respects. This was not the fault of the NFER researchers - a postal strike played havoc with their plans - but the reports make clear the reservations of their authors. In the English survey only 60 per cent of the secondary schools were able to reply before the strike began, and 7 per cent of these declined to take part. The result was a sample of secondary schools numbering just over a half of those selected for inclusion. In such circumstances was the achieved sample still representative and random? Moreover, it was further affected by a high degree of pupil absenteeism, due largely to the fact that the testing took place in the last fortnight of the Lent term. There was some evidence to show that the proportion of Easter leavers absent for the tests was much greater than the corresponding proportion of pupils who were not leaving at Easter. This could have the effect of reducing the number of less able pupils taking part. The 1960 and 1961 senior surveys took place in the middle of the autumn term, a time when the absentee rate of the less able was probably lower. The obvious inference is that the 1971 sample estimates for the 15 year olds could be artificially high, since if the absent pupils had in fact participated their scores might have lowered the mean. Start and Wells express it thus:

'... we must suspect that the less able are under-represented in our 1971 samples to a greater extent than in those of the last two surveys. In this case, the sample estimates for the present survey would be spuriously high in relation to those of the 1960 and 1961 surveys. Unfortunately it is not possible to estimate the extent to which the 1971 sample estimates may be spuriously high ... The extent may not be that great ... the Watts-Vernon test sample mean for all seniors would have been, at a very rough guess, 0.2 points of score less than the mean actually obtained. The corresponding figure for the NS6 would be 0.3 points of score lower'.
There is one further factor which may have affected the estimate of standards. This is the possibility that the 11 year olds were handicapped by lack of familiarity with objective-style tests. Start and Wells observe that the children's 'test sophistication' may have been lower in 1970 than six or ten years earlier, when the 11+ examination was widespread and they were more accustomed to meeting tests of this kind.

2.18 In view of all these doubts and caveats it might be wondered whether any firm conclusions can be drawn from the most recent NFER survey, and whether any safe comparisons can therefore be made with earlier surveys. There is, however, a degree of independent confirmation which has been little remarked. In the first place, the movement of scores obtained in England is comparable with those obtained in Wales, and this is evident at both senior and junior levels. In the second place, there is a degree of independence in the results obtained from the Watts-Vernon and NS6 testing of juniors. This is because separate but parallel samples of schools were drawn at the


[page 19]

junior level in both the English and Welsh surveys. One sample was given the Watts-Vernon test, the other the NS6. When the trends are repeated in separate samples they give more grounds for confidence in them.

2.19 We have said enough about the limitations of the results derived from the national surveys, and we must add that it is not the fault of the authors that many people have ignored their reservations. Having expressed our own reservations about the tests and sampling we now turn to the tables of results. Reproduced below are the most important tables from the English report:

15 YEAR OLDS

Comparable mean scores with standard errors (14) for pupils aged 15.0 years. Watts-Vernon Test (Maintained schools and direct grant grammar schools).

Table 1

Date of Survey1948195219561961*1971
Mean score20.7921.5221.71(a) 23.6
(b) 24.1
23.46
Standard error0.370.200.260.140.26

*Although only secondary modern and comprehensive children were tested in 1961, these figures are estimates of total school populations: (a) taking other schools at the 1956 level, (b) supposing other schools made the same advance as secondary modern schools between 1956 and 1961.

(Table 3.3 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER).

Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 15.0 years. NS6 test (Maintained schools only).

Table 2

Date of Survey1955*19601971
Mean score42.1844.5744.65
Standard error0.640.730.83

*England and Wales - scores would probably be slightly higher (0.20?) if England only were taken.

(Table 3.4 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER).

11 YEAR OLDS

Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 11.0 years, since 1948. Watts-Vernon test (Maintained schools only).

Table 3

Date of Survey19481952195619641970
Mean score11.5912.4213.3015.0014.19
Standard error0.590.300.320.210.38

(Table 3.1 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER).


[page 20]

Comparable mean scores with standard errors for pupils aged 11 years 2 months, since 1955. NS6 test (Maintained schools only).

Table 4

Date of Survey195519601970
Mean score28.7129.4829.38
Standard error0.550.520.92

(Table 3.2 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER).

Our considered view is that the results of the 15 year olds, presented in tables 3.1 and 3.2, are not disturbing in themselves, having regard to the limitations to be found in the tests. Scores on NS6 continue their slight increase, while those on Watts-Vernon increase until 1961 and then decrease slightly by 1971. The point to be emphasised is that the changes in the scores on both tests in the last decade are not large enough to be statistically significant; and the most reasonable conclusion is that the standards of 15 year olds have remained the same over the period 1960-71. The authors of the 1970/71 survey report made the point that 'there seems to have been a steady increase in the weak tail of the 15 year olds over the past 23 years'. This statement is easily misinterpreted, for it refers to the shape of the frequency distribution and not to the actual mean scores of the poorer readers. In the earlier surveys the range of scores which separated the best from the average reader was much the same as that separating the average reader from the weakest. But in later surveys the 'ceiling' of the maximum score has restricted the range of scores available to the above average and average readers. This has resulted in the spread of scores covered by the poorer readers, 'the weak tail', becoming relatively more pronounced. We therefore cannot accept the suggestion made to us in evidence that 'at the bottom of the scale a group approximating to a sixth of the school population has been showing a slight but steady decline in attainment for the last 23 years'. Inspection of Table 3.6 and Figure 3.4 of 'The Trend of Reading Standards' shows that the lowest standards have clearly risen during this period. Similarly, an examination of the difference in scores between the 10th and 90th percentiles at the age of 15 shows that this difference has decreased from 18.8 points of score in 1948 to 17.5 points in 1971. This apparent narrowing of the gap between the poor and the good reader emphasises the restrictions of the maximum score on the test used. The 'ceiling' has pegged back the top sixth, and the bottom sixth have been catching up as their scores improved*.

2.20 At junior level the following results are to be found:

(a) A steady increase of 3.41 points on Watts-Vernon from 1948 to 1964, then a decrease of 0.81 points between 1964 and 1970.
*This increase in the scores of the lowest achievers must not be confused with the issue of whether there is a rising proportion of poor readers among the children of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. This important question is considered in detail later in the chapter.


[page 21]

(b) On NS6 an increase of 0.77 points between 1955 and 1960, then a decrease of 0.10 points between 1960 and 1970.
The picture here is thus one of steadily rising scores through the 1950s to a peak in the early 1960s, and a slight decline in scores (0.81 and 0.10) by 1970. We have also had access to the findings of other surveys of reading standards, but before discussing these we must add a word about how their results should be evaluated. If national standards are under discussion, then one needs either a national sample or a collection of a large number of local surveys which taken together represent accurately the national population. Such a collection does not exist, and it would in any case be extremely difficult to construct an adequate national sample from a series of local studies. One of the reasons why it is so easy to form a distorted view of the national picture is the fact that local surveys are often carried out in large urban areas not typical of the national situation.

2.21 Furthermore, as any survey obtains its results on the basis of sampling from a given population, it is very important to bear in mind any changes over time in the characteristics of the population from which the sample is drawn. If this population alters between surveys the trends they identify will be partly, and even mainly, sociologically determined. It will thus be extremely difficult to isolate valid interpretations of changes in standards of reading, or for that matter of other cognitive abilities. One good example of a changing population is to be found in recruitment to the army, an organisation which monitors its intake so that year by year it is possible to record the mean score of each year's entrants. But little is known about the population of potential army recruits of which these intakes are samples. Indeed it is highly probable that the nature of the intake is decided by economic factors and other causes which fluctuate considerably in the short term. In times of economic boom the pool of potential army recruits is likely to be greatly reduced. Thus the mean scores recorded each year are derived from samples of a changing population, so that one cannot interpret trends with any certainty. A similar argument would apply to business concerns, or even individual schools, which draw their intake from an unspecified population subject to changes wrought by economics, the movement of social groups, or other influencing factors. It is clear, then, that local surveys have severe disadvantages for determining trends in national standards and that the basic difficulty is the well known one of estimating the standards of a definable population from a sample. National trends can only be properly evaluated by national surveys properly designed.

2.22 That having been said, the converse must be recognised. A national survey does not tell us anything about the circumstances of any given area. Local surveys have the considerable virtue that they allow the study of those psychological and sociological differences which might be ignored, avoided, or simply masked by national averages. They can complement the broad generalisations derived from a national survey and identify important local problems which might have equally important consequences for the nation as a whole. The survey carried out by the Inner London Education Authority is a case in point. Inner London is particularly atypical of the country at large. Totally urban, the population is skewed in social class towards the lower income groups, and the proportion of immigrants at the time of the survey


[page 22]

was 17 per cent. The 1971 ILEA investigation was a follow-up of children who had been tested in 1968 when aged 8+. At the age of eleven 26,202 children were retested on two parallel versions of an NFER sentence completion test. (The results of these cannot, of course, be directly compared with those derived from the Watts-Vernon and NS6). It was found that the standardised scores of the children at 8+ and 11+ did not alter significantly; the change was from 94.6 to 94.9. It will be noted that the scores were markedly below the average (100) which was obtained by children of the same age when these tests were standardised on a national basis. Within the apparent stability from 8 to 11, however, the proportion of poor readers in the semi-skilled and unskilled groups increased from 17.9 per cent and 25.9 per cent respectively in 1968 to 22.0 per cent and 28.8 per cent in 1971.

2.23 In Aberdeen (15) in 1972 over 2,500 children were tested, representing 99 per cent of the two year groups concerned: 8 and 11. This was a repeat of an assessment carried out 10 years earlier in 1962, when the same coverage of 99 per cent was obtained and the same tests used: NFER (Sentence) Reading Test AD and Test NS6 The results of this survey were of particular interest to us in two respects. Firstly, they are very much in line with those of the English survey, a fact to which the authors themselves draw attention: 'The NFER findings on recent trends in reading standards (i.e. in England) are confirmed by this study. While at the age of 8 years, the standard of performance in reading comprehension (in Scotland) is relatively unchanged, at age 11 there has been a slight decline in average standard. The difference between the 1962 and 1972 averages, however, is small - only two thirds of one point of score in a test with 60 items. It would be reasonable to conclude therefore that standards are essentially unchanged over the past ten years'. Secondly the results provide an interesting analysis by social class. It was found that among children with fathers in professional or managerial jobs the average standard had improved, or at least been maintained. But among those with fathers in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs the average performance at 11 was seriously below the standard of the equivalent social group 10 years earlier.

2.24 As the national surveys in England and Wales did not record the social class of the pupils such information could not be obtained from them. However, there is further evidence to be obtained from other sources which confirms this relationship. For example, the National Child Development Study (16) revealed that 48 per cent of the children from social class V were poor readers at 7, compared with 8 per cent in social class I. Several studies have shown that the position worsens as the children grow older, there being a progressive decline in the performance of children of lower socio-economic groups between the ages of 7 and 11. The Educational Priority study (17) was applied to four educational priority areas, three in inner-city areas and the fourth in two small economically depressed mining towns. The children were given an NFER sentence completion test, and a score of 80 was taken to distinguish non-readers or virtual non-readers. Excluding the immigrant children it was found that the proportions of children in this category in the four areas were 19 per cent, 35.8 per cent, 21.7 per cent and 17.7 per cent. The researchers concluded that the overall performance in EPAs [Educational Priority Areas] is not pulled down by a very low set of scores from a small group in an otherwise normal


[page 23]

population. On the contrary, the results display a much more general pattern of low attainment, with very few children falling in the higher scoring groups.

2.25 We are aware that the effects of social class are not specific to reading. Several studies have shown that the correlation is with attainment in general. For example, in research carried out for the Plowden Committee (18), the most powerful variable was found to be the School Handicap Score (SHS), a weighted sum of Father's Occupation, Father's Education, Mother's Education, Number of Books in the Home, and (minus) the number of siblings. Nevertheless, the relation with reading is a reality, and it seems to be universal. In a study in Swedish elementary schools Malmquist (19) found a distinct association between reading ability and social group; and evidence of a wider significance emerges from the comparative study of reading comprehension in 15 countries, in which the SHS was again used. Differences in achievement among the developed countries were of modest dimensions, but they all had in common this important feature: that a child's family background gives a clear prediction of his achievement in reading at age 10 and age 14. There is evidence to suggest that the slight decline in scores at 11 years of age in the 1970/71 survey may well be linked to a rising proportion of poor readers among children of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Such an influence does not, of course, conflict with our earlier observation that there has been no decline in the attainment of the bottom sixth of the school population. It is perfectly possible to find an increase in the proportion of children from a low socio-economic group and at the same time a narrowing of the gap between the best and the weakest readers. The two ideas are really unrelated, since one refers to proportions, the other to differences in the range of scores. What appears to be happening is that while reading standards at the lower end of the ability range have improved in most socio-economic groups, the poor readers among the children of the unskilled and semi-skilled have not improved their standards commensurately. The result is that the lower end of the ability range has an increased proportion of these children.

2.26 There remains the question of the national reading standards of 7 year olds. It is not, of course, the practice to carry out national surveys of the reading attainment of children of this age, and there is therefore no comparable evidence about their standards from which to draw conclusions. Nevertheless, there is much conjecture about the reading ability of 7 year olds today as compared to that in previous years. It is clear that for many people this is the age which causes the greatest concern. One recurring point in the correspondence we received was the belief that there is an increasing tendency for children to pass from the infant to the junior stage without a good grounding in reading. The research study (20) most often quoted is one carried out in the West Midlands in which it was found that between 1961 and 1967 the percentage who had not started to learn to read had risen sharply. In the earlier year it was true of 25 per cent of children in the sample of 2,000; by the end of the period the figure had risen to 40 per cent. There is a similar indication in the National Child Development Study (21), which said that in 1965: '... some 10 per cent of 7 year olds in the final term of their infant schooling had barely made a start with reading. A further 37 per cent had progressed beyond this stage but continued to need specific help'. Both these


[page 24]

studies were based on substantial samples and they can be taken as good indicators of a general situation. Their results are compatible with those of Morris (22) in Kent, where 45 per cent of first year juniors still required teaching help of the kind normally given in the infant school, and 19 per cent were virtually non-readers. Other local studies appear to substantiate these findings. Bookbinder (23) refers to three such studies - in Brighton, Salford, and Bristol - and suggests that children now start to read later but then make more rapid progress than in former times. From the evidence available there seems to be a prima facie case for saying that children of 7 are not as advanced as formerly in those aspects of reading ability which are measured by tests. It can be put no more strongly than that, for the evidence has obvious limitations for purposes of generalisation. If there are doubts about the fact, there are even greater doubts about the putative cause. Much public comment is quite categorical in ascribing it to poor teacher training, or to a neglect of reading in favour of creative activities, which is cited as one of the effects of 'progressivism'. These propositions are examined in the appropriate chapters, but it is worth anticipating briefly in the case of the second, since this is the one most commonly advanced. In our survey we tested the hypothesis that infant schools neglect reading practice, and the relevant tables of results are reproduced in Chapter 13. A questionnaire of this kind obviously cannot assess quality, but it will be seen that in quantitative terms reading featured prominently in the infant schools in our sample, however they were organised. Our own visits to schools and our discussions with HM Inspectors confirm us in the belief that infant schools take seriously their responsibility for teaching children to read, though there are, of course, considerable variations in the extent to which they are successful.

2.27 There is a strong belief, reflected in much of the testimony we received, that if children surge ahead in their first or second year in the junior school they have not lost by starting late. This argument can be examined against a comparison of the West Midlands Study and National Child Development Study findings with those of 'The Trend of Reading Standards'. The samples are by no means a perfect fit, and any comparisons must be treated with appropriate caution. Allowing for this, however, it might be expected that the results of the first two would be reflected in the third. That is to say, a poor showing at 7 at the time of the earlier studies should predict a decline in standards at 11 at the time of the next national survey. To an extent, the prediction has proved true, in the sense that the progress shown in earlier national surveys has not been maintained. On the other hand, it could be argued that the performance of the 11 year olds is very much better than might have been expected from the prognostications, and that a good deal of productive learning has taken place in the junior years. Generalisations from this kind of comparison must not be taken too far. Between 1964 and 1970/71 the mean score of the 11 year olds decreased by 0.81 of an answer on the Watts-Vernon test, and between 1960 and 1970/71 by 0.1 of an answer on the NS6 test. It would clearly be impossible to evaluate this degree of decline in terms of the levels of achievement at 7 and the learning experiences of the children in the intervening years. The most that can be done is to consider the strength of alternative interpretations. As we have seen, one view would have it that there is no cause for alarm; that the decline at 11 is so slight as to be of little consequence, and that it does not justify increasing the pressure in


[page 25]

the infant school. The other would say that anything less than a continued rise at 11 is evidence of falling standards, and that the junior schools are not properly equipped to make good the deficiencies of children who come to them as non-readers.

2.28 In Morris's study, cited above, it was found that 76 per cent of the junior school teachers in the sample had received no training in infant methods. 52 per cent lacked any infant school experience, and 18 per cent had no knowledge of how to teach children to read. The ILEA Literacy Survey showed that only 1 in 8 of the junior teachers had received specific training in reading techniques. Smaller-scale studies have pointed to similar conclusions and have suggested that as a general rule the junior school teacher is not equipped to cope in an expert fashion with children who have not made a start in reading. In evidence to the Committee many junior school heads have agreed that this is a difficulty with which they are faced. Their teachers have not received the training to enable them to assess when a child should have acquired a particular 'learning set' in reading, and how to contrive that he does. What is of particular concern to us is that the child who has not started to read might come to be regarded from an early stage as a 'remedial case'. Where the majority of children have made a good start to reading, and where the class teacher makes no claim to be able to teach the beginning stages, it is all too likely that the remainder will be 'withdrawn' for 'remedial' treatment very early in their junior school life. We would not be so unrealistic as to believe that every child should be a competent reader on leaving the infant school. But we would certainly be unhappy with a situation where the foundations of reading were not thoroughly laid there.

2.29 In summing up our conclusions about standards it is necessary to return first to the national survey. Despite all the reservations about the tests, absenteeism, and the size and nature of the achieved sample, the results of the NFER survey still provide the best estimate of the country's reading standards. The remainder of the evidence has, on the whole, given us confidence in our interpretation of this estimate.

At the age of 11 no significant change in reading standards over the decade 1960-1970 emerges from the NS6 survey. But the movement in Watts-Vernon scores from 1964 to 1970 just achieves significance (at the 5 per cent level), so that such movement as did occur was in all probability downwards. The indications are that there may now be a growing proportion of poor readers among the children of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Moreover, the national averages almost certainly mask falling reading standards in areas with severe social and educational problems.

At 15 years of age reading standards, as measured by the tests, have remained approximately the same over the period 1960-1971, again after an earlier period of steady increase from the 1948 baseline. We believe that the ceiling effect of the tests is causing such distortion in the score distributions that the computed mean scores must be viewed with considerable suspicion. The


[page 26]

statistical results from the survey at both age points are not greatly disturbing, but neither do they leave room for complacency. We do not believe it is sufficient to rely on a 1948 baseline for measuring the movement in reading standards; nor are we satisfied that the present methods of monitoring them are adequate. We accordingly recommend that a new system of monitoring should be introduced.

2.30 In the chapters which follow we advocate those measures which we believe will lead to the development of the complex of skills that go to make up literacy. Reading must not be thought of as an uncomplicated skill like walking, acquired when young then left to look after itself. Reading, writing, talking and listening are associated abilities which the school should go on developing throughout a pupil's educational life. Teachers can do this only if they understand these abilities, and that means recognising them as an area of learning which demands expert knowledge. In the secondary school it means an end to the ill-informed view of English that because anyone can speak it anyone can teach it. And it means that all teachers should be made aware in their training of the complex role that language plays in their work, whatever they are teaching. Literacy is a corporate responsibility, in which the leadership should be provided by teachers with specialist knowledge but in which every other teacher shares. Standards will not be raised if the responsibility is seen as falling to a small part of the teaching population. To blame the infant teacher for every 'failed' reader is to misunderstand what reading is all about. To blame the English teacher for every mistake a pupil makes is to misunderstand how language and learning interact. Literacy demands a continuity and community of endeavour.

ANNEX: THE 'CEILING EFFECT' OF READING TESTS
Copyright
We are grateful to the following copyright holders for permission to reproduce diagrams: the Book Publishing Division, National Foundation for Educational Research for 'The Trend of Reading Standards', and the Northern Ireland Council for Educational Research for 'Reading Standards in Northern Ireland'.
2.31 Suppose we want to measure attainment trends in reading over a long period of time. We do not know the shape of the distribution in the population, but for simplicity we assume it to be at least roughly normal (bell shaped). What are the requirements of the measuring test?

The most fundamental is that it should be valid, in which case the test scores will be distributed over the full range of attainment. Should attainment improve, the range will either be extended upwards or shift bodily upwards, or both. Therefore there should be sufficient room upon the measurement scale for the whole distribution to move along it if improvement should occur in all parts of the range.

Diagram 1 illustrates this, exaggerating the movement.


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Diagram 1

MOVEMENT OF DISTRIBUTION OF SCORES
SHOWING NO CEILING EFFECT

M1 = First Mean
M2 = Second Mean

This may be represented by means of percentile curves which are typically S-shaped when reflecting a normal distribution. See Diagram 2 below:

Diagram 2

MOVEMENT OF
CUMULATIVE DISTRIBUTION OF SCORES
SHOWING NO CEILING EFFECT


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Now suppose we do not have a scale which has sufficient headroom for the whole distribution to move upward in score, since the more able pupils are capable of scoring more than the maximum number of items provided. What would be the effects?

2.32 The effects would be noticeable in the distribution of scores as a 'piling up' of scores at the ceiling of the test, shown here in exaggerated form:

Diagram 3

MOVEMENT OF DISTRIBUTION OF SCORES
SHOWING A CEILING EFFECT

Those pupils who would have been capable of scoring in region x would be held to a score below the ceiling limit. In tests of the multiple choice form and/or with guessing corrections such pupils would not simply all score the maximum. (In a large sample some fluctuation could be expected if the test were retaken, as those who guessed right on one occasion might be wrong on another.)

In the NS6 a guessing correction is employed that terminates scoring if seven successive responses are incorrect. Only correct scores before the incorrect sequence of seven are counted, and those occurring after it are discounted as being probably guesses. Now it may happen that a pupil who answers correctly up to a number less than seven from the maximum could well continue to score beyond the maximum if additional items were available. Thus a small proportion who score as low as 54 on the NS6, which has a 60 maximum, are potential scorers in region x. The proportion is likely to be small because the NS6, like the W-V, is a highly reliable test; that is to say, the fluctuation of scores on retesting would probably be low. In terms of the shape of the percentile score curve the effect would be as shown below:


[page 29]

Diagram 4

MOVEMENT OF
CUMULATIVE DISTRIBUTION OF SCORES
SHOWING A CEILING EFFECT

The top of the 'S' vanishes and there is 'bellying' of the lower portion of the curve. The mean would lie below the median and not on it as it would have done in an undistorted distribution.

What effects would the distortion produced by the ceiling have on the estimates of population parameters ?

(a) As the distribution was no longer normal in form the sample standard deviation would not denote the same idea of measuring a symmetrical spread about the mean.

(b) As the sample standard deviation would be suspect, so too would the estimate of Standard Error which gives confidence in the probable position of the estimated mean for the population.

(c) The mean itself, though still computable, may be seen no longer to reflect the true attainment of the sample and hence no longer to provide an accurate estimate of the value within the population from which the sample is drawn.

2.33 Let us now examine how this exposition throws light on the results obtained with the W-V and NS6 tests in the recent national surveys.

Figs 3.3 and 3.4 from page 38 of 'The Trend of Reading Standards' show the situation on the Watts-Vernon test for 11 year old and 15 year old children respectively. Diagrams 5 and 6 reproduce these figures. Diagram 5 below (Fig 3.3) shows a parallel set of S-curves moving across the scale as standards rise. There is no ceiling effect with these 11 year olds, because even in 1964 the highest scoring pupil scored only 27, the maximum possible being 35.


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Diagram 5

Scores in the reading tests of 1948-70 inclusive (11-year-old pupils in maintained schools)

(Figure 3.3 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER)

Diagram 6 (Fig 3.4), on the other hand, shows that even in 1948 some 15 year old pupils were scoring the maximum. In succeeding years the 'top of the S' has almost disappeared and 'bellying' has increased as the distortion of the distribution of scores has become more marked. There is thus a definite ceiling on the W-V at age 15, a fact which has been known since the early 1950s.

Diagram 6

Scores in the reading tests of 1948-71 inclusive (15-year-old pupils in maintained schools)

(Figure 3.4 from 'The Trend of Reading Standards', NFER)


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Start and Wells give no comparable graph which presents a similar family of curves for the NS6, but they do give data for 1971 (see diagram 8).

The Northern Ireland survey of 1972 supplies a distribution of scores on NS6 at 15. Fig 3 from page 9 of that survey is reproduced here as diagram 7. There is a clear difference between the roughly normal distribution of reading attainment at age 11 and the distorted and curtailed distribution at age 15. The bell-shaped distribution of 11 year old scores is seen best if the page is turned sideways.

Diagram 7

NS6 score distributions for 11- and 15-year-olds in Northern Ireland

(Figure 3 from 'Reading Standards in Northern Ireland', NFER)

The following diagram depicts the percentile distribution for 15 year olds on both the NS6 and W-V in the English survey of 1971. On the larger scales used in this diagram one can see that there is still some 'top to the S' left on the W-V but none at all on the NS6. The ceiling effect of the NS6 is more severe at 15 than that of the W-V.


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Diagram 8

PERCENTILE DISTRIBUTION OF SCORES
FOR 15 YEAR OLDS IN ALL MAINTAINED
SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND, 1971

Based on figures from Tables 4.3 and 4.4, Start and Wells, Page 59

This is a surprising result. Many people expect the reverse to be true, because the introduction of NS6 in 1953 was in part an attempt to provide a test of higher ceiling than the W-V, whose ceiling had been recognised. It must be acknowledged that the attempt has failed. However, we cannot simply conclude on the basis of the ceiling effect alone that one test is better than the other, for while the Watts-Vernon test appears to be less affected by 'ceiling effects', the question of validity should be kept in mind, a point discussed in paragraph 2.14.

2.34 What are the implications of the test ceiling for the interpretation of results from the national surveys of reading standards?

Firstly, the meaning of the computed standard error of the mean is in doubt. When there is no longer a symmetrical normal distribution, computing the standard deviation of the sample scores in effect averages out the asymmetry. As it is the standard deviation which is used to estimate the standard error


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of the mean, the confidence limits set on the position of the mean must be interpreted with great care. More seriously the computed mean itself may be seen to underestimate the probable true mean reading attainment of 15 year olds. We must conclude that neither the W-V nor NS6 can be used to give accurate estimates of reading ability at age 15. Sentence completion tests of this type do not appear capable of discriminating between the performances of the most able of these children. To this extent, reading ability has outstripped the available tests.


REFERENCES AND NOTES

1. WS Gray The Teaching of Reading and Writing UNESCO: 1956.

2. D Moyle et al Readability of Newspapers Edge Hill College of Education: 1973.

3. The term 'reading age' is used throughout this chapter, since it is the measure most commonly employed when standards of reading are being discussed. A reading age is obtained by transposing test scores on to a scale expressed in terms of years of development. We consider it in many ways a misleading concept which can obscure more than it reveals. Its use assumes that progress in reading can be equated with certain arbitrary units of time. In other words, learning to read is looked upon as consisting of equal steps which can be placed alongside another scale of equal steps, namely months and years. But there are no grounds whatever for supposing that reading progress is a linear process of this kind, and indeed there is evidence to the contrary. Nor is it reasonable to believe that the difference between reading ages of 6.6 years and 8.6 years is the same as the difference between those of 10.6 and 12.6. Even if these facts are disregarded, the concept of reading age is of limited practical value for teachers. If a statement like 'a reading age of 7.0 years' is to have any real meaning, then the characteristics of '7 year old reading' must be known and defined. This would be difficult to achieve. The average 7 year old reader exists only as a statistical abstraction, and unless one can ascribe to reading ages attributes which have real meaning the term is highly misleading. It simply cannot be assumed that children having the same reading age read in the same way, require identical teaching, and will profit from similar books and materials.

4. JR Bormuth An operational definition of comprehension instruction in Psycholinguistics and The Teaching of Reading International Reading Association: 1969.

JR Bormuth Development of Standards of Readability University of Chicago: 1971.

5. (ed) J Downing Comparative Reading Macmillan: New York: 1973.

6. RL Thorndike Reading Comprehension Education in Fifteen Countries: International Studies in Evaluation III International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement: 1973.

7. KB Start and BK Wells The Trend of Reading Standards 1970-71 NFER: 1972.

8. Social Trends No. 4 Government Statistical Service: HMSO: 1973. See also Children as Viewers and Listeners B.B.C. 1974, which gives an interesting analysis of the viewing and listening preferences of children aged 5 to 14.

9. HT Himmelweit, AN Oppenheim & P Vince Television and the Child OUP: 1955.


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10. F Whitehead, AC Capey, W Maddren Children's Reading Interests Schools Council: 1974.

11. Progress in Reading 1948-1964 Education Pamphlet No. 50: HMSO: 1966.

12. TR Horton The Reading Standards of Children in Wales NFER: 1973.

13. JA Wilson Reading Standards in Northern Ireland NICER: 1973.

14. Standard Error. When a mean score is shown in the tables it has to be understood that this is an estimate of some unknown true mean score which would have been obtained if every child in the relevant population of 11 and 15 year olds had been tested. Obviously, it is impossible to test on this scale, so each survey has tested only a sample of children from each of the two age groups. Thus, the mean value quoted for 11 year olds in 1970 on the W-V test (Table 3) is an estimate of the true mean score for all the children of that age in that year. Many different samples could be chosen without testing the same children, and if this were to happen one would get several different estimates of the true mean score of the whole age group. The chances that any one sample would give an estimated value precisely the same as the true mean score are, on common sense expectations, small. We are in just that situation. We have one estimate of the true mean score for the whole population at that age. How close is it likely to be to the true value? The standard error quoted with each sample mean score gives us an answer to this question, but the answer has to acknowledge that the estimated mean score values one might obtain by repeated sampling would be sometimes higher and sometimes lower than the true value in the whole population. For instance, in 1964 (from Table 3) the sample of 11 year olds in maintained schools obtained a mean score of 15 on the Watts-Vernon test. The standard error was 0.21. This information tells us that the true mean score of the whole population of such pupils was close to 15. How close? If we said the true mean score for the age group was between 14.79 (15.00 - 0.21) and 15.21 we should be likely to be right 68 times out of 100 or roughly two thirds of the time. It may not be thought adequate to be right two times out of three, but if we wish to be more certain of including the true population score we must widen the limits. We could thus be confident that in claiming the true mean score to lie between 14.58 and 15.42 (15 2 x 0.21) we should be right 95 times out of 100. The combination of a mean score and a standard error derived from a sample must, therefore, be regarded as indicating the range of possible values of the true mean score. If, therefore, we are to be sure that from one year to any other year there has been a definite movement of the mean score, we must allow for the range of possibilities on each testing occasion. In drawing conclusions from the results it is not enough merely to note any difference in the mean scores. There must be no significant chance of an overlap due to either this sample or the one in the earlier test producing an estimate greatly removed from the true value in the age group at the time. And this means that the difference must be sufficiently large for it to be clear that no such overlap has occurred.

15. J Nisbet, J Watt, J Welsh Reading Standards in Aberdeen 1962-1972 University of Aberdeen: 1972.

16. R Davie, N Butler, H Goldstein From Birth to Seven Longman: 1972.

17. AH Halsey Educational Priority Vol. 1. HMSO: 1972.

18. Children and Their Primary Schools HMSO: 1967.


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19. E Malmquist Factors relating to Reading Disabilities in the First Grade of Elementary Schools Stockholm: 1958.

20. K Gardner The State of Reading in Crisis in the Classroom ed. N Smart: IPC: 1968.

21. MLK Pringle, NR Butler, R Davie 11,000 Seven Year Olds Longman: 1966.

22. J Morris Reading in the Primary School NFER: 1959: and Standards and Progress in Reading NFER: 1966.

23. GE Bookbinder Variations in Reading Test Norms Educational Research 12,2: 1970.





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CHAPTER 3

Monitoring

3.1 Before we go on to consider how improvement can be secured in reading and the use of language we think it appropriate to complete this section on standards by setting out our conclusions on how these can be more effectively monitored. The national sample surveys carried out periodically by the National Foundation for Educational Research have provided useful indicators of progress in basic reading ability since 1948, but they have become increasingly difficult to interpret. In describing some of their shortcomings we have pointed out that the items represent only a limited sample of reading skills. The narrowness of the tests certainly ensured a high degree of precision in measurement, but it meant that their relevance was bound to be questioned. Tests which are limited to only one facet of a complex intermingling of skills clearly cannot supply information of a right quality. Such a conclusion poses an obvious question. Should some form of national survey be continued, and if so should it not be operated more systematically and according to more ambitious principles?

3.2 We are in no doubt of the importance of monitoring standards of achievement in literacy, and of doing so by using the most sophisticated methods possible. There will always be keen interest in the movement of standards, and it is perfectly natural that there should be. Where there is no information there will be speculation, and the absence of facts makes room for prejudice. We began the Report by pointing out how difficult it is to make reliable statements on standards of English today in comparison with those in the past. Opinion on this issue tends to polarise, and the lack of objective data is a serious handicap to rational discussion. Information of the right quality will be of value to teachers and researchers and will be a reference point for policy decisions at the level of central and local government.

3.3 We have also suggested that a wider and more demanding definition of literacy should be adopted. The existing criterion is determined by the reading standards of seven and nine year old children of many years ago on tests whose limitations are acknowledged. It should be replaced by a criterion capable of showing whether the reading and writing abilities of children are adequate to the demands made upon them in school and likely to face them in adult life. What we are proposing, then, is an entirely new approach. We are suggesting that monitoring should be extended beyond the limit of a single dimension to give more information than has ever been available before.

3.4 Obviously, no system of monitoring can encompass all the various objectives in English promoted by a wide variety of schools, let alone all the individual teachers within them. An ideal system would apply measurement continuously to the whole range of learning activity and weight the resulting indices according to importance. This is clearly far too ambitious. Nevertheless, our proposal is that the procedure should assess a wider range of


[page 37]

attainments than has been attempted in the past. What is required, therefore, is an instrument that combines practicability with a more comprehensive and therefore more realistic sampling of the skills.

3.5 Monitoring should employ an array of techniques of a kind that will make assessment both reliable and valid. Ideally, it should not set up 'backwash' effects of any kind, and by design it should rule out the possibility of specific teaching to achieve good test results. Assessment is possible only by examining the explicit products of school activity, and the instruments of assessment should therefore include samples of performance considered to be important and representative of attainments. They should also be responsive to developments in the curriculum. This suggests that the instruments should incorporate the means for discarding out of date procedures and materials and for introducing and validating experimental methods. Monitoring should embrace teaching objectives for the entire ability range, since only by measuring the lowest and highest attainments is it possible to obtain sound general indices. We believe the device that would best answer these needs is the item pool, which is described at greater length later in the chapter. It entails the collection of a large stock of test items, wide enough in range to cover as many aspects of the various abilities as it is felt appropriate to assess. Selection from this pool would be made each time the monitoring instrument was applied. We recommend that monitoring should be administered on the basis of light sampling and frequent occurrence, and that the results should be published annually. This method, described later, would have many advantages, not the least of which would be that a continually accumulating body of information would replace the practice of sudden disclosures at four-yearly intervals. The responsibility for monitoring should lie with a national research organisation, such as the National Foundation for Educational Research, and the process should involve teachers and other educationists at all points, from the definition of objectives to the compilation of results. The nature of this involvement is outlined in paragraph 3.16, and it will be seen that an adequate period of preparation would be necessary. We recommend that 1977 should be the target date for the first application of the new monitoring procedure.

3.6 Before discussing the process in greater detail we must consider the question of the most appropriate age points at which it should be applied. Clearly, the pupils must be able to work at a task without support or advice. Their capacity to use English for themselves is in itself an important aspect of enquiry. Moreover, it is one of our proposals that a selection of different assessment tasks should be distributed between the pupils in any one class. Eleven is still the age of transfer for most children, and the point where their education becomes more specialised. At this age pupils with reading and language difficulties face a situation where their deficiencies will be under still greater pressure. It is clearly a sensitive age point and one where objective information would be of particular value.

By the end of his school life a pupil should have reached certain levels of achievement in reading and producing language. The statutory leaving age might therefore seem a natural point to assess what proportion of young people have succeeded or failed in this objective. However, there are obvious arguments against choosing this as the point at which to apply the second


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stage of monitoring, not least the incidence of external examinations. We have therefore concluded that fifteen would be the most suitable age for the second application of the monitoring procedure. Eleven and fifteen, the ages at which previous surveys have been carried out, have obvious advantages and should continue to be the points at which tests are administered.

3.7 A criticism of many methods of assessment is that they are applied only to attainments that can be directly and objectively measured. Other attributes, arguably of greater importance, are excluded because the marking is felt to be too subjective or likely to be too cumbersome and costly. There is an undoubted logistical appeal in multiple choice items which can be machine scored, especially when the reliability of the test and the precision of the results are thereby increased. The limitations of this technique are obvious, but its alternatives would have to prove themselves valid, reliable, and logistically efficient on the scale required. The feasibility of such alternatives to multiple choice testing is considered below.

3.8 In agreeing that the present means of measuring standards is too narrow in concept we concluded that the reading test should assess a wider variety of reading skills. At the most obvious level the test should determine whether the child is able to extract meaning from the page. It should then assess whether he can discern implied as well as explicit meaning, evaluate the material in terms of its own internal logic and of other evidence, and reorganise it in terms of other frames of reference. Passages would be selected for readability and calibrated for difficulty, and span a range wide enough to encompass a number of functions. These would include the descriptive, the narrative, and the expository, all within the range typically encountered by children in their school experience. Chapter 8 contains recommendations about higher order skills and reading in the curriculum areas, and we see these activities as contributing to the item pool upon which the monitoring instrument will draw. The information resulting from all this would indicate far more effectively than earlier data the extent to which reading proficiency had been developed to serve personal and social needs. The survey instruments would include a balanced mixture, with multiple choice questions for the simpler items and open-ended questions for the more complex and evocative material. The first are attractive on the grounds of economy, objectivity, and ease of scoring. The second can be framed in such a way that the pupil's responses to a sentence or paragraph might be reliably scored by impression markings. These responses can provide a wealth of data to assist researchers and teachers alike in interpreting the empirical analyses. Answers to the open-ended questions will need the controlled subjectivity of multiple marking. This implies that skilled and experienced markers will be required and their performance assessed for consistency and accuracy, and that scoring rubrics will have to be developed through a series of trials. The establishment of item pools (see 3.15) will permit a far greater range of test materials to be collected and used in a survey than could be incorporated in a single test designed to be completed by pupils in about half an hour. As a temporary expedient the NS6 test should remain in operation to ensure a continuing baseline until a new datum can be established. This would be achieved by linking the test to items in the pool to relate the future results of all such items with the old data. We emphasise, however, that the existing tests should be dispensed with at the earliest opportunity.


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3.9 So far there has been no attempt to monitor standards of achievement in writing, and we recommend that the practice should now be introduced. The reasons advanced for periodical measurement of reading apply with equal force to writing, and the two sets of results would be mutually illuminating. It has to be acknowledged that to test writing on this scale is not a simple matter. The first questions to be answered are: what features of writing should be tested? by what criteria is one to measure them? how are reliability and validity to be ensured? Writing is a highly complex activity, and no test would be adequate that measured a narrow segment of its spectrum. This constraint has to be reconciled with the need for as economical a marking system as possible, and the difficulties are at once plain. At first sight the most obvious prerequisite for assessing writing would seem to be an agreement upon what can be expected of a child at a given age. There are, however, so many variables at work that it soon becomes clear that this agreement is not possible. There have been several attempts to establish criteria for maturity in writing: mean length of composition, sentence length, the subordination index, the minimum terminable unit, etc. We can take the last named as an example. The minimum terminable unit, or T-unit, is 'roughly any sentence or part of a sentence that is an independent clause, possibly containing, however, one or more dependent clauses'. (1) The average length of the T-unit, it has been argued, indicates 'syntactic maturity', and a child is seen to make slow but consistent progress as measured by this index. But a piece of writing might well have syntactic maturity and yet be wanting in organisation and content. Conversely, writing of high quality can employ a simple style that would not necessarily yield a high score as measured by the T-unit. Indeed, it is the mark of a mature writer to recognise the demands of his subject and construct his prose accordingly. Equally, it would be possible to work to a simple measure of correctness in grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling; but important as these are, no one would suppose that they are the principal criteria by which the material should be judged. The conclusion is that writing can be adequately tested only by the scrutiny of a number of examples in which the child has had to cope with a variety of demands. An important measure of success in writing is to differentiate between the styles appropriate for particular purposes. To present tasks which call upon this ability would give more complete information than could be obtained from a single assignment. For example, at 11 the monitoring procedure might include writing that is autobiographical and narrative, explanatory and descriptive. At 15 it should be extended to involve higher levels of abstraction and greater complexity, and to include writing that answers the needs of various areas of the curriculum.

3.10 We therefore envisage the monitoring procedure in this area as consisting of a variety of tasks requiring different kinds of writing. Assessment of the scripts would involve 'impression marking' by small teams of markers, and in addition coding schemes would be applied for accuracy in spelling, punctuation, grammar and such other features as might be specified. There is convincing evidence to show that teams can achieve a good standard of consistency while dealing with large numbers of scripts. (2) It has been found, for example, that the averages of two sets of three persons marking by impression agree more closely than the impression marking of two individuals randomly chosen. It would, of course, be necessary to obtain a degree


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of consistency which would allow comparison with previous years, a feature essential to monitoring. This could be achieved by including in each batch of scripts a proportion from the first year's test. It is an essential principle of the item pooling system that assessment can reflect changes in the use of language and stylistic differences over the years.

3.11 There is no doubt that multiple marking of this kind is far more difficult to operate than mechanical marking, not to say more costly. However, the light sampling we advocate would mean that the number of scripts to be handled at any one time would be comparatively small. Moreover, we believe there is no substitute for specimens of children's actual writing as material for assessing standards. It has been argued that multiple marking of continuous writing adds very little to what can be gained from interlinear tests, in which the child is required to correct errors which have been deliberately introduced into a passage of prose. Nevertheless, we believe that the assessment should involve the generation of continuous language, not merely a response to it. Many teachers would feel as we do that a child's ability to write cannot be judged without studying what he has actually written. A test that relied solely on the child's ability to detect and correct errors in what someone else had written would be unlikely to command general confidence.

3.12 There is very much more to producing writing of quality than avoiding breaches of the accepted norms of standard English. Nevertheless, this aspect of the task is by common consent held to be important, and it should feature appropriately in any monitoring procedure. By applying the coding schemes the markers would be able to measure competence in it. Furthermore, the researcher responsible for the survey could take the scripts at any particular level and conduct an analysis of errors occurring in the writing. This would provide a descriptive comment on the standards obtained and a qualitative comment on the report itself. In addition to the application of coding schemes to the scripts, the monitoring process could include such objective measures as multiple choice and interlinear tests. These structure the situation in which a child is asked to demonstrate aspects of his mastery of written language, and we recommend that they be included in the pool of items from which tests are made up. The impression marking of scripts, the application of coded schemes, and the inclusion in the pool of objective items would together give a comprehensive assessment of standards of writing.

3.13 We discussed at length the feasibility of monitoring standards of spoken English, which is complicated by the increase in the number of variables and in the element of subjectivity. There has been a certain amount of research into the viability of testing speaking and listening, and there is the experience of examination boards to draw upon. These would be helpful sources of information if monitoring were to be extended into this field. In the course of our discussions we reviewed existing tests of the skills involved. We also considered such techniques as teacher-led group discussion, pupil to pupil conversation, response to taped speech and questions, and assessment of group production in contrast with individual contribution. It would not be difficult to devise 'test' situations which would call upon the use of different kinds of language. The logistics of the widespread involvement of teachers and use of apparatus would be challenging, but not as formidable


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as might at first appear. However, there are in our view certain fundamental obstacles. The nature of the activity is such that in testing it there is a danger of distorting it, and the problem of artificiality is a real one. Moreover, there is no doubt that many technical matters would have to be explored before tests of oral ability on this scale could be considered viable. The biggest problem would be that of comparing standards on a national basis and across the years. It would be necessary to store tapes in quantity to enable comparisons to be drawn, and the additional variables make this a less dependable device than the corresponding procedure in writing. We do not believe that in the present state of development it is practicable to introduce the monitoring of spoken English. This recommendation emerges from a consideration of the balance between gain and the difficulties of operation. The balance may shift if some of the latter can be removed, notably that of artificiality. Some useful research, both here and in the USA, has already pointed the way, and we recommend that further research be conducted into the development of suitable monitoring instruments and economical procedures.

3.14 In the monitoring of reading and writing we recommend a new style of assessment which will allow for an extensive coverage of attainments without imposing a heavy testing load on individual pupils. The principle we suggest is the sharing of a selection of assessment tasks between a number of groups of pupils. At any one phase of assessment each group attempts a different set of exercises or items from that of every other group. The performance of the population is thus estimated by the performance of the separate groups taken together. The levels of attainment in a single test will be represented as the mean score obtained by each sample of pupils.

3.15 On every occasion when monitoring assessment takes place the test material presented to the pupils will be drawn from a large pool stocked with carefully developed items. The variety of sources from which this stock draws will ensure an extensive coverage of the area to be assessed, in contrast to the inevitably narrow forms of measurement afforded by a single test. From this central pool selections of different question types will be constituted into tests, i.e. concentrations of items following a predetermined pattern of characteristics. The sets of questions will be compiled in such a way as to be of roughly equal standard, each set containing items from the simple to the difficult. At the latter end of the scale the test can make considerable demands and thereby avoid a weakness of existing survey tests; namely their fixing of a 'ceiling' too low to measure the real capacity of the most able children. The approximate equivalence of the sets of questions will be assured statistically, by means of performance norms established over all the schools and pupils tested. The exact equivalence of each test is not essential, since they are being used to assess group performance, not to award marks to individuals.

3.16 In constructing the question pool the first task will be to specify the nature of the content and the objectives which it is hoped the pupils are achieving. This specification should be drawn up by the research officers in accordance with the advice of a consultative panel of teachers, LEA advisers, and other educationists. The Department of Education and Science should be represented on the panel by HM Inspectorate. The result of this


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process will be a 'blueprint' to guide question writers, who will generally be teachers trained for the purpose. The questions thus prepared for the pool will be examined in the first instance by a review group of teachers to eliminate unsatisfactory items. The agreed questions will then be reviewed by expert test constructors to eliminate or amend questions which show technical faults. A period of development will be necessary for the items to be pre-tested. The characteristics of each item have to be known before it can be decided finally whether to accept or reject it, and the relative difficulties of collections of items in each part of the pool will have to be determined empirically. When this has been done separate tests, consisting of items calibrated into scales, can be compiled by drawing from the pool.

3.17 The pools could be augmented with single items which are not comparable with the main body in terms of the content or task. As such these would not be calibrated in relation to other scaled tests but could nevertheless be included in a monitoring 'sweep' to indicate trends, try out new ideas for measurement, or simply function as survey material. In this latter case the purpose would not be to assess standards but to gather information about a specific ability. The percentage performing adequately at the task would be reported, but the information would not form part of the monitoring data. The tasks could be varied at will according to the kind of ability it was felt revealing to explore at any given time.

3.18 A signal advantage of question pooling is that it offers a degree of flexibility the single test can never provide. When the monitoring surveys are in train new exercises can be tried out alongside the calibrated items and thus 'chained in' at the appropriate point. Out of date material or examples found to be unsatisfactory can be discarded, while the repeated inclusion of an item will provide data which can be used to improve the accuracy of calibration. The major benefit of this flexibility is that it will be possible for the monitoring system to keep abreast of changes in the use of language and in teaching emphases in schools.

3.19 Until now, national assessment has involved administering one or two tests of reading of a 'large' sample and repeating the procedure with the same tests at roughly four-yearly intervals. We recommend that this form of assessment be replaced by one of light sampling, where the instruments are applied relatively frequently to a succession of 'small' samples. The principle is that monitoring should be applied once in every term, but to only 16 secondary or 32 primary schools on each occasion. 1,600 pupils would be required at one time, and eight of the tests from the pool would be divided among them, so that each test was completed by 200 children. By covering eight features of attainment in this manner it would be possible to gain a great deal of information without increasing the demand upon any one school or pupil. As a general rule a school would be selected only once in several decades, and a child would be unlikely to be involved more than once in his school life. Indeed, many children would complete their school days without ever encountering the monitoring process.

3.20 The figures we have cited are merely illustrative. The numbers would, of course, be subject to alteration according to the degree of precision required in estimating the Mean score, and that in turn would depend upon the reliabilities achieved in the tests. This emphasises the need for adequate


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resources to be provided for instrument development. If testing were carried out at termly intervals a rolling estimate of standards could be made over any given period of time. It would also be possible to acquire gradually an appreciation of how performance varies at different times of the school year, a matter on which little is known.

3.21 In the past, large surveys have been afflicted by unforeseen difficulties, e.g. gas and postal strikes. With light sampling such problems would become only temporary inconveniences. The few schools affected could be picked up as soon as administratively convenient, or in extreme circumstances omitted from the sequence of surveys altogether. The disruption would affect only a small proportion of the total sample entering the period over which Means were averaged to give rolling estimates. Spreading the amount of testing evenly over time and distributing the content and skills between pools of questions would reduce the demands on any one pupil's time to a very reasonable level; only one school period of about 45 minutes would be required. Moreover, the work required of participating schools would be no more onerous than under the old procedure. Careful organisation at the distribution stage would ensure that teachers were not asked to 'shuffle and deal' sets of tests. Instead they would be given a prepared package with the tests in order. Distributing different test forms to adjacent pupils would reduce the need for close supervision and the setting up of 'examination conditions' for whole year groups of children.

3.22 The operation of surveys in the past may have tended to underestimate the variation in reading difficulties in different parts of the country. It was suggested to us in evidence that there is a need for more detailed information about standards in certain localities, eg Educational Priority Areas. There seems to us a good case for monitoring to be selectively applied in this way where the information would be of additional value. The flexibility of the system we are recommending would allow such needs to be accommodated. We feel it necessary to emphasise, however, that the new system should be firmly established before any such extension is introduced and that the principle of light sampling should not be impugned.

3.23 Once the item pools have been established the survey can be operated by a small team supported by the consultative committee. The flow of work will be continuous, unlike that engendered by the large four-yearly survey which demanded an intensive effort over a short period from a temporary staff. This small team will be permanent in the sense that, although its members may change, it will maintain a continuity of function and experience. This will enable it to build up an expert knowledge of the growing body of data and its interpretation. One of its tasks will be to develop methods of presentation which will enable the results to be readily assimilated at all levels.

3.24 In conclusion we recommend that adequate research and development work should precede the introduction of such a system of monitoring. There are, of course, several aspects of it which would require investigation and detailed preparation. Fundamental to our concept of monitoring is an acceptance of the view that reading and writing are highly complex activities. If they are to be assessed with a subtlety which reflects this the instruments cannot depend entirely on simply scored objective measurements. There is


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an obvious difficulty when impression marking is introduced into the process. Nevertheless, the stability of this kind of scoring over a period of time can be ensured by taking appropriate steps: (i) careful selection and initial training of marker teams, (ii) preserving some continuity of markers over a number of years, (iii) recycling earlier scripts for comparison with current ones, (iv) periodic agreement trials with selected materials. We believe the benefits of impression marking to be considerable and that every effort should be made to overcome the difficulties.

3.25 It will also be necessary to conduct research into the nature of the materials most suitable for the assessment tasks we have suggested. This would be an essential prelude to the creation of item pools, the character of which would itself require a good deal of thought. In addition, consideration would have to be given to the cost and time required for the pre-testing programme referred to earlier. Objective tests and coded assessment would require proper validation. Consultation and experiment would be necessary for the specification of a suitable coding scheme, which would have to be simple, economical, and rigorous.

3.26 It seems to us beyond question that standards should be monitored, and that this should be done on a scale which will allow confidence in the accuracy and value of the findings. We do not underestimate the complexities involved in establishing such a system as we have outlined. Nevertheless, we believe that if a monitoring system is to command the confidence of both the teaching profession and the general public it must present a comprehensive picture of the various skills that constitute literacy.

REFERENCES

1. W Kellogg Hunt Grammatical Structures Written at Three Grade Levels National Council of Teachers of English Research Report No. 3. Urbana: Illinois: NCTE: 1965.

2. JN Britton, NC Martin and H Rosen Multiple Marking of English Compositions Schools Council Examination Bulletin No. 12. HMSO: 1966.

3. See, for example, A Wilkinson, L Stratta, and P Dudley The Quality of Listening Schools Council: 1974.


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Part Two

Language in The Early Years





[page 47]

CHAPTER 4

Language and Learning

'Man interposes a network of words between the world and himself, and thereby becomes the master of the world.'

Georges Gusdorf.

4.1 It is perfectly obvious that asking and telling play a persistent role in the day to day behaviour of human beings, and that without the exchange of information in words we should not be able to achieve a fraction of our customary activities. Add to this that we write and read letters, listen to radio and television, read newspapers and look things up in books, and it will be evident that verbalised information plays a crucial role in our affairs. This, however, if current theories are to be believed, is no more than the tip of the iceberg. It is the role that language plays in generating knowledge and producing new forms of behaviour that typifies human existence and distinguishes it from that of all other creatures.

4.2 These current theories stem from a powerful movement of ideas developed over the past fifty years, according to which man's individual, social and cultural achievements can be rightly understood only if we take into account the fact that he is essentially a symbol-using animal. By this account what makes us typically human is the fact that we symbolise, or represent to ourselves, the objects, people and events that make up our environment, and do so cumulatively, thus creating an inner representation of the world as we have encountered it. The accumulated representation is on the one hand a storehouse of past experience and on the other a body of expectations regarding what may yet happen to us. In this way we construct for ourselves a past and a future, a retrospect and a prospect; all our significant actions are performed within this extended field or framework, and no conscious act, however trivial, is uninfluenced by it. We interpret what we perceive at any given moment by relating it to our body of past experiences, and respond to it in the light of that interpretation. No doubt the processes of representation and storing are selective. Some things we are unable to interpret and their meaning is lost to us; some we may interpret but fail to store, and much that has been stored is certainly beyond the reach of deliberate recall. (Experiment (1) has shown, however, that this does not necessarily mean we cannot be influenced by such things in interpreting fresh experiences).

4.3 Language is one of a number of ways in which we represent the world to ourselves, and if its workings are to be seen in perspective it is necessary first to look briefly at one of the other ways. The most obvious example of an 'inner representation' is probably the visual memory we carry away of some object we have looked at and can no longer see. It is this memory which enables us, in confronting a new scene on a later occasion, to recognise an acquaintance among a crowd of strangers. We could hardly expect however, that the person recognised will look exactly as he did on that first occasion. It must be that our memory enables us to generalise beyond the situations


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on which it is based, or we should fail to recognise an old friend wearing a new expression. By generalising from our visual memories, in fact, we may make a good deal of sense of something we have never set eyes upon before. Thus, from much looking at many faces we come to recognise that a stranger is middle-aged rather than young, male rather than female, European rather than Oriental - not to mention the prior recognition that it is a human face that confronts us and not the face of a cat or an ape.

4.4 One of the keys to an understanding of language lies in realising that it is the prime means by which we construct generalised representations. At its simplest level of operation, a word that names an object is for a young child a filing-pin upon which he stores successive experiences of the objects themselves. As his experience grows, he uses the word to refer to an increasing range of objects, and applies it more and more consistently in the ways the adults do about him. He becomes increasingly aware of the characteristics of the category of objects named by the word. Thus he is employing language to assist him in generalising from visual (and indeed all other) modes of representing his experience. He does not, of course, do this without assistance. He may invent some words and apply them to categories of his own creation, but the vast majority of the words he uses will be taken over from the speech of the adults around him; and the objects these words refer to will be principally those to which the adults refer in using them. To sum up, then, we have to generalise from particular representations of past experiences in order to apply them to new ones, and language helps us to do this by providing a ready means of classifying these experiences. The important thing to remember is that as long as every event is experienced as unique and different from all other events we cannot set up expectations regarding the future. It is by recognising recurrences that we learn from our experience.

4.5 This brief account began at the simplest level of operation of language, with what a word can do. But of course, language is more than a mere inventory of words; it also includes highly complex rules for combining words into continuous speech or writing. An obvious example of such rules is the relation of the subject of a sentence to the predicate or the relation of a verb to its object. In addition to a vast array of grammatical rules, there are also lexical and semantic relationships built into language. The term 'flower', for example, is part of a hierarchy of terms: it subsumes the categories named by 'buttercup' and 'daisy' and is itself subsumed under other categories such as 'plant'. A speaker profits from the constraints upon his language behaviour, because they are the rules of the 'language game' that make communication possible. Having taken a word into his speech vocabulary, a child learns by degrees to use it for more purposes, for more complex purposes, and for purposes approximating more and more to adult uses. A similar process operates with respect to the rules governing language. For example, a child will first use the words 'buttercup', 'daisy', 'flower', and 'plant' without regard for their values in this hierarchy; later, however, when he is able to use the hierarchical distinctions, he will have acquired a very useful strategy of thinking, as any player of the 'Twenty Questions' game will recognise. Some psychologists go so far as to claim that the language rules gradually 'internalised' in this way 'become the basic structures of thinking', indeed, that 'a child's intellectual growth is contingent on his mastering the social means of thought, that is, language'. (2) For other psycho-


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logists, this would be too close an identification of thought with language. However, there is no need to enter this controversy, since it is enough to state what would be generally agreed: (a) that higher processes of thinking are normally achieved by the interaction of a child's language behaviour with his other mental and perceptual powers; and (b) that language behaviour represents the aspect of his thought processes most accessible to outside influences, including that of the teacher.

4.6 The plausibility of this claim has been greatly strengthened in recent years by the work of Chomsky and his associates in attempting to discover structural features to be found in all languages. If all languages embody some rules in common and those common rules are seen to be closely related to universal modes of human reasoning, then clearly the link between language and thinking is one that must be acknowledged. The simple fact would appear to be that people of all races have developed languages as their means of organising their experience of the world; and in doing so they have acquired, in common, characteristics specific to the human race. As a child gains mastery of his particular mother tongue he learns by degrees to apply its organising power to his own experience, and as a result his mental processes take on new forms. So complete is the transformation that it is impossible for us to reverse the process and conceive of our situation in the way we saw it as inarticulate infants.

4.7 The familiar facts with which each of us goes armed to meet new experiences are in origin statements about the world, and we require language to make those statements. However, it would be perfectly possible to state here that the page the reader has before him is green in colour, and that is patently not a fact. Language used in that way is the language of hypothesis, the formulation of possibilities. It is crucial in the sense that what is can be said to exist in its own right, open to contemplation, whereas what might be takes a form in which it may be contemplated only when it is in some way represented or symbolised. It may be said that all behaviour is experimental: that, for example, as we walk from one part of a building to another, we test out the hypothesis that an aperture is indeed open and not protected by a plate glass door. And there may be occasions when the hypothesis is abruptly disproved. It would be very rash, however, to claim that in such a situation language had any direct role to play. It is when our behaviour moves into more problematic situations that the need arises for a hypothesis to be elaborated, to take on the form of a statement of the possibilities, and here we must use language. The effort to formulate a hypothesis, to put into words some possibility we have envisaged, results in a 'spelling out' to which we may then return, in the light of further experience and in search of further possibilities. By a kind of spiral, the formulation itself becomes a source from which we draw further questions, fresh hypotheses. The statement we have made becomes an object of our own contemplation and a spur to further thinking. It is probably true to say that the higher thought processes become possible to the child or adolescent who in this way learns to turn his linguistic activities back upon his own formulations.

4.8 If such claims are to seem feasible, two things must be remembered. One is that language provides us with a generalised representation of experience, and generalising has the effect of reducing the multiplicity of


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experience to a more manageable form. The other is that the complex rules governing the combination of elements when we speak or write impose order upon the experiences we succeed in putting into words. There are implications here for two familiar enough forms of classroom activity. In group discussion the spoken contribution of each member may be worked upon by speaker and listeners alike, and in the immediacy of face to face speech they make corporate enquiry a powerful mode of learning. Secondly, in the practice of writing the child left alone with his evolving utterance is engaged in generating knowledge for himself, particularly when the writing is frequent, brief, and strenuous rather than occasional and at length. At the same time he is developing mental operations which will afterwards be of service to him in writing, speaking, reading, listening or thinking.

4.9 It is a confusion of everyday thought that we tend to regard 'knowledge' as something that exists independently of someone who knows. 'What is known' must in fact be brought to life afresh within every 'knower' by his own efforts. To bring knowledge into being is a formulating process, and language is its ordinary means, whether in speaking or writing or the inner monologue of thought. Once it is understood that talking and writing are means to learning, those more obvious truths that we learn also from other people by listening and reading will take on a fuller meaning and fall into a proper perspective. Nothing has done more to confuse current educational debate than the simplistic notion that 'being told' is the polar opposite of 'finding out for oneself'. In order to accept what is offered when we are told something, we have to have somewhere to put it; and having somewhere to put it means that the framework of past knowledge and experience into which it must fit is adequate as a means of interpreting and apprehending it. Something approximating to 'finding out for ourselves' needs therefore to take place if we are to be successfully told. The development of this individual context for a new piece of information, the forging of the links that give it meaning, is a task that we customarily tackle by talking to other people.

4.10 In the Committee's view there are certain important inferences to be drawn from a study of the relationship between language and learning:

(i) all genuine learning involves discovery, and it is as ridiculous to suppose that teaching begins and ends with 'instruction' as it is to suppose that 'learning by discovery' means leaving children to their own resources;

(ii) language has a heuristic function; that is to say a child can learn by talking and writing as certainly as he can by listening and reading;

(iii) to exploit the process of discovery through language in all its uses is the surest means of enabling a child to master his mother tongue.

The ideas briefly set out in this chapter are intended, therefore, to provide a theoretical foundation for the chapters that follow.

REFERENCES

1. See, for example, AR Luria and OS Vinogradova The Dynamics of Semantic Systems British Journal of Psychology, Vol. 50: 1958.

2. LS Vygotsky Thought and Language Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press: 1962.


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CHAPTER 5

Language in The Early Years

5.1 There has been a great deal of valuable work both here and on the other side of the Atlantic into the processes by which a child acquires language and the influences operating upon them. The chief of these is his home environment, and we shall recommend various ways in which parents may be helped to a better understanding of their own vitally important role. We shall also make suggestions about the kind of specific attention to language to be given within the nursery and infant school. Before this, however, it will be useful to review what is known about the way in which a child acquires language and the forces governing how it develops.

5.2 The point at which a child begins to connect two or three words is usually between the ages of 18 and 24 months. To reach this stage he has developed the capacity to imitate his parents, but he does not imitate unselectively. The words he reproduces are the content words, those which carry the essential information in what he has heard and what he is now saying for himself. These words are generally nouns, adjectives, and verbs, and they are the ones which tend to receive the stress in normal speech. It is natural that he should hear these more clearly and that they should be the ones that fix in his memory. He is less likely to hear the structural words, such as 'on', 'and', 'but', 'the', which are not essential at the level of meaning at which he is receiving. When the child produces his short sentences he puts them in an order which is syntactically correct, e.g. 'Daddy come'. He thus acquires early the basic rules of syntax, placing subject and predicate in their natural relationship, associating the noun with its modifier, and so on. At a surprisingly early age he responds to the intonation patterns of his parents' speech and adopts some of them. Thus a raising of the pitch on the second of the two words 'Daddy come' enables him to utter them in question form. Indeed, it has often been noted that children will imitate intonation patterns in the non-speech sounds they make before they begin to speak.

5.3 The adult may well take up these contracted sentences and expand them in a manner which gradually opens up the child's area of verbal operation. Thus, the mother would be likely to expand the two words quoted above into 'Yes, Daddy will be coming home soon'. In one American experiment mothers were found to be expanding their children's simple utterances nearly a third of the time. The process is a two-way interaction. The child imitates the adult, and in turn the adult imitates the child, preserving the order of his words but adding inflections and attaching other words to them. The child reduces; the mother expands. This, however, is not the whole story. Anyone who has listened to a young child talking knows the inventiveness with which he tries out groups of words he is clearly not directly imitating. What he is doing is searching for the regularities of the language, and he naturally makes mistakes. The very fact that he does so shows how productive is this 'search'.


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It is most obvious in the morphological mistakes he makes, i.e. in adding plural endings and forming tenses. When he says 'I digged a hole', it is not because he has ever heard an adult say it; it is because he has learned that to add the sound /d/ or /t/ or /id/ to the verb converts it into the past. He has then overgeneralised, applying the rule in cases where it does not actually operate. His mastery of morphological rules comes later than his command of syntax, but together they amount to the discovery of latent structure, on which the child will work variations for the rest of his life. It has been suggested that by the age of four he will be in possession of the essential structures of the English language. Of course, this does not mean that he has complete command of the language. Recent research has shown that syntax is still being developed during the early years at school. A child's arrival at adult speech is the result of his working through a series of approximations to it.

5.4 This is a necessarily brief account of a highly complex process, but it is perhaps enough to show how important is the nature of the language exchange through which this process develops. The Plowden Report (1) said: 'The educational disadvantage of being born the child of an unskilled worker is both financial and psychological'. It could be added that it is also linguistic, but such a simple equation would be much less than the whole truth. There is an undeniable relationship between social class and language development, but we must qualify all that follows by pointing out that social class is a rather crude indicator. What is really at issue is the language environment in which the child grows up, and particularly the role played by language in his relationship with his mother. There is no shortage of terms to describe the kinds of environment in which language development prospers or is inhibited. We know the objections to the phrase 'cultural disadvantage' and to its suggestion of a deficit to be made up. Nevertheless it is a term which serves our purpose if it is understood that we do not assume a relentless correspondence between language development and social class. There are differences in language environment between socio-economic groups, but there are also differences within groups.

5.5 With these essential qualifications made we go on to consider what are the effects of different kinds of language environment. It has been suggested that the differences begin to be marked from about 24-30 months; and at this early stage they show up in what we have described above as the morphological rules. There are indications that the child in a favourable environment makes swifter progress in learning how to make plurals and use the right endings to make past tenses. Later he is found to show greater proficiency in complexity of sentence structure and indeed in the length of his sentences and the variety of vocabulary contained within them. Evidence from American experiments (2) suggests that the gap widens each year, so that the differences become more marked as children grow older.

5.6 Much the most influential work in this field of language and social environment has been carried out by Bernstein, and his terms 'restricted code' and 'elaborated code' have become widely known, though they are often misinterpreted. Bernstein (3) has emphasised that linguistic 'codes' are not related to social class as such but to the family organisation and the interaction between the individuals within it. In what we have called the


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culturally disadvantaged home a child's language will be limited by certain norms of relationship; there will be less opportunity for him to discuss the reasons for and the likely results of certain decisions. Intentions, possibilities, alternatives, consequences: he will lack occasions to explore these verbally. His more favoured counterpart, on the other hand, will have just this kind of experience. Within his family the part an individual plays in the interchange leading to decisions and judgements will depend less on his status than on his own personal qualities. He will be encouraged to talk things through; he will be given explanations and justification, to which he can offer alternatives. As a result, there is a premium on the need to develop more varied and more sophisticated uses of language.

5.7 An American study (4) set out to identify the patterns of mother-child instruction and relate these to the child's linguistic and cognitive development. This provided interesting illustrations of the contrasting techniques mothers used to teach their children simple tasks. The mother from the 'advantaged' home showed a greater tendency to anticipate an error and warn the child that he was about to reach a decision point. She would encourage him to reflect and to anticipate the consequences of his action in such a way as to avoid error; and she would do this in language that tended to be abstract and elaborated. Thus, he was helped to acquire the ability essential to any problem-solving situation: the capacity to reflect, to weigh decisions, and to choose among alternatives. All this took place in an experimental setting, and it cannot be taken for granted that replication in a British experiment would produce the same results. Nevertheless, it supports what is known from other sources, including the study of mother-child instruction in the natural environment of the home. Between the social groups there were marked differences in the range of purposes for which the mothers used language. The children from the advantaged homes experienced more sustained conversation, within which language was used for a greater variety of functions.

5.8 A study in this country by Tough (5) has suggested that all children between the ages of three and five seem to use language to protect their own rights and interests, open up and maintain relationships with others, report on present experiences, and direct their own and others' actions. But there is a range of uses which children from 'educating' homes seem to have developed more extensively than children without these home advantages. Among those Tough lists are the following:

to collaborate towards agreed ends
to project into the future, to anticipate and predict
to project and compare possible alternatives
to see causal and dependent relationships
to give explanations of how and why things happen
to deal with problems in the imagination and see possible solutions
to create experiences through the use of the imagination, often making a representation through the symbolic use of materials
to reflect upon their own and other people's feelings.

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There is confirmation here of what is implied by the studies we have already described and many other British and American experiments; namely, that the child from the advantaged background is more likely to be led to use language of a higher order of complexity and greater abstraction. A child is at a disadvantage in lacking the means to explain, describe, inquire, hypothesise, analyse, compare, and deduce if language is seldom or never used for these purposes in his home. This is the kind of language that is of particular importance to the forming of higher order concepts; in short, to learning in the school situation.

5.9 But this difference should not be accepted with a kind of despairing determinism. The fact that some children from disadvantaged backgrounds make little use of an elaborated code does not of itself mean that they have no access to one. The context in which they use language and the nature of exchange does not call for the higher degree of complexity. If a child does not encounter situations in which he has to explore, recall, predict, plan, explain, and analyse, he cannot be expected to bring to school a ready made facility for such uses. But that is not the same thing as saying the ability is beyond him. What is needed is to create the contexts and conditions in which the ability can develop. What follows is a discussion of ways in which this can be done, both in and out of school, but first one further point needs to be made. The argument has been advanced, notably by Labov (6) in the USA but also by some people in this country, that to imply a superiority on the part of elaborated language is to think in terms of middle class values. Commenting on some of the American studies to which we have referred, Labov suggests that 'lower class' language need be no less effective, that it has its own equal validity, and that one should not look upon the child in terms of a deficiency to be remedied. This is a sincerely held view to which we may do less than justice in presenting it so baldly. It is a necessary corrective to the opinions of those teachers and educationists who believe the disadvantaged child brings nothing of his own to school. But it must not blind one to the reality of the situation as it exists. There is an indisputable gap between the language experiences that some families provide and the linguistic demands of school education. In our view it is not a condemnation of a language form to point out that there are some functions it will not adequately serve. But the fact that it will not serve them is at the heart of the matter. The important thing is that the child should not suffer limited opportunities because he does not have the range of language that society demands.

5.10 All children should be helped to acquire as wide a range as possible of the uses of language, and there are clearly two ways in which this can be achieved. The first consists in helping parents to understand the process of language development in their children and to take their part in it. The second resides in the skill and knowledge of the nursery and infant teacher, her measured attention to the child's precise language needs, and her inventiveness in creating situations which bring about their fulfilment. We will begin with the role of the parents.

5.11 Several of the witnesses urged on us that young people should be made aware of children's language development long before they become parents; that they should, in fact, encounter it while still at school. Some witnesses


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placed the emphasis on actual preparation for parenthood; others preferred to think in less personal terms. In both cases it was suggested that pupils from secondary schools should visit nursery and infant schools, where they would learn how to talk with young children in the context of constructive play, perhaps using toys they had themselves made. Alternatively or additionally the young children might come to them at the secondary school. We are very much in sympathy with the principle of introducing secondary school pupils to language growth in young children. With careful preparation many schools have developed excellent courses in parenthood, involving both boys and girls. Some have been evolved by the Home Economics department; others have become part of the curriculum for early leavers. A number have been shaped into CSE courses, open to all fourth and fifth year pupils. Such courses often include general child development in the early years, taking account of health, dietetics, physical growth, and emotional needs. They usually have a vigorous practical element and involve the pupils in visits to playgroups and nursery classes. From our point of view the most interesting are those which are broadly-based and which direct the emphasis away from mothercraft to child growth as an aspect of human development. It has to be recognised that many adolescent pupils are simply not ready to cast themselves in the role of future parents, and for them a study of language in parenthood could well take the hypothetical even further. This is not to suggest that pupils still at school are not interested in young children. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that they are. We are convinced that this interest can be extended to children's language without laying an overt emphasis on personal preparation for parenthood. Young people are deeply interested in human beings in all their variety: in their jobs, their environmental pressures, their lifestyles, the things they do and the things they say. We feel that the language development of young children should be set in the wider context of the language human beings use. Within this context films, demonstrations, discussions, and practical experience would lead to an awareness of the adult's role in the young child's linguistic and cognitive development. This would include a study of the linguistic aspects of relationships, of the questions children ask, and of the value of discussion and explanation in controlling a child's behaviour as against simple prohibition.

5.12 To be successful any such study must be firmly based in practical experience. A theoretical study of language would not provide the kind of foundation which is necessary for the long-term objective. This means contact with young children within the schools, and this in its turn implies close co-operation between the teachers. In suggesting this we see clearly the problems of organisation which it sets. So far, only a relatively small number of secondary schools have developed contacts with nursery and infant schools. The widespread adoption of such a practice could produce obvious difficulties, and the teachers of young children could be forgiven for viewing the prospect with alarm. It must be made clear that we do not see this in terms of large numbers of secondary pupils invading the nursery and infant schools. The dominant consideration must be the interests of the young children themselves. But granted this, it should be possible for a pattern of visiting to be devised which would give a large number of pupils valuable experience. Provided it is carried out over a period of time, the receiving school need not feel any sense of intrusion. In any scheme of this kind a


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great deal will depend upon the interest and commitment of the individual pupil and the individual teacher, and some disappointments are inevitable. However, with proper planning the presence of these pupils will confer as much advantage as they themselves derive.

5.13 There is already sufficient experience to show that these are not impractical ideas. In one example, young children were taken along to a secondary school where they were given a mixture of objects likely to arouse their interest. In assembling these the older pupils had exercised considerable ingenuity and they used them to talk to the children on a one to one basis. Pupils have also been encouraged to write stories for five to seven year olds*, going to great lengths to match the language to the needs of the children, and in the process learning a good deal about them. We are suggesting, in fact, that although visits to young children in their learning situation are an important feature, the courses should go much further than that. When pupils plan their conversation sessions or prepare the material for their stories there will be a great deal of study and discussion, the more valuable because it is designed for a practical outcome. Whatever the nature of the personal contacts, they should be placed in a wider context, and this can relate first-hand experience to more general discussion. The following is a transcript** of a tape produced in a Manchester infant school by Staffordshire members of NATE. It was in fact produced for study by teachers some years ago, but it will illustrate the kind of material that can be used with older secondary school pupils. It is an example of 'participant'*** use of language, in which two young children talk their way into discovering the purpose of a land measuring tape they have been given. They have never seen one before, and the dialogue reveals how language is essential to their search; through it they work their way towards an understanding:

Boy It's got the date on it ... it's blue, it's round, it's got a thing on what you hold.
Girl It's a kind of handle.
B What you lock it up. What you lock it up.
G A kind of handlebar.
B Oh, that comes out. Oh, that comes out.
G It's a tape measure, isn't it?
B It's a tape measure. It looks like one.
G Yes. It's a tape measure.
B Hey, it only goes up to 9 and starts at one again. Hey, when you pull that out ...
G How do you put it back in?
B Ah, I know. Oh, look, when you pull it out, the thing ... the thing goes round and round. It's a handle. It's a handle.
G Ah, that goes up. When you want it to go in you turn it back.
*There is a more detailed account of the possibilities of this kind of activity in Chapter 14, where we discuss ways of bringing about continuity between schools.
**We are grateful to Mr Harold Stephenson for permission to use this extract.
***See paragraph 11.6 for a discussion of this concept.


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B Oh, yes, you turn it back. When you want it to go back in. Then if you want it to come back out ...
G Yes. You pull it out.
B Hey, when you turn that round that goes round.
G That goes round.
B And when you turn it that way, that goes round, (laugh) When you press that, press that.
G What number does it go up to? Starts at one.
B Starts at one. It comes ... what ... it comes ... first there's a red one and then there's a black one.
G Well, now, that's one foot and then it starts on another foot.
B Oh, yes.
G And when it's a red one, it's two feet.
B Two feet. How many feet does it go up to? Whoops! Seven feet now.
G Lots of feet ... 11, 12, 13, 14 ...
B 16, 17, 18 ...
G I got to get it out. Is that one long or something ... well it's all ... (laughs).
B 31 there.
G Yes, cor, more than a yard here.
B Oh, yes, more than a yard.
G I'll pull it all out and you hold it tight ... Who will ever understand this, will they?
B You've only got to wind it all back up again.
G Well, Mark, it's a pieces in ... 60.
B Think it goes up to a hundred.
G So do I. Oh, Mark, it's gone up to 66 feet.
66 feet it goes up to.
G I can't turn it back again ...
There is space to give only one such illustration, but obviously scope exists for many such enterprises. Tapes with transcripts, tape-slide sequences, video-recordings: these and similar extensions of personal experience can be put to good use in a study of children's language. It follows that such courses must be properly planned and equipped, and one cannot repeat too often that they imply a high degree of goodwill and co-operation between the schools. It also follows that the teachers who are organising them must have an up to date knowledge of language development, and appropriate in-service training will be necessary where it is intended to introduce such work.

5.14 After this the most productive point at which to introduce the subject of the language development of the young child is when young married couples are shortly to become parents. We believe it may well be in antenatal clinics, which are attended by a high percentage of expectant mothers, that the


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case for children's language needs can be made with the greatest effect. Language is thus placed in the general context of child care, in which it can be shown to have an important place. It is accepted at once that this is not a simple matter. Antenatal clinics already have a demanding task, with a range of preoccupations which must have priority. Nevertheless, we feel that the situation presents too valuable an opportunity to be missed, exemplified in the advice one health visitor gives to every expectant parent: 'When you give your child a bath, bathe him in language'. At the simplest level the clinics could be provided with pamphlets, posters, and other visual material. Videotapes and cassette playback machines with headsets offer interesting possibilities. Speech therapists and visiting nursery teachers could stimulate interest through discussion. In one inner city area a health visitor had started a Toddlers' Club for children from a few months old to nursery age. This was held weekly at the medical welfare clinic, and expectant mothers were invited to join in with the children's own mothers. There was close liaison between the health visitor and the head of the nearby infant school, who went along to take part with one or two of her nursery nurses. This was an interesting co-operative venture which, among other things, provided the expectant mothers with a valuable practical introduction to the subject of children's language needs. In ways such as these the antenatal situation might become a point at which some very profitable foundations are laid. There is room for experiment into the means by which such possibilities might be realised. The problems are immediately obvious. Space, facilities, time, finance, the shortage of speech therapists: all these and more have to be taken account of when such arrangements are being considered. Nevertheless, the value of the outcome could be out of all proportion to the effort and expenditure involved. We see this early point of intervention as a key stage in the continuous help that should be offered to parents. In the following sections we go on to discuss the even more difficult question of how they might be helped within the home in the early years of the child's language growth. The creation of interest and awareness at the antenatal stage would make this more natural and acceptable. Above all it would establish from the beginning that the child's language development takes its place alongside his physical and emotional growth as a matter of vital concern to parents. This is certainly an area of possibility which health and education authorities might co-operate to explore. Local situations will vary widely, and the greatest need will obviously be in the EPAs [Education Priority Areas], where pressures are already at their greatest. The resources of antenatal clinics in these areas are often stretched, and the difficulties are not to be underestimated. Nevertheless, it is our central contention, and there is ample evidence from research to support it, that attention to language problems comes too late. The education process must be started earlier if the language deficiencies we have described are to be reduced. The difficulties of implementing such a policy at the antenatal stage must not be allowed to obscure the need for one.

5.15 We come now to the possibilities for help within the home, and it must be acknowledged at once that home visiting is an activity which has to be conceived and carried out with the greatest delicacy and care. Almost all parents are keen that their children should have the best possible opportunity, but many set low expectations and assume that their child's performance will


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be governed by his innate ability. They regard the child's mental growth as controlled by maturation and capacity: something that simply happens up to a determined level by an automatic process. If he has it in him to do well he will, but this is something that his schooldays will discover. They do not recognise their own potential in furthering his educational development, and not uncommonly they are apprehensive that any attempt to 'teach' him or introduce him to books will conflict with the school's methods and thus confuse him. Moreover, there may be the natural suspicion on the part of the mother that a home visitor is bringing with her a critical attitude to the child's upbringing or the conditions of the home. In some cases anyone in an official position may be seen as representing authority. The father, whose co-operation is vital, may let his judgement of the situation be coloured by his experiences with 'officialdom' in other contexts. All this makes it an exercise requiring great tact and particular qualities on the part of the visitor. In recommending, as we shall, more initiatives in this field, we are also conscious of the implications for staffing and training. At this point we are discussing the pre-school situation, but we shall later examine home-school contacts. These can be given a strong foundation if the early relationship with a pre-school home visitor has proved rewarding. The qualities needed to achieve such a relationship speak for themselves. The visitor will have to be tolerant and understanding, imposing no judgement and hinting no censure. She will be setting up learning situations which are designed to advance the child's linguistic and cognitive development, and she will therefore need a good understanding of the processes at work.

5.16 There have been several home visiting programmes in the USA, all of them concerned with children from culturally disadvantaged backgrounds. Some relied on purely voluntary participation; some went so far as to pay the mothers to take part. In certain cases the object was to equip the mother with the ability to work through a structured programme with her child. In others the mother was not actively involved at all, and the child received his 'tutoring' from the visitor. Many of these programmes appear to have been successful in what they set out to do, but they do not appeal to us as appropriate models for the kind of relationship we are suggesting. There have been a limited number of experiments in this country, mostly tentative and on a small scale. One particularly encouraging initiative came from a group of Norwich teachers who planned it as members of NATE. With the agreement of the City of Norwich education authority the teachers, in association with the English department of the college of education, volunteered to make monthly visits to families with a number of children one of whom was between 18 months and 2 years. The teachers worked with the parents and aimed to help them increase the range of linguistic opportunity for their children. The teachers themselves met monthly between visits to discuss their experiences, and they also provided transport to take the parents to the college to see films of interest to young mothers. The success of the first stage of the experiment led to an expansion of the number of teacher volunteers and an extension of the work to young married couples bringing up their first child.

5.17 The most fully documented experiment to date has been part of the West Riding EPA (7) Project, and in this case the visitor worked with the


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children in the parents' presence. The organisers decided that they would not single out specific children as 'disadvantaged', but would take all the children in the district within a specific age-group. The children had in common the fact that they all lived within an EPA and that their fathers were manual workers of varying degrees of skill. Nevertheless, there were considerable differences between the families, and it would have been possible to identify some children as in greater need than others. To have done so could have caused suspicion, not to say resentment, and the invitation to participate therefore went to all the families in one school catchment area. 20 children were involved, aged 19 months to 28 months, and they were visited every week for one to two hours over a period of a year. The visitor brought toys, books, tape recordings, etc, and in co-operation with the mother used these to develop a number of skills in the child. The initial attention of the Project was to examine and improve the child's educability, and though the sample was a small one there were clear indications that it succeeded in what it set out to do. Our particular interest here, however, is in its benefits in bringing about a growth of understanding in the parents. Their role in the child's linguistic and educational development was successfully demonstrated, and they acquired confidence and interest as they came to see what they could in fact achieve. One of the most valuable results of such enterprises is that they encourage a sense of partnership. It has been remarked above that many parents regard learning as the province of the school. Not only do they feel ill-equipped to anticipate it, but they do not see themselves as sharers in the process when their child starts school. This is sometimes born of indifference, but more often of apprehension. In a later section there will be a consideration of the ways in which parents can be brought into school. But it is worth emphasising again here that home visiting programmes should establish at an early stage the notion of partnership. The right kind of relationship with a home visitor can make the prospect of home-school contact a natural one in the mind of a parent.

5.18 It goes without saying that the parents should not be made to feel any sense of interference. The examples under discussion were experimental situations. They were of limited duration, had a declared objective, and were in the hands of highly skilled persons. In one sense the fact that they were experiments made their task more difficult. For many people the very notion of an experiment carries an unwelcome suggestion of being scrutinised. In the West Riding Project, for example, there was unease on the part of some parents at the idea of their child being tested by a psychologist. However, although an experiment presents problems it also has the advantage of providing a defined framework within which co-operation can be sought. The parent is helping the experimenter and can be made to feel she is taking part in an enterprise in which she and her child are not merely on the receiving end. If home visiting schemes were introduced on a large scale they would not have this advantage. It has to be acknowledged frankly that many of the families where this help would have most value would view it as one more addition to the social agencies with which they have so much contact. So much, then, depends upon the way in which the idea is broached and on the parents' earliest experiences of it in operation. Parents can become engrossed in their child's learning activities. When this happens any sense of receiving social aid will have been eclipsed. It is the feeling of being essential to the


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partnership that is the key. We feel that home visiting of this kind could be an important innovation, and one which might help to reduce the effect of cultural deprivation in the pre-school years. As local conditions vary so greatly there is little point in offering a blueprint of how such a scheme might operate. Authorities would have to assess the need in particular areas and then consider how they might find the resources for a programme and what should be its nature and duration. We recommend, however, that serious consideration should be given to such measures where cultural disadvantage is evident.

5.19 In recent years there has been a growth in the number of educational television programmes directed to young children. They have often been criticised for being 'middle class' in tone and content. Television is discussed elsewhere in the Report, but we are concerned with the possibilities of the medium for increasing the kind of parental awareness we have been discussing. One of the most valuable features of programmes for young children is that they offer to them and their parents a common experience to talk about. The most effective will be the programme that makes this a certain outcome, and it is not likely to happen if the mother's experience cannot so engage with what she is seeing as to draw her to elaborate upon it. This in itself is an argument for a tone and content with which she can find a good measure of identification. Of particular interest is the possibility of using television to bring home to parents the language needs of their children and their own part in fulfilling them. There is no escaping the fact that educational programmes of this kind, directed at parents at an adult level of instruction, would be unlikely to be watched by the parents we are most concerned to help. It may be that the children's programmes themselves could be structured in such a way as to focus the parents' attention on these language needs in the process of fulfilling them. There is certainly room for research into the possibilities of television for the language interaction of parent and child. We would add that in our view the communication should be sustained and not simply occasional, and that it would be most effective if it complemented other measures of the kind we have been discussing.

5.20 This is an appropriate point at which to comment on the more general question of the influence on young children's language of television entertainment programmes. Although it seems to us regrettable that children of all ages should spend such long hours watching television (see paras. 2.5-2.9), we do not share the opinion that no good at all comes out of it. Certainly this view does not do justice to the undeniably good effects of television on some aspects of children's language. While it is certainly true that television popularises empty catchwords and current slang, it can also be shown to make the vocabulary of the moment eminently available to children. The vocabulary of politics, popular music, space travel and industry is acquired by children not through the adult programmes of news and comment, but through cartoons, children's serials and teatime entertainment programmes. It is a remarkable fact that infants have the vocabulary, if not the concepts, of the technological, polluted, divided world that television presents to them. Certain reading schemes in current use do not reflect the seventies; television does. It exposes children to a range of accents, idioms, and registers which they would not otherwise hear. Infants engaged in a space travel game show


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a knowledge not only of the words (e.g. rocket, countdown, capsule, splashdown), but of the way in which they are used. They reproduce as a matter of course the terse reporting style of the men in a moon landing. At other times they use the more leisurely and often hyperbolic register of the mid-western cattleman. Observers are constantly struck by young children's response to puns and to rhyme which may feature very little in the speech of adults around them. It is a reasonable hypothesis that television, especially children's entertainment programmes, adult light entertainment, and to a mixed extent the commercial advertisements, has done much to sharpen children's response to this feature of language and to wordplay in general. It is, of course, well known that children respond more than most adults to verbal play; what is not generally realised is that the language skills used in verbal play - repeating jingles, puns, riddles, matching rhymes etc - may be very important in early reading. It is clear therefore that there are some important things to be considered about the impact of television on children's language. Parents and teachers need to be aware of this, and so do those responsible for planning and devising programmes. The programmes children watch between the end of afternoon school and teatime seem to us to be particularly influential in this respect, and we recommend research into the whole of this very important field.

5.21 We shall return to the parents when we consider how schools can work in co-operation with them, but at this point we pass to the playgroup, nursery class, and infant school, and to the vitally important part played by the teacher in the child's language development. The teacher in these early stages is concerned to help the child move into an expanded set of relationships - with his peers, with adults other than his parents, and with the world reflected in a new range of experiences. Three or four year olds coming into school for the first time will often stand and stare, then flit from one activity to another, either silently or with excited chatter. There is just not enough time to take in everything, and the idea that all will still be there tomorrow is not easily accepted. As they become accustomed to the ordered provision children will begin to use materials more selectively and build on the remembered experience of the past. In this they are guided by experiment and by constant talk with their teacher, who helps them make sense of their experiences and prepares the way for new ones. Every encounter with clay, water, sand, 'junk', paint, book and picture is used as an opportunity for talk. Excursions out of the classroom are made part of the process, and are constructed and reconstructed through anecdote and an exchange of question and answer. The teacher encourages the child to relive his experience and embroiders it for him, helping him to draw out of it half-remembered detail. Meeting the same group of children day after day she is able to receive and deepen their interests, record their thoughts, and help them to share their discoveries with others. Thus in a very real sense the classroom and its extensions can constitute a language environment, with experience extending language,, and language in turn interpreting experience.

5.22 Most nursery and infant teachers recognise that when young children are involved in some activity the talk that accompanies it becomes an important instrument for learning. Talk is a means by which they learn to work and live with one another. It enables them to gather information and build into their own experience the experience of others. Between themselves and with the


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teacher they 'process' or interpret the information, creating their own links between what is new and what is familiar. The continual reinterpretation of all that a child knows in the light of what he comes to learn is a characteristic of the talk that occurs in make-believe situations of his own creation. This takes many forms, from domestic scenes in the home corner to improvisations on storybook and television themes of heroes, adventurers, giants, and witches. It is fed by nursery rhymes and singing games, by the stories that teachers and children tell and the poems they read. Talk of this kind is a consolidating activity, a way of reordering experience to make it acceptable. Into this context of purposeful, sociable and consolidating talk, the infant teacher introduces the written language. What it brings is fresh material to be talked about, for the spoken word must mediate the written. In many infant schools concern for writing begins, one might say, with the making of 'books'. The teacher writes beneath a child's drawing or painting the caption he dictates to her. The child may be asked to trace over the writing, and later to copy it underneath. By degrees, beginning with the words he already knows, the child will take over the writing until the whole caption is his own work. The 'books' are collections of such pages. The child reads the sentence back to his teacher, and in this way this personal collection of captions and sentences becomes his first reading book. Sometimes they are the response of every member of the class to a particular stimulus, sometimes the work of a group sharing a common interest and anxious therefore to read other children's contributions as well as their own. Sometimes they are a collection of the work of a single child, his own book on his own topic. More often than not they are in the children's own handwriting and with their own illustrations, but we have seen excellent use of a Polaroid camera and a typewriter with a large 'Jumbo' type face which reproduces the kind of print used in most infant schools. Captions or labels of use and interest to the children are often to be found in the classroom. At first, the labels are accompanied by pictures that carry the same message, but as reading proficiency increases, there will no longer always be the same need for pictures. In some classrooms the walls become a kind of glossary of useful words in useful groupings, and the material changes as the interests of the class change and develop. Captions written by the children on maps or diagrams or models add to the verbal display. Where the whole effect is colourful and attractive, the right climate is produced for the development of pleasure in writing and reading and pride in the appearance of the handwriting*. The seeds are here for later developments. The nature of the books will change; what began as a full-page picture with caption will become by degrees a written page with illustrations, and then, where appropriate, a page of text unadorned.

5.23 There is, even in the earliest stages, no lack of things to write about. Young children will write about their homes and families, their pets and other animals, and the highlights of their day-to-day experience. They will write about a football match, a street accident, a snowfall or a thunderstorm, a visit to hospital, a television programme they have watched, or the things they bring into school, and they will write stories on fantasy themes involving witches or bandits, ghosts or gunmen. They describe objects or processes that have interested them, and in this way much of their writing arises from the practical activities in school. At the same time, they develop

*See Annex B to Chapter 11 for a discussion of handwriting.


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a language adapted to the expression of feeling, a language of implicit rather than explicit statement; in short, a form of 'poetic' writing that is the counterpart of the consolidating talk we referred to above. Thus, writing serves them to give expression to their own versions of what is, and to create fascinating alternatives in terms of what might be. Across this range of purposes, however, their writing in these early stages is likely to remain expressive; it is likely, that is to say, to retain a close affinity with their speech. To begin to write is to put to a new use those linguistic resources that have so far been developed entirely by speaking and listening.

5.24 We have been describing the kind of language stimulus enjoyed by a child in a good school in his early years, and it is the foundation on which all else rests. But many witnesses have questioned whether this is enough for each and every child. The argument has been advanced that the kind of language for which we have urged the need will not necessarily be developed by the normal experiences offered in the nursery and infant school. It has been suggested that there is a need for a more precise definition of linguistic objectives and for the provision for some children of a more carefully planned language experience than is evident in most nursery and infant work at the present time. This is an important question and one which requires discussion. The best way to begin is by examining briefly one or two of the programmes that have been developed with this very object of directing attention to specific features of language. Several such experiments have been carried out in the USA, and one of the most recent has been the tutorial language programme developed by M Blank and F Solomon (8). This is based upon a regular one to one tutorial designed to develop 'abstract thinking' in the pre-school child by encouraging him to discuss situations not present before him. They involve him in explaining and predicting, two features of language which we have already noted as being less likely to be at the command of a disadvantaged child. They also require him to give and repeat instructions, to use language to compare and make choices, and to use relational words, such as 'between', 'under', 'before', 'after'. An interesting feature of the programme is the transcript of dialogues between teacher and child, with commentary by the authors on how language is actually being used. The one shows a teacher using the Blank and Solomon technique; the other reveals missed opportunities arising from a lack of conscious awareness of the language procedures on the part of the teacher. The authors claim that their method of tutoring with specific language goals produces marked behaviour changes and the use of more coordinated language patterns. They press a point which has in fact been made to us in a number of the submissions of evidence: that simply to expose a disadvantaged child to materials and put him into a one to one relationship with an interested adult will not necessarily bring about the language growth we are seeking.

5.25 The Bereiter and Engelmann programme (9) has received more publicity in this country and was criticised by many teachers on the ground that its methods seemed so alien to the generally accepted view of nursery education. The programme assumes very little language on the part of the children and it prescribes for them short periods of instruction each day. The main aims are to enable them to make affirmative and negative statements, to use


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prepositions, handle opposites, name basic colours, and make simple deductions. The authors emphasise that they are not bidding to replace the free and creative environment of the child's first school, merely to reinforce it. However, the range of language goals is undoubtedly narrow and the use of drill involving unison responses is an unattractive feature for most British teachers.

5.26 There is less intensity in the Peabody Language Development Kit, which was used in a radically modified form in the NFER Pre-school Project. There are, in fact, four kits, and they aim to provide a language development programme from three to ten years of mental age. Each kit offers a complete programme which consists of 180 lessons of 20-30 minutes, and it is designed for use with groups of children rather than for a one to one situation. Within a general framework of language development it includes vocabulary building, sentence patterns, problem solving and concept formation. The teacher is supplied with a manual, picture cards, posters, tapes or records, and puppets. At the lowest age level there are also toys and teaching aids for developing various skills, e.g. sorting and labelling. It is clear from the experiments carried out with these kits in Britain that the teachers involved were very divided in their reaction to them. This is not the place to detail the exchange of argument, but we are bound to record our own belief that at any rate in the British context programmes such as the Bereiter and Engelmann and Peabody do not provide a ready made answer. Moreover, their use may result in a narrowing of aims and a corresponding loss in the imagination and flexibility which are so vital to nursery education. There is an important place for guides of one kind or another to help the teacher to develop the child's language in the ways we have already indicated. There is also a place for programmes of a kind appropriate for English schools; they have a value in alerting the teacher to particular language needs, and they help her ensure every child's active involvement in small group work. But the guide should be a support for the teacher's initiative, not a substitute for it; and the programme should be an integral part of the rich environment she creates as a source of constant stimulus to language.

5.27 So far, the attempts described have been American, but in recent years there have been similar enterprises in Britain. These are different from one another in kind and often in philosophy, but they have one property in common; they are designed to extend children's language by deliberate procedures. In East London, Gahagan and Gahagan conducted (10) an experiment based on Bernstein's concept of 'restricted code'. It employed a language training programme that set tasks for which the former would not be adequate. The activities were designed to improve attention and auditory discrimination, to improve speech (extended narrative, explanation, detailed description, expression of uncertainty and the hypothetical, description of feeling and relationships), and to improve structure and vocabulary. The work involved the use of various games, and the teachers were asked to set aside 20 minutes a day for it. The same principle of a reserved daily allocation of time operated in part of the language development programme associated with the Swansea project (11). This enterprise directed attention to the following language skills: listening, naming, describing, categorising, denoting position, sequencing, and reasoning. To


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give an example, the last three of these skills involve the use of 'relational' words such as

under, between(relation of position)
before, after(relation of time/events)
if, but(relation of cause, effect and conditions).

These words are of the greatest importance to language development, and their use presents particular difficulty to young children. The programme therefore suggests activities which will lead the child to use them. Many of these are grounded in the normal experiences of the infant classroom, but some take the form of language games. The handbook provides a check list intended to help the teacher assemble a picture of the child's language through listening to his conversation in the normal classroom setting.

5.28 The notion of a checklist or an inventory of language skills is one that attracts some controversy. On the one hand it is argued that a device of this kind offers the teacher a means of monitoring the child's progress; that it allows her to concentrate attention upon the deficiencies she detects. On the other it is contended that a checklist puts the emphasis on surface structures rather than on the context of children's talk; that it induces the teacher to impose forms from without. This is the view of Tough (12), whose project has produced a teacher's guide to the appraisal of a child's use of language. This does not set out an inventory of language skills but shows teachers how they can keep their own record of observations. It directs attention to certain features of language, and in listing these the author emphasises that they are simply a framework to help the teacher identify uses of language she is already fostering in the normal course of her everyday work. The project does not suggest any games or special activities and goes no further in this direction than to provide two picture story books and suggestions on how to use them to open up and guide the children's talk.

5.29 In making recommendations about the development of young children's language we have in mind an essential first principle. Granting what we have said about the need for more conscious procedures, how far can these be made to fit into the best nursery and infant practice of today? Our first point is that the more complex language uses can and should be developed within and as part of the normal classroom activity. However, the language programmes themselves point out that they are designed to complement this, not erode or replace it. They vary in the extent to which they 'stand outside' the normal daily routine m the sense of requiring a separate time allocation and a number of activities which have not emerged naturally from classroom experience. In our view the less the separation the more likely is the programme to match the normal way of working in schools, but with this caveat we are sure that teachers will find in some language programmes a very helpful support. Some teachers may prefer the assurance of guidelines, specified activities, and a daily time allocation. Others may regard the programmes as a source of useful suggestions which they will employ in their own fashion. Others again may find that 'language games' can make an interesting addition to the range of individual activities provided for children to choose from. Our own view is that the kind of language development under discussion will be more likely to take effect the more it


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uses as its medium the daily experiences of the classroom and the home. We emphasise again, however, that this cannot be left to chance, and we shall go on to argue for its place in teacher training and for the support of additional adults to enable the teacher to give attention to it.

5.30 We advocate, in short, planned intervention in the child's language development. At the level at present being discussed this will mean that the teacher recognises the need for the child to include in his experience the following uses of language, and that she will then keep an effective record of his progress in them:

Reporting on present and recalled experiences.
Collaborating towards agreed ends.
Projecting into the future; anticipating and predicting.
Projecting and comparing possible alternatives.
Perceiving causal and dependent relationships.
Giving explanations of how and why things happen.
Expressing and recognising tentativeness.
Dealing with problems in the imagination and seeing possible solutions.
Creating experiences through the use of imagination.
Justifying behaviour.
Reflecting on feelings, their own and other people's.
The experience of individual children will vary, and this means that the teacher's appraisal of each child's needs and achievement is the key to success. Children from advantaged backgrounds are likely to have plenty of opportunity at home to acquire such forms. It is the disadvantaged child who needs help with them, and through her appraisal the teacher can create the situation in which they are likely to be acquired.

5.31 We have discussed the kind of approach which we believe will produce the language development we regard as essential. This involves creating situations in which, to satisfy his own purposes, a child encounters the need to use more elaborate forms and is thus motivated to extend the complexity of language available to him. It also involves the teacher in charting the process by careful observation of the developing language skills. Before going on to say anything about the need for additional adults in the school we emphasise that success depends on the professional guidance of the teacher. The teacher is the organiser of the learning situation, working in close association with the helpers but planning the strategies which they are involved with her in realising.

5.32 We believe there should be more adults involved in the school to afford a one-one or one-two relationship with the children as often as possible. A proposal of this kind requires some elaboration, and we begin by distinguishing between two levels of language experience which such additional help would provide. In the first place it has to be recognised that increasing the opportunities for talk with a sympathetic adult will not necessarily develop more complex language forms in children who are


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unaccustomed to using them. As we have already suggested, situations have to be created from which such uses are bound to emerge. The person who plans these situations must have a knowledge of how language works, and the ability to appraise children's language and operate upon it accordingly. All this has implications for training and represents an increase in the professional responsibility of the teacher. It does this in two ways. The teacher of young children has always seen it as an important part of her task to add to their experience of language, and if these more sophisticated goals are to be achieved this new dimension is added to her work. Moreover, if other adults are to help it will be under her guidance and towards ends which she has shaped. To appraise each child's speech and keep a record of its features is asking a great deal of a teacher. In the first place she is operating in a situation where there is noise and movement and constant demands upon her time and attention. In the second place she has so much to do in the way of preparation that it is no easy matter for her to note and record speech on this scale. Nevertheless, appraisal and the keeping of some form of record is so important for the whole notion of developing the child's language that serious thought needs to be given to how it can be achieved. It is clearly not a skill lightly acquired nor a task that can be easily delegated.* It depends on more than a superficial understanding of language development, and should therefore rest with the teacher. But she needs support to accomplish it, especially in areas where there are many disadvantaged children. We suggest that the teacher should have the assistance of trained persons, the nature of whose participation she will herself decide according to the demands of the situation. In the nursery school the nursery nurse should have an important part to play in this process, since her training recognises the importance of language in children's early development. We suggest that this element in her training should be extended to take account of the factors we have been discussing. Language study at this level goes beyond that normally encountered by the student nursery nurse, and indeed by the nursery teacher herself.

5.33 We believe that in the infant and first school the teacher also needs the support of aides who have been properly trained. It is accepted at once that this is an issue which will require discussion and consultation. The Plowden Report (13) made a number of suggestions in its recommendation for the employment of aides, and it is not our intention here to re-examine these. What we want to stress is that aides working with young children should have as part of their training a course in language development in the early years. As a result of it the aide should be able to understand the teacher's policies and put them into practice, operating within situations the teacher has devised. The course would by its very nature call for a good deal of practical experience with young children, and theoretical aspects should be closely related to the work in the classroom. There is also scope for the use of film, tape/transcript, and video recording, which would enable the student to study language in action and see it being successfully modified.

*One experienced infant headmistress gave us an example of how easy it is to overestimate the young child's understanding of certain speech forms. When she was wrapping Christmas presents one six year old asked her if she wanted any more paper. She replied 'Oh, I might do; I'll have to wait till I see if there's any more in my room'. The boy repeated his question, and as she talked to him she realised that though her sentence was apparently just a simple sequence of monosyllables the expression of tentativeness meant nothing to him.


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Ideally, such a course might be developed as a second stage course under the administration of the NNEB, and be taken as an additional course after a period of experience in school.

5.34 Some Authorities have already taken steps to provide general training for aides working in their schools, and this training sometimes includes reference to the development of children's language. In many cases the schools themselves have been a source of valuable practical training, and the aides have learned a great deal about children's language needs through the guidance and example of the head and the teachers. These have been valuable starting points, but we are suggesting that there should now be a movement more deliberate and specific to enable aides to play their part in the ways we have indicated.

5.35 We have so far been discussing particular uses of language, those which are less likely to be at the command of the disadvantaged child. There is, however, great value in simply expanding the number of opportunities for talk with adults quite apart from the fulfilment of such specific aims. This is the second of the two levels of language experience, and one at which the nursery nurse or aide can operate widely and very profitably. What many children lack above all is the experience of having someone to listen to them. In the home their chatter may be disregarded, not out of any unkindness, but disregarded nevertheless. Their questions may receive casual answers and their remarks the briefest of acknowledgement. This may be particularly true in large families, and it is significant that several research studies have indicated a relationship between verbal ability and family size. Much of the mother's utterance is directed at regulating behaviour and establishing role, and a question or an observation from the child is quite likely to receive as a response an unexplained prohibition. Every child gets some measure of this, however little, but in some homes it is likely to be the dominant feature, especially where there are other children claiming attention. It is a likely outcome that the child will become accustomed not to expect answers, and in due course not to ask questions. This is not necessarily due to any lack of warmth or care on the part of the mother. Indeed her solicitude for appropriate behaviour is itself a token of her care. It may be, however, that sustained dialogue with her child, with herself in a teaching role, is not within her range of experience. Thus, unlike his more favoured counterpart, the child comes to school unused to the kind of conversation with an adult in which meanings are exchanged, past experiences reshaped, and questions posed and answered on both sides.

5.36 All these are features of language which the nursery and infant school should see as central to their verbal activity; and indeed the environment they create, the experiences they provide, have among their objects a stimulus to language growth. Paragraphs 5.21-5.23 described the way in which this is done. But when we come back to this matter of adult-child dialogue we are bound to ask whether the school is able to afford enough opportunities for it. To begin with it might be asked whether the teacher has sufficient opportunity simply to listen to the child talk. In her enthusiasm for what they are doing, her concern to give attention as widely as possible, she has much less time to listen than she would like. Some of the responses her questions attract go little further than the short utterance, perhaps a simple monosyllable.


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The questions are often invitations to confirm or deny. A child's observation or anecdote will be warmly received, but its purport will sometimes be anticipated and a prompt will foreclose it. This is almost an inevitable consequence of having a large number of children to deal with. The teacher herself has insufficient time to recognise the possibilities of the exchange, to discern the direction in which she could edge the child to explore a particular idea. The nursery nurse and the aide should be able to make an important contribution here. Their training ought to have equipped them with the ability to 'read' a dialogue and to see where it might be encouraged to lead. It should have revealed how little profit there is for the child when the adult unconsciously manoeuvres him into making a closed-ended response. Perhaps above all else the teacher lacks time simply to listen, to let a child establish for himself a notion of the adult as someone who will reward a sustained verbal effort with her attention. It is here that there is great scope for voluntary participation, for the involvement of parents, students, and older secondary school pupils.

5.37 The participation of parents has been gradually increasing in recent years, particularly since the Plowden Report did much to encourage it. Many primary schools have worked hard to encourage parents to exercise a role in the life of the school, and a number have gone further than seeing this in terms of performing some kind of service. Parents act as escorts on journeys and in environmental studies outside school; they help in the school library, in the games period, in home studies areas. In all these situations they are involved in the learning process. We believe there is room for many more such initiatives, and our purpose in this chapter is to consider what parents can contribute in the nursery and infant school. It is no use pretending that the parent can slip easily into the learning situation. There are adjustments to be made and sensitivities on both sides to be respected. For example, it is all too easy for parents to misinterpret the situation and demand to know why their neighbour is 'teaching' their children. In EPA areas in particular parents may well be diffident and feel ill at ease, though once these natural apprehensions are overcome the gains for them as well as for the children are striking. Conversely, unease on the part of the teacher is a natural possibility. It requires some adjustment to move from the accustomed circumstances of working alone or with a nursery nurse to sharing one's classroom with other adults. But evidence we have received suggests that once this unease has passed the teacher finds new opportunities are open to her. There is no question of her room suddenly becoming crowded. At any one time the numbers of parents involved will be small, and should certainly be no larger than the teacher herself thinks right for the situation. The grouping of related spaces - the alternative to the classroom concept of school planning - could contribute to the success of a pattern of shared working. Small withdrawal spaces would provide a degree of seclusion to the benefit of both children and adults, and at the same time enable the teacher to keep in touch with all that was taking place. Perhaps the first point to be made about parental involvement is that it may be courting disappointment to 'mount' it as a scheme. Where participation of other kinds is already well developed its extension into this field can probably be made very naturally. But in other circumstances it is better for the classroom involvement to develop from informal contacts.


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5.38 Ideally, pre-school activity will have made these more easy to establish. If parents have been accustomed to home visiting or to pre-school playgroups they will find such contacts more natural. One school in a northern town took the initiative by going out to meet the mothers of two-three year olds in the community centre. The headmistress visited the centre once a week and after she had got to know them on personal terms she developed a kind of workshop situation. The following is her account of what happened when the relationship was well established:

'1st Session

This was a story-telling session. I gave what I considered the best way to tell a story to very young children and illustrated by telling 'The Three Pigs' - 'huffing and puffing and blowing the house down'. Then parents volunteered to tell the group one of their own stories; there was no embarrassment, rather fun and a lot of laughter. The children (two and three year olds) were kept with the group for story telling, then were occupied in an adjacent room.

I considered this first meeting very important. It started or restarted bedtime stories at home. Parents had to borrow and read books from the Mobile Library to refresh their memories of stories heard long ago and to read up new ones.

2nd Session

1. Children allowed to paint while parents watched and talked about colours and pictures.

2. Parents took over for picture painting then (a) used large brushes to make Marian Richardson patterns - introductory writing, (b) used smaller brushes for letters, and (c) finally large graphite pencils for letters and words. Parents bought books to take home.

3rd-10th Session

At this period I had a very talented welfare assistant in the Reception Class. I asked if she could help these young mothers, knowing that she had much to give them. She could make almost anything, grow anything, and had a wealth of knowledge acquired through travel; most of all she loved children. These afternoons were a joy for all. Parents made dolls, clothes, and jewellery, painted pictures, and mended books. They prepared apparatus, mostly from scraps, bits and pieces from home, and odds and ends from city shops. This kind of work overflowed to the homes, involving fathers and older children. Fathers made geo-boards, clinometers and boxes for school mathematics.'

Thus, although the children were not yet at school, the parents not only learned to appreciate the school's help and interest but made things for it for the benefit of other children. The sense of partnership which grew from this enterprise was ideal ground for the later participation we are discussing.

5.39 Another example comes from an East London infant school in an area of particular social difficulty. The head began by starting what she called the 'Wednesday Club', an opportunity for mothers to relax over a cup of tea and enjoy various activities ranging from cookery and hairdressing demonstrations to films and exhibitions of books. The mothers could bring their young children, who were looked after in a specially equipped playroom.


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From this beginning she extended the activities to morning sessions, when she and members of her staff discussed with the parents various aspects of the education of young children. This led up to the making of a video tape of each class at work, with the mothers introducing each activity. The interest aroused encouraged the head to provide books, art materials, etc for the parents to buy for use at home. The parents themselves raised the idea of opening a playgroup for their younger children, and the school is helping them to start this on a sound footing. This has given the head another opportunity to discuss with them the relationship between play and talk, and she is taking them to visit a number of good playgroups. The more we saw of this relationship the more we were impressed by the warmth and mutual trust it had generated. It had extended to visits by parents, children and teachers to the theatre and to the ballet, and there was no doubt at all of the benefit to the children's language development of all these shared experiences.

5.40 In another inner city area we found excellent co-operation between an infant and a nursery school to the same end. They founded a joint 'Mothers' Club', again with the initial emphasis on providing these young mothers with friendly social contact away from the four walls of their high rise flats. They developed a programme of talks, demonstrations, and practical activities, for some of which pupils of the nearby secondary school produced materials. The club provided a collection of books for the parents themselves to read. They talked about these with one another and with the heads, who then led the discussion to children's books and the value of story telling. The mothers worked out a rota for looking after their young children in the adjoining playroom and in this they were helped by a nursery nurse. From here it was a short step to drawing them into the nursery and infant schools themselves, and they were welcomed by the teachers into their classrooms and into the staffroom. We were again impressed by the quality of the relationship and cannot speak too highly of the determination of the teachers to make it work. It was not easy for them at first, and they do not disguise the fact. It meant a lot of hard work, patience, and adjustment, but they think the value out of all proportion to the initial cost, and they are in no doubt that it has made their own work more rewarding. The ways in which the services of parents are used must be for the school to decide, since circumstances will differ so widely as to make models unhelpful. The school will know what ratio of additional adults to children is most appropriate in its case, what patterns of encounter will be most rewarding, and what degree of 'tuition' the parents need. We recommend the practice as one that carries considerable benefit for all concerned, particularly for the children, and we should like to see its extension.

5.41 It should be recognised that individual and small group adult-child dialogue needs the right kind of accommodation, to which we have already made a passing reference. Nursery and infant schools are busy places, alive with noise and activity. Much of the additional language experience we are suggesting will, of course, take place in the context of normal classroom activity, with which we have suggested it should be closely associated. For example, the supporting adults will be engaged in talk with children at the sand or water tray, at the modelling table, or in the cookery corner. However, it would be an inadequate building that did not have spaces to which an adult could withdraw with an individual child or a small group to engage in


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uninterrupted talk, in language games, etc. This is not always a facility readily to be found, and we believe that school design should take account of the need for several such spaces to be distributed throughout the school.

5.42 It is likely that schools in educational priority areas would be helped in making and maintaining their contacts by having the services of an educational visitor or home liaison teacher, and indeed some such appointments have already been made. We believe that this kind of service is a valuable addition to a school's resources. It is never easy to separate educational and social concerns in the circumstances in which the teacher may be working, but we feel that the first should be emphasised. It should be his or her responsibility to help the parents into a co-operative relationship with the school and to encourage them to play a part in their own child's education. In this the visitor would be acting as one of the staff, not as an additional social worker, and should therefore have a teaching commitment. Heads with whom we discussed the possibilities of such appointments were all emphatic that they would not want a roving ambassador who simply used the school as a base. Indeed, their view was that each teacher should know the parents of all her children on these terms, doing the home visiting herself. They agreed that as a universal practice this would not be possible. Some teachers would find it difficult, and it would be unrealistic, not to say unfair, to ask it of probationers. A liaison teacher's role should be a flexible one, and it would involve her not only in visiting but in working with a class in school while their teacher was herself visiting. We believe that the liaison teacher should essentially be part of the school, and that the best results are to be obtained on this principle, not on the basis of a large 'caseload' across two or more schools.

5.43 Before passing on to the child's experience of reading we would conclude by emphasising once more the very great importance of a conscious policy for language development. We have argued that the language growth of very young children is a more complex matter than is often realised. We know that one of the principal concerns of teachers at this level is to help the children to use words freely in response to a variety of stimulating experiences. But we suggest it is now necessary to look more deeply into the process. More active steps should be taken to help parents in the early stages and then to show them how they can co-operate with the school to develop what has already been started. Teachers themselves need to know more about the way language works, and they should have support in planning and carrying out strategies to meet the children's language needs. There are obviously implications for a large-scale expansion in in-service courses and development work if these demands are to be met. Equally obviously there are implications for the staffing of nursery and infant schools. As so many of our recommendations for participation by additional adults depend on the involvement of an appropriately qualified teacher, the staffing ratio of infant and nursery schools should be improved to allow the additional responsibilities to be undertaken with full advantage.


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REFERENCES

1. Children and their Primary Schools HMSO: 1967.

2. M Deutsch et al The Disadvantaged Child Basic Books: 1967.

3. B Bernstein Class, Codes, and Control Routledge and Kegan Paul: 1971.

4. R Hess and V Shipman Early Experiences and the Socialisation of the Cognitive Modes in Children Child Development, Vol. 36, No. 4: 1965.

5. YJ Tough Focus on Meaning: Talking to some Purpose with Young Children Allen and Unwin: 1973.

6. W Labov The Logic of Non-Standard English in F Williams (ed.) Language and Poverty Markham, Chicago: 1970.

7. AH Halsey Educational Priority Vol. 1, HMSO: 1972 and West Riding Educational Priority Area Project: No. 5 The Home Visiting Project.

8. M Blank and F Solomon A Tutorial Language Programme to develop abstract thinking in socially-disadvantaged pre-school children 1968-69 et seq.

9. C Bereiter and S Engelmann Teaching Disadvantaged Children in Pre-school Prentice Hall: 1966.

10. DM and GA Gahagan Talk Reform Routledge and Kegan Paul: 1970.

11. Language Development and the Disadvantaged Child: Research and Development Project in Compensatory Education Schools Council (not yet published).

12. YJ Tough Listening to Children Talking to be published under the auspices of the Schools Council.

13. See 1. above.


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Part Three

Reading





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CHAPTER 6

The Reading Process

'I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter.'

Charles Dickens: 'Great Expectations'.

'We are all of us learning to read all the time.' - IA Richards

6.1 Controversy about the teaching of reading has a long history, and throughout it there has been the assumption, or at least the hope, that a panacea can be found that will make everything right. This was reflected in much of the correspondence we received. There was an expectation that we would identify the one method in whose adoption lay the complete solution. Let us, therefore, express our conclusion at the outset in plain terms: there is no one method, medium, approach, device, or philosophy that holds the key to the process of learning to read. We believe that the knowledge does exist to improve the teaching of reading, but that it does not lie in the triumphant discovery, or rediscovery, of a particular formula. Simple endorsements of one or another nostrum are no service to the teaching of reading. A glance at the past reveals the truth of this. The main arguments about how reading should be taught have been repeated over and over again as the decades pass, but the problems remain.

6.2 A study of the way these arguments have been advanced, contested, revamped, discredited and rediscovered is a useful corrective to the idea that any one of them has a monopoly of truth (1). In the last four centuries there has been a succession of them, making claims for word methods, sentence methods, experience methods, phonic methods, and so on. It is interesting to note that they were usually introduced with the description 'new' or 'natural' or 'logical'. Today's discovery was often yesterday's discard, unrecognised as such, or rehabilitated by some new presentation. This does not mean that there has been no advance, that nothing really new has emerged across the years. There have, of course, been many innovations of one kind or another, notably in materials. But the major arguments are substantially the same as they have always been, and to endorse one at the expense of the others is no more helpful today than it has proved in the past.

6.3 Among authorities on reading there is, in fact, considerable agreement, and in recent years they have done much to reduce the polarisation of opinion. There is no doubt, however, that this does still exist, and it characterised much of the evidence we received. One issue that has received more than its share of this kind of attention is that of approaches to the teaching of reading in the early stages. It is argued on the one hand that the essence of the process is 'breaking the code', converting print into sounds and then into words; it is argued on the other that this must take second place to securing and expanding the child's interest, keeping his curiosity alive, and giving reading a meaning. Immediately, a false conflict is created which leads to a number of unnecessary tensions. Some would put so much emphasis on the 'mechanics' of reading that certain children would be handicapped rather than helped. Others advocate so keenly the virtues of mature reading from the beginning that they are in danger of leaving it too much to trust that the skills will be


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acquired on the way. The children would thus be left ignorant of vital information about the nature of the written code. This emphasis fails to acknowledge that the majority of children also require precise, well-organised instruction if they are to become successful readers. In our view a large part of the controversy arises from the expression of unnecessarily extreme opinions, often more extreme than the real beliefs or practices of those who advance them. In addition, the contentious statements are often based on inadequate information. For example, we received many letters whose writers seemed convinced that the majority of infant teachers had abandoned the teaching of phonics; they argued that a return to the practice would raise standards dramatically. But the results of our survey showed that their supposition was far from correct. The teachers of six year olds in our sample were asked which approaches they were currently using. The results were as follows:

1. Look and Say (word recognition)97%
2. Phonic 1 (letter sounds, digraphs, diphthongs)97%
3. Phonic 2 (based on syllables)70%
4. Sentence Method51%

We believe that an improvement in the teaching of reading will not come from the acceptance of simplistic statements about phonics or any other single aspect of reading, but from a comprehensive study of all the factors at work and the influence that can be exerted upon them. In the course of this sequence of chapters, therefore, we shall outline what we believe to be necessary for the effective teaching of reading - from the earliest stages to the advanced skills required of the educated reader. We believe, however, that a fundamentally important question has to be answered before there can be any discussion of how the teaching of reading can be improved. What is Reading? Much of the misunderstanding surrounding the debate about reading results from the lack of a proper examination of what the process involves. Before considering the ways in which children can best learn the skill one must be clear about what is expected of them, in both the short and the long term. This knowledge should then inform decisions about the organisation of the teaching within the school, the kinds of initial and in-service training needed, and the resources required at each level. Thus a detailed understanding of the reading process is of critical importance in terms of its practical implications. It is for this reason that the account which follows includes a good deal of technical detail. We regard this as essential to our task, for we do not believe that a Report making recommendations about reading can examine the issues fairly without defining what is involved for a child when he is learning to read. We must also emphasise here that our discussion of reading is not confined to this section of the Report. Parts Six and Seven have a particular relevance to this one, but since references to reading occur throughout the Report we hope that all the chapters will be read in close association with one another.


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6.4 It may be useful to begin by looking at some of the ways in which reading can be defined:

'One can read in so far as he can respond to the language skills represented by graphic shapes as fully as he has learned to respond to the same language signals of his code represented by patterns of auditory shapes.'
This statement by Fries (2) could be interpreted in a number of ways, but it reflects his view that the teaching of reading is largely a matter of developing the child's ability to respond to letters and spelling patterns. If these could be converted from print into spoken form then this could be regarded as reading. Goodman (3), on the other hand, emphasises the importance of teaching children to respond to meaning:
'The purpose of reading is the reconstruction of meaning. Meaning is not in print, but it is meaning that the author begins with when he writes. Somehow the reader strives to reconstruct this meaning as he reads.'
Reading is here taken to include all those processes necessary to arrive at some reconstruction of the author's meaning. Gray (4) elaborates on this theme in the following way:
'A good reader understands not only the meaning of a passage, but its related meaning as well, which includes all the reader knows that enriches or illumines the literal meaning. Such knowledge may have been acquired through direct experience, through wide reading or through listening to others.'
This means that reading is more than a reconstruction of the author's meanings. It is the perception of those meanings within the total context of the relevant experiences of the reader - a much more active and demanding process. Here the reader is required to engage in critical and creative thinking in order to relate what he reads to what he already knows; to evaluate the new knowledge in terms of the old and the old in terms of the new. By this definition reading includes all the intellectual and affective processes that take place in response to a printed text.

6.5 These three definitions may be represented as follows:

A response to graphic signals in terms of the words they represent

A response to graphic signals in terms of the words they representplus:
A response to text in terms of the meanings the author intended to set down


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A response to graphic signals in terms of the words they representA response to text in terms of the meanings the author intended to set downplus:
A response to the author's meanings in terms of all the relevant previous experience and present judgements of the reader

Finally, there is the view that looks beyond the reading process as such to the range of activities demanded of the adult reader, with all that they imply in social and economic terms. These implications are taken up in Chapter 8. There are, in effect, two basic approaches to the definition of reading. One is to start with the complexities of print. The other is to start with the potential reading demands of the modern world and to define as reading whatever is logically involved in meeting those demands. Taken together they give a more complete understanding than either one could afford alone.

6.6 The reader responds to print at a number of levels. At one level he recognises the shapes of separate letters, groups of letters, and whole words, and he associates appropriate sounds with those letters or collections of letters. The responses at this level are fundamental to reading, and the ability needed to make them may be regarded as 'Primary Skills'. The reader must have a reasonable mastery of this process of seeing a letter or group of letters as a discrete whole before he can respond at another level, i.e. to sequences. The ability to handle sequences - of letters, words, and larger units of meaning - is essential to fluent reading. The various skills involved have been described as 'Intermediate Skills' because they operate at a level above that of the primary skills but below the level of 'Comprehension' in the extended sense of Gray's definition. In examining each of these levels we need to consider three features. The first is the graphic element, the printed word or page; the second is the language element, the sounds, words and meanings to which the print relates; and the third is the pattern of relationships that may be established between the other two in the mind of the reader. An analysis of these will give an indication of the many points of possible difficulty at which a child may falter in learning to read. More positively, it can help the teacher to modify or extend the child's existing skills to lead him to a higher level of general reading competence.

6.7 At the level of the PRIMARY SKILLS the child has to learn to perceive separate units - individual letters or groups of letters, and individual whole words. To do this he must learn to respond to two fundamental attributes of letters: shape and orientation. It may seem rather obvious to the adult that a child has to learn to respond to letter shape. But letter outline may convey very little to a child unless it has been invested with some kind of special significance. He may get this by watching someone trace or draw letters, by doing so himself, or by exploring the shape of a three dimensional letter in wood or plastic. Without such experience his interest may be confined to the colour of the letter, its size in relation to the background, or some fanciful


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pattern that its appearance suggests to him, much as one sometimes sees fanciful images in clouds or ink-blots. To see letter shapes as adults see them is by no means a natural and automatic process. On the contrary, each child may have his own idiosyncratic ways of looking at letters, and to see them as the adult sees them means he has to develop a generalised 'learning set'. Since so many children respond to letter shape very readily it is easy to forget that many others may never have enjoyed opportunities which are necessary to accomplish this. Indeed there will be some who have actually acquired 'learning sets' which obstruct them when it comes to responding appropriately to letters. On the other hand, it is perhaps because parents have so often prepared the way fairly well that so many teachers think this aspect of reading requires little attention. This sometimes leads to their assuming mistakenly that there is something inherently wrong with the child if he happens to have difficulty in learning to recognise letters.

6.8 Learning that orientation is a critical aspect of letters may also present problems. For the first few years of his life a child learns to ignore orientation as a means of recognising objects. The doll or the toy train is still a doll or a train whether it is the right way up, upside down, facing left, facing right, or lying on its side. This is a critical part of what has been called 'conservation of identity', the fact that things retain their identity over time and in spite of changes of position or temporary disappearance. At the same time, even the youngest children have little difficulty in orientating themselves correctly to objects when they want to. They can open doors the right way, turn book pages forwards or backwards, turn cups up the right way, and so on. However, when they come to letters they have a problem. They now have to learn that b is not d, p, or q; or that f is not t, and n is not u. If we include such similarities in shape as h : y and m : w, then it becomes clear that over half the letters of the alphabet are ambiguous in terms of the child's previous learning. It is not that children have particular difficulty with orientation as such. They can see as well as any adult that b is p upside down, just as well as they can see that the doll or train is upside down. Where they have trouble is in learning to recognise these reflected and rotated forms as entirely different letters. They would regard it as very odd if a doll had to be called Betty instead of Susan according to which way it faced, or the train was called a motor car when it reversed.

6.9 Of course, children are extraordinarily flexible in what they can learn to cope with when they are strongly motivated. Letters, however, are often much less fun than dolls and trains. The difficulty with letter orientation is that there is no strong incentive to acquire this particular 'learning set'. Moreover, as we have said, it seems to run completely counter to an existing 'set' that has already become very firmly established, i.e. 'ignore orientation in identifying objects'. The situation and materials must therefore be particularly well designed if the child is to 'unlearn' and then relearn in the right way. Reversal tendencies are in fact quite persistent, even in normal readers. It is scarcely surprising that they represent an important proportion of the problems experienced by the children who have difficulty in the early stages of reading.

6.10 When children have learned to respond to a combination of shape and orientation they still have to learn each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. To


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these can be added the 17 shapes of those capital letters which are very different from the lower case forms, i.e.

A B D E F G H I J K L M N Q R T Y

This gives a total of 43 letter shapes. In addition to these there are also such typographical variations as:

Encounter with such variations is inevitable, because of the wide range of printed materials to which children are exposed both before and after starting school. Children can, of course, learn all these individual variations. It is simply that they increase the total quantity to be learned and add to the burdens of the slow learning child an extra dimension of difficulty that he could well do without. This difficulty is probably even more marked when the child comes to write, since he may be confused in deciding which of the various forms to set down.

6.11 A more important problem relating to letter shape arises at the level of word perception, as distinct from letter perception. It is often argued that children should be taught to recognise whole words rather than respond to individual letters. Unfortunately, variations in letter shape multiply at the word level, as may be seen in the examples given below. Adults are so familiar with these variant word forms that it is hard for them to appreciate how different they are. The following set of unusual equivalent symbols will give an idea of what they may look like to a child:


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Moreover, the whole-word forms of certain different words, e.g. 'hot' and 'hat', are no more different than the variations of the same word e.g. 'hat' and 'hat'.

In spite of this, fluent readers can readily cope with variations such as the following:

iT Is MOsT uNliKELy tHaT tHe
ReADer wiLL haVE preVIOusly
sEEn tHEse WholE WORD SHapES
How DOes hE rECoGNise THem?
Similarly, children can often read each other's handwriting quite easily, even in the early stages of learning to read, though the writing may be almost as unusual as the above. It will be appreciated, therefore, that word recognition in English is not simply a matter of learning unique whole-word forms. Indeed, oversimplified ideas about word recognition just do not match the facts.

6.12 For a further comment on the nature of whole-word perception we must note that detailed vision is possible only for objects that fall within a maximum of 3° of visual angle. What this means for the young reader has been revealed by studies of eye movements. It was found, (5) for example, that among a group of seven year olds the average number of fixations was 2.4 per word. Though they could recognise some words at a single glance most words required an examination of individual letters or groups of letters. If the whole of a word does not fall within the area of clear vision this finding is scarcely surprising. Children do, of course, learn to identify words correctly in running text without scrutinising meticulously every single detail of them, and how this may be achieved is discussed later. Nevertheless, the accurate perception of individual letters and groups of letters is clearly an important factor in learning to read.

6.13 There is no doubt that if children are introduced to letters in inappropriate ways these can have a harmful effect on their subsequent learning. Unfortunately, this has sometimes been used as an argument that letter recognition should not be learned at all. We do not accept this argument. There is, in our view, any number of perfectly reasonable ways in which a teacher or parent may help a child to learn to recognise letters. These include such familiar practices as the following:


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  • drawing attention to the shapes of letters in an alphabet book;
  • letter-matching activities (provided that there is some clear clue to help the child place letters the right way up, e.g. a coloured base line, or a jigsaw shape);
  • tracing or colouring letter outlines;
  • writing letters in a sequence which helps the child to establish letter differences (e.g. b=downstroke, then clockwise movement; d= anticlockwise movement, then upstroke and downstroke);
  • collecting variant forms of the same letters in a scrap-book (e.g. T, t, t);
  • mnemonics (e.g. 'S is for S-s-s-snake', or 'O is for orange - you can tell by the shape'.)
Any competent teacher of infants could add many more examples.

6.14 We do not suggest that children of any age should be subjected to a rigorous and systematic training programme of exercises based on this kind of activity. A limited number of such experiences will be quite sufficient to help most children learn to attend to the relevant characteristics of the letters. The important factors are precision in the design of the learning task and careful supervision. Letters will be learned more easily if the materials used are varied in such a way that only the invariant properties of the letters remain constant. Thus, the same letter shape may be presented in different colours, sizes, and materials, against different backgrounds, and in different forms (e.g. T, t, t). Many children learn their letters so quickly that a very limited experience of such activity is sufficient. For those who do not, these variations can help to sustain interest in a fairly limited learning task. Moreover, it will help the child to transfer his learning to the other contexts in which he will meet the letters he has learned, e.g. in word games or in books. Letters which are easily confused should be learned separately. Examples are b, which differs only in orientation from p, q, and d; and h, which has a similar shape to b. The longer an error is allowed to persist the harder it is to eradicate, and it is therefore much better if the initial confusion can be avoided. This may be achieved by the 'over-learning' of any one of the letters which are easily confused, and only then giving attention successively to each of the others.

6.15 Contrary to popular belief the majority of children are perfectly capable, well before they start school, of making the perceptual discriminations necessary for learning letter shapes. They learn to make extremely complex auditory discriminations in language, and show their ability with similarly complex visual discriminations in playing with many of their games and toys. There seems to us no obvious reason why they should be denied opportunities to become familiar with the letters of the alphabet before they start school. The question of reading readiness and the parents' contribution is discussed in greater detail in the next chapter.

6.16 We come next to the relationship between letters and sounds. Single letters, or groups of letters, represent sounds called 'phonemes', which enable the reader to make distinctions between different words. There are approximately 44 phonemes in English. For children with normal hearing the ability to read depends, in the first place, on the ability to distinguish most of these phonemes in normal speech. Unfortunately, they are not quite such clear-cut units of sound as they may appear:


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'A tape recorder can be used to confirm a number of remarkable findings of speech analysis. As an example, a tape recorder will demonstrate that 'dim' and 'doom' have no /d/ sound in common. If the two words are recorded, it is impossible to cut the tape in order to separate the /im/ or /oom/ from the /d/. Either one is left with a distinct /di/ or /doo/ sound or else the /d/ sound disappears altogether. One is left with two quite different kinds of whistle. There is no /d/ except as part of these quite different consonant-vowel combinations.' (6)
6.17 What the variations within each phoneme have in common is some kind of preparatory position in the speaker's vocal apparatus, but this configuration changes as the sound is produced, depending on which sound is to follow. If, then, we teach a child how to pronounce a series of sounds and ask him to run them together to form a word he will indeed learn the trick of saying those separate sounds and of then saying the related word. But he has certainly not built up the word from the sounds he has pronounced first. As Daniels and Diack (7) pointed out many years ago, 'kuh-a-tuh' does not produce 'cat'. The process is not yet fully understood by which children learn to imitate the sounds of speech and discriminate between them. To break up a word into what are thought to be its constituent elements does not, however, seem to us the best means of developing this process. We believe a better way is for teachers to rely upon methods that have a long history in the infant school but which have unaccountably fallen out of favour; namely, the use of rhymes, jingles and alliteration. These focus attention on the contrastive elements in words while avoiding the inevitable distortions of the more analytic approach. Another quite useful practice is to get the children to sort pictures into groups according to the initial sound of the object in the picture. If only one or two very easy sets are provided initially the children can then be encouraged to make up their own more extensive collections of pictures and play with them, following the rules for familiar games, such as Pairs and Rummy. Stories, and such verbal games as 'I-spy' and 'Knock knock', encourage children to explore speech sounds and help them develop a better intuitive understanding of these sounds.

6.18 As there are only 26 letters but 44 phonemes certain letters have to be used more than once if each phoneme is to be separately represented. These additional sounds are often represented by two-letter combinations called digraphs, e.g. ch, th, ur, aw, ou, or by larger groups of letters such as ough for the last vowel sound in borough. Learning to respond to spelling patterns such as these should present no serious problem to the majority of children. Instead of learning the shapes of additional letters they simply have to learn to treat particular combinations of known letters as single units. Of much greater importance in this matter of establishing relationships between letters and sounds is the fact that there is no simple correspondence between the 26 letters and the 44 phonemes. If one were intent on constructing an alphabetic writing system from scratch the obvious course would be to aim at a one to one correspondence between phonemes and graphemes, the grapheme being any letter or combination of letters which represents a single phoneme. Some idea of the ways in which written English falls short of this alphabetic ideal may be seen in the following examples:


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i. one home comes women of or to do

ii. aisle height eye I phial ice high island buy guide sty rhyme

In the first example a single letter is seen to take on eight different values in different contexts. In the second, a single phoneme is spelled in 12 different ways, and indeed other spellings could be added if less common words were included, e.g. indict.

6.19 In one study the researchers (8) examined the 6,092 two-syllable words among the 9,000 words in the comprehension vocabularies of a group of six to nine year old children. They recorded 211 different spellings for the phonemes in these words, and these required 166 rules to govern their use. Over 10 per cent of the words still had to be left aside as 'exceptions'. Sixty of these rules applied to consonants, which are usually thought to be 'regular'. This means that even if a young child memorised these rules while learning to read he would still encounter hundreds of words not governed by them. Although there is certainly a great deal of value in learning to deal with the regularities that do occur, the problem for the beginner is that words do not come tagged to indicate the spelling family to which they belong.

6.20 The word printed below gives some impression of the kind of problem that confronts a child when he has to combine graphemes and phonemes in a phonic attack on an unfamiliar word. This word is in the vocabulary of most adults in this country, but it has been spelled here in an unusual way (though the spelling conventions that have been used are common enough in other contexts).

calmbost

Obviously, the word cannot be identified at a glance, and the following list gives some examples of sound values that are quite commonly represented by each of the letters:

c: centre; candle; cello
a: man; call; father; cable; many; wand; errand
l: calm; colt
m: ham
b: cymbal; lambing
o: from; whom; tomorrow; come; home; women; form
s: lost; lose
t: listen; station; lost
The adult reader will find this a difficult word* to decipher, for although the letters represent the sounds they commonly stand for in other words most

*The word is 'chemist'.


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of them do offend against some of the more general spelling rules. This places him in a position similar to that of the child. The beginning reader does not know the rules, either consciously or at an intuitive level. He may therefore try both legitimate and illegitimate variations, as well as ignoring some of the various legitimate possibilities. And even when he knows the rules, the number of possible permutations is very great. If he had to work through them all with each unfamiliar word he would never learn to read. The idea that at this level reading consists of matching sounds and symbols in some simple way is therefore quite untenable. Teaching techniques based solely on this assumption can hamper subsequent reading development. That having been said, we must emphasise that this level of decoding is of particular importance in the early stages of learning to read, and the complexity of English spelling patterns does appear to retard progress. So much seems clear from the British i.t.a. [initial teaching alphabet] experiments.

6.21 English shares with French the disadvantage of being among the most complex in its spelling patterns. Italian, Dutch and German are rather better, but they in turn are less regular than Spanish. Finnish appears to come nearest to the perfect fit, at least in the European languages. Not surprisingly, it has been claimed for certain countries that the regularity of their phoneme-grapheme correspondence leads to a low incidence of reading disability. Finland and Japan are notable examples. Unfortunately, there are so many differences between each country in terms of pre-school experience, age of admission to school, teaching methods, modes of assessment etc, that no firm conclusions can reasonably be drawn from comparative studies. Various solutions have been suggested to the problems presented by the irregular system of spelling in English, the most radical of which is its actual reform. We received evidence in favour of this measure, and it was suggested that we might include attention to it in our recommendations. The views of members of the Committee differ on the question of spelling reform, and this difference of opinion is probably a fair reflection of the range and intensity of the views held by teachers and the public at large. However, the majority of us remain unconvinced by the case for national reform of the system of spelling in English. We consider the issues involved too complex and the implications too far-reaching to enable us to stretch our brief to the extent of giving the subject the detailed study it needs. In the circumstances, therefore, we do not feel able to make a recommendation on it.

6.22 Other solutions devised to help the reader cope with the difficulties of irregular spelling are the use of diacritical marks or of colour coding, simplified spelling for the early stages of reading (e.g. the initial teaching alphabet), and vocabulary control of one kind or another. All these are considered in the next chapter. One conclusion is inescapable at this stage: the teacher needs a sound understanding of the problems created for the learner by this evident irregularity in the phoneme-grapheme relationship of the English writing system.

6.23 Broadly speaking, there are two ways in which a child can learn the correspondences between phonemes and graphemes. One is by attending directly to the sounds and letters and the way they relate to one another. The other is by attending to whole words and their pronunciation, and over a period of time learning to make intuitive generalisations about phoneme-


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grapheme relationships. Even if there is no explicit teaching of phonics, many children will still work out phonic relationships for themselves. The above examples will have shown that although the child must steadily acquire a considerable amount of phonic knowledge he certainly does not use it in any simple way. We must therefore reject as highly suspect any phonic drill which causes children to pay more attention to single phoneme-grapheme relationships than to sequences. Competence in phonics is essential both for attacking unfamiliar words and for fluent reading. The question, then, is not whether or not to teach phonics; of this there can be no doubt. The question is how and when to do it.

6.24 We have already noted that letters pronounced in isolation tend to be very different from the phonemes they purport to represent. To teach a child that 'kuh-a-tuh' says 'cat' is to teach him something that is simply incorrect. It is very doubtful in fact whether in a strictly controlled experiment this way of attacking new words would prove to be much more effective than the old alphabetic method ('see-ay-tee' says 'cat'). Both owe their initial success to what psychologists call 'mediated learning', but at the expense of having the child acquire responses which must later be unlearned. A more common practice these days is for teachers to get children to synthesise rather larger units. The groupings are chosen in such a way as to reduce distortion and allow a genuine blending of sound, e.g. 'bl-ack' says 'black'. It has been argued that the whole syllable is the more appropriate unit, since this produces the minimum of distortion. But even at the level of the syllable the child is still faced with difficulties. If he has been taught to treat 'basket' as 'bas-ket', he will find 'wal-ked' of little use of him when trying to pronounce the superficially similar 'walked'. The rules for syllabification are no less complex than those for English spelling; by the time they are learned the child is past the stage of learning to read when they might have helped. More important, however, is the fact that they often conflict with the morphemic system; and morphemes,* not syllables, are the units of language. There is a case, therefore, for emphasising morphemes from a quite early stage. Thus, when a child encounters the word hear there is everything to be said for showing him that this is the base word in hears and hearing. In this way the emphasis is placed on the relationship between spellings and meanings and not just spellings and sounds. This point is taken up again in paragraph 6.38 after we have considered the importance of intermediate skills in developing word recognition. 6.25 A useful approach to teaching phoneme-grapheme relationships which is not in conflict with the various points we have made so far was pioneered by Daniels and Diack as the 'phonic-word' approach. It is the basis of what came to be called the 'linguistic' method, although modern linguistics has since made a much broader contribution to the teaching of reading. Like the phonic method, it calls for vocabulary control** of the 'cat-hat-mat' variety. However, instead of being explicitly taught the phonic elements, the child learns each whole word, sometimes through associated pictures. He is

*A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in language. Both 'hen' and 's' in 'hens' are morphemes. A syllable, on the other hand, relates essentially to pronunciation.

**Vocabulary control is the control of the rate at which new words are introduced and how often they are repeated.


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then given exercises, games, or simple reading tasks which enable him to form and test his own hypotheses about the grapheme-phoneme correspondences. In our view this kind of approach is useful in helping a child to learn that letters and groups of letters do relate to sounds in a fairly systematic way. It will also help him in sorting out a particular set of relationships with which he is having difficulty. On the other hand, we would regard as mistaken any attempt to take a child through a programme of exercises which included anything more than a small number of the possible relationships. This would be a recipe for extreme boredom; it would provide little transfer, and it would place excessive emphasis on sounds at the expense of meaning.

6.26 Our analysis of the problem has led us to the view that it is better for children to learn phoneme-grapheme relations in the context of whole word recognition, at least in the early stages of reading. At this point, a programme for the explicit teaching of phonics may be as profitless as trying to instruct a pre-school child in the rules of grammar. However, children will be developing their own hypotheses about phoneme-grapheme correspondences, and this process should certainly be encouraged as opportunities arise. In the following section an examination of the intermediate skills throws further light on the best means of helping children to master phonics and to use context cues in responding to new or unfamiliar words. We therefore return to this question when we have considered some of the additional factors.

6.27 We described the INTERMEDIATE SKILLS as the ability to handle sequences of letters, words, and larger units of meaning. To acquire it the reader has to become familiar with the probability with which sequences occur. In other words, when he is reading a sequence he has to be able to anticipate what is most likely to follow it. By this means he reduces the number of possibilities to be considered when he encounters an unfamiliar word. Equally, he reduces the time taken to identify familiar words in fluent reading. He is also able to isolate the specific meaning of the word which changes its meaning according to context. It is important for the teacher to have some understanding of the process if he is to develop appropriate teaching methods. We shall therefore examine each of the levels at which the intermediate skills function.

6.28 A word consists of letters sequenced in a particular way. The left-to-right direction is, of course, an arbitrary convention, and there are languages in which it is right-to-left, or even vertical. Whatever the language, there are no strong reasons for thinking any one convention to be more 'natural' than any other. The important conclusion from this is that the direction in which letters or words are written and read does not come naturally; it is another 'learning set' that has to be acquired. As with the orientation of a single letter, this conflicts to some extent with 'learning sets' the child has already acquired. He may, for example, have learned to order the carriages in his train in a number of different ways, and to run it in any direction, but it still remains the same train. Little wonder, therefore, that many children are bemused by 'on' and 'no', 'was' and 'saw', 'won' and 'now', 'stop' and 'pots' etc; and these are only the more obvious examples. It is less generally appreciated that children often begin to attack a word correctly


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from left to right, reverse some of the medial letters, and end up, perhaps, with the correct final letters. Sometimes the reversal makes a real word, as when a child says 'clot' for 'colt' or 'trail' for 'trial', but he will often produce a nonsense word, assuming, perhaps, that this is a word he has not yet absorbed into his spoken vocabulary, e.g. 'engery' for 'energy'. The fact that adults often make mistakes of this kind shows how persistent these faulty word attack habits can be, and how important it is to ensure that they do not get firmly established in the first place. The first essential is to recognise that children cannot take in unfamiliar whole words in a single fixation. This provides a starting point for considering possible ways in which these wrong habits can be avoided.

6.29 There are many letter sequences that occur rarely, if at all, in written English, e.g. dx, kng, wpvt. At the other extreme there are many that are very common, e.g. bl, str, atio. In principle, therefore, for any particular letter sequence one could calculate its frequency of occurrence in the reading experience of any child or adult. The more frequently a letter sequence occurs the more likely it is that the reader will come to expect the remaining letters to follow whenever he sees the first letter of that sequence. If, for example, he sees, the letter 'p' in a particular fixation he may anticipate such letters as a, e, h, i, l, etc at varying levels of probability. The expectancy that he will see such letters as b, c, d, f, g, etc will be virtually zero. As he takes in more and more letters, however, the range of possibilities gradually reduces. Thus 'pr ...' produces a narrower range of expectancies than 'p' alone, and 'pri ...' a still narrower one. Even if confronted by part of a nonsense word such as 'redulanti ...', the majority of readers would be likely to anticipate only such possibilities as 'ng', 'on', 'ous', 'c', or 'ne' to complete the 'word'. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that speed in identifying letters is closely related to the degree of expectancy that the given letter will occur. If only one letter is possible, recognition will be virtually instantaneous. If the number is as many as five the perceptual task is slightly more complicated and takes more time. If any one of the 26 letters could be anticipated the problem becomes obviously very much greater and takes even longer. If, however, groups of letters, rather than single letters, can be anticipated the speed of response is much increased.

6.30 The swift identification of single letters, or groups of letters, is obviously of critical importance in fluent reading. However, teaching children to recognise isolated letters, or groups of letters, is only part of the problem. The other part is to help them develop the habit of anticipating likely letter sequences. Children must therefore learn to do two things at the same time, i.e. identify one letter, or group of letters, and anticipate the next. It follows that any excessive emphasis on one at the expense of the other may well hamper the development of this rather delicate complex of skills. The effects of inadequate teaching in either skill can be seen in the reading behaviour of certain children. There is the older child who still reads haltingly and falls back very quickly to an examination of letters. On the other hand there is the child who reads quickly and makes all manner of 'careless' mistakes.

6.31 All the points already made about letter sequence and probability apply equally to phoneme sequences. Thus, not only has a listener to recognise phonemes as they are uttered, but also to anticipate very efficiently those


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that are most likely to follow. Only by this means has he any chance of keeping up with a speaker's rapid flow of words. Even an incomplete nonsense word spoken aloud will cause anticipations of a limited number of possible endings, as did the written nonsense word 'redulanti ...' In tackling an unfamiliar word, therefore, the reader can call upon this knowledge of probable phonemic sequences to match the word on the page - as was no doubt evident to those who correctly deciphered the nonsense spelling 'calmbost' as 'chemist' in paragraph 6.20. Most words do not present so many alternative possibilities. In many cases, an unfamiliar word may be decoded by a child as easily as an adult might decipher an unconventional spelling such as 'trand', where the sounds 'tr-nd' suggest the possibility of 'trend', or 'trained', in terms of known words. What we would emphasise here is the fundamental importance of prediction in attacking unfamiliar words. Words are recognised as a result of matching a small number of possibilities against the printed model rather than by mechanically working through all the possible sound values of the separate elements.

6.32 We have been discussing the implications for word attack of letter and phoneme sequences within a word. When it comes to reading groups of words the child has to acquire a 'learning set' to read successive words from left to right. This convention is simple enough to establish, but to achieve it there must be some teaching, or deliberate structuring of the learning experience. It should be learned early, or some initial confusion may provide yet another adverse reading experience. Though the child would acquire the skill in due course this early confusion could still contribute to a negative attitude to reading. It must be remembered, however, that even when it is established there is still a tendency for the eyes to move back and forth across a line of text. This is because additional factors are at work. A word might be incorrectly identified at first glance and this could become obvious from the words that follow. Moreover, it is not always possible for the reader to sort out the syntactic structure of a sentence at first reading. The structural cues provided by print are by no means as powerful as those of the intonation patterns of speech, and punctuation can sometimes confuse rather than make plain. Even when the structure is clear the meaning might not be, and this is another reason why it is often necessary to do a certain amount of backtracking. There are, then, a number of different causes of regressive eye movement. Once the habit has been established of reading from left-to-right, backtracking is simply a sign that the reader is having problems with the text at some conceptual level. It is a case, then, of deciding whether or not he needs help at this level rather than of concentrating on the symptom.

6.33 As in the case of letters, words vary in the degree to which they can be expected to follow certain other words. Since the number of different words in use vastly exceeds the number of different letters, it follows that in the case of the former there is much less chance of being able to anticipate a particular sequence. Among the high frequency words, however, there is a slight tendency for some words to collocate, e.g. 'on the', 'in the'. There are about a dozen high frequency words which together account for approximately a quarter of any piece of continuous written material. If the child learns these thoroughly and reads them frequently in running text a useful contribution can be made to his fluency. However, there should not be an


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undue emphasis on recognising them in isolation, since this could encourage the wrong kind of 'learning set'. Apart from these high frequency words there are others that tend to collocate in everyday speech, e.g. 'bus stop', 'telephone call', but they are not encountered so frequently as to make it worthwhile to give special attention to their visual forms.

6.34 Word recognition is also made easier by the ability to anticipate syntactic sequences. A number of studies show that a printed text is easier to read the more closely its structures are related to those used by the reader in normal speech. This means that for the young child certain kinds of reading material must present a problem. Such sequences as 'look, look, see the elephant' do not come naturally off the tongue of the average five year old in everyday speech. Even the language of story books for young readers sometimes deviates appreciably from the speech patterns of those for whom they are intended. Since it also differs from the spoken language used in the various kinds of literature for older children and adults one wonders what is the justification for it. It certainly fails to provide a useful graphic representation of an acceptable linguistic style. Research has shown that pre-school children use a surprisingly wide range of sentence structures in their spoken language. Reading material which presents children with this unreal language therefore lacks predictability and prevents them from making use of the sequential probability in linguistic structure. The result is that they have to depend too much on a laboured phonic approach to unfamiliar words. This important issue is taken up in more detail in the next chapter.

6.35 The anticipation of sequences is also called into play at the level of meaning. It has been estimated (9) that the most common 500 words in English share between them some 14,050 meanings. The ambiguity of letters considered in isolation is almost trivial when compared to the ambiguity of isolated words. Only by using the surrounding sequences can the reader identify which of the many possible meanings an author intends in a given passage. The most effective teaching of reading, therefore, is that which gives the pupil the various skills he needs to make fullest possible use of context cues in searching for meaning. The habit of responding sensitively to context in order to detect significant nuances of meaning is not one that can be acquired quite simply in the early stages of reading. It develops over a lifetime; and an important condition for its development is that in every reading task there should be an incentive to read with this kind of alertness. Anyone who has discussed with children the meaning of something they have been reading will appreciate how little use many of them make of the rich contextual cues that are available. This is scarcely surprising, as they are rarely taught how to do it. The teaching of reading virtually ceases once the child can read aloud with reasonable accuracy at a reasonable speed. Yet to discontinue instruction at this point is rather like halting the training of a pianist once he can play the scales and a few elementary tunes.

6.36 The point needs no labouring that the intermediate skills are important in word attack, in fluent reading, and in comprehension. What is less often realised is the very great potency of these skills when they operate in combination. Research has shown that the reading vocabulary of most children begins to widen considerably between the ages of seven and nine. This rapid acceleration almost certainly depends to a large extent on the effective


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development of intermediate skills, for it is these which enable the reader to cope with new words and new meanings in context. Dictionary skills are, of course, extremely important, but this enrichment of the reading vocabulary has as its primary source the ability we have been describing. Failure to develop this competence may partly explain the difficulties experienced by retarded readers in making progress beyond a reading age of eight or nine. Much 'remedial' work has emphasised word building at the expense of reading for meaning, and this may be at least partly to blame.

6.37 If a child rapidly develops a reading vocabulary this does not in itself mean that he is developing as an effective reader. He may become skilled in recognising in print words he has previously heard, but he may still be unable to respond adequately to larger units of meaning in any given text. We are not able to recommend exclusively any one approach to helping children to respond to context cues. However, it may be useful to illustrate the possibilities with one instance. In recent years there has been a growing interest in the use of cloze procedure for developing the intermediate skills. Cloze procedure is the use of a piece of writing in which certain words have been deleted, and the pupil has to make the maximum possible use of the context cues available in predicting the missing words. There is no single 'right' answer in each case, as some of the words may be as suitable as the author's own words, or for that matter even more suitable. Merely filling in missing words as a routine exercise appears to have no measurable effect, but animated discussion on a piece of writing of real interest is a different matter entirely. When a cloze test is being prepared the deletions may be random, or they may be confined to certain parts of speech or words which are 'cued' in different ways. We would prefer to see approaches such as these as part of the teacher's repertoire rather than as part of a structured programme. They can be used with a whole class, a group, or an individual pupil as and when the need arises.

6.38 The great importance of anticipation has implications for the choice of words to be used in early reading material. If these are of the 'Can Dan Fan Nan?' variety then the pattern of phonic expectancies built up at this critical period will be very much at odds with the spelling patterns of English. (The sentence quoted is an actual example from a book which follows the 'linguistic' method of teaching reading). Several researchers have been highly critical of reading schemes in which the form of vocabulary control was to select similar words with regular spellings, a principle advocated by earlier linguists such as Bloomfield and Fries. One such critic (10) reviewed a number of studies which compared the early 'linguistic' reading schemes with basal* readers, and he concluded that the former 'tend to produce inferior oral reading in both rate and accuracy'. This judgement received some indirect support from a study (11) which showed that the learning of words with minimal contrasts, e.g. 'rat', 'fat', 'hat', made it more difficult for the child to learn more complex words at a later stage. It was better to give the child more varied and complex words from the beginning, rather than restrict him to simple words with regular spellings. Other studies have shown

*The term 'basal readers' is used in the USA to refer to books which are graded in terms of difficulty and which form a reading scheme. The scheme will also include graded workbooks, teaching materials of various kinds, and one or more teachers' manuals.


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that words which differ markedly from one another are more easily learned than those between which there is little contrast. One important advantage of not restricting vocabulary on a phonic or linguistic basis is that words can then be selected for their familiarity to the child, their interest, and their richness of meaning, all of which make them more easily remembered. If, in addition, his attention is drawn to morphemes, as we suggested in paragraph 6.24, the child who has met the words hear, hears, and hearing will have no difficulty with heard in a sentence such as 'Peter had not heard his mother calling'. His anticipations based on the context, combined with his response to the meaning of hear, will give him a very good chance of getting quickly to the meaning and hence to the pronunciation of the word heard. In conclusion, we must again lay emphasis on the need for the child to learn phoneme-grapheme relationships within the context of actual reading. To be able to do this he must develop an adequate sight vocabulary at an early stage, a subject discussed in the next chapter.

6.39 We turn now to the COMPREHENSION SKILLS, which will be introduced here briefly and discussed in more detail in Chapter 8. When a child reads fluently he is succeeding in extracting meaning from the printed page. In particular, he is deriving meanings as close as possible to those intended by the author. Comprehension skills, as we see them, relate to various kinds of interaction between those meanings and the reader's purpose for reading. In the course of these interactions he will reject some features of the author's thinking and assimilate others, modifying his previous ideas and attitudes in the process. There have been a number of attempts to categorise the various aspects of comprehension. Some have been based largely upon an intuitive assessment of the requirements of various kinds of reading task. Others have been based upon a statistical analysis of the results of reading tests. The following are some of the categories identified in these various attempts. They by no means exhaust the definitions, but they will give some indication of what is involved in the process of comprehension.

6.40 At the level of literal comprehension (para 8.15) the reader identifies material explicitly set down in the text that happens to relate to his purpose. To do this he has to be able to select significant detail and identify main ideas, which may be contained in descriptive or explanatory sequences, comparisons, and summarising statements. When he has achieved a grasp of the literal content the reader is then in a position to analyse, paraphrase, synthesise, and summarise it in whatever way suits his reading purpose. In varying degrees of difficulty this capacity for reorganisation is required of the child throughout his school work. The quality of comprehension at this literal level, however, is often very low. In project work, for example, many pupils have a strong tendency merely to string together sentences culled from various sources or, at best, to make only minor modifications in an attempt to paraphrase. This is clearly of very little value to them. If they are to reorganise and relate ideas, rather than confine their attention to specific phrases and sentences, they need to be taught particular skills. These include the ability to make well-structured notes, to integrate notes from various sources, and to use flow diagram techniques or other kinds of model.

6.41 When the reader goes beyond what is explicitly stated he is engaged in inferential comprehension (para 8.16). Here he interprets the significance of


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ideas or thoughts which might conceivably have been included or made explicit, but were not. This includes the interpretation of figurative language and the prediction of outcomes. Thus the reader is reading not only between the lines, but beyond the lines. Generally speaking this kind of reading receives scant attention in school except in the treatment of literature. The pupil has little incentive to respond sensitively to inferences in his reading in other curriculum areas. Another aspect of comprehension which receives little attention is evaluation (para 8.17), where the reader applies 'truth' tests to the material. He may, for example, need to evaluate the internal logic of a passage, and its authenticity, adequacy, and appropriateness. In spite of the very obvious shortcomings of much of the printed material placed before children, there is little systematic teaching designed to show them how to approach it in this critical fashion. The affective or aesthetic equivalent of evaluation is appreciation, which is usually regarded, in the secondary school at least, as being exclusively the province of the English specialist. It is discussed at length in the chapter devoted to the place of literature. Even in functional reading, however, there is everything to be said for developing the pupil's ability to respond to an author's use of language - to imagery, style, and structure. This should be seen as an integral feature in the development of other aspects of comprehension.

6.42 An important attribute of the competent reader is the ability to apply flexible reading strategies, according to his purpose and the nature of the material. Unfortunately, if most of their reading is of the single speed kind, children will be habituated to becoming single speed readers. The danger is then that the only technique they will ever use is inflexible, one pace, line by line reading. Flexibility should be acquired at school and should be exercised throughout the curriculum. The only way in which it can be effectively developed is for the pupil to encounter a full range of reading tasks which make demands on the relevant skills.

6.43 Dealing efficiently with information must now be recognised as one of the major problems in modern society. It has been estimated that in the United States, for example, one third of the national product is currently used in producing information. Despite the growth of other media, the vast bulk of all information is recorded in printed form. So far in this chapter we have concentrated on the ability to read the various kinds of printed material in which this information is recorded. But dealing with information in the mass presents a broader set of problems of which the reading process itself is simply one element. It becomes increasingly necessary for a person not only to be able to cope with print efficiently, but to organise his own use of it. This means that he must be able to identify his own information needs, a much less simple matter than it sounds. He must then know the sources which will answer to them, judging the value of these from a wide range of material and selecting the limited amount which will serve him best. The first implication of this is that children should have extensive experience in defining their own purposes. They need to become skilled in working out exactly what questions they should seek to answer by reading. The second is that they should be given the opportunity to explore many different kinds of printed media, and learn how to obtain what they need. Pupils should be led to confidence in the use of bibliographical tools and in tapping sources of information


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in the community at large, and as the sources of information continue to change and multiply the teacher must be prepared to learn alongside his pupil.

6.44 Many individuals develop the various comprehension skills to a high level with very little guidance, but the majority need a great deal of positive help. Research (see paragraph 2.2) strongly suggests that as many as one third of the population may be incompetent in the kinds of reading comprehension to which we have referred. We also suspect that many people merely reorganise what they are reading in ways that confirm existing ideas and prejudices. If reading comprehension is to be significantly improved, then, an important principle has to be established. Every subject teacher in the secondary school must assume responsibility for developing all those kinds of skill that are needed by his pupils to read intelligently the material he presents to them. The ability to do this must therefore be seen as an essential element in the professional competence of the subject specialist, a principle elaborated in Chapter 8. It is a further reinforcement of our argument that reading should receive increasing attention from all teachers at each successive stage of education. We suggest later in the Report that each primary school should have a teacher responsible for advising his colleagues in language and reading, and this is one important area in which that teacher's contribution would be helpful. In the secondary school it would be an aspect of the policy of language across the curriculum, to which Chapter 12 is devoted.

REFERENCES

1. H Disick In Spite of the Alphabet Chatto and Windus: 1965.

2. CC Fries Linguistics and Reading Holt, Rinehart and Winston: 1962.

3. KS Goodman Behind the Eye: What Happens in Reading in Reading: Process and Program Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English: 1970.

4. WS Gray The Teaching of Reading and Writing: An International Survey Alfred: Paris-UNESCO: 1956.

5. EA Taylor The Spans: Perception, Apprehension and Recognition American Journal of Ophthalmology, Vol. 44: 1957.

6. F Smith Understanding Reading Holt, Rinehart and Winston: 1971.

7. JC Daniels and H Diack Progress in Reading 1956.

8. B Berdiansky, B Cronnel, and J Koehler.
Spelling - Sound Relations and Primary Form - Class Descriptions for Speech - Comprehension Vocabularies of 6-9 Year Olds South West Regional Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, Technical Report, No. 15 (1969). Cited in Smith F Understanding Reading Holt, Rinehart and Winston: 1971.

9. CC Fries Linguistics and Reading Holt, Rinehart and Winston: 1962.

10. GP Spache and EB Spache Reading in the Elementary School Allyn and Bacon: Boston: 1973.

11. H Levin and J Watson The Learning of Variable Grapheme to Phoneme Correspondence: Variations in the Initial Consonant Position Cornell University Cooperative Research Project No. 639: 1963.


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CHAPTER 7

Reading in The Early Years

7.1 A recurring topic of discussion, and one which often arouses much feeling, is the age at which children should actually begin the process of learning to read. Understandably, the question is one of particular concern to parents, not least because they are uncertain of their own role in the matter. Should they give any kind of reading instruction before the child starts school? If not, how far should they be involved once the child has started school, and in what ways? Should it all be left to the teacher, with no home involvement beyond general encouragement? We have suggested in the previous chapter that the early stages of reading consist of various kinds of learning experience and that there is no one point to which the term 'reading readiness' can reasonably be applied. Decisions on the age at which preparatory reading activities should be introduced must be finely judged. If the process is unduly delayed the child is denied access to the many valuable opportunities that early reading opens up to him. If he makes too early a start the burden of learning may retard his reading development and make reading a chore rather than an enjoyable experience. There are many well attested cases of parents who have been highly successful in helping their children to learn to read. What is not known is the number whose efforts have been unsuccessful, or positively harmful. It would be instructive to know, for example, how many children with severe reading disability received misguided teaching from over-anxious parents in the pre-school years. Let us make it clear at once that we believe parents have an extremely important part to play. All we have said in Chapter 5 about the language climate of the home has a critical bearing on preparation for reading. There is, then, no doubt whatever of the value of parents' involvement in the early stages of reading. What needs careful thought is the nature of that involvement and the attitude they bring to it.

7.2 It has been said (1) that the best way to prepare the very young child for reading is to hold him on your lap and read aloud to him stories he likes, over and over again. The printed page, the physical comfort and security, the reassuring voice, the fascination of the story: all these combine in the child's mind to identify books as something which hold great pleasure. This is the most valuable piece of advice that a parent can be given, and we want to outline some of its implications before considering in greater detail the question of reading readiness. Before the child arrives at school he should have learned to look upon books as a source of absorbing pleasure. There are some households in which this is a virtual certainty from the beginning; there are very many more where there are few books of any kind and certainly none the child grows up with as his own. We believe that a priority need is to introduce children to books in their pre-school years and to help parents recognise the value of sharing the experience of them with their children. In this connection we have been impressed by the enterprise of such bodies as the Federation of Children's Book Groups in their aim to make books a part


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of the child's life from the outset. Many of the 90 or so groups in this organisation visit hospitals to read stories to young patients. Some take round book trolleys or tape record stories and leave the cassettes for the children to play back. At least one group sells books for children at local factories where their parents work. Another encouraging development is the time allowed by some local radio stations for talks about children's books. We have already advocated the broadcasting of radio and television programmes directed to parents, and these should include guidance on how and what to read to children of different ages.

7.3 Potentially, the most important source of help is the Children's Librarian. One from whom we heard lends collections of books to the borough's hundred or so pre-school organisations, which include day nurseries, playgroups, and private nurseries. She and her colleagues visit as many of them as possible at fortnightly intervals to tell the children stories from picture books, and to get to know the supervisors and staff and the children's mothers. A travelling exhibition has been assembled, containing books for children up to the age of seven, and this visits health centres, teachers' centres, colleges of education, and community associations. Another proposal is to take a double decker bus to the areas of greatest need, determined by consultation with local community workers, health visitors, and social workers. The lower deck will be equipped with books for young children and their mothers, and the upper deck fitted out for story telling and audio-visual programmes. This is similar in principle to the system in operation in a large county, where the same facilities are taken to the villages by touring vans. There are, however, some Authorities where no such pre-school activities have been considered, or where Children's Librarians are not empowered to lend books to playgroups and other voluntary organisations. We recommend that all Authorities should make possible and encourage enterprises of this kind.

7.4 Infant schools should be fully informed of pre-school activities of these and similar kinds so that they can take advantage of them. It is helpful, for example, if some of the books are familiar to the child in the midst of all the new material he meets. Where parents have been able to borrow books from the playgroup or nursery class it would obviously be a contraction of opportunity if the infant school did not continue the practice. Children should become accustomed as early as possible to easy access to books and a ready supply of them. There is evidence from our survey that schools are very much alive to this fact; 80 per cent of the six year olds in our sample were allowed to take books home at some time, though it is not possible to say on how regular a basis. There is inevitably a degree of risk when books are taken home by young children, but this has to be accepted. Parents should certainly not feel inhibited about borrowing them and should be reassured that the school takes a realistic attitude about the occasional book that has been torn or marked. Such a tolerance is unlikely to be abused, but in exercising it schools need to know they have the security of financial support and that replacements will be readily available. We should like to see more enterprises of the kind financed by one local Authority at the instigation of its English Adviser. Eight infant schools, most of them in areas of disadvantage, were each given a sum of money with which to set up libraries for parents. The intention was to encourage parents to choose books with the


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guidance of the teachers and to read aloud to their children both at home and at school. In their visits parents brought along their pre-school children and were also allowed to take books for them. The response from the home was extremely encouraging - as high as 60 per cent of the families at its best - and the Authority was encouraged to extend the scheme. The schools turned it to excellent advantage, the teachers exchanging ideas among themselves and bringing parents into the life of the school in a very practical way. As the adviser expressed it: 'It has alerted many parents to the educational importance of reading and has perhaps brought a first book into some homes where reading has not hitherto formed part of the life pattern'. Or in the words of one of the parents: 'I bring my little ones into school when I come for books for our lad, and I can see them learning from the older children'.

7.5 This is not the only example of its kind, and a few schools in various parts of the country have attempted similar schemes on their own initiative. Such enterprises are still comparatively rare, and we feel they deserve wider currency, but it is encouraging to see that more infant schools are devising ways of introducing parents to good quality books. Their methods include displays in entrance halls, Christmas present collections, and discussion sessions at parents' evenings. A number give parents the opportunity to buy books within the school, but it was evident from our survey that this is still a relatively uncommon facility, since it was available to only 16 per cent of the six year olds and 27 per cent of the nine year olds. (The practice was only marginally more common in secondary schools at 32 per cent). In many areas there are no bookshops; in others the provision is extremely unsatisfactory, affording little choice. It therefore increasingly becomes the responsibility of the school to make it possible for children and parents together to see and select books which can be bought and taken home. Where there is a local bookshop with suitable books available it is possible for a parent or teacher to make a selection and sell the books at the school on a sale or return basis. This is particularly useful before Christmas and the long summer holidays. Some schools have obtained licences under the Publishers' Book Agency Scheme, which enables them to receive some of the discount given to the bookseller from which they buy them. An alternative is for the school to sell books through one of the various children's book clubs which operate through the post. All these suggestions for extension into the home are designed to erode the notion that 'real' books are of a lower order of importance for children who are only on the threshold of reading. Indeed it is at this critical stage of his development that the child is at his most responsive to influences which may form his future attitudes. This fact should be brought home to parents in every way possible. In our view, activity of this kind and on this scale is essential if parents are to be helped to play their part in preparing the child for the process of learning to read.

7.6 Every time a parent reads aloud to a child the child is learning that by some curious means the lines of print can be converted into stories which he can enjoy. When children are 'helping' with cooking and their mother reads aloud the directions from the cookery book they can see that this absorbing and enjoyable activity draws upon print. Letters, advertisements, labels, traffic signs are just a few examples of opportunities for parents to help children understand the purpose of reading and, on some occasions, to


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identify common words. The opportunities should be natural and not forced, and the outcomes of reading should be rewarding. In this way the parent can bring the child up with the right attitude towards the printed word, for it is by no means automatic that this will develop of itself. As Vygotsky (2) put it: 'it is the abstract quality of written language that is the stumbling block'. The child has 'little motivation to learn writing when we begin to teach it. He feels no need for it and has only a vague idea of its usefulness'. In a study of five year old children Reid (3) found that they had a 'general lack of any specific expectancies of what reading was going to be like, of what the activity consisted, of the purpose and use of it'. Thus it is important that before the child begins to read for himself he must come to look upon reading as an activity with a purpose. From the beginning it should be established as a thinking process, not simply as an exercise in identifying shapes and sounds.

7.7 A number of studies have suggested that a mental age of about six is necessary before reading instruction can be effective. These are mostly American studies, however, and in the American context, 'readiness' usually means that the child is ready to enter the first stage of a highly structured reading programme in classroom conditions different from our own. In any case, as long ago as 1937 a series of studies (4) showed that group size and flexibility make a very appreciable difference. Children with a mental age of four and a half to five can quite happily learn to read if they are given learning experiences which match their individual needs. There is ample evidence of children learning to read at home well before reaching even this kind of mental age. There is no virtue in denying a child access to early experience of reading, provided that it carries meaning and satisfaction for him. By one if not both of these criteria the use of drills is ruled out. It would be chilling to contemplate an image of earnest young parents holding up successions of flash cards and waiting with growing anxiety for their child to call the 'right' response. We are in no doubt that the help of parents - of the kind we advocate here and elsewhere in the Report - is of great value. But we are equally in no doubt that to communicate anxiety to the young child by driving him is a harmful practice. Let a child be put in situations which stimulate him, with materials that fascinate him, and there is no need to fret about the right mental age to start reading. It becomes almost an irrelevance.

7.8 Very high intelligence on the one hand and very low intelligence on the other certainly have a significant bearing on readiness. But apart from these extremes early reading success is not closely associated with intelligence test measures. A high score on an intelligence test may supply useful information to a teacher who has underestimated a child's potential capacity. A low score, however, is not in itself a dependable indicator that the child's capacity is limited. There is some evidence that when a teacher's expectations are based on intelligence test scores the pupil's achievements are affected accordingly. On the whole, therefore, it is reasonable to discount intelligence scores when considering reading readiness, except when the scores are high. A far better course is to judge the child's readiness for a particular step by the quality of his performance on the one that preceded it. There should always be a variety of challenging opportunities for a child to choose from, and if he is encouraged to experiment he may make those sudden forward leaps which occur when they are least expected.


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7.9 The ability to read depends upon adequate vision, particularly at near point. If a child tends to grimace, to rub his eyes, to thrust his head forward in close work, or to avoid close work, he may well need to have his eyesight thoroughly tested. This should certainly be done before any conclusions are drawn about his readiness for a learning task that calls for careful visual discrimination. Even if a child's vision is satisfactory his visual perception will depend very much for its development on the experience he gets in exploring, identifying, and manipulating a wide variety of objects and shapes. Much has been written about the advisability of providing specific training in visual perception as part of a pre-reading programme. The evidence is inconclusive, but on balance such training seems only to be of value for children who have had a rather limited range of perceptual experience. Once a child has achieved a degree of proficiency there seems to be little gain in spending time on general perceptual learning. If such training is thought to be necessary it should consist of activities which will help the child to respond to form, orientation, and directionality and give him practice in systematic visual tracking. These activities need include nothing more dramatic than drawing, tracing, copying, matching, sequencing, tessellating, constructing etc, which are the normal stock in trade of the nursery and infant school. In short, we feel that no child should be forced to follow a rigid programme of training in visual perception. The raw materials for its general development should be readily available in the home and in the classroom in the form of games and activities, and the way the child uses these provides the informed teacher with a useful diagnostic indicator.

7.10 The child's hearing is another important factor in readiness to begin reading, for impaired hearing can affect his ability to acquire phonic insight. If he has difficulty with high tones he is at a particular disadvantage. Hearing loss of this kind affects his capacity to hear such sounds as p, b, s, t, k, r, sh, th, and such blends as cl, tr, and sp. Thus, the child may not be able to distinguish between p and b, s, and z, m and n, or other sounds which are similar to one another in frequency, though most of the vowel sounds tend to be unaffected. Because the child can hear so many sounds with no difficulty this particular form of hearing loss is often overlooked in the critical early years. Children with suspected hearing loss should obviously be referred for appropriate medical treatment. However, poor auditory perception is a different kind of problem. There are children who have no significant hearing loss but seem unable to hear small differences between words or to appreciate rhymes. They may mispronounce words, substituting or transposing syllables, and they show related errors when they come to write. Some of these difficulties are to be found in many normal children and they tend to disappear of their own accord during the primary school years. In the early stages of reading these difficulties are a particular handicap where there is a marked emphasis on phonics. Poor auditory perception can therefore be taken as an indication that a child is not ready for reading experience, in which phonics are explicitly emphasised. However, this need not prevent him from making progress by concentrating on the visual discrimination of words, or from acquiring phonic insights inductively, as described earlier. In addition to this kind of activity there is everything to be said for games which give children pleasure in distinguishing between sounds, but we do not believe that a formal programme of training in auditory discrimination as such will significantly advance reading readiness.


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7.11 It will be noted from what has been said here and in Chapter 6 that we have isolated no single point as the one at which learning to read begins. Instead, we regard the process as one of gradual evolution. A variety of pre-reading activities merges imperceptibly with activities that may only at some later stage be unhesitatingly described as reading. When children arrive at school they will be at different stages on a continuum. At one end some will already be reading; at the other there will be children who have had none of the preliminary experience we have described and will have little conception of what reading is. In her assessment the teacher will be guided by such points as the following:

the general confidence with which the child settles into school, his interest in trying new things, and his ability to concentrate on what he is doing at any moment in time;

his use of words and his ability to understand what is said to him;

his interest in attempting to read the various notices that appear in the classroom and about the school;

the amount of time he spends in the book corner, looking at books and trying to read;

the persistence with which he asks for help in reading: the early reader is often to be seen book in hand tracking down any adult who will listen to him read.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the teacher has to help the children towards readiness for beginning to read. There is no question of waiting for readiness to occur; for with many children it does not come 'naturally' and must be brought about by the teacher's positive measures to induce it.

7.12 In the early stages of reading the child should become familiar with individual letters, individual sounds, and at least some of the relationships between letters and sounds. This is rather like letting someone play with a ball and a bat, before he makes his first rudimentary attempts to play cricket. In reading, as in cricket, it is obviously helpful to introduce gradually the language of the game. Thus, there is no reason why children should not acquire the actual names of letters, and such terms as 'letter', and 'word'. These should be introduced quite unselfconsciously at appropriate moments, just as words like 'table' and 'chair' are learned without any fuss through normal use in the home. Of course, one of the early problems with reading is to find a suitable equivalent to playground cricket, i.e. to make reading itself an obviously worthwhile and interesting activity, even when the level of proficiency is still very low indeed. We have already indicated, however, that children may learn how enjoyable and useful reading can be, even before they can read for themselves, and the emphasis on purpose, meaning, and pleasure should be continued as the child begins to read independently.

7.13 The major difficulty in maintaining this interest when they do come to read for themselves is that of building up, at a reasonable rate, the number of words they can recognise on sight. The preparatory teaching of individual words from a reading scheme can be a rather barren exercise, divorced from the child's interest, and it does not develop a sufficient incentive for the child to build up an adequate sight vocabulary. The alternatives, however, seem


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equally unsatisfactory. If children are faced with texts containing more than a very small proportion of unfamiliar words they will spend far too much time struggling at frustration level and will derive neither meaning nor enjoyment. On the other hand, if a printed text contains only the small number of words they can instantly identify it is likely to be boring, if not downright banal. In either case, the children will not be able to make full use of their intermediate skills, so their already well developed linguistic abilities cannot be brought into action to make light work of what is otherwise a heavy burden. A sensible way out of this dilemma is to develop the child's interest in writing and reading his own work, and in reading the work of other children. This interaction can begin in the home, with the parent writing the child's name on labels on his clothing, on picture books or presents, on his drawings, or on any other items in which ownership or origin is of interest or importance. The child can then begin to write his own name, and odd words with which his parents help him. For instance, he can be helped to write the names of the dishes he likes best, perhaps against the days of the week when he has been promised them. He can add his name to letters to relatives, and his drawings can be decorated with one- or two-word captions in lower case letters his parents have shown him how to write. If he is given opportunities such as these, written words become a source of meaning and interest from the outset, and are thus so much more easily learned.

7.14 We described in paragraphs 5.22 and 5.23 how the good infant school develops the child's writing activities from small beginnings, and they should be read in close association with the argument presented here. Work of the kind discussed in those paragraphs is essential to the language experience approach to reading we are advocating. Each piece of writing by the children becomes part of the reading resources of the classroom. The advantage of this interaction between the child's writing and reading is that both are rooted in purpose and meaning. The vocabulary is familiar to the children, the sentence structures are those which they themselves use, and the discussions before and after every piece of writing and reading are excellent occasions for language development. It has been argued that handwriting is such a laborious process for young children that other means should be used to help them construct their own sentences. Breakthrough to Literacy (5) takes account of this by providing ready-made sets of carefully chosen words for teacher and children on printed cards. This has been of value in providing a stimulus to teachers to adopt the language experience approach and in offering them practical help. Whether or not the knowledgeable teacher needs this particular material once the approach is well established is open to question. And, of course, some teachers may prefer from the outset to use materials they have produced themselves for the same purpose. These decisions must be a matter for individual judgement and preference.

7.15 Of course, even where the climate of learning and the motivation are excellent, it does not follow that all children will build up a sight vocabulary at an adequate rate. Some have a remarkable facility for remembering a word and its spelling with little or no repetition, but it is obviously unreasonable to expect this of all children. It is a useful practice, therefore, to develop a word bank for storing words which have been used in talking and writing, so that these can be drawn upon and copied on later occasions. In our view there is a good case for beginning to draw the children's attention, even at


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this early stage, to the fact that there are different classes of words, and this may be achieved simply by the way the teacher organises the words in the different parts of the bank. Words might also be collected in their inflected forms, for the reasons given in paragraphs 6.24 and 6.38.

7.16 We have suggested that there is great value in using as reading material the children's own writing derived from their school experience and their life outside school. This is not to imply that commercially produced material becomes less important, and we believe that the teacher should be skilled in assessing its value and judging when and how to use it. The reading scheme is at the centre of this material in most young children's early experience of reading. We have argued for the parent to introduce the child to books before he starts school, but we do not include reading schemes among them. Once a child begins to read the first book of a graded series there is a great temptation for the parent to think in terms of rate of progress. When this happens, parent and child begin to lose the excitement and sheer pleasure that the first contact with books should provide. These qualities are replaced by a concern for measurable endeavour, and the desire to read may become secondary to a desire to perform to please the parent by progressing through the scheme. Much the same might be said of the use of reading schemes in the classroom, but the teacher is faced with an obvious problem of logistics. If she never had to cope with more than a few children she might well manage without a reading scheme, and indeed some teachers do so with great success, however large the class. Nevertheless, many more find it an invaluable resource. Unfortunately, all schemes have their shortcomings and the teacher often has too little time to compensate for them by giving additional attention to individual needs. This has two implications. The first of these need be mentioned only briefly here, since it is taken up in Chapter 13. The staffing of infant schools should be such as to allow a teacher to work with individuals and small groups as and when she believes it necessary. All too often at present she cannot do this without constant distraction. The second implication is that since reading schemes are a key resource in schools they need to be examined with a very critical eye, first in terms of their construction and then of the ways in which they can be put to the best use. Because of the importance of developing a sight vocabulary there was a strong tendency until recent years to design reading schemes in which the teaching of word recognition was the first consideration. There is no doubt of the great importance of this objective, but in pursuing it many reading schemes have failed to bring into play the intermediate skills and the comprehension skills. Thus, the debate about 'whole words versus phonics' has been conducted at the wrong level. As we pointed out in the last chapter, this is far too simplistic a formulation of the problem.

7.17 It should go without saying that all early reading material should be attractive not only in presentation but in content. From a study of a wide range of currently available materials our general impression is that they are becoming increasingly colourful and well illustrated. To improve the content is a more difficult matter, since the author has to work within the confines of a very limited vocabulary. A great deal of ingenuity has gone into the task, and content continues to improve, but there is still much to be done. All too often there is too little incentive to read the words rather than look at the pictures. The words and pictures should complement each other in such a


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way that the child needs to examine both with equal care. The printed word must be critical for any understanding of the action. Another important aspect of content is the effect upon children's attitudes, to which far too little attention has been given in the past. Any reading scheme should stand up to questions about how parental roles, sex roles, attitudes to authority, etc, are represented. Comparisons of primers in use in various countries show that there are marked and systematic differences in their content in this respect. Researchers (6) have also reported that the contents of primers display 'a striking divergence from the realities of community, family, and child life, and from what is known about child development'. We do not suggest that reading schemes should be passed through a kind of ideological or ethical scanner. But we do believe that children's experience should not be confined to a restricted range of reading matter presenting a narrow range of attitudes. It is particularly important to avoid this in these impressionable early years, for it is never too soon to start thinking about the ways in which attitudes may be influenced by reading.

7.18 The next feature to be examined in evaluating early reading materials is the extent to which the syntactic structures relate to the pattern of spoken language familiar to the child. This is an issue which was discussed in paragraph 6.34, and it is one to which we attach great importance. The significance of the relationship between the two kinds of language has been recognised fully only in the last decade, following a good deal of research. Unless there is a close match between the syntactic features of the text and the syntactic expectancies of the reader there will be a brake on the development of word identification. Certain reading schemes which have recently made their appearance have been expressly designed to take account of this. But it hardly needs to be added that there are schemes in widespread use whose language is stilted and unnatural, and far removed from anything the child ever hears in real life or uses himself. Children bring to school a spoken language far more complex than anything they encounter in these early readers. They use and can appreciate a wide range of sentence structures. Reading schemes which present highly contrived or artificial structures therefore lack predictability. They prevent children from developing the capacity to detect the sequential probability in linguistic structure.

7.19 This takes us to the question of the vocabulary used in the schemes. Traditionally, there have been two emphases in vocabulary control. One has been to select a very limited number of words which the child can learn as whole words. The other has been to select a larger number in which the spelling patterns are relatively simple. The first is usually associated with global approaches, such as the look and say sentence or look and say word method. The traditional look and say reading scheme assumes that there will be a major emphasis on teaching the recognition of whole words prior to any examination of letters and sounds. The principle is that the child will learn to recognise a word by associating it with a picture or by hearing it, and that each important word will be associated with various interesting activities before it is first encountered in the reading scheme. Word shape and length are regarded as useful cues for helping with word recognition in the early stages. There may be some structural analysis, i.e. examination of word parts, but the learning of letter sounds and attempts at synthesis come


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appreciably later. Since each word is to be presented as an undifferentiated whole the rate at which new words are introduced must be severely restricted. There must also be a high rate of repetition, so that the child 'over-learns' and is not confused by trying to cope with an ever increasing number of half learned words. Unfortunately, the authors of the older reading schemes, which are still widely in use, sacrificed other important considerations in restricting the vocabulary and repeating words frequently. Above all, they produced prose so unrealistic that it can no longer be regarded as an effective basis for reading instruction (see paragraph 6.34). In saying this we acknowledge that a great deal of research went into the selection of vocabulary for such schemes and into their general construction. If we now reject them we must at the same time record that the new schemes still owe them a great debt. The second of the two emphases we have mentioned is associated with an explicitly phonic approach. The traditional phonic scheme assumes that the child will learn letter sounds in the early stages. The principle is that if he is systematically taught how to synthesise sounds he will achieve independence in tackling unfamiliar words. Thus the vocabulary control will be governed by the rate at which new phonic combinations are to be introduced. Needless to say, such a principle will have its own restricting effect on the range of words that can be used. As with the older look and say schemes, the prose in the early phonic readers cannot be regarded as acceptable for modem requirements (see paragraph 6.34).

7.20 In practice, it would be difficult for an observer to state with confidence whether any particular teacher was an advocate of phonics or look and say without examining the reading schemes she was using. And even that would not imply an exclusive commitment to one or the other method. When a child is trying to read an unfamiliar word, a teacher will draw his attention to any clue she thinks may help at that particular moment - context, initial letter sound, initial blends, word length, outline, and so on. In addition, most teachers who adopt a look and say reading scheme will use supplementary material of the kind normally provided in a phonic scheme. Conversely, most teachers using a phonic scheme will encourage children to use a variety of supplementary readers in which the vocabulary is not strictly controlled according to phonic principles. Both groups will also have in common a variety of classroom activities related to reading. The great majority of teachers are in fact eclectic in their approach, and this came out very clearly in our survey. The major difference between teachers lies not in their allegiance to a method, but in the quality of their relationships with children, their degree of expert knowledge, and their sensitivity in matching what they do to each child's current learning needs. It must also be remembered that the child, too, is eclectic. He will have a certain amount of experience of looking at whole words that matter to him - on sweet cartons, food packs, television captions, and so on. And whether he is taught to or not he will develop a tendency to respond to letter sounds as part of his attack on new words. When a teacher is selecting reading schemes, then, she need not accept any limiting assumption the author may have had in mind when constructing it. What matters is the way in which the schemes can be used to the best advantage as part of the total 'mix' of reading and reading-related activities in the curriculum. This is a matter to which we now turn.


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7.21 In what follows, we shall assume that before they start on a reading scheme children will have had a variety of pre-reading experiences of the kind described earlier in this chapter and in Chapter 6 and that they are able to read a few words they or other children have written. We shall also assume that language experience activities will continue as an essential part of their daily school life. A child who is ready to make a start on a reading scheme will have acquired the general ability to respond to:

shape and orientation in discriminating between letters

letter sequence in terms of left to right directionality

letters and groups of letters as symbols that can represent sounds

letter sequences as orderly groups of symbols that can represent a temporal sequence of sounds

whole words as units of meaning, not primarily as symbols representing sounds

groups of words in terms of meaning, not as isolated words to be pronounced.

He should also know what the teacher means when she uses the terms 'letter', 'sound', and 'word'. Above all he should have learned to enjoy his encounters with words and sentences and with the meaning that lies behind them. We are not suggesting that children need have acquired more than general tendencies to respond in the ways listed above. There is no question of their having to achieve complete mastery in each before they go any further. The essential is that they should have made a good start with these and other general responses, which can be developed more systematically while they are following the reading scheme. The reading scheme can then be used to develop many of the great number of more specific responses on which skilled reading depends, i.e. to increasingly complex syntactic structures and to the wide variety of spelling patterns of English.

7.22 If a child has had a satisfactory preparation before tackling a reading scheme we believe that the choice of scheme matters less than the teacher's knowledge of what a given scheme can and cannot do, and her ability to supplement it in any way she may feel to be necessary. In the light of this principle we can examine the features of contemporary variations on the traditional themes, beginning with schemes based essentially on a look and say approach. The look and say scheme prompts three vital questions. How can a useful sight vocabulary be developed and enlarged? How are difficulties with phonic irregularity to be overcome? How can the child be helped to achieve independence in tackling unfamiliar words? When we come to phonic schemes there are questions of equal importance. How are children to be weaned from an early tendency to look for fairly simple relationships between letters and sounds? How can they be led to a greater dependence on context cues in handling unfamiliar words?

7.23 Broadly speaking, the vocabulary of a look and say reading scheme is selected on the principle that the words are easy to learn or are of high utility, that is to say frequently encountered. Words tend to be very easy to learn when they are of high interest value, e.g. rocket, doll, engine, rabbit, and


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such words have the additional advantage that they can be readily illustrated. They may also be easy to discriminate between because they vary in length and in the pattern in which the more conspicuous letters are arranged, i.e. those with ascenders and descenders such as k, t, g. Words of high utility, on the other hand, are inclined to have none of these properties. The words that occur most frequently in speech and writing are words such as the, he, to, was, all, are, one, said, etc. They tend to be of low interest value, are not so easily illustrated, and are less easily discriminated between in terms of length and configuration. Nevertheless, a dozen or so such words account for about a quarter of the words on a typical page of print, and a hundred or so account for about half the words on the page. It might therefore be thought that if these words are well and truly learned at an early stage a great deal has been achieved. This is to a large extent true, but it must be remembered that these utility words carry less information than the 'content' words, and the effect upon the reading performance is not so powerful as the numerical weight would imply. These high utility words are by their very nature the ones most likely to be used by children in their early attempts at writing. The high interest words they meet in their reading scheme can be added to the word bank so that they too can be brought into play in associated language experience activities. This kind of reinforcement can reduce the need for excessive repetition of words in a look and say reading scheme, a possibility which is being taken into account in some recently published schemes. The treatment of phonics in a look and say scheme presents a problem. Children will tend to be confused by the complexity of the spelling patterns they encounter in the early stages of the scheme. From their knowledge of certain patterns they can generalise effectively to cope with words of similar pattern, but this does not help them when they meet irregularities. For example, a child is likely to be misled into pronouncing bear as beer by analogy with hear, and beard as bird by analogy with heard. This is where the ability to predict from context becomes so important. From the surrounding words (as, for instance, in the sentence 'In the woods he met a big brown bear') the child must be able to derive enough information to help him recall the pronunciation and meaning of a word he has met in the word bank or used in his own writing. This implies that the teacher must be immediately at hand to help the child with the context where necessary and with the words that are altogether new to him. And this in turn implies that the teacher must have a well organised system that allows her to give a carefully judged amount of time to each child. Where this is not to be found the child working from a look and say scheme can experience difficulties. Most look and say schemes currently available do provide phonic activities, but usually as supplementary material. They do not help a child who has difficulty when attempting to cope with the complexities of any unfamiliar words he encounters in the actual text. We regard this as a disabling limitation of many otherwise very satisfactory look and say reading schemes. They do not afford direct assistance with phonics, and they provide little compensation for any lack of individual help the child may be receiving in the use of context cues.

7.24 We have already outlined the inadequacies of phonic reading schemes when they are made to carry the major burden of the instruction. However, when they are used within a general learning context of the kind we have advocated they become a quite different instrument. In the context of a


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language experience approach the use of texts in which the complexity of spelling patterns is reduced can help children to overcome some of their confusion about phonics. What we criticise is the unsubtle practice of encouraging children to build up words by 'sounding' letters as a routine practice. If the scheme is well designed, the phoneme-grapheme relationships should be self evident, and readily acquired by inductive learning with the absolute minimum of formal instruction. We have already stated our belief, however, that there should be an early switch from an emphasis on phonics to an emphasis on morphemic structure. Words in which the spellings do not coincide with patterns the child has met earlier in the scheme should be particularly well cued by context. There is a growing knowledge of ways in which words can be powerfully cued, but in our view this has not yet been applied with sufficient rigour in the preparation of phonic reading schemes. For the most part, they concentrate upon lower order decoding processes. Where phonic schemes are not designed on narrowly conceived principles they are a valuable element in the reading curriculum.

7.25 We can sum up our view of the value of reading schemes in the reading curriculum by saying that we would welcome the further development of the kind of scheme to which it is as difficult to apply such simplistic labels as 'phonic', 'look and say', 'linguistic', etc as it is to attach such labels to the methods of competent teachers. A good reading scheme is one which provides a sound basis for the development of all the reading skills in an integrated way. Performance on the scheme itself should provide the teacher with diagnostic information, and there should be a wide variety of supplementary materials for her to use with individual children who need extra practice or help of a particular kind. In saying this we must emphasise that we regard the reading scheme as an ancillary part of a school's reading programme, and nothing more. We are certainly not advocating that the school should necessarily use one, and we welcome the enterprise of those schools which have successfully planned the teaching of reading without the use of a graded series. Nor are we suggesting that if a school does decide to use a scheme it should confine itself to any particular one. Indeed, where a school has chosen to work in this way there should be books from several reading series available. Some schools draw from as many as twelve different schemes, not necessarily including all the books in any one of them. All this material, however, should form merely a part of the learning resources. The children's own writing should provide an ever-developing resource, and every infant class needs a wide range of books and other printed matter on the scale recommended in Chapter 21.

7.26 In paragraphs 6.21 and 6.22 we referred to cueing techniques and spelling modifications as a means of making the early stages of learning to read more manageable. We can now review these in the light of our comments on the value of reading schemes. There are two principal ways of providing additional cues to the value or function of letters: the use of colour, and the use of diacritical marks. In our survey one of the questions was designed to discover how widely these were employed in schools. Only 6 per cent of the classes were using colour and 2 per cent diacritical marks, which indicates that they are very much a minority practice in the country at large. At its simplest level, colour may be used in a fairly minimal way, for example to signal digraphs (ch, ea), silent letters (the 'k' in 'knife'), or a spelling


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pattern (a-e, i-e, o-e). At the other extreme there may be an attempt to use a very complex colour system so that every phoneme is unambiguously represented. The evidence for the value of colour systems is inconclusive. The more elaborate schemes may be said to exact too high a price in terms of the amount of attention they demand and the consequent distraction from meaning. Simpler schemes which signal more general functions (e.g. silent letters, the grouping of letters), rather than specific sound values may well have something to offer, though this has yet to be convincingly demonstrated. Diacritical marking is the application of marks of various kinds to signal letter function or value. As long ago as Elizabethan times a book of Aesop's fables was printed with such marks. Edgeworth and his daughter devised a diacritical system in 1798, and it was 'reinvented' by Shearer in 1894. The most complete system and the one most commonly in use today is that devised by Fry. In an investigation (7) of its effectiveness he compared results from the use of an unmarked basal reading scheme, the same scheme adapted to his system, and an American i.t.a. scheme. His own system was not found to be superior. On the other hand, results which favoured the use of diacritical marking have been reported by Brimer (8) and Johnson (9). It is fair to add that the first of these focused only on decoding skills, and the teaching was limited to programmed learning techniques. In the second, the teacher variable was not controlled, and a word recognition test was the sole criterion of reading improvement. In the circumstances we do not feel there is sufficient evidence to enable us to recommend diacritics. We can sum up by saying that although there is no substantial evidence to support the use of cueing techniques of one kind or another they are certainly not discredited by research. Whether or not to adopt them is a decision for the school. We would add, however, that where schemes embodying cueing techniques are adopted, there is no need for the teacher to accept the limiting assumptions of authors about how they should be used.

7 27 The general reaction of many teachers to i.t.a. (the initial teaching alphabet) has been rather negative, and only 10 per cent of our sample schools containing infants were using the medium. Some of the more pressing advocacy of i.t.a. is likely to have been counter-productive. The experienced infant teacher can only be irritated by the suggestion that all that is needed to bring about general improvement in reading is the introduction of a simplified code. On the other hand, we have already noted the bewildering complexities of the English spelling system, and it is self-evident that a simplification of the relationship between sound and spellings must make it much easier for a child to make progress in the early stages. If there are fewer items to be learned this alone must reduce the time required, and if there are fewer ambiguities there will be less confusion. All this is amply confirmed by research. Following a careful review of the evidence the authors of the Schools Council Report (10) on i.t.a. came to this conclusion:

'There is no evidence whatsoever for the belief that the best way to learn to read in traditional orthography is to learn to read in traditional orthography. It would appear that the best way to learn to read in traditional orthography is to learn to read in the initial teaching alphabet.'
Of course, as one of our witnesses pointed out, a spelling system that is most satisfactory in making word recognition easier at the stage of learning


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to read is not necessarily the best medium for rapid and effective reading in the literate adult. In Japan, for example, children first learn the 'kana' characters, each of which represents a syllable. They then learn 'kangi' characters, which are logographs and represent units of meaning. In a research study it was found that college students were able to read a script in kangi in just half the time it took to read a comparable script in kana. The 48 kana characters, on the other hand, are easily and quickly learned, and as all the words in the child's spoken vocabulary can be written in this syllable code the vocabulary of his early reading writing experiences is not restricted. The kangi characters are introduced gradually, so there is no sharp transition from one system to another. Certainly the coexistence of two writing systems during the introductory and transitional period does not seem to be a handicap. This observation coincides with the judgement of the Schools Council report that the difference between the alphabet used in school and that used outside does not represent a significant problem. It should, however, be remembered that where parents take the kind of active interest we have advocated in this chapter there is a possibility that some such confusion could occur.

7.28 As children become more fluent in reading they depend much less on a close scrutiny of every word, and their use of context comes to play an increasing part in identifying words. Individual spellings then become much less of a hindrance, a fact illustrated by the following sentence, which includes the word examined in paragraph 6.20.

'I gave the prescription to the calmbost' (i.e. chemist).

Similarly, though some of the characters in the following passage of i.t.a. are unfamiliar, one has little difficulty in reading it:

After one or two more paragraphs of the same kind the reader would be handling the text with scarcely any hesitation. By the same token, it is argued that the child who develops fluency in i.t.a. can transfer readily enough to t.o. [traditional orthography] The authors of the Schools Council report say that a head deciding to use i.t.a. as an initial medium can be confident that at the very least the children are unlikely to suffer, provided she has the support of the staff and can guarantee continuity of approach* when the children go on to junior school. Indeed, they go on to affirm that there is 'a substantial body of evidence which indicates that most children will benefit in a variety of ways'.

7.29 One obvious advantage of using a modified spelling system such as i.t.a. rather than a cueing technique (e.g. colour coding) is that it helps writing as well as reading. Children tend to learn quite quickly how to spell in i.t.a., and they then have ready access to almost every word in their spoken vocabulary. The value of this for language experience activities is obvious. When groups of t.o. and i.t.a. children were matched in the main

*See paragraph 14.2 for a discussion of this very important aspect of co-operation between schools.


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British experiments (11), the writing produced by the latter was of consistently higher quality. (Downing and Latham (12) subsequently tested a sample of the children originally involved in this experiment and found that the i.t.a. pupils remained superior in t.o. reading and spelling even after five years at school, i.e. well beyond the transition stage). It is fair to add that many critics of i.t.a. do not accept that such gains are attributable to the medium itself. On the other hand, it also seems likely that many teachers who adopted i.t.a. have employed it in a rather narrowly conceived phonic approach. If this is so, the higher standards of reading and writing produced with i.t.a. may possibly have been even better had the medium been used differently. As a Committee we are not unanimous on the value of i.t.a., but we believe that as there is no evidence of adverse side effects at a later stage schools which choose to adopt it should be given every support. We also feel that teachers should examine the question of i.t.a. on its merits. We hope they will make their own objective assessment of the various arguments for and against, and not accept the tendentious statements that are still made by some of its advocates and opponents.

7.30 References occur in subsequent chapters to various organisational aspects of the teaching of reading, but we must introduce the main theme at this point. It is one thing to have an array of materials and techniques of the kind we have been discussing; it is quite another to be able to put these together coherently to provide an appropriate reading curriculum for each individual child as well as for the class as a whole. This calls for clear thinking about sequence and structure. The teacher has to decide whether a given objective is likely to be achieved most effectively by the child's independent effort, by work in small groups, or by direct class teaching. In planning her work she is faced with a number of decisions, each of which bears upon the organisation of the reading programme. For example, how much time should she spend on a particular reading activity in relation to other competing claims on her time? How should she evaluate the results of her own efforts as well as monitor the progress of each child? How can she make the best use of the assistance of additional adults, such as parents, aides, specialist or relief teachers, students and, indeed, older children? The ability to pose and answer such questions, and to organise accordingly, is the most important factor for success in the teaching of reading.

7.31 In our view every child should spend part of each day in reading or pre-reading activities, with the teacher keeping a meticulous check on progress. She will need to make qualitative observations by listening to every child read several times a week and by asking questions designed to develop the various kinds of comprehension. This will allow her to structure successive learning experiences for each child in such a way as to ensure a steady sequence of development through the various reading skills. Everyone would agree that additional attention should be given to children whose progress is unsatisfactory, but we would strongly emphasise the need to stimulate average and above average children to greater achievement. This means that the teacher should spend time with them individually, for it is not only the poor readers who warrant attention of this kind. A good deal of incentive can be provided by well organised small group work, where the interaction draws upon shared experiences in reading. (See Chapter 13 for a general discussion of group organisation). The children can be encouraged


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to discuss what they are reading, to ask questions and offer answers, and to compare their ideas of what the book said. They should become accustomed quite early to going back to the printed word and looking more carefully at something on which their talk has focused. Cooperative reading of this kind can begin even in the earliest stages, when children can help one another in word recognition as well as interpretation. The teacher's own intervention in group work is of considerable importance, for as opportunities present themselves she can develop particular skills in a context in which the children are highly motivated and able to apply their learning with immediacy and purpose. There may be occasions where she wants to teach the whole class if this is the most effective and economical way of dealing with a specific reading skill, and the range of reading ability is not so wide as to make it impracticable. Indeed, the value of the collective class experience needs to be reaffirmed, and it is exemplified at its best when all the children are sharing the enjoyment of teacher's reading to them.

7.32 We therefore consider the best method of organising reading to be one where the teacher varies the experience between individual, group and class situations according to the purpose in hand. Fundamental to it all is a precise knowledge of the progress and needs of each individual child, and we consider this of such importance that it has been made the subject of a separate chapter (Chapter 17). We can anticipate it here by saying that a particularly important teaching skill is that of assessing the level of difficulty of books by applying measures of readability. The teacher who can do this is in a better position to match children to reading materials that answer their needs. In our visits to schools we came across many children who were not allowed to read 'real books' until they had completed the scheme. This is an artificial distinction and an unnatural restriction of reading experience. We also came across children who had made good progress through a scheme and were now struggling at frustration level in other kinds of reading, while others were bored by material that was making too few demands upon them. The effective teacher is one who has under her conscious control all the resources that can fulfil her purpose. By carefully assessing levels of difficulty she can draw from a variety of sources.

REFERENCES

1. C Lefevre Linguistics and The Teaching of Reading McGraw: 1964.

2. LS Vygotsky Thought and Language Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press: 1962.

3. JT Reid Learning to think about Reading Educational Research, 9: 1966.

4. AL Gates The Necessary Mental Age for Beginning Reading Elementary School Journal, 37: 1937.

5. D Mackay, B Thompson and P Schaub Breakthrough to Literacy: Programme in Linguistics and English Teaching Schools Council/Longman: 1970.

6. GE Blom, RR Waite, SG Zimet and S Edge What the Story World is Like in What Children Read in School Grune and Stratton (editor SG Zimet) New York: 1972.


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7. E Fry A diacritical marking system to aid beginning reading instruction Elementary English, 41: pp. 526-9.

8. MA Brimer An experimental evaluation of coded scripts in initial reading New Research in Education: 1967.

9. H Johnson, DR Jones, AC Cole and MB Walters The use of diacritical marks in teaching beginners to read The British Journal of. Educational Psychology, Vol. 5, No. 42: 1972.

10. FW Warburton and V Southgate i.t.a.: An Independent Evaluation Murray and Chambers: 1969.

11. JA Downing The i.t.a. Symposium NFER: 1967.

12. JA Downing and W Latham A follow-up of children in the first i.t.a. experiment British Journal of Educational Psychology, 39: 1969.





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CHAPTER 8

Reading: The Later Stages

8.1 In the previous two chapters we have been anxious to establish the principle that young children should acquire from the beginning the skills that are employed in mature reading. These skills will obviously be used for more elaborate and demanding purposes as the child grows older, but the pattern is one that can be established early. We propose in this chapter to approach the matter from the other end of the age range and consider the fulfilment of some of these purposes. The development of reading skills is a progressive one, and there are no staging points to which one can attach any particular ages. We cannot therefore speak of kinds of reading ability as being specific to the middle years and as something essentially different from those used in the upper forms of the secondary school. The primary skills of the early years mature into the understanding of word structure and spelling patterns. The intermediate skills, so essential in word attack in the early stages, are at work in skimming, scanning, and the extraction of meaning in the more complex reading tasks of the later stages. The comprehension skills themselves do not change; it is in the increasing complexity of the purposes to which they are put as the pupils grow older that the difference lies. In the middle years there should be three major emphases. The first is to consolidate the work of the early years, and to give particular help to those children who for one reason or another have failed to make progress. The second is to maintain and extend the idea of reading as an activity which brings great pleasure and is a personal resource of limitless value. The third is to develop the pupils' reading from the general to the more specialised. We believe that the primary school teacher needs an understanding of the reading demands of the later years so that the line of development is clearly recognised.

8.2 What are these demands? This question is best answered in terms of three basic objectives, simple enough on paper but far from simple in the execution:

(i) the pupil needs to be able to cope with the reading required in each area of the curriculum;

(ii) he should acquire a level of competence which will enable him to meet his needs as an adult in society when he leaves school;

(iii) he should regard reading as a source of pleasure and personal development which will continue to be a rewarding activity throughout life.

8.3 The last of these will condition the other two. Functional reading, with which this chapter is largely concerned, should certainly not be seen as the onerous part of reading. The greater the pleasure of the task the more certainly will the skills become second nature. And the more capable the pupil becomes the more pleasure he will derive from reading. From this it will be seen that this particular objective is associated not simply with recreational reading but with all the other activities we shall go on to discuss.


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Nevertheless, we believe that literature has a special role to play in fulfilling it and we have chosen to develop this aspect of reading in a chapter of its own.

8.4 The first of the three objectives is rarely recognised in schools as something that calls for explicit instruction. Specialist teachers generally believe that pupils need only to be fluent readers to cope with the reading demands of their subjects. We shall argue, however, that there are specific reading techniques which pupils can acquire to improve the efficiency of their learning, and that the subject teacher should help to develop these. We also believe that he should know something about levels of reading difficulty in the material he uses and about the capacity of individual pupils to cope with a particular book. This is more than simply a matter of intuitive feel; it involves the application of techniques of the kind described in paragraph 6.37. A general impression will not always tell the teacher whether a pupil is likely to find a certain book easy and undemanding, or readable if slightly challenging, or largely beyond his grasp.

8.5 The second of the two objectives is clearly a complex one. We have already referred to evidence (para. 2.2) which suggests that very many adults are unable to understand fully much of the reading material that directly relates to their lives and actions. To those we have given we might add a further illustration. This is again an American investigation (1), but it is reasonable to assume that the problems it reveals would also be found in some measure in this country. It took the form of a study of the reading proficiency of 7,500 adults. The material used to assess it was chosen according to such criteria as the extent to which it was in everyday use, its importance, and the time spent upon it. The most important reading matter of the average day was held to include news, material associated with work, signs of various kinds, and print on consumer goods. The items used in the assessment reflected as closely as possible the level of difficulty involved for a proper understanding. 20 per cent of the adults in the sample were unable to achieve more than 47 per cent correct responses, and over half of them made more than 10 per cent incorrect responses. Evidence of this kind suggests that there is a good deal of inefficient reading among adults who are generally regarded as being 'able to read'. We are in no doubt that schools need to give serious consideration to the implication of conclusions such as these.

8.6 Broadly speaking there are two main approaches to extending the reading ability of older children. One is to timetable special periods for specific tuition and practice; the other is to extend skills in and through normal learning activities. On the face of it the case for separate lessons with specially designed reading programmes may seem quite strong. An obvious argument in its favour is that the teaching can be planned by a reading specialist whose understanding of the skills goes far beyond that possessed by the subject teacher or, for that matter, by most teachers of English. In our visit to America we studied this specialist approach in the High School grades. In some schools there was a 'Reading Consultant', in others a 'Reading Department' with its own head. Student schedules would sometimes include periods devoted to the activity as a subject in its own right, and we came across examples of teaching rooms specially fitted for the purpose. In one of these was an array of equipment ranging from speed-


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reading machines to devices for flashing letters on to a screen. Another consisted of a suite of rooms clustered about a central book area. The syllabuses of these departments listed such skills as inductive, inferential, and evaluative reading, and prescribed exercises for 'locating the main idea' of a paragraph. (Indeed, we found this particular skill being practised through exercises early in the elementary school). The syllabuses assumed different reading requirements for different subjects, e.g. Science and Social studies, and counselled appropriate approaches.

8.7 Some aspects of this concentrated attention were impressive. In the first place it meant that there was in the school a highly trained member of staff who would offer specialised advice at every level. Secondly, it encouraged the idea that there could be no cut-off point beyond which it was taken for granted a pupil had all the reading skills he needed. We found well motivated 16 year olds opting for reading lessons for guidance in the techniques of tackling a substantial history text or improving their reading ability in science. However, in our view the disadvantages outweighed the benefits. Although there was no 'horizontal split' in the teaching of reading, there was a very sharp 'vertical split' between reading and English. Indeed, the teachers belonged to separate professional associations which scarcely communicated. The English teacher was able to feel he was teaching 'pure' literature and that he could presume the pupils' ability to read a text closely. He was thus tempted into abstract teaching about literature, rather than developing their reading abilities along with and by means of the exploration of meaning. Equally, the teachers of other subjects felt no concern to develop reading within their own subject, since reading was regarded as the preserve of the teacher responsible for it. Many of the specialist 'reading' lessons contained a good deal of decontextualised vocabulary work, into which much of the supposed activity of 'reading within subjects' resolved itself.

8.8 Associated with the notion of the specialised teaching of reading, both in the USA and here, is the commercially produced programme, sometimes called the 'reading workshop' or 'reading laboratory'. Again on the face of it such programmes appear to offer a ready made route to the development of reading skills. However, the fact that a pupil can become adept at completing the reading tasks in this rather narrow context does not mean that this ability will automatically transfer, and that he will be able to apply it at will in his other reading. Moreover, we have seen little evidence to support the view that there is any long term value in 'booster' courses using these programmes. Scores on reading tests are certainly raised in the short term, but gains do not appear to be sustained over a longer period. This does not necessarily mean that the kinds of experience provided by 'reading workshops' or 'laboratories' are of no value. Though the skills in which they offer practice will not automatically transfer, the teacher could take steps to ensure that they were applied to other reading tasks, notably within the subject areas. However, any real gain in reading development must come through the generation of a strong motivation, and this means reading to satisfy a purpose. This is more likely to arise from the wide-ranging opportunities of the curriculum than from the arbitrary stimulus of 'laboratory' materials. We therefore believe the real possibilities are to be found in the second of the two approaches we identified earlier, namely the extension of skills in and through normal learning activities.


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8.9 Since reading is a major strategy for learning in virtually every aspect of education we believe it is the responsibility of every teacher to develop it. Unfortunately, it is difficult for most teachers, to whom reading and study skills may be second nature, to be fully aware of the complexity of these skills. If they are identified and described for them they may be inclined to dismiss them as being no more than common sense - as indeed they are. Nevertheless, this explicit awareness is necessary, for left to their own devices many of their pupils develop poor reading habits and others do not achieve the efficiency of which they are capable. In our view there should be certain commonly agreed approaches to reading as part of the school's policy for the development of language across the curriculum. We are not proposing any kind of prescription which would interfere with the teacher's ability to decide his own way of working. We are suggesting that by consultation all teachers should accept the responsibility for developing reading in their field, and that certain shared principles would help them to fulfil it.

8.10 The first is that reading for learning can be made more efficient. In all study situations, whether he is listening to a lecture, watching an instructional film, or reading a book, the learner calls upon his ability to reason, his existing knowledge, and his imagination. Thus, many of the abilities used in reading for learning are founded in the general approaches of the classroom. There are, however, certain conditions unique to reading. Because the print on a page is fixed and unchanging a reader can control his use of it by:

choosing the time, place and extent of his reading;

going back to earlier statements in the text, or looking ahead to future conclusions;

breaking the reading process to make notes, pause and think, or refer to other sources for comparison or illustration.

In other words, a reader has considerable control over the learning situation and he needs particular skills to take advantage of the possibilities this opens up to him. We can sum these up by saying that reading for learning will be most effective when the reader becomes an active interrogator of the text rather than a passive receiver of words. A second principle is that these skills should be developed in close association with the other aspects of language use, and in particular with the oral activity recommended in Chapter 10. Reading is an instrument for individual learning, but it is also a collective activity, and we believe that group discussion based on co-operative reading is a valuable means of learning.

8.11 The shaping of the policy is a matter for the individual school, but we believe that in guiding the studies of their pupils teachers in the middle and secondary years would find the following analysis useful:

(i) the formulation of the purposes of the reading;

(ii) organisation for reading;

(iii) reading behaviour;

(iv) assessment of reading activities.


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8.12 (i) The formulation of the purposes

It will often be helpful for teachers to encourage their pupils to identify their purposes before they undertake a particular piece of reading. The major purpose behind any deliberate reading task can be expressed as a question, which gives rise to further questions and in turn to yet more specific ones. Predetermined questions provide a framework within which the learning can be anchored. They make the reading more efficient by directing attention to those aspects of the text which are most relevant, and they help the pupil to retain what he reads. The pupil then brings into play scanning and skimming skills (see paragraph 8.18) instead of reading everything at the same pace. Properly applied, this approach can encourage habits of disciplined enquiry.

8.13 (ii) Organisation for reading

Pupils should learn how to organise their reading, firstly by being able to locate, evaluate and select the material they need, and secondly by applying organised study methods to the material itself. The practice of working from a single text book, or at most two, is nowadays much less prevalent than it used to be, and most subjects make use of a wider range of printed matter. Nevertheless, the pupils are often very dependent upon the teacher for what they shall read and lack the ability to make their own assessments and choose accordingly. Most of the individual bibliographical skills can be taught in a very short time and do not need a protracted series of practical exercises. After a basic introduction these skills can be developed through study activities in each subject area. The former practice is common enough, but rarely did we find the kind of staff co-operation which ensured the follow-up. All too often the pupils were taught how to locate and handle books but not given the immediate opportunity to put them to a useful purpose, as opposed to an artificially contrived one. We believe that in the course of the middle and secondary years pupils should acquire the following and become accustomed to applying them in the various areas of learning:

(i) knowledge of available resources (e.g. books, magazines, files, pictures, tapes, cassettes, film) their location, and the way they are organised;

(ii) ability to define an area of search by using reference books of various kinds and more specialised publications where necessary;

(iii) ability to use subject index, classified catalogues, abstracts, and bibliographies, and to record sources systematically;

(iv) ability to survey source material, making an assessment of author, publisher, and content.

In the last of these the pupil needs to be able to test the reliability of an author against other sources and to examine the way the book is organised. We met one biology master who made a point of giving his new fifth form pupils an introductory assignment and a list of six or eight books on which to draw. He deliberately chose books which conflicted in some point of information or opinion and when the pupils found out these contradictions for themselves he took them to a first-hand study to make their own judgement. This kind of activity brings home to pupils the importance of critically


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reviewing sources of information and of doing so economically and efficiently. Having chosen and surveyed the material, the pupils need to be able to plan their reading, deciding what can be read for a general impression and what must be given detailed attention. This can be applied equally where the study is individual and where the reading is to be shared by a group. They must then know how to deal with the information gained from the reading. A large number of pupils pass through school without ever learning to make notes efficiently. One has only to look at much 'project' work to see the truth of this. Unable to read selectively and to summarise the information, most pupils resort to copying verbatim from the books they are consulting. They should be taught various ways of making notes, including the use of topic cards and flow diagrams, listing their own sources, and of indicating their own comments or lines of further enquiry.

8.14 (iii) Reading behaviour

Comprehension work is standard practice in schools, and for most pupils it occupies a place in English lessons for the greater part of their school life. Much of this work is from textbook exercises designed for the purpose, and in recent years there has been an increase in the use of reading 'workshops' or 'laboratories', to which we have already referred in general terms. In our view, exercises in English textbooks or in kits of one kind or another are inadequate for developing comprehension. They provide too restricting a context and do not take account of the fact that reading should satisfy some purpose on the part of the reader. This may be to derive pleasure, experience, or information; it may be serious, or it may be relatively trivial. But whichever it is the individual will read most rewardingly when he has a personal reason for reading, for he will then carry his own attitudes and values into the text and not simply respond passively to it. The declared 'purpose' of so many of these exercises is to improve particular skills of comprehension. But even if there is any such result the improvement is so specific to the situation that it is unlikely to transfer to other reading tasks. This seemed to us conspicuously true of some exercises we saw in use in the USA. These presented quite young children with such tasks as 'locating the main ideas' in short passages. Even where the children succeeded in doing this in specific cases they had not grasped a concept which they could then generalise and apply to other situations. For this to happen the teacher must develop comprehension skills within the broader concept of purposeful reading. Another shortcoming of exercises in many English workbooks and kits is that they tend to give undue emphasis to literal comprehension, doubtless because it is much easier to frame multiple choice items at the literal level. The use of multiple choice items does not, however, represent a realistic approach to the development of comprehension even at this level. For it is one thing to match multiple choice items against the text but quite another to identify the relevant section of text without the aid of such preselected alternatives.

8.15 The development of literal comprehension is too important to be entrusted to exercises, even the best designed of them. The principal object is to sharpen the reader's perception of the main theme and the idea sequences from which it is formed. He must be able to determine what is essential supporting detail and what is peripheral. Even when skimming at speed he


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must be able to pick out certain features and identify general structures and relationships. It may help pupils to acquire this ability if on occasion they make a close analysis of a passage to identify the significant words in sentences and the significant sentences in paragraphs, working out in group discussion the relationship between position and function. They would discover, for instance, that at the beginning of a paragraph a 'significant sentence' may do little more than introduce a theme; at the end it will often provide an informative summary or conclusion; in the middle it may be a major turning point in the argument. Its function is often indicated by a signpost phrase: 'Nevertheless ...', 'In spite of this ...', 'On the other hand ...', etc. By recognising the function of various sentences in the structure of the paragraph the pupils are helped to a grasp of the theme. From here they can go on to summarising or paraphrasing the material or representing it in diagrammatic form. Our point is that the literal level cannot be taken for granted as an elementary aspect of comprehension and one that can be acquired by weekly exercises in answering set questions on a passage. It must be developed in a range of contexts where it is put to a practical purpose, and that means in the various subjects of the curriculum. The techniques themselves might be learnt in an English lesson, but the kind of co-operation we envisage would ensure that the subject teacher followed this up with practical application.

8.16 The same applies to the other levels of comprehension, of which the next is the inferential. This takes the pupil beyond the explicit statement to what the writer intended by implication or by assuming common ground with the reader. A large class, and the pressures of a particular syllabus, leave little time for the teacher to help individual pupils to explore the implications in much of what they read. Yet this he must certainly do if they are to get beyond the obvious meaning, or to question what might otherwise develop attitudes not readily accessible to reason. It is not only in the subject textbooks that the pupil must learn to examine implications. He needs to gain experience in giving this kind of attention to a variety of printed media. These will include advertising brochures, newspaper editorials, employment particulars, and that whole range of material in which what is left unsaid is often no less important than the facts presented.

8.17 We gave earlier the example of the science teacher who led his pupils to question the reliability of certain books. This evaluative aspect of comprehension is common enough in English lessons, for example in the study of literature and in the critical examination of advertisements and newspapers, but it is much less evident in other subjects. There it is all too often taken for granted that the information in the textbook is accurate and its opinion not seriously to be questioned - at least by the pupils. It is a striking feature of language in its printed form that words seem to take on an authority they much less commonly achieve in a spoken encounter, and it is one of the responsibilities of all teachers to ensure that this apparent authority receives critical attention. Comparative reading is a useful method, and one that can be employed with varying degrees of subtlety, for it is not simply a matter of deciding upon the respective merits of alternative versions. Pupils need also to recognise that they may bring prejudices of their own to their judgement of a set of opinions or of the emphasis given to certain facts.


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8.18 An important aspect of reading behaviour is the ability to use different kinds of reading strategies according to the purpose and material. Consider, for example, the way one approaches the reading of different parts of a newspaper, a collection of advertising brochures, an income tax form, or a railway timetable. According to his purpose, interest, and time available, the efficient reader will glance through selectively or scrutinise in detail. Most of the reading done in school takes little account of this, and the pupil is generally expected to read all material fairly intensively. Yet there are many occasions when quite different kinds of approach are appropriate, in school just as in adult life. In both, the reader is exposed to more printed material than he can possibly find time to assimilate in detail. Much of it simply does not call for close examination. Very often the reader is concerned only to find a particular fact, or to locate a section of the text which he does want to examine carefully. This may demand of him the ability to scan the text to look for certain kinds of detail, or for some cue which will tell him whether what he is looking for is to be found in that section of it. On other occasions he may require to do no more than obtain a general impression of what a passage is about. This will call for the ability to skim through it, locating significant words and sentences, or sequences of particular kinds, all of which convey to him the general sense. It is thus possible to read at various levels of intensity to match a particular purpose. Unless pupils acquire these skills while still at school there is a likelihood that the only approach they will ever use is inflexible, one pace, line by line reading. Judging by the number of 'crash' courses being taken up it is obvious that many adults find this limited reading technique a singular handicap in their work.

8.19 (iv) Assessment of reading activities

We have suggested that pupils should learn how to read for specific purposes, how to organise the material, and how to apply appropriate techniques. The fourth stage is their assessment of what they have achieved. This is a process by which the reader reviews his original questions and the material he has read, and examines the information he has gained from it. He can then assess whether the organisation of his reading might have been more efficient, and in what ways it could be improved on a future occasion. In short, he should be able to evaluate the product of his reading and the development of his own reading skills. We regard this capacity for self-evaluation as an important instrument for learning, and one which is by no means an automatic outcome of activities in which children learn by discovering. They need systematic help if they are to develop the habit of judging the effectiveness of their various reading activities in terms of their purpose. Another aspect of this process is the storage and indexing of the information gained from the reading. A great deal of what the pupil, or adult, derives from reading is lost because it is not preserved in a form in which it can be easily retrieved. We believe that older pupils can and should be taught how to index and cross-reference what they have recorded from their reading.

8.20 In recommending the development of a number of reading skills we have emphasised their value for learning throughout the curriculum. It will be obvious, however, that many of them apply equally to the kind of reading required of most adults. To this extent the work we have recommended will provide a good preparation for the reading demands of adult life. However,


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there remains the need to provide older pupils with a variety of reading which will give more specific experience of what they will encounter. In everyday life the consequences of misreading or a tendency to read carelessly can be quite serious. Pupils need experience in reading with an eye to consequences, for these will be waiting for them in insurance policies, guarantees, contracts, income tax forms, conditions of employment, works notices, trade union leaflets and operating instructions, to name but a few. We do not suggest that these should be imported into the classroom en masse and studied one by one. Pupils do not pay income tax or take out insurance policies, and any training in reading and filling in forms would be quite unrelated to their present experience and concerns. Nevertheless, we believe that reading demands of this kind should certainly be discussed with the pupil before he leaves school. It is not a question of training in the handling of specific reading tasks but of learning to apply general principles to 'official' reading of one kind or another. There are many parallel forms of such reading that bear on the life and activities of the school, and these can be related to examples from the world of work and everyday life. Pupils could undertake a survey of the major areas of information for which most adults have a common need, e.g. home and family affairs, employment, leisure, community matters. They might then investigate the sources of information, and examine examples of it, particularly material which already concerns them or will do so as soon as they leave school. In some schools this kind of study is already to be found in courses for pupils in their final year, but we have not met any examples of specific attention to reading as an aspect of it. We regard this as an important part of preparation for adult life, and one that should not be confined to any one part of the ability range. We certainly do not believe that the reading needs of abler pupils are taken care of by their examination syllabuses. Explicit attention to skills of the kind recommended in this chapter is necessary if they are to become more efficient readers. Finally, we would again emphasise the part to be played by discussion and dialogue. They are an essential support to the pupil in the process of developing his skills as an independent reader.

REFERENCES

1. Richard T Murphy Adults' Functional Reading Study, Project 1 United States Office of Education: 1973.


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CHAPTER 9

Literature

'I passed English all right because I had all that Beowulf and Lord Randal My Son stuff when I was at Whooton School. I mean I didn't have to do any work in English at all, hardly, except write compositions once in a while.'

JD Salinger: 'Catcher in the Rye'.

'(he) ... arrived at the conclusion, from which he never afterwards departed, that all the fancies of the poets, and lessons of the sages, were a mere collection of words and grammar, and had no other meaning in the world.'

Charles Dickens: 'Dombey and Son'.

'It would have been impossible for me to have told anyone what I derived from these novels, for it was nothing less than a sense of life itself.'

Richard Wright: 'Black Boy'.

9.1 This part of the Report would not be complete if it did not end with a discussion of literature, which to many teachers is the most rewarding form of the child's encounter with language. In the main, opinions converge upon the value of literature, if they take separate ways on the treatment it should receive in school. Much has been claimed for it: that it helps to shape the personality, refine the sensibility, sharpen the critical intelligence; that it is a powerful instrument for empathy, a medium through which the child can acquire his values. Writing in 1917, Nowell Smith (1) saw its purpose as 'the formation of a personality fitted for civilised life'. The Newsom Report (2), some 50 years later, said that 'all pupils, including those of very limited attainments, need the civilising experience of contact with great literature, and can respond to its universality'. These are spirited credos, only two of many, and they represent a faith that English teaching needs. They have not, of course, gone unchallenged. In recent years it has been questioned whether literature does in fact make the reader a better and more sensitive human being. What was a matter of self-evident truth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is no longer exempt from question. Few would subscribe to the simple view that it offers models for living which the reader lifts from the pages. In fact, Sampson (3) made the point astringently 50 years ago, and few had a more passionate belief than he in the place of literature in school. '... let me beg teachers to take a sane view of literature. Let us have no pose or affectation about it. Reading Blake to a class is not going to turn boys into saints'. One American educationist has said bluntly that when it comes down to it there is no evidence that the reading of literature in schools produces in any way the social or emotional effects claimed for it. Another has argued that the teacher of English is not the custodian of ethics and character, and that in these matters he has no more and no less responsibility than his colleagues in other subjects. Many American teachers would accept his proposition that the prime responsibility of the English teacher in teaching literature is to teach literature. Thus it is not uncommon to find American high school pupils examining the generic characteristics of a work of literature and assembling patterns of image and symbol. This is not to say that teachers in the USA are single-mindedly concerned with the cognitive aspects of literature. It was, in fact, an American who attacked the writers of sequential curricula as 'afraid to go where the feelings, perceptions, and questions of children would take them'. Nevertheless, there is a difference in emphasis


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between the two countries in this as in other aspects of English teaching. This was apparent at the Dartmouth Seminar of 1966, when British and American teachers of English met to discuss the subject in depth.

9.2 In Britain the tradition of literature teaching is one which aims at personal and moral growth, and in the last two decades this emphasis has grown. It is a soundly based tradition, and properly interpreted is a powerful force in English teaching. Literature brings the child into an encounter with language in its most complex and varied forms. Through these complexities are presented the thoughts, experiences, and feelings of people who exist outside and beyond the reader's daily awareness. This process of bringing them within that circle of consciousness is where the greatest value of literature lies. It provides imaginative insight into what another person is feeling; it allows the contemplation of possible human experiences which the reader himself has not met. It has the capacity to develop that empathy of which Shelley was speaking when he said: 'A man to be greatly good, must imagine intensively and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own'. Equally, it confronts the reader with problems similar to his own, and does it at the safety of one remove. He draws reassurance from realising that his personal difficulties and his feelings of deficiency are not unique to himself; that they are as likely to be the experience of others. Adolescents need this kind of reassurance, to be found in the sort of relieving awareness summed up in CS Lewis's remark: 'Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there do exist people very, very like himself'. The media which influence their world often put a relentless emphasis on euphoria as the natural state of life. They encourage the inference that not to experience it is somehow to miss out and fall short of the norm. Most young people take a realistic view of this, but we can hardly be surprised that there are some who feel it as a pressure. This is only one uncertainty, and perhaps a minor one, but certainly reassurance is one of the available outcomes of this encounter with a wide range of possible human experience.

9.3 It may well be that we lack evidence of the 'civilising' power of literature and that some of the claims made for it have seemed over-ambitious. But we can look to the results of various studies of children's reading as some indication of its value as a personal resource. These have suggested, for example, that children's favourite stories at different ages reflect the particular fantasies and emotional conflicts which are foremost in their experience at that time. The child gets most enjoyment from those stories which say something to his condition and help him to resolve these inner conflicts. Books compensate for the difficulties of growing up. They present the child with a vicarious satisfaction that takes him outside his own world and lets him identify for a time with someone else. They present him with controlled experience, which he can observe from the outside at the same time as being involved within it. Thus, the fulfilling of private wishes, the fabrication of an inner environment, is an important property of children's reading. It accounts for the conclusion that although the names of the most widely-read authors change from one decade to the next the characteristic features of their books remain much the same. The presentation is vivid and dramatic, the characters relatively unsubtle, and virtue triumphs in an ending which places everyone


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where he should be. As he works his way through the book the reader's sympathies will be engaged, his antipathies aroused. It is, of course, easy to say this, but less easy to escape its implications. Books may offer vicarious satisfaction and little else. Indeed many do, and the sympathies they engage and the antipathies they arouse may be far from what we would hope. The child will not necessarily, and not automatically, progress from books which simply vicariously fulfil his wishes to those where a complexity of relationships enlarges his understanding of the range of human possibilities. One would hope to develop the kind of response which is summed up in WP Ker's remark from 'Imagination and Judgement': '... dramatic imagination enters into every question of justice. How can you understand other people's motives unless you act out a fragment or two of a play in which they are the characters?' The development of this response presents the teacher with one of his most delicate areas of operation, and one where his skill and knowledge play an extremely important part. One fact which becomes increasingly evident is the very great extent to which success lies in the contribution of the teacher. It is true in the initial acquisition of reading; it is true in the development of the reading habit; it is true in the growth of discernment. The first of these we have already discussed; the others we will now go on to consider.

9.4 There is no doubt at all in our minds that one of the most important tasks facing the teacher of older juniors and younger secondary pupils is to increase the amount and range of their voluntary reading. We believe that there is a strong association between this and reading attainment, and that private reading can make an important contribution to children's linguistic and experiential development. Before we go on to discuss what the school can and should do to promote it, it will be useful to spend a moment on what is known of children's reading habits. The most recent information on a large scale comes from Whitehead's survey (4) in his Schools Council research project. Almost half the 10 year olds in this survey claimed to have read three or more books during the previous month, the percentage dropping to some two fifths at 12+ and about a third at 14+. There is, however, a substantial minority of children who do not read books at all in their leisure time, and the number increases significantly with age. 13 per cent of Whitehead's 10+ sample had not read a book during the previous month, while at 12+ the corresponding figure was 29 per cent and at 14+ 36 per cent. At each age point this category contained a higher proportion of boys than of girls, and at 14+ the number among the former was as high as 40 per cent. When all else has been considered it seems that there is a fairly large group of children in secondary schools who have the reading skills but do not choose to read books outside school time. A great deal is obviously going to depend on the home environment. It hardly needs saying that where reading has no status and books no place the incentives to read will be slight. But it is clear to us that the school can make a very big difference to this situation. Various studies have revealed that teacher influence on a child's choice of book is considerable, particularly in the case of the less able pupil. Another important conclusion is that for the child who is not a habitual reader the simple fact of which book is where will often determine what he reads. These two factors - teacher influence and book provision - hold the key to an improvement in reading standards in the junior and secondary years.


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9.5 We referred earlier to the damaging notion that once the child has mastered the decoding process he will make his own way. Few teachers would subscribe to it in such blunt terms, but it is nevertheless a notion that is implicit in much classroom procedure. In many junior schools there is a graded reader series to be completed before the child can go to a free choice of 'real books'. Some schools allow these to be read without such a graduation hurdle, but we often met the assumption that mastery of the graded series meant that the child could now read. The teachers were assiduous in their concern that the child should 'learn to read', but when he could decode to their satisfaction they came to see him as self-supporting. In some schools the dependence on supplementary 'readers' was uncomfortably long, and the child had little experience of good children's literature. We found, in fact, that some capable readers almost never read a book in school. They dipped into reference and information books, many of which did not give occasion for sustained reading, but they did not read novels. We also noticed that this was related to the teacher's discontinuance of any kind of record of the child's reading. As long as the child was engaged on the reading scheme, or the graded readers supplementary to it, the teacher would usually keep a note of his progress through it. But we met few teachers who kept a record of what the child read after this. There were only comparatively rare instances of their knowing the pattern and balance of the children's reading, which in our opinion is one of the essential features of a policy of expanding its range.

9.6 A feature which ranks equally with this is the teacher's knowledge of what is available, especially in good modern children's literature. In the middle years of schooling in particular the range of emotional and intellectual development within any one class can be extremely wide, and a correspondingly wide range of fiction is needed. The indications are that narrative books are substantially outnumbered by non-fiction in most primary schools. With the increased emphasis on learning through discovery and personal interests schools have tended to acquire collections of information books to support this kind of work. These are to be found in encouraging profusion in book corners, entrance halls, corridors and bays, as well as in rooms designated as a central library. They are often supplemented by subject boxes or project loans from the school library service, and many primary schools still have their sets of class textbooks. The result is a commanding majority of non-fiction material in the school at any one time. This profusion is encouraging only if it does not indicate a corresponding neglect of fiction. We have already discussed the value of good imaginative literature in its own right, but we would also suggest that it should be used more widely in association with information books. Suppose, for example, a teacher of older juniors or younger secondary pupils is setting up a study of the Vikings. There are plenty of information books on this topic, but it would be an incomplete experience if the child were to have access only to these. The teacher might therefore cluster about this core a modernised version of the Old English poem 'The Battle of Maldon' and the Icelandic 'Njal's Saga' or 'The Saga of Grettir the Strong'; Madeleine Polland's novel 'Beorn the Proud' and Walter Hodges' 'The Namesake'; Patricia Beer's poem 'Abbey Tomb', and Gael Turnbull's 'Gunnar from his Burial Mound' from his group of poems 'Five from the Sagas'. All these


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complement one another and throw fresh light on the source books. Patricia Beer's poem, for instance, is about the fate of monks in a pillaged abbey; Madeleine Polland's novel includes an attack on a monastery from the Vikings' viewpoint. An encounter of this kind could be used to lead a child to wider reading of fiction through an awakened interest. To exploit a promising situation in this way the teacher needs to know what is relevant and available.

9.7 The third important feature of this process of developing self-initiated reading is ingenuity in 'promoting' books. At its simplest and most effective level this will be a case of the teacher's knowledge and enthusiasm bringing child, book, and situation together in a natural interaction. In the course of one visit two members of the Committee were in a primary school library during the lunch hour when a boy came in carrying a tin containing some maggots he had found. The teacher immediately showed a keen interest, talked to him about them, then led him to a shelf where there was a book on the subject. She generated such a curiosity about the book that the boy went off carrying it with his tin of maggots, promising to let her know more about them when he'd read it. This is a seemingly obvious procedure, but not as simple as it sounds, and not as common. There was no doubt of the boy's eagerness to read that book, but it was produced by the teacher's genuine interest in what he had to show her, and her knowing that there was just the book to turn the incident to a reading advantage. In short, it revealed an expert ability to bring the right book to the right child at the right time. Opportunities do not always arrive as such happy accidents, but they can be engineered. We came across similar instances in secondary schools, for example where the teacher had found for the pupil a short story which had something in common with one the pupil had written himself. In the teacher's words, 'the imaginative exploration of the pupil's work can provide a way into the more difficult adult work of fiction'.

9.8 It is a particularly effective device for a teacher to stir demand by reading out arresting passages from new books. Television programmes likely to arouse a keen interest can be anticipated, and the teacher can have ready and waiting the appropriate books to catch the wave. There is almost no limit to the 'publicity' devices that might be conceived. For instance, in the display of dust jackets of new books arrows can lead off to large illustrations and short off-prints of associated material. Pupils can be given a board on which to pin up extracts calculated to make the curious want to know more. The teacher might tape trailer passages on cassettes for children to listen to on headsets. Some pupils might produce advertisement posters or design alternative dust jackets from their knowledge of the book. And always the children should be encouraged to talk about what they have read, to the teacher and among themselves. By keeping a note of what children read he could bring three or four together who had had common experience of a particular book and let them explore one another's reactions to it. This is so much more productive and so much less forbidding than the obligatory written book review, where the pupil knows that his pleasure has inevitably to be followed by a chore.

9.9 All this kind of activity presupposes a wide range of books ready to hand and responsive to the teacher's controlling inventiveness. The


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acquisition of books and the promotional activities are essentially related, and anything less than a professionally informed policy will not achieve the object. The building up of book resources is often something of a piecemeal process rather than a planned response to defined objectives. School library services are an invaluable resource, but they are a support for the teacher, not a substitute for his control of the total learning situation. We discuss this question of book supply in Chapter 21 but mention it here to underscore the importance of keeping a flow of good imaginative literature at the children's fingertips. Various studies have shown that a large number of contemporary writers of good quality fiction are barely represented in many schools, despite the fact that quantitatively the school may be generally well stocked with books. The survey conducted by Whitehead revealed that at least 77 per cent of all the books read by his sample fell within the category of 'narrative', which included biographical writing as well as fiction. Though there was some evidence of a veering towards informational books among the older boys, the category of 'non-narrative' still accounted for only 14.5 per cent of all book reading. It was clear that the narrative mode provided for children of all ages by far the strongest motivation towards the reading of books. The potential of this for a general increase in reading needs no elaboration, and the school should have the books both to create and meet the demand. It is a recognition of this fact that underlies the success of those schools which have achieved a remarkably high rate of voluntary reading.

9.10 We believe that this recognition cannot take place at too early an age, and that fantasy, fairy tale and folk tale should take their place in the repertoire in the earliest stages of reading. JRR Tolkien pointed out that fairy tales were not evolved for the nursery; they found their way there by historical accident. They contain the strength and simplicity of their origins, as well as their deep significance. The children will have had experience of them in a good pre-reading programme, when a teacher or parent will have read them aloud or will have told the stories. All too often when their own reading begins they lose this world in favour of a circumscribed domestic situation with narrow limits of action and feeling. We accept the argument that its commonest representation in early reading books offers few toeholds for the working class child. But we do not believe that it should simply be replaced by one that is set in a working class environment. There is obviously an important place for such material, but we have heard the case for 'relevance' carried to the point of excluding fantasy or any stories with settings or characters unfamiliar to the pupils from their first-hand experience. We do not accept this view. Though we consider it important that much of a child's reading matter should offer contact at many points with the life he knows, we believe that true relevance lies in the way a piece of fiction engages with the reader's emotional concerns. A work like 'Billy Liar', for example, has value for the older pupil not because of its environmental setting but because of its evocation of an aspect of adolescence and its exploration of family tensions.

9.11 We have emphasised that learning to read is a developmental process which continues over the years. To read intelligently is to read responsively; it is to ask questions of the text and use one's own framework of experience in interpreting it. In working his way through a book the reader imports,


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projects, anticipates, speculates on alternative outcomes; and nowhere is this process more active than in a work of imaginative literature. We strongly recommend that there should be a major effort to increase voluntary reading, which should be recognised as a powerful instrument for the improvement of standards. And in making this recommendation we recall a particularly telling remark from the evidence: pupils admitted to an adult literacy scheme had been asked to say why, in their opinion, they failed to learn to read at school. 'Only one common factor emerges: they did not learn from the process of learning to read that it was something other people did for pleasure'.

9.12 Most teachers of English would include among their most important aims a growth of discernment in their pupils. 'Discernment' is a word that begs many questions, and it could be taken to mean that the task of every English teacher is to take every pupil up to a permanent relationship with the great classics. In the last decade this notion has increasingly drawn contention. On the one hand there are those teachers who see literature in terms of a heritage, with which they must endow their pupils. On the other hand there are those who argue that many pupils can never be expected to take literature into their lives in any such sense. There is an equal polarity of view on what should be done with literature in the classroom. To some teachers there is no question but that this should consist of a close and detailed examination of the text, each successive encounter an attempt to sharpen discrimination. For others the text is very little more than a point of departure, a springboard to be barely touched before taking off for the element of personal experience or social issue. Nor is this to be neatly equated with the ability of the pupils. In our visits we saw lessons where pupils of modest capacity were being pressed very closely to the text. And we saw able pupils engaged on experience-based programmes where the text was only perfunctorily visited. Nevertheless, the first approach is traditionally thought appropriate for pupils preparing for examinations and, by extension, for pupils whose road will in due course lead there.

9.13 The influence of examinations on literature teaching has come in for a good deal of assault, not least from those who could hardly be accused of anti-academic bias. Sampson, writing in 1921, said 'If in any school something called literature is systematically taught, the efforts will usually be found to be directed towards literary history, or "meanings", or the explanation of difficulties, or summaries of plays and stories, or descriptions of characters .... all of which are evasions of the real work before the teacher responsible for literature'. And Aldous Huxley in 'The Olive Tree' wrote that examinations in literature encourage pupils to repeat 'mechanically and without reflection other people's judgements'. C Day Lewis saw the process as a threat to a true and sincere response. He described it as a lamentable practice to equip the students with highly sophisticated instruments of criticism, check that the poet responds positively to their tests, and then say 'OK boys, now you may love him'. Such censures gain force when applied to this approach to literature with pupils of lesser capacity. We have seen pupils preparing for O Level and CSE with a diet of activities corresponding very closely to those catalogued by George Sampson. The explanations and the summaries have expanded to takeover point; the literature has receded. We must seriously question what is being achieved


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when pupils are producing chapter summaries in sequence, taking endless notes to prepare model answers and writing stereotyped commentaries which carry no hint of a felt response. Yet this is the standard experience of very large numbers of fourth and fifth formers who spend a term or more on a modest novel which makes no claim to merit such long drawn out attention. We recognise the difficulty facing the teacher, who has the task of talking about a narrative the sequence of which the pupils have not grasped. There are substantial technical problems with which very many teachers have not yet managed to come to terms. These add up to knowing how to help pupils 'through' a novel to the point of being able to respond to its experience without such unreal chores as chapter synopsis. We should like to see more professional discussion of appropriate teaching techniques for class approaches to a full-length novel.

9.14 There is no doubt that many secondary school pupils develop unsympathetic attitudes to literature as a result of their experience in preparing for an examination. We saw lessons in which a novel was treated as a hoard of factual information, with the pupils scoring marks for the facts they remembered. How many sheep did Gabriel Oak lose? What was the name of Bathsheba's maid? Where had Fanny Robins been working before she walked to Casterbridge? We saw pupils encountering poems as little more than comprehension passages, on which the teacher's information and interpretations were recorded as marginal notes. Yet in the same breath it must be said that the right relationship between teacher, text, and pupil can and does have a strikingly positive effect on attitudes to literature. In one fairly recent study (5) a substantial majority of a large sample of O Level candidates of both sexes said they had no intention of reading more poetry after leaving school. But a study of the boys' responses showed that the small minority taking the opposite view came from just six of the twenty-nine classes in ten different schools. It is likely that the positive effect of the teachers of those six classes had been very strong. It is also clear that some of the recent developments in examining have encouraged extensive reading and imaginative teaching. In some of the CSE classes we visited, pupils were responding sensitively to a wide variety of literature and deepening their understanding and enjoyment of it in the course of their study.

9.15 In a very real sense a pupil is himself being judged each time he responds in class to a piece of literature, particularly a poem. More is at stake than his knowledge of the text. Is the value judgement he forms the one the teacher finds acceptable? Is he betraying himself, he may well ask, as one who lacks discrimination? In no other area of classroom operations is there quite the same degree of vulnerability, with poetry the most exposing element of all. Every skilled teacher has his own means of reducing this vulnerability, of balancing the need to explore the text with the need to preserve its appeal. Some of the most successful lessons we have seen have been those in which the teacher has contrived to stand alongside his pupils in this process of exploration. In other words, he has avoided using the text as a repository of answers to which he possesses the key. His curiosity about the work has remained alive and has not been extinguished by layers of acquired judgement. These are the most favourable conditions for any work of literature: when teacher and taught approach it in a common spirit of exploration. Inevitably


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and naturally the teacher will guide, but he will do this by devising situations which lead the pupils to their own insight. Nothing is served if the pupil simply learns to repeat 'mechanically and without reflection other people's judgements', and if in the process he is lost to what literature has to offer him. As we see it, the main emphasis should be on extending the range of the pupil's reading. True discernment can come only from a breadth of experience. Learning how to appreciate with enthusiasm is more important than learning how to reject.

9.16 Over the past ten years or so there has been a growth in secondary schools of the organisation of thematic work. This has been felt to be particularly appropriate in mixed ability classes, since it enables pupils of varying capacity to work alongside one another productively. Sometimes the whole class may read certain poems or short stories together, while at others the material they are handling has been selected to suit their ability. Thematic work has thus provided the pupils with a common purpose, and by its very nature has encouraged an organic treatment of talk, reading, writing, and dramatisation. Literature has fared variously in such arrangements. It has certainly escaped what TS Eliot called the 'dryness of schematic analysis', but sometimes the encounter has been so brief that the pupil has been denied anything but a fleeting consciousness of it. We have seen lessons where the pupil's acquaintance with literature, other than what he reads privately, has been confined to a passage used to introduce a discussion; not a discussion upon the passage, which has been barely visited, but upon an area of experience to which it is related. There were several occasions on which virtually no attention at all was given to the words on the page. 'Have any of you had an experience like this?' is a tempting question after a first reading; but it becomes valuable only if the experience is then brought back to the text, and if there is a sharpening of response to the detail of the writing. An obvious danger in humanities lessons is for the literature to be selected solely on the ground that it matches the theme, however inappropriate it may be in other ways. Moreover, when a poem or story is enlisted to serve a theme it can become the property of that theme to the extent that its richness is oversimplified, its more rewarding complexities ignored. There is also a natural tendency to use collections of short extracts, so that the pupils' experience of complete books becomes minimal. We have a definite impression that fewer full-length novels are read. Anthologies are certainly a valuable resource, but they should open up opportunities, not constitute an end in themselves. The teacher's aim should always be to extend the range of writing to which the children can respond. Where anthologies are used we commend those that include complete pieces or substantial extracts, virtually artistic units on their own, rather than merely short snippets clipped out of their context.

9.17 The success of any innovation turns upon the manner and quality of its interpretation. At its best, thematic work has given to literature a self-proving eminence in the context of photograph, film, television, radio, and newspaper account which have been associated with it in developing the theme. We have seen excellent examples of work founded on such constellations of media. We have been particularly impressed by those situations, admittedly rarer, where the teacher has carefully chosen a core of poetry and drama and gathered about it prose texts which set up reverberations. By


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such means the words on the page can be brought into varying degrees of focus, and breadth achieved without loss of a controlled degree of depth. Many schools are successfully extending the range and variety of their pupils' reading with a large number of carefully selected titles from post-war fiction. These speak to the young adult, often on a helpfully simple level, and explore experiences of direct concern to him. In one small secondary modern school in an urban area we saw a fifth year class of moderate ability supporting their CSE set book study with an extensive range of such titles, chosen by the teacher with an excellent eye for their appeal and relevance. There was no doubt of his success in developing his pupils' enjoyment of wide reading while at the same time preparing them for the examination.

9.18 These and similar forms of organisation demand not only professional skill but professional knowledge. Whatever the value of his contribution in other ways the teacher without specialist qualifications in English cannot be expected to have the same ready access to a wide range of sources. Where a team of teachers is cooperating on a theme, particularly with a humanities programme, the guidance of an English specialist is essential. It is by no means always the case that he is to be found there. If the child is to meet literature the extent, relevance and quality of that literature must not be a matter of chance but the informed judgement of one who has a wide and detailed knowledge of suitable texts. He may not actually be teaching the class, but his advice and support should be available to whichever of his colleagues is. In the best of such arrangements this goes without saying. Regular consultation, reviews and synopses of material, joint study of the books to be used: these and many other devices ensure that all the non-specialist teachers of English are fully resourced. But such planning is not universal, and it is still too readily assumed that anyone can turn his hand to English. This assumption all too often results in a narrower experience of literature, and the closing of opportunities that might have been opened up had the teacher only known of particular books that match them.

9.19 In recent years there has been a welcome growth in the practice of wide individualised reading within a class. This is a pattern which some teachers have long operated, and its advantages were pressed by Jenkinson (6) in his 1940 survey when he advocated small sets of books as opposed to the collective reading of the class novel. And yet the latter is still to be found in many schools as the standard, indeed the exclusive, procedure. We refer here not to the classes which are preparing for examinations, but lower and middle school groups. Its great disadvantage is that it usually entails a slow plod, in which the pupils' experience of the book is parcelled out over a term or part of a term at weekly intervals. There are likely to be pupils who read fewer books during the whole term in school than they read out of school in one month. Moreover, this pattern is often associated with the allocation to particular classes or year groups of certain novels. These lists are often interpreted quite strictly, so that a pupil has no official access to a book in a higher list. Such grading systems are more often than not quite arbitrary and are not based on anything other than an intuitive 'feel'. The intuition of an experienced teacher is a valuable instrument, but experience shows that assessments of suitability can vary widely. In one group of four comparable secondary schools there was only partial agreement as to where


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a particular book belonged. Of the following books, each to be found in the first or second years of at least two of the four schools, only three were prescribed for the same age point in every case: 'Treasure Island', 'Kidnapped', 'Tanglewood Tales', 'Jim Davis', 'Tom Sawyer', 'David Copperfield', 'A Christmas Carol', 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Great Expectations'. Indeed, certain of the books that appeared in one school's lower school list would be deferred by another until the third or fourth year. Where classes are of mixed ability the logic of such restrictions is further open to question.

9.20 At its most extreme the system of class reading at the rate of one or two books a term must put literature in a somewhat artificial light in the mind of the pupil. We have already remarked that children's voluntary reading is not as great in quantity as it should be, but there is no doubt as to its diversity and variety. The 6,000 children in Whitehead's sample who claimed to have read one or more books during the previous four weeks named more than 7,500 separate and distinct titles. In our view the teacher can have a marked effect on his pupils' reading by extending the individualised provision within the classroom and relating it to their reading outside school hours. We have argued that this implies a knowledge on his part of the wide range of good modern fiction available. Some of the book lists we saw in schools were remarkably well-informed on this score, but others contained little beyond the established 'classics', and reflected a stock which had not received an infusion of new (as opposed to replacement) material for some considerable time. It is equally important that the teacher should know something about the pupils' reading habits, and should discover what books they read in their previous school and the nature and extent of the work that has grown out of this reading. We hope he would then keep his own record of their reading in school and would discuss with them the books they read outside it. Perhaps it hardly needs adding that these will often disappoint him. Every survey so far carried out into children's reading reveals that much of it is ephemeral or well below what informed adults would consider to be good material. Nevertheless, the skilled teacher will not reject or denigrate it. The willingness to talk about it and take up the child's enthusiasm is essential to the process of encouraging him to widen his range.

9.21 In recommending an expansion of supported individualised reading in schools we see it as a complementary process to group attention to the text, which provides so valuable an opportunity to deepen the reading experience. Some of the best and most lasting effects of English teaching have come from the simultaneous encounter of teacher, pupil and text. We have suggested above that this experience can be more universally enjoyed when it takes the form of a shared exploration. This is clearly not easy. The teacher has a deeper knowledge of literature in general and that work in particular than his pupils can possess. He brings to the situation a wider experience of life and a maturer view of it. To contain these in the process of sharing is a measure of his skill at its highest level. A child derives value from a work of literature in direct proportion to the genuineness of the response he is able to make to it. The teacher's skill lies in developing the subtlety and complexity of this response without catechism or a one-way traffic in apodictic [incontrovertible] judgements. This is particularly true in the case of poetry, which our visits showed to be


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receiving a wide range of treatment. At its best it was distinguished, and the children were being given an experience which was enviable and a pleasure to witness. At the other extreme some children rarely encountered poetry of any kind.

9.22 It has to be acknowledged that poetry starts at a disadvantage. In the public view it is something rather odd, certainly outside the current of normal life; it is either numinous, and therefore rarely to be invoked, or an object of comic derision. Definitions of poetry are almost limitless, but they always agree upon this central fact: that it is a man speaking to men, of his and their condition, in language which consists of the best words in the best order, language used with the greatest possible inclusiveness and power. Matthew Arnold said of it that it is 'simply the most beautiful, impressive, and widely effective mode of saying things'. To DH Lawrence '... the essential quality of poetry is that it makes a new effort of attention and "discovers" a new world within the known world'. Definitions can inspirit, but they can also deter. It is a reinforcement of the prejudice against poetry to present it as something precious, arcane, to be revered. This concept, a particularly tenacious one, sees poetry as 'something more or less involuntarily secreted by the author', oozing from the unconscious in a manner quite unlike that of prose, which is consciously controlled. The teacher is often faced with the task of showing that poetry is not some inaccessible form of utterance, but that it speaks directly to children, as to anyone else, and has something to say which is relevant to their living here and now.

9.23 We have already referred to the analytical approach to poetry. This has been successively reinforced by every new examination which has been introduced, even where the authors of that examination have intended something quite different. TS Eliot once said of practical criticism: 'It cannot be recommended to young people without grave danger of deadening their sensibility ... and confounding the genuine development of taste with the sham acquisition of it'. But it is to be found, in however skeletal or distorted a form, in some clearly inappropriate situations. We have seen CSE classes working their way almost mechanistically through a set anthology, paraphrasing and answering endless comprehension questions on the way; and this is standard practice for many O Level pupils. It is perhaps not surprising that in the survey mentioned earlier (paragraph 9.14) the pupils' attitude to poetry was a dispiriting one. Of 1,000 O Level and A Level students only 170 said they would read any more poetry after leaving school; 96 of the 800 O Level students, 74 of the 200 A Level students. Equally revealing was their attitude towards particular texts. The four O Level poetry anthologies were conspicuously disliked, while at A Level Milton's poetry, and particularly Paradise Lost, was notably unpopular. It is at least possible that his standing was related to the degree of 'external' labour his poetry demands: factual knowledge, annotation, paraphrase, classical and biblical allusions.*

*Cf Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 'On the Art of Reading' (1920): 'You have (we will say) a class of thirty or forty in front of you ... you will not (if you are wise) choose a passage from 'Paradise Lost': your knowledge telling you that 'Paradise Lost' was written, late in his life, by a great virtuoso, and older men (of whom I, sad to say, am one) assuring you that to taste the Milton of 'Paradise Lost' a man must have passed his thirtieth year'.


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9.24 Our argument here must not be construed as an attack on the notion of a close engagement with a poem; we have already expressed our faith in the value of a shared encounter with a work of literature. Eliot's remark about practical criticism can be balanced with his observation that where a poem is concerned understanding and enjoyment are essential to one another. By this reckoning what kind of understanding has the detailed study of poetry given to the large number of pupils who voted so feelingly against it? It is clear to us that this antipathy rests substantially in the method of teaching it; and the comprehension approach is by no means confined to the examination years. It is usually associated with the timetabled poetry lesson, which often assumes the shape of the Procrustean bed. Where this is the medium of encounter there is a temptation for the poem to be read, re-read, socratically worried, eviscerated for its figures of speech, even copied into exercise books. Clearly there are occasions when a poem needs a comfortable amount of time to be experienced, but poetry works best when it is wanted, not when the timetable decrees it. There will be times when a particular poem may make its maximum impact by being dropped suddenly, with neither preamble nor question, into a lull which calls out for it. There will be occasions when it seems the most natural thing in the world for a poem to be read at that particular moment. For instance, to read Anthony Hecht's poem 'Tarantula' while discussing the Great Plague would be to give a new dimension to the subject. Edwin Muir's 'The Interrogation' and Edwin Morgan's 'The Suspect' graphically examine an experience of authority at its most unfeeling, each ending on a tempting question mark. The kind of talk that goes on in class always creates at some point the context for a poem that takes up the general feeling. The strength and relevance of the experience within it should engage the pupils' response and thus their willingness to grapple with the language. Some of the best lessons we saw were those where pupils and teacher were enjoying the exchange of opinions on points of vocabulary, attitude, atmosphere, and metaphor.

9.25 All this leads us back inevitably to the question of the teacher's knowledge of his material. Many schools simply do not have the resources to take this kind of opportunity. The anthologies, thematic source books, and collections of extracts are a great help, but they do not go far enough. Many of them are sensitively and intelligently compiled, and the editor has allowed his own good judgement to operate on his own very wide reading. Some, however, are simply anthologies of anthologies, yielding only a few new poems to supplement the very large overlap with collections that have gone before. A particular poem will appear time and again, though in fact it may not be either the most appealing or the most suitable of the very many the author has written. Inevitably, anthologies age, and where a school relies on class sets (sometimes, as we have seen, shared between two or three classes) the range of available material will become relatively narrower as time goes by. It is exceptionally difficult for the individual teacher to keep abreast of all the new poetry that is published. Indeed, except for those with a particular interest in it there is often a time lag, so that the teacher is not aware of much of the work produced in the last two decades. A good anthology will do a great deal to introduce teacher and pupil alike to new and unfamiliar material, but it should not be a substitute for the extensive reading of poetry by the teacher himself. We know this is an ideal; but if the teacher


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wants to find material that he knows will be right for his pupils and the context he has created, this is the most rewarding way. There is some very good poetry published that never finds its way into an anthology, and much of it would appeal directly to the pupils. There is certainly everything to be said for teachers in a primary school and members of an English department maintaining a collective knowledge of what is being produced. We found that one of the strengths of the well qualified groups of specialists in some comprehensive schools was precisely this team approach to reading. Communally, the department had an impressive knowledge, upon which every individual member could draw. This awareness thus becomes a major contributor to the central resource collection a department creates for itself. Such a collection will contain print and non-print materials of all kinds, and one of its essentials should be a wide range of poetry gathered through teachers' first-hand reading of the work of individual poets. A resource point of this kind can be particularly helpful to a young teacher early in his first appointment. To enjoy so wide a choice, to be able to call freely on record, tape, or cassette, may make all the difference to his attitude to poetry in the classroom in that first year. Another valuable facility is the Arts Council-DES 'Writers in Schools' scheme, which enables poets to visit schools to read and talk about their work. Where we have seen this in operation it has been very successful. Some schools have developed the interest it has generated by taking pupils to exhibitions of poetry and public readings.

9.26 We have placed some emphasis on contemporary poetry, but this is not to imply that we recommend it at the expense of older poetry. It is simply that much of the work of this half century, and perhaps particularly the last two decades of it, has a voice to which a larger number of young people can more readily respond. Moreover, it is fresh to many teachers themselves and some feel able to read it to their pupils with the pleasure of a new discovery. Poetry of this century and of earlier centuries can be read side by side, to the mutual illumination of both. And what we have said about going beyond anthologies applies with little less force to the latter.

9.27 Poetry has great educative power, but in many schools it suffers from lack of commitment, misunderstanding, and the wrong kind of orientation; above all it lacks adequate resources. There are few more rewarding experiences in all English teaching than when teacher and pupil meet in the enjoyment of a poem. We are not so unrealistic as to believe that all pupils can take away from school with them a lasting love of poetry. There will always be many people to whom it offers nothing. But we are certain that it does not reach as many as it might, and we believe this can be achieved.

9.28 We can sum up by saying that whatever else the pupil takes away from his experience of literature in school he should have learned to see it as a source of pleasure, as something that will continue to be a part of his life. The power to bring this about lies with the teacher, but it cannot be pretended that the task is easy. In outlining some of the difficulties we have inevitably had to be critical of certain approaches which we believe compound them. However, we must conclude with warm appreciation of the work we have seen in many of the schools we visited, which we believe is representative of the imaginative treatment literature is widely receiving. It is an aspect of English which has made some remarkable advances in recent


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years, and we feel that great credit belongs to the teachers who have done so much to bring these about.

REFERENCES

1. Nowell Smith Cambridge Essays on Education Editor AC Benson, Cambridge University Press: 1917.

2. Half our Future HMSO: 1963.

3. G Sampson English for the English Cambridge University Press: 1921.

4. F Whitehead, AC Capey and W Maddren Children's Reading Interests Schools Council Working Paper No. 52: Evans/Methuen Educational: 1974.

5. G Yarlott and WS Harpin 1,000 Responses to English Literature Educational Research 13.1 and 13.2: 1972/73.

6. AJ Jenkinson What do Boys and Girls Read? An investigation into reading habits with some suggestions about the teaching of literature in secondary and senior schools: Methuen: 1940.





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Part Four

Language in the Middle
and Secondary Years





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CHAPTER 10

Oral Language

TALKING AND LISTENING

'We children beg thee, oh teacher, to teach us to speak, because we are ignorant and speak incorrectly.' 'What do you want to say?' 'What do we care what we say, provided it is correct speech and useful and not foolish or bad'.

Grammar book of the early English scholar Aelfin.

'Mrs. Durbeyfield habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter ... the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary English abroad and to persons of quality'.

Thomas Hardy: Tess of the D' Urbervilles.

'I have forgotten the words I intended to say, and my thoughts, unembodied, return to the realm of the shadows'.

Osip Mandelstam.

10.1 In his last term in the junior school a child may be with one teacher for the whole of the curriculum and for every session in the week. From his first week in the secondary school he may have different teachers for the ten or more subjects on the timetable, and may move to a different classroom every time the bell rings. In each situation he has to adapt to different styles of relationship, content, and methods of presentation. The implications of this change from one environment to another are considerable for the child and will affect his response as a talker and as a listener. The nature of the language encounter is shaped by the organisation of the pupil's learning experience. In many of his specialist subject lessons in the secondary school the experience is likely to give him much less scope for exploratory talk. There is a greater probability of direct teaching, with the teacher controlling the lesson by question and answer, and the pupils' responses shepherded within defined limits.

10.2 We need to begin by examining the nature of the language experience in the dialogue between teacher and class within this framework. By its very nature a lesson is a verbal encounter through which the teacher draws information from the class, elaborates and generalises it, and produces a synthesis. His skill is in selecting, prompting, improvising, and generally orchestrating the exchange. But in practice the course of any dialogue in which one person is managing 30 is only partly predictable. There will be false avenues and unexpected diversions. There will be minute by minute changes in the ratio of teacher-pupil contribution, depending upon how unfamiliar to the children the material becomes at any given point. In fact the class lesson is a very complex process. This complexity has always been intuitively recognised by teachers, but only comparatively recently has it been systematically studied. By an examination of tape transcripts Barnes (1) has illustrated the difficulties that face the pupil when a subject teacher is trying to 'implant concepts' by question and answer. It has also become clear what difficulties face the teacher if he is to encourage genuine exploration and learning on the part of his pupils, and not simply the game of guessing what he has in mind. What the teacher has in mind may well be the desirable destination of a thinking process; but a learner needs to trace the steps from the familiar to the new, from the fact or idea he possesses to that which he is to acquire. In other words, the learner has to make a journey in thought for himself. The kind of class lesson we are describing has therefore to be


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supported by others in which the pupils' own exploratory talk has much more scope. Where it builds upon such talk the class lesson can be an important way of encouraging the final steps by which a new piece of learning is securely reached. But it can achieve this only if the teacher-directed discussion takes up and uses the contributions of the pupils, for these indicate the stages at which pupils' thinking now stands, and they point the steps by which the destination can be reached. 'Guessing what the teacher has in mind' becomes only too easily a substitute for this more arduous process.

10.3 One way for the teacher to avoid this is to watch that the questions he asks are open-ended rather than closed, and that the synthesis he brings about is seen to be the end point of the pupils' own thinking under his guidance. Genuine thinking may be more readily provoked when the teacher poses a genuine problem than when he asks a question to which he knows the answer. In a recent project Sinclair (2) has analysed the discourse of lessons to show how varieties of teacher utterance are related to varieties of pupil utterance, and vice versa. He shows, for example, that what may appear at first sight to be an alternation of two kinds of discourse, the question from the teacher and the answer from a pupil, is in fact very often an exchange containing three kinds of discourse: question (teacher), answer (pupil) and evaluation (teacher). 'Evaluation', in plainer terms, is the teacher's verdict on the pupil's answer. It may appear a rather elusive feature to anyone reading a transcript of a lesson, because it is often carried by the tone of voice rather than delivered in so many words, but it influences the discourse in such a way that the 'class discussion' is often no more than a series of disconnected endeavours to read the teacher's mind.

10.4 There is research evidence to suggest that on average the teacher talks for three quarters of the time in the usual teacher-class situation. It has been calculated from this that in a 45 minute period the amount of time left for a class of 30 to contribute is an average of some 20 seconds per pupil. Of course this does not happen in practice. Pupils have their own 'hidden agendas', and some will avoid any participation, given the chance this kind of situation affords. The rest may compete for attention, and the teacher determines not only who shall speak but what value their contribution is accorded. The exact nature of this control will depend upon the sensitivity and skill of the teacher, his view of the subject matter, and the pupils' understanding of what is expected of them. Teachers of young children, for instance, are more likely to be tolerant of anecdote than are those of older pupils. They recognise that an offering of wavering relevance may be essential to the child's way in to the dialogue. In the secondary school the subject teacher is usually concerned to achieve a step by step presentation of his material, and this often results in his asking the kinds of questions that elicit one-word answers. Some recent research in a number of American junior high schools showed that on average the teacher asked a new question every 12 seconds. It would be unwise to infer that the same rate would be found in this country. Nevertheless, it indicates that speed of questions, and therefore brevity of answers, is a likely feature where the dialogue is being used simply to transmit information. It is obvious that at this rate of exchange there can be little opportunity for genuine thinking. The teacher's effectiveness will be increased if he has an explicit awareness of the nature and


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characteristics of the discourse. If he denies himself the feedback from his pupils' reformulations of the stages in an argument, he cannot assess how successful he has been.

10.5 Before considering other forms of classroom dialogue it would be useful to pause on the question of the teacher's explicit understanding of his pupils' language. The point to be emphasised is that the child's language should be accepted, and most teachers appreciate the importance of this. To criticise a person's speech may be an attack on his self-esteem, and the extent to which the two are associated is evident from the status accorded to accent in society at large. There is a marked social element in the 'aesthetic' assessment of accents, in which researchers have found a hierarchy. At the top is Received Pronunciation, followed by certain foreign and regional accents, with industrial and 'town' accents in the lower reaches. In one survey Birmingham was placed firmly at the bottom, with Cockney only a little way above it. Research conducted in New York by Labov (3) found that the 'upwardly socially mobile' had a particularly sensitive perception of sounds in listening to spoken language. They were highly sensitive to the model to which they were aspiring and consequently to those sounds which they felt they should avoid. We believe that a child's accent should be accepted, and that to attempt to suppress it is irrational and neither humane nor necessary. The teacher's aim should be to indicate to his pupils the value of awareness and flexibility, so that they can make their own decisions and modify these as their views alter.

10.6 The question of conformity to acceptable standards of grammar and diction is rather more difficult and certainly one in which more teachers feel the need to change the speech habits of their pupils. However, a view that has long been held by linguists is that an utterance may be 'correct' in one linguistic situation but not in another. Any one person belongs to a number of speech communities, and correctness therefore becomes a matter of conforming to the linguistic behaviour appropriate to the situation in which he is talking. Many people find this notion of relativity hard to accept, but it seems to us far more reasonable to think in terms of appropriateness than of absolute correctness. This is to operate positively rather than negatively, in the sense that one is seeking to extend the child's range of language use, not restrict it. The aim is not to alienate the child from a form of language with which he has grown up and which serves him efficiently in the speech community of his neighbourhood. It is to enlarge his repertoire so that he can use language effectively in other speech situations and use standard forms when they are needed. This clearly cannot be achieved overnight, which is why we emphasise that the teacher should start where the child is and should accept the language he brings to school. In the course of the child's life in school there should be a gradual and growing extension of his powers of language to meet new demands and new situations, and this again takes us firmly to the need for an explicit knowledge by the teacher of how language operates.

10.7 There are other reasons why inappropriate evaluations are sometimes applied to the spoken word. Putting it very generally, not enough account is taken of the fundamental differences that exist between speech and writing. The writer must usually entrust his message to the words on the page. A


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spoken utterance, on the other hand, is not generally required to carry the full and final expression of a speaker's meaning, since he is in touch with his listeners and in the light of their responses can repeat, modify, or add to what he has said. Furthermore, a speaker uses more than words. He uses paralinguistic features, which supplement the words themselves and govern the way in which a thing is said. Intonation patterns and other paralinguistic features carry a great deal of the meaning. Tone of voice, pitch, intensity, timing, facial expression and physical gestures: all may contribute as part of his message. His pauses may range from mere hesitations to long silences, his gestures from the deliberate and formal to the unconscious expressiveness of bodily posture.

10.8 Written language has to take on a precision and complexity of linguistic structure that is not demanded of speech. If a reader wishes he can shut himself away with the text, giving it his whole attention. The words stand before him on the page, and he may vary his speed to match his comprehension, going back to re-read where he needs to, or pausing to make sure of a meaning before he reads on, cross-referencing for himself backwards and forwards in the text. A listener to speech, on the other hand, must catch his message on the wing. Thus it is that repetitions, re-phrasings, annotations, and extensions en route, all of them varieties of 'redundancy', are not only permissible in a way they would not be in writing, but may well indeed be essential. It is a tendency of the written language to transcend differences in time and place, and hence to offer some resistance to change. It is in the nature of the spoken language to change in response to changing demands, and for a variety of reasons. With such general differences as these in mind, one linguist (4) has gone as far as to claim that 'serious written English may be regarded as a rather artificial dialect of our language'.

10.9 In spoken language the paralinguistic features we have been describing strongly influence one person's judgement of another's effectiveness. This fact is tacitly recognised by most people, who know they can be charmed by nonsense and bored by sense. What they are largely unaware of is exactly how this is happening. Some teachers acquire a high degree of skill in assessing the spoken language of their pupils, but there is evidence (5) that very many find it difficult. We believe that an explicit understanding of the nature of spoken language would extend their ability to influence it. The teacher's own speech is a crucial factor in developing that of his pupils; even more important are the understanding and the informed attitudes he brings to the whole undertaking.

10.10 What then of ways in which verbal interaction can be organised to extend the pupils' ability to handle language? Throughout the primary and middle years the change of emphasis from teaching to learning has meant that talk now occupies a position of central importance. This is not, of course, to suggest that the classroom of the past operated simply on the principle that the teacher talked and the pupils listened, and that their output was through the medium of the pen. Nevertheless, new patterns of classroom organisation have changed the balance, so that primary school children spend more time discovering for themselves and talking about their discoveries. The teacher's role in this is vitally important and very demanding; for it is not enough to assume that, given a wide range of activities in a lively


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primary classroom, the child's language can be left to take care of itself. There is obviously great value in providing opportunities for children simply to talk freely and informally on whatever interests them, and nothing we say should be taken as detracting from this. But although such talk may serve many useful purposes it will not necessarily develop the children's ability to use language as an instrument for learning. The important question to ask is whether demands are being made upon their language by the nature of the problem and the process of arriving at a solution to it. Children need to represent to themselves and others what is being learnt, and a study of tape transcripts will show that in any group learning activity this is not an automatic outcome. It is even less likely to happen where children work individually through assignment cards or work sheets. As one among a variety of learning devices these have their place, but where they are used widely on an individual basis this limitation should be recognised.

10.11 The teacher's role should be one of planned intervention, and his purposes and the means of fulfilling them must be clear in his mind. Important among these purposes should be the intention to increase the complexity of the child's thinking, so that he does not rest on the mere expression of opinion but uses language in an exploratory way. The child should be encouraged to ask good questions as well as provide answers, to set up hypotheses and test them, and to develop the habit of trying out alternative explanations instead of being satisfied with one. This is unlikely to be managed easily in the full class situation, where the teacher has an obvious problem. If he allows the articulate to dominate he is doing nothing for the less articulate. If he tries to draw the latter into public participation they will often fail and their confidence will suffer further. Small group work, on the other hand, provides the security which encourages the less articulate to claim a greater share of the exchange. It is important that the teacher should spend time with each of the small groups to guide the language into fulfilling its purpose. 'Guidance' is not used here in the sense of dominant intervention; indeed receptive silence is as much a part of it as the most persuasive utterance. The teacher has first to be a good listener, letting his genuine interest act as a stimulus. His questions will encourage the pupils to develop or clarify points in their thinking, or take them beyond it into the contemplation of other possibilities. We must not give the impression, however, that this is a simple matter and that there are no problems. The work of Sinclair and his colleagues has suggested that the reason children are not encouraged to ask questions is that so often they are placed in a non-initiating role. Moreover, as we have already pointed out, they are inevitably aware that there is something artificial about an exchange where the teacher's part is to evaluate their contribution and where he knows in advance what they are likely to say. These inhibiting factors cannot simply be wished away. The teacher must devise situations in which the pupils will naturally adopt the kind of behaviour he wants to encourage. In other words, he must structure the learning so that the child becomes positively aware of the need for a complicated utterance, and is impelled to make it. In this way the teacher's skilled and carefully controlled intervention is a valuable means of extending his pupils' thinking and making new demands upon their language. We have suggested that in primary schools the organisation of the work often makes it relatively easy for the teacher to arrange this kind of


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participation and that in the secondary school the picture is more complicated. Many English and humanities teachers plan such opportunities, but there are lessons in other subjects where no such flexibility is at work. We urge in a subsequent chapter that the role of language throughout the curriculum should be an important consideration in secondary schools. The child's need to organise knowledge through language should be recognised in all subjects.

10.12 When children bring language to bear on a problem within a small group their talk is often tentative, discursive, inexplicit, and uncertain of direction; the natural outcome of an encounter with unfamiliar ideas and material. The intimacy of the context allows all this to happen without any sense of strain. In an atmosphere of tolerance, of hesitant formulation, and of cooperative effort the children can 'stretch' their language to accommodate their own second thoughts and the opinions of others. They can 'float' their notions without fear of having them dismissed. Larger and more formal contexts make different demands, and the child should learn to be able to cope with these. The exploratory dialogue of the small group will obviously not serve when the pupil is presenting ideas to the whole class. For one thing the situation affords less security, since what could be chanced with the other members of a group of six will be less acceptable to a class of thirty. Tentativeness has to be replaced by an explicit sense of direction, and the pupil has to organise his thought for the benefit of a variety of listeners, whose attention he must try to hold. He has to think beyond his immediate words and be prepared to elaborate, since the larger group may seek further information where the small group would be content with what is immediately available. The two activities should be related, the one arising from the other in a purposeful way. Some small group work should have as its end a sharing of its conclusions with the whole class. This will impose upon it the need for shaping and organisation, and decisions as to how the material can be most effectively presented. Presentation can take many forms; it may be written, visual, or dramatic, or it may be through 'planned dialogue', with members of the group publicly exchanging views and afterwards summarising their conclusions. Some pupils may wish to make up a tape recording, supporting it with a film-strip they have made themselves. Easy-loading cameras and battery-operated portable tape recorders should be readily available for this purpose. If children want to incorporate into their main tape the interviews and sounds they have recorded outside the school they should have tape copying facilities. In short the whole programme should have proper resources. The children must be able to feel that their efforts have had a real purpose and have been taken seriously. A good deal of the oral work we saw in schools suffered from a lack of contact with reality in the sense that it did not carry this conviction of real purpose. Its air of contrivance was apparent to the children themselves, and since their language was answering to no real need beyond that of an elaborate exercise it had an artificial restraint about it. This was particularly true of the weekly period devoted on lecturettes, 'formal' debates, and mock interviews.

10.13 There is a place for all these activities at some time or another, and the short talk has a particular claim. But all too often they have no relationship to the rest of the work and they lack context and support. Moreover, some of them are so organised that the majority of the class are passive listeners throughout the period. An example is a lesson we saw where a class


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of thirteen year olds was having mock interviews for a job. The teacher sat at his desk representing the employer, the pupil facing him with her back to the class. Only half the resulting dialogue could be heard, and the rest of the class had no opportunity for participation of any kind. The following diagram represents the pattern of voluntary participation observed in another lesson, where the teacher was attempting to involve as many pupils as possible in a class discussion:

Diagram 9

PATTERN OF PUPIL PARTICIPATION IN A CLASS DISCUSSION

It is at least possible that diagrams from a larger sample of English lessons devoted to 'discussion' would produce a similar pattern. In another school each child in a class of eleven year olds was giving a lecturette on a subject chosen by himself. The time for preparation was minimal and many of the children faltered to a halt without filling their allotted span. The feeling of contrivance was increased by the fact that each child had afterwards to submit to a public criticism and was allotted a grade by class vote.


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10.14 The most successful example of this activity we encountered was where the children in a 'remedial' group were presenting what amounted to a series of demonstrations with commentary. They had about them all the raw materials of their interests and talked fluently as they handled them. One boy had constructed a model horse which he fitted with bridle, saddle etc in the process of his talk. All this was the outcome of the skill and enthusiasm of the teacher and was a natural element of the flow of work rather than a staged event. It is important to note that the children were being themselves, not obliged to play roles, or to see the situation as different from what it was in reality, or to imagine anything that was not the case. There is often great excitement and high motivation in simulation, role-playing, and constructing imaginary situations, but activities based on actualities ought not to be neglected. For some children, including the less confident and less gifted, such work can provide a firm base from which to undertake expeditions into imagined worlds. In one school we saw a class absorbed in a project which involved all the activities to be found in the formal 'speech lesson', but provided them with a context that gave them meaning. The children were asked to study the problem of the siting of a new airport and produce their solutions. The teacher had planned it meticulously, producing photographs, documents, and large-scale maps. Within their groups the pupils played the roles of interested parties and prepared for these roles by tape recording conversations with a number of local people, e.g. museum curator, planning officer, and shopkeepers, and by writing personal profiles. All the group activity culminated in a sharing of the work, in which some pupils gave talks, some were interviewed, and others presented round table discussions. Throughout the project they had been given the opportunity to test hypotheses and solve problems and at the same time to project themselves into the feelings of others.

10.15 This capacity for projection, this readiness to speculate upon experience beyond one's own, is one of the great values of literature, and of talking about literature. Through talk about personal experience, and its objectification in books and stories, the child is able not merely to reshape his own but to accommodate that of others. An important task for the teacher is to encourage a view of discussion as a means of enlarging one's own personal world and modifying it to take account of other people's. So much formal discussion at adult level goes no further than the exchange of prejudices, or at the very least of inflexible points of view. Children should learn while at school that discussion is an opportunity to explore and illuminate a subject, not drive home relentlessly one's own personal opinions.

10.16 Some teachers have adopted the kind of approach recommended by the Schools Council Humanities Curriculum Project (6) in setting up discussions on controversial issues. This project was instituted in 1967 and in an evaluation of its effects it was found that statistically significant improvements were recorded on the Manchester Reading Test and the Mill Hill Vocabulary Test. The aim of the project has been to offer to secondary schools and to teachers 'such stimulus, support and materials as may be appropriate to ... enquiry-based courses which cross the traditional boundaries between English, history, geography, religious studies and social studies'. Eight themes were illustrated by a great variety of materials - extracts from


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novels, history, drama, letters, reports, maps, advertisements, film, tape, slides, and other forms of 'evidence':

EducationPeople and Work
War and SocietyPoverty
FamilyLaw and Order
Relations between the SexesLiving in Cities

These were intended to lead to a wide range of practical and creative activities, the planning of which produced the opportunities for a great deal of purposeful talk. At the heart of the project was the small group discussion through which the pupils considered the evidence in the packs of materials. In the course of this the teacher was to submit to 'the criterion of neutrality'. He would take no sides in the controversy but would encourage 'rationality rather than irrationality, sensitivity rather than insensitivity, imaginativeness rather than unimaginativeness, tolerance rather than intolerance'. These are admirable objectives, and in our visits and our discussions we studied the extent to which they were being realised. We noted that some secondary schools have adopted an approach of this kind to the extent of cutting into the allocation of time for English to make way for it. This is a reasonable practice so long as (a) the pupils' experience is in no respect diminished from that which they would encounter in a normal range of English lessons; (b) the pupils are with teachers of English who understand their language needs and can ensure that the materials and activities are meeting them. We came across situations where these conditions were not being fulfilled and where the language work was lacking in direction. One reason for this was that the teacher sometimes lacked the skill to ensure that the quantity of documentary evidence did not outweigh the quality of expression. Even where this skill was present the evidence seemed sometimes to limit the value of the discussion rather than promote it.

10.17 We believe that those English teachers who have critically examined the relationship between materials and discourse have raised important questions. We also believe that the place of literature in such materials needs careful consideration. Some children are in danger of encountering literature only in the context of social controversy, and only then in the form of extract, short story, or poem. In the nature of things these tend to be chosen for their application to the theme rather than primarily for their quality or their relevance to the child's wider interests and needs. This is a shortcoming of much thematic work on social issues, some of which lacks the advantage of the detailed planning and collection of resources that went into the Schools Council Humanities Curriculum Project. We would be the last to deny the value of relating literature to live issues of human concern; indeed, elsewhere in the Report we urge that very relationship. But it is not the function of literature to provide a kind of social comprehension test; nor to serve as a glib and instant illustration, its true significances left unexplored.

10.18 The Humanities Curriculum Project has done a great deal to draw attention to the ways in which discussion can be inhibited by the 'hidden agenda' of the teacher, made manifest by implicit marks of approval or disapproval, and by questions which lead to passive acquiescence rather than deeper enquiry. Its best exponents deny that the procedural neutrality of the chairman implies abdication of responsibility. Yet fears have been expressed


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that in less competent hands the role might be interpreted in just this way, and be damagingly negative. The teacher-chairman's role is too complex to be circumscribed by simple notions of impartiality, and the Project, when properly understood, gives clear pointers to that complexity. We have expressed some reservations about the Project as it relates to the teaching of English, but we are in no doubt about its strengths. It is providing a helpful contribution to the growth of understanding about the nature of talk in the classroom, and of the teacher's vital part in developing in his pupils the attributes we have been advocating.

10.19 We move now to the question of listening. One or two witnesses gave it as their opinion that children are poorer listeners now than in the past. It was suggested that there has been a marked deterioration in children's ability to listen to instructions, to the teacher reading, and to radio broadcasts. We question whether there is evidence to support this contention. Opinions on such an issue are bound to be subjective, and only by the application of monitoring procedures could there be any certainty. Experiment has shown that students listening to lectures comprehend only about half the substance of them. The difficulty of listening is commonly underestimated, and it is another aspect of communication that deserves to be better understood. Human attention is limited, and the longer people are required to listen the less effectively they do it. Research findings on the amount of time pupils spend listening may now be out of date, but they have indicated that of the time devoted to listening, speaking, reading and writing, well over half is taken up by the first. Since much of this is purely passive its efficiency is limited. People listen best when they have to take some action upon the information they have received. Where they have the opportunity to reply or to participate through action their attention is stimulated.

10.20 To conclude that most listening is inefficient is to prompt the question: what can be done to improve it? A good deal of attention has been given to this question in the USA, where experiments (7) have been conducted to isolate listening skills and evaluate techniques to improve them. The question is whether training can bring about a discernible improvement. To be persuaded of its value we would need evidence that it succeeds not only in the immediate situation but in the long-term, and that the improvement becomes general and transferable. The American experiments give no assurance of this, and even their short-term gains are open to question. An obvious difficulty of evaluation is that the testing situation itself is likely to influence the individual to try to perform better than he ordinarily does. For instance, it was found in the USA that the 'actual listening behaviour' of a group of adults bore little relation to their test scores. Moreover, many of the listening tests and training programmes are based on the reading aloud of written language, which is certainly not representative of the listening skill the individual needs for the varied activities in which he is daily involved.

10.21 We cannot support the kind of 'listening exercise' which is applied to a whole class, irrespective of individual capacity and need. This device is to be found in some commercially produced kits, where the teacher reads out a passage and the children afterwards answer questions on a work-card. Wherever we saw this being practised it involved the whole of a mixed ability class, and in our view the exercise had little to recommend it. The able


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children could have been given more demanding listening experience, and the slow learners suffered from having their inadequacies made public. The essential question is whether listening skills can and should be dealt with in isolation. In our view listening ability cannot be regarded as something to be abstracted, remedied, and returned. It is part of a highly complex process in which it is related to the individual situation and to the knowledge and experience of the listener, the nature of his motivation, and the degree of his involvement. We have argued that the teacher should engineer situations designed to extend his pupils' ability to use language for a particular purpose. In the same way he should aim to extend their receptive capacity. To a large extent the two will obviously be interdependent, for when children are working together to an end, listening becomes essential to their success. But we again emphasise that a conscious policy on the part of the teacher is necessary. There may be no evidence to show that formal training procedures are lastingly effective, but there is an equal lack of evidence to suggest that the daily activity of the classroom is in itself sufficient. In our view the ability can best be developed as part of the normal work of the classroom and in association with other learning experiences. But deliberate strategies may be required, for it cannot be assumed that the improvement will take place automatically.

10.22 This has implications for equipment and resources, and we believe that the teacher should have ready access to anthologies of spoken language on tape. These anthologies should consist of language in use in a wide variety of real life situations, or as accurate a simulation of them as can be obtained. Groups of teachers have already shown what can be achieved in the preparation of tapes and transcripts. This kind of activity could be directed to the production of collections of spoken language, supplemented by recorded broadcast material not subject to copyright. In the early stages of development these might go into a centrally held bank maintained at the teachers' centre or by the local authority's audio-visual service. Where possible, however, they should be copied for each school which requests them. Some schools will prefer to build up their own collections. A secondary school and its contributory primary schools might cooperate to produce material that will ensure continuity across the point of transfer.

10.23 Work of the kind we have been describing must be supported by resources on a proper scale. Our survey (see Tables 36 and 37) revealed that many schools do not even have the use of a mains tape recorder for the teaching of English. Small primary schools suffer particularly in this respect. 93 per cent of schools of over 350 pupils used a mains tape recorder, but the figure was as low as 66 per cent in the case of schools of up to 70 pupils. The disparity was even greater in respect of battery-operated portable tape recorders, which we regard as a valuable aid in the development of oral language. The corresponding figures here were 58 per cent and 17 per cent respectively. A child has an equal right to such facilities whatever the size of school he attends. Indeed, it is surprising that there remain so many schools where English teaching lacks these essential pieces of equipment. The survey revealed that one in five of the sample primary schools had no mains tape recorder, while three in five had no battery-operated model. In our view the tape recorder is an indispensable instrument for oral


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work, and no teacher should be without ready access to one. In our survey of secondary schools we asked whether certain items of equipment were available for the teaching of English. The question was phrased in this way to take account of those schools where the equipment is held centrally and borrowed by departments when required. 98 per cent of schools had a mains tape recorder and 57 per cent a battery-operated portable. The first figure is highly encouraging, though it may mask many instances of difficulty for teachers. To be of greatest value a tape recorder should be ready for use at very short notice. It should certainly not be necessary to have to 'book' it for a particular lesson or send for it over some distance.

10.24 Continuity and development are difficult enough to ensure in children's writing, where the product can be re-examined and compared with earlier performance. They are still more difficult to identify in children's talking and listening, even with the help of a tape recorder to provide the aural equivalent of re-reading. We believe, however, that the notion of continuity and progress is an important one, and that it should be defined as clearly as possible within the teacher's mind. The following are suggested as guidelines to the kind of progression a teacher might hope to develop. They are not intended to be exhaustive, nor to apply to any given age-points, still less to provide finishing lines which every child must be expected to cross:

(i) from simple anecdote, strung together mainly by coordinate syntax, to a shaped narrative, aided by voice qualities, timing, and emphasis;

(ii) from limited to extended span; not only in the length of utterance, but in the ability to range backwards and forwards over the discussion, with an awareness of the relationship between its parts as it develops. When a pupil can say, at the appropriate point, 'Ah, but you said just now that ...', or 'I want to pick up what X said ...', he is demonstrating this very important quality;

(iii) from simple reiteration by the speaker of his own point of view to an openness to the complexity of the dialogue, so that he is able to modify his own viewpoint to accommodate the contributions of others, and encourage and interpret other opinions as part of a cooperative activity;

(iv) from the concrete to the abstract, the subjective to the objective, the present to the past and future.

In none of these is it a matter of shedding the former condition to adopt the latter, of developing one attribute at the expense of another. It is a matter of extending range, so that the pupil can move confidently within it according to the linguistic and social demands of the occasion, an ability which we believe should characterise the mature sixteen year old.

10.25 It has been the practice for a considerable time for some schools to enter pupils for examinations in spoken English. This facility has been offered by the English Speaking Board and by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music for the past twenty years, and also by the Poetry Society. Our survey showed that 6 per cent of the secondary schools in the sample were represented in membership of the English Speaking Board. During the last ten years all the CSE regional boards have introduced


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examinations in oral English, and it is also featured in trial English syllabuses for a single examination at 16+. In 1964 an experiment (8) was conducted by the Southern Regional Examinations Board in association with the University of Southampton to study the examining on a large scale of oral English. 450 candidates were divided into four groups, each of which took a different form of oral examination:

1. reading a passage and talking with the examiner.
2. making a short speech or lecture and answering questions.
3. talking to the examiner about a diagram previously studied.
4. participation in group discussion.
The four forms of examination were supported by tape recordings and by an assessment of the candidate's spoken English by his teachers. In its conclusions the study tentatively proposed that method two was the most 'natural', rewarding, and successful; method three led to the cultivation of 'civilised conversation', and method four measured ability unrevealed in the normal classroom situation. Habits in spoken English could be 'sharpened, enriched and disciplined by intelligent and sensitive attention in the classroom and syllabus', and this attention could be focused by CSE.

10.26 There was obvious interest in the possibilities of such examining, for CSE boards have made oral English a compulsory element of their English examination. Some emphasise in their regulations that the examination is not intended as a test of elocution, and candidates are reassured that regional speech will not be penalised as long as it is clearly understandable. In the syllabuses the most commonly represented components are the prepared talk, conversation, and reading aloud. Certain of the boards include in the course work element such optional activities as improvised and scripted drama, debates, tape recorded interviews, and aural comprehension. There are marked contrasts between some of the syllabuses. For example, the Associated Lancashire Schools Examining Board has a fixed requirement for a prepared talk and reading aloud, plus a straight option between group discussion and a duologue on a given topic. The neighbouring North Western Secondary Schools Examining Board, on the other hand, has no compulsory elements and rests on options from among nine widely ranging activities. It leaves the choice of speech situations to the school, with the provision that candidates should show ability to '(a) transmit ideas and feelings, (b) describe what has been experienced, (c) narrate, (d) present and discuss a point of view'. The Middlesex Regional Board's examination consists simply of a group discussion among five or six candidates with an external examiner. The Yorkshire Regional Board requires only that 'the test should cover such oral work as might take place during classwork and must include a conversation with the teacher on a topic provided by the candidate'. The only GCE O Level examination in Spoken English at present available is that of the London Board, which gives as its aim 'to test articulation and fluency'. Its requirements are reading aloud and group and individual conversations with the examiner.

10.27 If CSE Mode 3 syllabuses and the work of the English Speaking Board are added to the above the total represents a considerable volume of testing of spoken English. By no means all teachers are convinced that this is a good thing. We have talked to a number who believe that the concept itself


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is a questionable one and that all too often artificiality perverts such value as can be admitted. Such comments as the following sum up the misgivings that these teachers feel: 'One of my most curious activities each year is helping to conduct a test in conversational English under the directions of my CSE Examination Board. In this the candidate comes into my room to conduct a conversation with me and another "examiner"; thereafter it is our task to solemnly award him a mark out of ten. Nothing less like a genuine conversational situation could be imagined .... Talk as a medium of social intercourse cannot be reduced to the level of an examination mark' (9). There is, of course, a fundamental dilemma. The examination should assess the pupil's capacity in a natural and unforced way, and when an external examiner is present this is difficult to achieve. Moreover, the very prospect of his presence is likely to lead to rehearsal - even training - for the event, and this increases the artificiality. It is fair to point out that some of the examining boards have gone out of their way to eliminate this. They explain at length, either in the syllabus or in separate leaflets, the need to create an environment in which natural exchange of speech is possible. Some have allowed a good deal of freedom in the choice of activity, and have placed the emphasis on continuous assessment with external moderation. These are conditions also enjoyed by teachers who have devised their own Mode 3 syllabuses. These circumstances give rise in turn to the question: what then is the justification for examining spoken English? There might be an argument for the more formal, externally marked examination. Of course it is 'unnatural', but the capacity to talk fluently and confidently in such a situation might itself be an achievement it was felt desirable to record. On the other hand, the further one goes to reduce the examination character of the activity, the more obvious becomes the question: why examine at all? Teachers to whom this question is posed say that the examination acts as an incentive to their pupils. However natural and incidental the continuous assessment, the pupil knows that it adds up to an examination result, and he therefore becomes conscious of the need to improve his speech habits.

10.28 As far as we are concerned there is one dominating criterion. Is an examination syllabus likely to further the objectives which we have outlined in this chapter? Is it likely to promote talk as an instrument for learning and for thinking? Will it help to extend a pupil's command over the varied resources of spoken language? Will it help him to look upon discussion as an activity in which it is as important to interpret and accommodate the view of others as to express his own? Will it develop in him the capacity to move from the concrete to the abstract, the immediate to the distant and the hypothetical? Expressed in this way these are unfair questions, for these attributes, and others we have suggested, are the equal concern of contexts outside the English lesson. They are, in fact, an important objective of the child's total education. The questions have nevertheless to be asked, for an examination which has a specialised concern with speech as such has admitted to itself a particular responsibility. In so far as the examining of spoken English can help to develop these qualities we support it. Where it does not we question its value. In our view it is sound practice for a school to set itself such objectives and then assess the extent to which it is fulfilling them. If it does this by public examination it is more likely to succeed with a Mode 3 syllabus it has devised for itself in such a way that the examination reflects


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the work and does not distort it. Failing this it will be served best by a Mode 1 syllabus which is sufficiently flexible to allow this essential condition to operate. We believe it is reasonable that certain accomplishments should be expected of a mature sixteen year old. Indeed, implicit in what we have advocated as a set of objectives is the ability, for example, to speak to a theme, to develop an argument, to present a case. What we question is the assumption that formal training will produce it, that 'speaking speech' as an end in itself is the best means of achieving such a purpose. We believe that all language activities should take place in a context where they have real, not contrived meaning. An examination syllabus states a requirement; it does not say how a pupil should be prepared to meet it. Nevertheless, we know from our visits that in many schools the preparation takes the form of set-piece exercises. A great deal of thoughtful work has gone into the preparation of CSE syllabuses, and the boards are to be commended for the lead they have given. Some of them have produced particularly imaginative syllabuses which encourage schools to be equally imaginative in response to them. There remains, however, room for research into the manner in which syllabus and classroom practice interact. Comparative studies and other projects should seek to identify the kind of examination which will encourage the development of oral ability in the manner we have described in this section.

10.29 One valuable service performed by all the teachers involved in devising and administering oral examinations has been to generate interest in spoken language. There has been intensive study and discussion involving many hundreds of teachers, and attention has been focused on spoken English with more organised purpose than ever before. Throughout this part of the Report we emphasise the importance of the teacher in the development of children's spoken language. Only if he is well informed about the processes at work will he be able to appraise it and make decisions accordingly on how to extend an individual's repertoire. In Chapter 17 we recommend procedures involving close observation, and we believe that these should continue throughout the middle years. As children grow older the school makes progressively greater demands on their language. The teacher should have an explicit knowledge of the nature of these demands to enable him to help the child who is finding it difficult to meet them. We particularly appreciate the professional concern of those teachers who have had tape recordings and transcripts produced of their own and their pupils' spoken language activities. These have provided admirable material for study, and we hope that more teachers will take advantage of this means of studying language in action. Such records provide a stimulating basis for discussion by groups of teachers in in-service and development work. We believe the teacher has an important role to play in research in this field, and the following are some examples of the topics of study that need to receive attention:

(i) the effects of school and classroom organisation on the pupils' language behaviour;

(ii) the formulation into a coherent body of advice of the intuitions of teachers who are skilful at conducting discussions. This is a subtle role, and one that should receive more detailed study to identify its characteristics. Teachers who fulfil it successfully generally have a well-developed body of intuitions. They are good chairmen, not in the sense that they


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can control an agenda expeditiously, but in the less explicit sense that they can bring the best out of the participants, raising the level of performance of each;

(iii) the comparative achievements of small groups of pupils talking together (a) to a brief given by the teacher (b) without guidance; the most productive relationship between small-group and large-group work;

(iv) the relationship of children's oral language ability to their reading and writing;

(v) the effect of work in small groups of mixed ability on the language development of the less able.

10.30 We welcome the growth in interest in oral language in recent years, for we cannot emphasise too strongly our conviction of its importance in the education of the child. We have discussed at length the part it plays from the pre-school years onwards, its essential place in preparing a child for reading, its function as an instrument of learning and thinking, its role in social and emotional development. In today's society talk is taking on an ever growing significance. People are surrounded by words which are playing upon issues that will affect their lives in a variety of ways. The growth of television has brought these issues into the home in a manner and to an extent essentially different from anything that has been known in the past. As a consumer, a worker, a voter, a member of his community, each person has pressing reasons for being able to evaluate the words of others. He has equally pressing reasons for making his own voice heard. Too many people lack the ability to do either with confidence. Too many are unable to speak articulately in any context which might test their security. The result can be acquiescence, apathy, or a dependence upon entrenched and unexamined prejudices. In recent years many schools have gone a very long way to asserting this aspect of education as one of their most important responsibilities. But there is still a great deal to be done. A priority objective for ail schools is a commitment to the speech needs of their pupils and a serious study of the role of oral language in learning.

DRAMA

10.31 Drama has an obvious and substantial contribution to make to the development of children's language, and its possibilities in this respect have yet to be fully explored. Before considering these we should make clear what we mean by the term 'drama' in the school context. Essentially, drama is a fundamental human activity which may include such elements as play, ritual, simulations and role-playing, to give but a few examples. Where the spectators' role becomes dominant in all these activities they can be said to turn into theatre or conscious art form. Where spectators are absent, or where they become so involved that they cease to be spectators, what results is also a powerful form of drama. In the context of education this is sometimes called 'educational', 'creative' or 'free' drama. It is inescapably social, for it is about working in a group, often to solve a problem or make a decision. As a word on the school timetable, then, 'drama' can imply either 'educational' drama or theatre, and these two main forms of activity themselves are extremely varied and fragmented.


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10.32 Theatre implies performance to an audience and, generally speaking, performance based on a script or on the written word in some form; If we include activities in school clubs and societies it is still the most widespread form of 'dramatic' work in schools. Educational drama covers an extremely wide range of activities, verbal and non-verbal, whose common feature is that they depend very largely on improvisation of various sorts and do not, therefore, depend on the written word. Nor do they consider an audience to be of serious importance. Such activities may turn into the written word, i.e. become scripted, but generally speaking this does not happen unless a performance is envisaged. They may also arise out of the written word. There is still some tendency in schools for these two kinds of practice to be in sharp opposition to one another, even though in a varied and well-planned class drama lesson there will frequently be elements of the first of them. Quite often these two main activities do not exist under the same roof in the same school, or in the philosophy of the one drama teacher. Some teachers will have nothing to do with the scripted play; others take the view that improvisation is a waste of time. Fortunately, this polarisation of view, stemming from earlier training, is less prevalent now than in the past.

10.33 Neither extreme represents an adequate view of drama in schools. The ideal situation is one where the two forms of activity are complementary, so that the written word may become the spoken word and the spoken word the written. Improvisation can provide a physical context for the printed word to come to life. In Act I, Scene 2 of 'Antony and Cleopatra' Shakespeare's words appear on the page thus:

Antony:Fulvia is dead.
Enobarbus:Sir?
Antony:Fulvia is dead.
Enobarbus:Fulvia!
Antony:Dead.

On the page these words are unfulfilled, almost meaningless, until the whole relationship and all its implications have been fully experienced by trying them out in a convincing setting - physical, social and emotional. It is this 'situational context', as a linguist would term it, that calls for improvisation. There are countless occasions when written words - not just those in a play - are illuminated by being placed in a real context, which drama can help to realise. In its turn improvisation can be enriched by the written word. This does not mean that the written word should be imposed upon the activity. It means that it can provide the origin and stimulus, the 'story', the 'situational contexts' for the work in improvisation. In other words, improvisation can be initiated or given substance by literature, for here may be found the characters, relationships and situations for imaginative work in improvised drama. What is so often lacking in improvisation is stimulus and subject matter of quality, and literature is an unequalled source of this. We have seen many improvised scenes in which the spontaneous language produced by the children was of limited range and interest, often rapidly degenerating into a trivial slanging match. Unless the stimulus of good writing (whether prose, verse, or drama) is offered from time to time the improvised dialogue will too often derive weakly from playground scraps and casual chats. The extending value of improvisation will then be lost.


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Nevertheless, quite apart from its other qualities, it is improvisation, involving the complicated relationships between the written and the spoken word, which seems to us to have particular value for language development.

10.34 At this point it would be as well to emphasise that there are many other sides to drama at least as valuable as the language aspect we are discussing. We do not wish to imply that such activities as movement, dance, mime, and the work which drama prompts in related arts are less important than the more identifiable language activities. At the same time, we do emphasise that teachers should not retreat from language in their improvisation work for negative reasons; for example, because of the difficulties some pupils apparently experience with words.

10.35 There appears to be an important distinction between children's language in improvised drama and that of most of their written work. The one is open-ended, volatile, and incremental in structure and idiom; the other is relatively closed and formalistic. All writing, even when at its most creative, tends in school work to be a patterning of words within which thoughts and feelings have to be contained and ordered. In drama an element of invention lies round every corner, and dialogue has a way of surprising itself so that nothing is predictable. This inventiveness is often revealed by children improvising on a simple domestic theme, such as shopping or planning a holiday, with no more space than a few square yards of classroom floor cleared of the furniture. The group of six year olds who pile up their rostra, fruit boxes and tables to make their castles or moon rockets are exercising imagination and intellect, physical coordination and social sense. And all the time they are using language as their means of bringing it to life. It is worth a thought that the higher up the school one goes the less likelihood is there of such open 'play' happening again, unless it is in the drama lesson. The following figures from our sample show that in the three years from six to nine the opportunities for this have decreased even there:

Table 5

IMPROVISED DRAMA IN CLASSES WITH 6 AND 9 YEAR OLD CHILDREN

6 year olds
%
9 year olds
%
In class time only3843
In optional time only145
In both class and optional time3311
Not at all1542

10.36 An important aspect of the creativity of speech as distinct from writing is the inexhaustible fund of grammatical forms and idioms available to children from a very early age. If, as Chomsky (10) argues, 'the normal use of language is innovative', it becomes a vital principle that the teacher should create opportunities most likely to produce innovation and generate 'natural' language in all its forms. An increasing number of teachers of drama, though they may not be prompted by Chomsky's linguistic theories, do in fact see their work as productive of such language. They would add that it helps to establish confidence in social intercourse, as well as familiarity with a variety


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of speech forms. They devise what might be described as a concentric series of situations. These vary from the known and the readily observed, such as family situations, to a wide range of less familiar situations, in which the pupils are led to resort to unfamiliar language patterns to suit the roles they are playing. Drama thus has the capacity for sensitising the ear for appropriate registers and responses. It encourages linguistic adaptability, often accustoming the children to unfamiliar modes of language. What is said in drama will belong to a particular context of situation, which may take the form of a quarrel, a discussion among equals, persuasion, provocation or some similar language activity. By playing out roles and situations of this sort, some close to and some remote from his own experience, a child is using language for the development of his whole personality as well as for exploring personalities other than his own. And it must be added that the opportunity for fantasy roles, such as heroes, spirits, and monsters, usually through mythology, is at least as important as acting out the more familiar themes from everyday life.

10.37 The best of improvised drama can bring out unsuspected resources in children whose work in written English may not be promising. This is especially true if the stimulus material is well chosen for the language possibilities it contains. Owing to the difficulty of transcribing improvised speech in school drama, not many examples are readily available, but a good illustration occurs in the DES Drama Survey (11) of 1968. Here, some primary school children had been studying effects of the plague on a village in the 17th Century, and they improvised for 40 minutes on the story of a woman accused of being a witch.

10.38 The good teacher of drama, like the good teacher of any subject, needs to be able to say what he means by progression, not only from one kind of activity to another, but from one year to the next. Whether he regards himself as a teacher of English or more exclusively as a drama specialist, language cannot be denied an important place in his educational philosophy. His criteria of competence may differ from those of the English specialist, but the activities of the two cannot be divorced from one another without loss to both. Although drama offers scope for social language which is characteristically unplanned and open-ended, many teachers find it profitable to move from this into written English. The very young children in particular gain from such a transition; a common illustration would be the poems and stories produced by infant school children following dramatic improvisation on the themes of Hallowe'en or Guy Fawkes. Teachers claim that the quality of the writing gains in honesty and liveliness where drama has been a starting point, notably where it has been included in an integrated studies course of any kind. History, religious education and social studies, indeed all subjects, can benefit from a dramatic realisation of people and situations; and this will be as real to the pupil in terms of speech as in the feeling and imagination he is able to bring to it.

10.39 In spite of these arguments, however, it must be said that drama is still often unrecognised as a means of developing language in the secondary school. Though they would certainly regard drama as coming within their province, many English departments, even in large comprehensive schools, are without a member of staff confident enough or interested enough to make


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it a part of English. Of our sample of 939 teachers working with twelve year olds a mere 21 would regard themselves as trained drama specialists, either through a main course at a college of education or through a teaching qualification at a professional drama school. Of the 1,052 working with fourteen year olds, 26 had such a qualification. The survey also showed that opportunities for improvised work diminished sharply between the two age points, while the use of a printed text increased. The average weekly time on improvisation at fourteen was less than a third of that at twelve, and the time for work from a printed text had doubled.

10.40 Interesting developments are occurring in CSE and O Level, and the number of CSE Mode 3 examinations has continued to grow. In the words of one county English and Drama adviser this has 'already given drama teachers a much needed edge to their work'. We welcome the growth in opportunities that this could promise, especially if it results in more experience of drama for older secondary school pupils. We do, however, have one important reservation. In devising the Mode 3 syllabuses a number of teachers are placing heavy emphasis on the 'history of theatre', with an undue weight on the learning of facts completely detached from any practical work. It would be unfortunate if a quest for 'academic respectability' for the subject led to an increase in syllabuses of this type. In our view the greatest value to be gained from the development of examination work would be in expansion of the kind of complementary activity described in paragraph 10.33.

10.41 Whatever view is taken of improvised drama by heads of English departments, there is too rarely any constructive or detailed discussion of its place in English teaching. Too little thought has been given to the various possible organisational models by which drama can be incorporated into a school timetable. We believe that every secondary school should examine such fundamental questions as the following, in relation to its own circumstances:

(i) Should drama be a separate subject with its own department? If not, should it be taught by drama specialists within an English department, or by all English teachers? Is there greater value in a combination of both policies? (Our survey showed that 10 per cent of secondary schools in the sample had a separate drama department. 19 per cent of all the schools had a drama studio).

(ii) Should it be the policy of the drama or English department to encourage teachers in other subjects to use drama in their work?

(iii) What language resources does drama call upon in individual pupils, according to their ability, background, etc? What are their speech patterns in the home, at play, and in the classroom, and how can drama be made to benefit these?

(iv) What areas of language growth are neglected in other kinds of English teaching, and which of these may be regarded as particularly the province of drama?

(v) Are there differences of criteria in language work from the points of view of drama specialist and English teacher?

(vi) What is the role of the teacher in improvised drama, particularly in the development of language?


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10.42 Some teachers will doubtless feel that our discussion of drama has neglected non-verbal forms of communication and overemphasised the role of language. We acknowledge the value and high quality of much of this work, but it is our contention that in most schools drama has yet to realise its potential in helping the child to communicate with others, to express his own feelings and thoughts, and to gain confidence in a variety of contexts. Both in its close relation to literature and in its inherent shaping powers for speech, drama is a powerful instrument to this end. It warrants the serious study and professional discussion that are characteristics of those schools which are using it so effectively for this purpose.

REFERENCES

1. D Barnes et al Language, the Learner, and the School Penguin Education: 1971.

2. J Sinclair et al The English Used by Teachers and Pupils unpublished research report: University of Birmingham.

3. W Labov Phonological Correlates of Social Stratification American Anthropology, 66 No. 6(2): 1964.

4. H Whitehall Structural Essentials of English (revised edition): Longmans: 1958.

5. The Certificate of Secondary Education: Trial Examinations - Oral English Schools Council Examinations Bulletin No. 11. HMSO: 1966.

6. See L. Stenhouse The Humanities Project: An Introduction The Schools Council-Nuffield Humanities Project. Heinemann Educational Books Limited: 1970.

7. E Pratt Experimental Evaluation of a Program for the Improvement of Listening Elementary School Journal, Vol. 56: March 1956.

8. Op cit. at 5 above.

9. A Adams Free Talk and the Teaching of English Spoken English, Vol. 2 No. 2. English Speaking Board: 1969.

10. N Chomsky Language and Mind Harcourt, Brace, and Ward: 1968.

11. DES Education Survey 2: Drama (pp. 12-13) HMSO: 1968.


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CHAPTER 11

Written Language

INTRODUCTION

11.1 We have considered talking and listening, two of the modes in which language is used, and have referred to the use of the spoken language in the special context of dramatic work. In earlier chapters we had much to say on a third, that of reading. We come now to writing, the fourth mode, but before approaching it we need to draw a clear distinction between those four modes on the one hand and another activity often closely associated with them in school, namely the study of language. We regard the distinction between use and study as crucial to any discussion of the place of language in the curriculum. The two are easily confused, since the use of language - for example in reading a difficult text or giving a written account of a complex idea - may be a strenuously 'studious' or thoughtful process. Let us give an illustration of the distinction as we see it. The reading of a paragraph to make out its meaning is an example of the use of language. If, however, the reader compares items from a paragraph with items from elsewhere, not to determine the meaning of the original but to make a generalisation about language, then that constitutes a study. In order to use language a person has, of course, to apply his knowledge of it. Some of that knowledge may have resulted from study, but much of it will have been picked up in the course of actually using language, and will remain implicit or unspecified. There is no satisfactory evidence to show how far an explicit knowledge of the rules governing language can reinforce an implicit knowledge, or substitute for it. This chapter is therefore based on the following premises:

(1) A child learns language primarily by using the four modes of talking, listening, writing and reading in close relationship with one another.

(2) Curiosity about language is widespread among children and enables them to engage successfully in occasional studies or linguistic 'experiments' arising out of their reading, writing, listening, and talking. The teacher encourages this curiosity and seizes the opportunity of pursuing some general question about language as it arises from usage, collecting and organising further examples for the purpose of answering the question. Studies of this kind may develop an experimental attitude towards language and provide a method of enquiry which helps pupils solve their own problems of language usage as they meet them.

(3) These ad hoc studies may in favourable circumstances, for example with older pupils, lead to systematic language studies. The value a pupil gains from these lies in the grasp of principles that may affect his understanding of himself and other people, rather than in any direct effect upon his language performance.

(4) Explicit rules and facts about language, that is to say the outcomes of other people's studies, 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.

WRITING

11.2 Writing has always been accorded a high prestige in our educational


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system, and this is due in large part to its traditional use as a means by which students put on record what they have learned. Written examinations have contributed to this emphasis, since they became the principal medium for judging achievement in most subjects of the curriculum. One result has been that until recent years spoken language has received relatively little attention. Another has been that most of the writing required of pupils is for purposes of record or assessment. A recent research study (1) on writing in the secondary school revealed that over 80 per cent of the written work in some subjects was judged to have been carried out for test purposes. In English itself the figure for the first year was 6 per cent but by the seventh year it had risen to 41 per cent. In junior schools in the past, the demands of the eleven plus examination often led to restrictions upon the kinds of writing the children were asked to produce. The removal of selection tests has undoubtedly expanded the range. What is open to question is whether this expansion has been as far-reaching as is sometimes believed.

11.3 It has, of course, long been the practice of most junior school teachers and secondary school English teachers to give their pupils opportunities for 'personal writing'. This is a loose term which distinguishes the writing from those 'impersonal' uses by which knowledge is acquired and recorded, and it ranges from the autobiographical to the fictional. The form that has attracted most attention is that which has become known as 'creative writing', a term which has acquired emotive associations and has sometimes polarised attitudes. Applied to the teaching of English it is a term of comparatively recent origin. In the Hadow Report of 1926 literature was described as 'great creative art', but that was the only use of the word in the five pages devoted to English. It was in fact in the visual arts that teachers first discovered that children could express their individual responses to experience without first acquiring techniques by deliberate practice. It is perhaps surprising that a similar discovery in respect of writing should have come so much later in this country, since there was always plenty of evidence that children learn to speak without deliberate teaching and often achieve a high degree of fluency before coming to school. The discovery of spontaneity led in due course, principally in the secondary school, to a number of attempts to provoke or startle children into spontaneous utterance. 'Free writing' and 'creative writing' were names given to procedures that focused upon the stimulus. This was usually some display or symbolic object to which the pupils would then be asked to respond in whatever way moved them.

11.4 This approach is still a popular one in many junior and secondary school classrooms, and indeed it has found its way into a number of course books. However, there is now more healthy scepticism about the value of this emphasis where it is at the expense of other kinds of writing. In their evidence a group of teachers gave their view of it in these words:

'Many teachers see "creative writing" as the high point of literacy. We need to re-think this: over-emphasis on it has distorted a whole view of language. It usually means, in actuality, colourful or fanciful language, not "ordinary", using "vivid imagery". It is often false, artificially stimulated and pumped up by the teacher or written to an unconscious model which he has given to the children. It is very often divorced from real feeling.'
This summarises how far removed is some 'creative writing' from what was


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intended by its early advocates. The truth is, of course, that 'creative writing' has come to mean many things. At its best it is an attempt to use language to recreate experience faithfully and with sincerity. It draws upon all the resources of language inventively yet in a form which is organic with the feelings or experience from which it grew. From this point there is a sliding scale of interpretations. Some teachers encourage children to strive for effect, to produce the purple patch, the stock response. Others have merely adopted the label and apply it to any kind of writing.

11.5 This lack of agreed definition reflects the absence of a clear rationale for the work to which it refers, and this applies equally to such terms as 'free', 'expression', and 'personal'. In our view the main stream of activity in the area of 'personal writing' should arise from a continually changing context, not from a prepared stimulus. This context will be created from the corporate enterprises of the classroom and the individual interests and experiences of the children, cumulatively shared with the teacher and the rest of the group. Moreover, the writing should be constantly developing in its capacity to fulfil the demands this context produces. Wherever spontaneity is exclusively valued this kind of development can be inhibited. Children reach a point where they need new techniques, having run through the satisfaction of their spontaneous performances. If the climate is one which is discouraging to such a concern there is inevitably stagnation. The solution lies in a recognition on the part of teachers that a writer's intention is prior to his need for techniques. The teacher who aims to extend the pupil's power as a writer must therefore work first upon his intentions, and then upon the techniques appropriate to them. When this is understood there is every reason why spontaneity should be an element in a great deal of what a child writes. Spontaneity then becomes capable of surviving the transition from artlessness to art; or in plainer terms, of supporting a writer in his search for new techniques appropriate to his novel intentions.

11.6 The difficulty of structuring development in writing, whether in English or in other subjects, has too often been regarded as insuperable, or as likely to lead to mechanical exercises and practices. There has not been enough thought given to the different varieties of English, and to the stages of language development at which children can begin to cope with them. Some categories are too rough and ready to be of much value - the division into subjective and' objective writing, for example, or into narrative, descriptive, reflective, and argumentative. These still influence the setting of many O Level examination papers, and not only the work of the pupils preparing for them but that of others much younger. We believe that a more useful frame of reference is to be found in the categories devised by the Schools Council Writing Research Unit (2). These consist of three major functions superimposed upon a prior division into two modes of use: 'language in the role of participant' and 'language in the role of spectator'. In its participant role language is a means of getting something done in the world, such as giving instructions, setting up a hypothesis, exchanging information, or solving a problem. By contrast, language in the role of spectator is used to reconstruct past events or construct imagined ones. Putting the distinction in another way, an utterance in the role of participant is a means to an end beyond itself; an utterance in the role of spectator is


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an end in itself, something to be entered into and enjoyed by both writer and reader (3). The three main categories superimposed upon these are Transactional, Expressive and Poetic. The Expressive is the central one. It is language 'close to the speaker', often the language used by intimates in a shared context. It relies upon a reader's interest in the writer as well as in what he has to say. Because of these qualities it has great educational importance, since it provides the tentative stage through which a pupil's new thinking must pass on its way to the comparative certainty of knowledge. This transitional process represents a continuum from the Expressive to the Transactional, which covers uses of language in the role of participant. As this role becomes more dominant it will demand greater explicitness in the writing, a more pressing concern for accuracy of reference. The other continuum, that between Expressive and Poetic, covers language in the role of spectator. As the demands of this role come to take precedence over the expressive needs of the writer, he finds organisation and formal patterning more and more essential to the fulfilment of his purpose. A gossipy letter and a work of literature are both examples of writing in the spectator role, but one is at the expressive end of the spectrum and the other at the poetic end. At the risk of repetition we must go a little more deeply here into this aspect of writing, and will defer until the next chapter a closer examination of the participant role.

11.7 We have already placed special emphasis on the importance of the pupil's intention as a writer and have suggested that this will arise out of the context of work in the class or the broader one of his out of school life, as shared with his teacher and classmates. It is upon these contexts that the teacher works with a view to arousing specific individual intentions, sometimes developing them tactfully in talk, and providing technical guidance as it is needed. If a teacher is to succeed in this he will need to learn all he can about the processes involved in writing and above all the satisfactions to be derived from it. In the case of Expressive and Poetic writing this is no easy matter, for the satisfactions lie well below the surface. We attempt here no more than brief indications:

1. When a child writes autobiographically he offers his experiences as a basis for forming a relationship of mutual interest and trust with the reader he has in mind. His satisfaction in the writing, if he succeeds, lies in the rewards of that relationship. Since for the teacher this mutuality is in fact a professional relationship and one that is necessary to the kind of teaching and learning we are concerned with here, he will aim at establishing it with every child he teaches.

2. When a child writes in the spectator role, whether autobiography or fiction, he exposes, by what he chooses to write about and the way he presents it, some part of his system of values, and his satisfaction lies in having his feelings and beliefs corroborated or modified. But this exchange is not indiscriminate; since trust between people is based above all on shared values, it is from those with whom the child has this kind of relationship that he derives most satisfaction in the exchange.

3. In offering his feelings and beliefs the child is in fact presenting himself in the light he would like to be seen in; acceptance of what he


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offers confirms for him that picture, and this is probably the deepest kind of satisfaction to be had from the whole process. Again, this is not an indiscriminate undertaking; it matters who plays the part of respondent.

4. There is finally the sheer satisfaction of making, of bringing into existence a pleasing verbal object. Such satisfaction is likely to increase as the writing moves towards the poetic end of the spectrum.

11.8 We have given a necessarily brief summary of an analysis of writing that goes into much greater detail than it is possible to present here. It is an analysis which could help teachers of all subjects to relate their pupils' linguistic development to appropriate writing demands. We believe that progress in writing throughout the school years should be marked by an increasing differentiation in the kinds of writing a pupil can successfully tackle. The first task for the teacher is one of encouraging vitality and fluency in the expressive writing that is nearest to speech. Children will move out into other modes in their own various ways and at various times that no one can predict in any detail. Their reading interests will be an influential factor, particularly in the early stages. To develop, they must take in written forms of the language and articulate these with their own general language resources, built up by years of listening and speaking. And they must do this in such a way that the whole corpus is within call when they sit down to write.

11.9 There is one further feature of written communication which is no less important in the development of children's competence: the nature of the 'audience' to which the writing is addressed. The writer's sense of audience is one of the ways in which the quality of the communication can be assessed. It has long been realised, and research has confirmed the fact, that by far the largest amount of writing done in schools is explicitly or implicitly directed at the teacher. The remaining small proportion is divided between writing for self and writing for other pupils. Clearly the teacher has the responsibility of providing continuity in his capacity of principal receiver of what the children write. Nevertheless, we believe that writing for other audiences should be encouraged. If a child knows that what he is writing is going to interest and entertain others, he will be more careful with its presentation. Unfortunately, large numbers of children are still denied this assurance, and their work does not emerge from the covers of the exercise book. Children's writing should be attractively displayed, and they should have many opportunities to read aloud what they have written. This practice is most effective when it takes place in small groups as a naturally accepted activity. Where such opportunities are confined to very occasional readings to the whole class they can promote exhibitionism, resentment, or defeatism in some children. We welcome the development to encourage writing for audiences outside the classroom, where certain constraints and criteria offer additional challenges. (An example of this is writing for younger children, as described in para 14.14). By varying the demands the teacher will broaden the range of the pupils' writing experience. They should be faced with the need to analyse the specific task, to choose the language appropriate to it, and to establish criteria by which to judge what they have achieved.


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11.10 We suggest in this chapter that there are wide-ranging possibilities for ad hoc study of language, and that such study may encourage experimental attitudes towards language in use. It follows from this that the child should not be made to feel that it does not pay to take risks. If a pupil is progressively to develop control in his handling of language he needs opportunity to experiment with new forms, and to do so with security. The teacher's first response to a piece of writing should be personal and positive. Only after responding to what has been said is it reasonable to turn attention to how. Correction and revision are then of unquestionable value. The best approach to these is for the teacher to go over the pupil's work with him, discussing persistent errors, suggesting solutions where the writing has run into difficulties, and talking over alternative ways of phrasing something. In much of the writing that takes place in school the pupil's first attempt is expected to be the finished article; there is not enough encouragement of the idea of a first draft to be followed by a second, more refined production. Merely to assign a grade to every piece of writing works against the notion of writing as communication. Obviously there will be occasions when the teacher wants to grade a piece of work for a specific reason. He may, for instance, have instructed the whole class in some technical point and feel the need to assess a sharply focused writing task to follow. Assessment is not in question; it is when it becomes an automatic and unvaried process that it loses its value for both teacher and pupil. When every piece of work receives detailed scrutiny on every occasion teachers are marking against the clock, and this is a further pressure towards confining the corrections to surface points. There is less time for attention to such features as style, choice of word or image, or inappropriate colloquialism. And there is still less for engagement with the subject matter and for such discussion points as 'can you find any point at which your main character behaves inconsistently, and explain why?' A useful approach the teacher might adapt to suit his own purposes is that of some CSE Boards, where a candidate is able to offer for evaluation a selected proportion of the work of the past year. What the teacher needs is the time to give a proportion of each pupil's work the kind of close attention we have been advocating.

11.11 In recent years there has been a welcome increase in opportunities for teachers to discuss the assessment of children's written work. This has ranged from the experience of inter-school assessment and moderation in 16+ examinations to the informal study of primary school children's writing in teachers' centres. We should like to see such opportunities taken up more widely, for we have no doubt that the understanding that grows from them can have a considerable influence on the development of children's writing.

11.12 With regard to spelling, which is examined in greater detail in the annex, we believe the most important step the teacher can take is to improve the pupil's confidence in his own capacity. Repeated failure reinforces a poor self-image, and the correction of written work can make matters worse unless its purposes are carefully worked out. Earlier in the chapter it was pointed out that a child should have the opportunity to write for an audience, and that if he knows his writing is to be read with interest by others he will be more careful with its presentation. His experience of writing should not be one that leads him to look upon each assignment as a minor test, the almost


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certain outcome of which will be a number of spelling corrections to be written out three times. We have suggested that the most effective form of correction a teacher can practise is to discuss with each child the nature of his errors. How much time a teacher can spend with an individual pupil or a small group of two or three depends upon his classroom organisation. This should certainly be such as to allow personal attention for the children who need special support with their spelling. The teacher needs to be able to direct the pupil's attention to the essential features of the word, to accustom him to looking at it 'with intent to remember'. From this process the pupil's own word list will emerge, and he will be helped to learn those words for which he clearly experiences a need. For example, in one school we visited the children were required in some of their work to produce their first drafts in pencil on paper with a wide margin. The teacher then wrote the correct spelling in the margin as he discussed the piece of work with the child. The child erased his mistakes, substituting the correct spelling, and he was encouraged to do this from memory, having first learned the word. He then cut off the margin and clipped it into his folder of words essential to his own needs. We use the word 'learn' quite deliberately, for when the teacher has discussed the word with the child it is valuable for the directed visual perception to be reinforced in this way. It is a process of look, read, visualise, reconstitute, and reproduce. Clearly there must be no overloading. The teacher has to use his judgement as to which of the errors should receive specific attention, taking account of the child's measure of confidence, his expressed need for particular words, and so on. At the heart of the process is the concentration of attention on the internal structure of words, and this is something that rarely takes place when the conventional mark/correct procedure operates. We believe that in the course of their writing children should acquire a knowledge of the spelling rules and an ability to generalise about words, and that this should be rooted in the curiosity about language that the good teacher arouses. In some schools the mention of spelling rules has come to be regarded as almost heretical, but in our view this is to deprive the children of a valuable support. We were, in fact, encouraged to see schools whose commitment to a lively and imaginative approach to English included a recognition of the need for such a support. Typical was a large comprehensive school whose head of English had included spelling rules in the departmental guidance sheets he and his colleagues produced.

11.13 In the secondary school there is the additional complexity that the pupil is now writing for a number of different teachers and with an increased range of constraints. There are the words he needs for his own purposes but also the words the subject teacher requires him to have, and the uncertainty can be sharply increased within a matter of weeks. This calls for a high degree of patience and cooperation on the part of the staff. It is a common experience among English teachers to be constantly receiving criticism about the pupil's standards of writing in other subjects, and spelling is often the focal point of the censure. We believe that language production is a collective responsibility and that the subject teacher should be willing to cooperate by observing and recording in a way which will help his colleague. This in turn calls for an agreed policy based on an understanding of the factors at work in spelling weakness, a policy which will produce consistency of response to errors. Once a practice of consultation has been established the English


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teachers will be in a position to take continuing account of the words the pupil needs in other contexts. If the child is to be helped to an image of himself as a competent speller this cooperation and consistency of approach are essential.

11.14 In summary we must emphasise that in our view a systematic approach to spelling should be placed firmly in context. Any work on spelling should emerge from this context and its results should in turn become a contribution to it. System and purpose need to go together. When the child has been helped to perceive the essentials of the word he will find it easier to memorise and can go on attempting the word until he has assimilated it. But it will be his own word; one which answers to a real purpose or is likely to recur constantly in his writing. What is needed in attention to spelling is a sense of perspective. We believe it should be part of the fabric of normal classroom experience, neither dominating nor neglected. The climate should be such that the child has a motive for spelling correctly, and he should then be helped to it by an effective system.

LANGUAGE STUDY

11.15 For many people language study means the study of grammar, and this word featured prominently in the evidence, particularly the evidence of those witnesses who felt that standards of writing had fallen. What are the effects of grammar teaching on the ability to write? How much grammar should be taught, at what ages, and how? What, for that matter, is meant by grammar in the sense intended by those who suggest there should be more of it? In our discussions with teachers it became obvious that the term was often being used to include sentence construction, précis, paragraphing, vocabulary work, punctuation, and more besides. 'Grammar' has, of course, a highly specific and technical meaning, which we might roughly characterise as an analytical study of those formal arrangements of items in a language by which utterances have meaning. What is under discussion here, however, has a wider concern. It is the degree to which language study of several kinds, and practice arising from study, can be effective in improving a pupil's ability to use language in general. It is a central recommendation of this chapter that the teacher should take deliberate measures to improve his pupil's ability to handle language. The point at issue is what form these should take, and this is a question to which we have given much consideration.

11.16 The traditional view of language teaching was, and indeed in many schools still is, prescriptive. It identified a set of correct forms and prescribed that these should be taught. As they were mastered the pupil would become a more competent writer and aspire to a standard of 'correctness' that would serve him for all occasions. Such a prescriptive view of language was based on a comparison with classical Latin, and it also mistakenly assumed an unchanging quality in both grammatical rules and word meaning in English. In fact the view still prevails. Letters to the press are rarely more fierce than when complaining of the way in which a particular word is being misused or used in a new sense. 'Brutalise' and 'hopefully' are two recent examples, and there are many precedents. Dr Johnson tried to eliminate 'fun', 'clever', 'budge', and 'mob'; and it is ironical that the very word Swift


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used for fixing the language in a permanent and authorised condition was 'ascertain', which has completely altered its meaning since his day. One may regret some of the changes, which can deprive the language of valuable distinctions. One may decide to resist them and insist on keeping to existing forms, and this is natural and understandable. But if change is to occur it will in due time occur, since growth and change are essential characteristics of a language. Writing less than a hundred years ago Trollope used the past participle 'gotten'; if it were uttered today it would be rejected as an intrusive Americanism. As one commentator has colourfully put it: 'The living language is like a cowpath; it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims and needs'. Montaigne said as much in the 16th century, when he remarked that only a fool would fight custom with grammar. Many of the rules in use today were invented quite arbitrarily by grammarians in the 17th and 19th centuries, including the embargo on the split infinitive and on the ending of a sentence with a preposition. Before the 18th century they are both to be found in common use, along with other constructions proscribed today. John Donne regularly split infinitives, and Burns was no stranger to the practice. In a letter to The Times in 1907, Bernard Shaw wrote: 'There is a busybody on your staff who devotes a lot of time to chasing split infinitives. Every good literary craftsman splits his infinitives when the sense demands it. I call for the immediate dismissal of this pedant. It is of no consequence whether he decides to go quickly, or quickly to go, or to quickly go. The important thing is that he should go at once.' And, of course, there is Churchill's famous note in which he expressed his impatience with those who always struggled to avoid ending sentences with prepositions: 'This is the sort of English up with which I will not put'.

11.17 We give these examples not to suggest a free-for-all, but to put prescriptive attitudes in perspective. One of the disadvantages of the prescriptive approach to language teaching is its negative aspect. Ironically, many of these manufactured additions to the language took on a special status in school textbooks, which often put the emphasis less on knowing what to say than on knowing what to avoid. Pupils not too certain of their ability with language would thus be looking for the gins and snares, to the equal detriment of their confidence and their writing. This kind of teaching has often inhibited a child's utterance without strengthening the fabric of his language. It has nurtured in many the expectation of failure and drilled others in what they already knew.

11.18 More fundamental, however, is the question of whether exercises in themselves and by themselves will improve the child's ability to write. Since the beginning of this century a good deal of research has been devoted to this subject, and though many believe its results to be inconclusive some of the individual experiments have carried much conviction. One (4) such study is particularly worth singling out for attention. One class in each of five schools was taught formal grammar over a period of two years, a corresponding class in each school having no grammar lessons during that time. The latter took instead what might be described as a 'composition course', consisting of practice in writing, revising, and editing, and an inductive approach to usage. At the end of the period both groups were given a writing test and a


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grammar test. In the writing test the 'non-grammar' classes gained significantly higher scores than the 'grammar' classes, and overall there was no effective correspondence between high scores in the grammar test and improvement in writing.

11.19 We do not conclude from this that a child should not be taught how to improve his use of language; quite the contrary. It has not been established by research that systematic attention to skill and technique has no beneficial effect on the handling of language. What has been shown is that the teaching of traditional analytic grammar does not appear to improve performance in writing. This is not to suggest that there is no place for any kind of exercises at any time and in any form. It may well be that a teacher will find this a valuable means of helping an individual child reinforce something he has learned. What is questionable is the practice of setting exercises for the whole class, irrespective of need, and assuming that this will improve every pupil's ability to handle English. What is also open to question is the nature of some of these exercises, where pupils are asked to fill in the blanks in sentences, convert masculine into feminine forms and singular into plural, insert collective nouns and give lists of opposites. Examples we saw included such tasks as: Change all words of masculine gender to words of feminine gender in 'Mr Parker's father-in-law was a bus conductor'; and: add the missing word in 'As hungry as a ......', 'As flat as a ......'. It would be unjust to say that all the exercises in current use take this trivial form; but it is certainly true that an unwarrantably large number of them demand little more than one-word answers and afford no opportunity for the generation of language. Most give the child no useful insight into language and many actually mislead him.

11.20 In our visits to schools we found that the teaching of language through weekly exercises was still commonly to be found at all age levels, but particularly in the primary school. In some primary schools organised on 'informal' lines children would take an assignment card from the language corner for this purpose. In the main such work was not a reinforcement of something newly learned in the course of some other classroom activity, but a task performed outside any context which would give it meaning. Our questionnaire results show the extent of certain kinds of language work at the four age points: 6, 9, 12, 14. These are reproduced in tables 56, 57, 96 and 97, and it will be seen that they cast some doubt on the popular belief that primary schools spend very little time on 'formal' language teaching. For example, we asked whether during the week of the survey any planned attempt was made to extend the children's vocabulary by means of exercises. The answer 'yes' was given by 67 per cent of the teachers of the nine year olds, and 50 per cent of those of the six year olds. For reasons explained in the statistical appendix to the survey it is not possible to draw direct comparisons between primary school and secondary school data. Nevertheless, it would seem that less time is spent in the secondary school on 'formal' language work. For instance, in the week of the survey only 21 per cent of the twelve year olds and 19 per cent of the fourteen year olds gave any time to vocabulary exercises. The figures for grammar exercises were 24 per cent and 10 per cent respectively and for punctuation exercises 16 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. In our discussions with secondary English


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teachers we found a good deal of uncertainty about the teaching of language. Some regarded language improvement as a by-product of the talk, writing, and literature which formed the core of their work; and they gave it no specific attention. Others set aside at least one period a week for it, usually working from a coursebook. A substantial number considered that the express teaching of prescriptive language forms had been discredited, but that nothing had been put in its place. They could no longer subscribe to the weekly period of exercises, but they felt uneasy because they were not giving language any regular attention. It seems to us that this uncertainty is fairly widespread, and that what many teachers now require is a readiness to develop fresh approaches to the teaching of language.

11.21 We believe that extensive reading and writing are of prime importance for language growth but that they should be supported by explicit instruction. We cannot accept that the development of language can be left to chance, on the principle that a 'relevant moment' will occur. There was an interesting comment on this practice in a report (5) by a visiting team of American educationists. In 1968 they spent 164 days observing the teaching of English in 42 British secondary schools, and on this issue they remarked:

'Most (i.e. teachers of English) suggested that whatever direct instruction in how to write might be needed by pupils could be presented by teachers during classroom writing lessons and could be based on actual experience in written communication. Yet hour after hour of classroom observation failed to reveal many efforts to provide such direct help.'
In some of our own visits to secondary schools we formed a similar impression. It was not uncommon to find the despairing comment 'Your punctuation must improve' on the writing of pupils who seemed to have received little or no specific instruction in it. Though in every instance the need should create the opportunity, the teacher ought to ensure that in a given period of time the pupils cover certain features of language, and for this purpose he might find a checklist useful. We believe these features should certainly include punctuation, some aspects of usage, the way words are built and the company they keep, and a knowledge of the modest collection of technical terms useful for discussion of language. We must emphasise, however, that everything depends upon the teacher's judgement and his ability to ensure that what is taught meets the needs of the pupil in his writing. Explicit instruction out of context is in our view of little value.

11.22 It is understandable that there should be many teachers who want to work through a series of items from a textbook, for it gives the feeling of reassurance that progress is being made along a measurable line that will lead to total language competence. We have given our reasons for questioning this approach, but we have also made it clear that we are not opposed to the notion of levels of achievement, or of objectives described in terms of specific skills. It is certainly unrealistic to attempt to tie particular competencies to given age points; and it is not rewarding to treat language like a set of building bricks. But it is reasonable to set clear targets which the children recognise to be achievable. With this in view the teacher should determine appropriate language objectives, devise his own ways of fulfilling them, and assess the extent to which they have been achieved. Experienced teacher witnesses were critical of the kind of language teaching we have been questioning; but they


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were of one mind in their concern for recognisable progress in a child's command of language. As one head of department put it: 'I would quarrel with the philosophy that problems sort themselves out by continued and increased exposure to books and good English'.

11.23 The important thing is to define carefully what is meant by targets of achievement. It cannot mean that all the children in a class advance from one step to another at the same pace and at the same time. There is evidence of a general relationship between age and linguistic maturity in a pupil, as one would expect, but there is no simple correlation. Recent research (6), carried out at Nottingham University, suggested the following line of development: 'The advance towards linguistic maturity is modest but steady over the first junior school year, quickening somewhat in the second year, accelerating markedly in the third, and slowing to something like the first year pace in the fourth'. Other evidence indicates a further acceleration in the first year of the secondary school, followed - on some variables, at least - by a plateau in the second year. The important thing to note is that the developmental pattern on a variety of language measures is not a simple one. Thus, although there is a general advance over the years, there are considerable variations, not only from one pupil to another but from one feature of language to another. It follows from this that to expect a whole class to maintain a steady and uniform advance along a line of linguistic achievement is unrealistic. The class lesson certainly has its part to play, but in response to particular situations, not as a timetabled substitute for a more comprehensive policy. The parts of speech are commonly made the subject of this kind of clockwork attention. It is perfectly reasonable that by the end of the middle years children should know about the parts of speech, but they should encounter them in the course of looking at language in a living context. For instance in the talk that precedes and surrounds the children's own writing the teacher might look with them at how another piece of writing has achieved its effects. In doing this he will not be offering models for imitation but getting pupils to look closely at language and what it can do.

11.24 If one were to apply this kind of purposeful attention to say, the following passage from 'Martin Chuzzlewit' the pupil would learn with far greater effect what an adjective does than he would be underlining it in an exercise: 'The mistress of the Blue Dragon was in outward appearance what a landlady should be: broad, buxom, comfortable, and good-looking ... She had still a bright, black eye, and jet black hair, was comely, dimpled, plump and tight as a gooseberry'. Or from the following anonymous passage, where the writer has carefully produced changes in the values of the adjectives by the way he has placed them in their context: 'His plump hands waved persuasively and his smooth face took on a comfortable expression as he explained how he had made a handsome profit from the famine'. 'Plump', 'smooth', 'comfortable', and 'handsome' normally have favourable connotations, but these positive values slip away from them in this context. The child who could recognise the connotative change in 'plump' and 'comfortable' in these two contexts would have learned something of much greater value than a label,

11.25 What we are suggesting, then, is that children should learn about language by experiencing it and experimenting with its use. There will be


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occasions when the whole class might receive specific instruction in some aspect of language. More frequently, however, the teacher will operate on the child's language competence at the point of need by individual or small group discussion. As a background to all this activity he should have in his own mind a clear picture of how far and in what directions this competence should be extended. This is best considered in terms of a succession of developments in the handling of language, all of which are likely to arise when a particular situation in writing creates the demand for them. The teacher should then provide for the range of writing experience to encompass these needs, and in doing this he should naturally take account of the pupil's capacity. The novel features in the task and the language it demands can be explored in discussion with the individual or the group, and supporting examples collected and worked upon. The child should thus be led to greater control over his writing, with a growing knowledge of how to vary its effects. This can happen only if the teacher has a clear understanding of the range of language experiences necessary to develop this control. Knowledge of this kind will help him design experiences which lead the pupils to experiment with language over a widening spectrum.

11.26 During recent years there has been a growing interest among teachers in the application of linguistics to English teaching. Fortunately, this has not taken the form of an attempt to introduce a 'new grammar' into the classroom, as happened in the USA. Many American educationists embraced the 'new grammar' as somehow more likely to succeed than the old; and there was much discussion on the relative merits of structural* and transformational* grammar for high school students. The following is an extract from the English syllabus of a large high school we visited: 'Of all the grammars available we have deliberately opted for Transformational-Generative Grammar (hereafter TG) as the one that gives us the most plausible 'platform' upon which to stand ... TG is incomplete, but it is evolutionary, seeking to nurture traditional grammar scholarship, to provide a bridge from the past to the present, to make English come alive for the teacher and the student'. But the majority of American teachers to whom we talked felt there was no useful place for this kind of work. Many had tried it and found it to be no more successful in improving their students' English than the grammar teaching it had replaced. In our view linguistics has a great contribution to make to the teaching of English, but not in this form. As one American (7) has expressed it: 'The study of language is inseparable from the study of human situations ... Is there anyone here who truly believes that it matters to anyone but a grammarian how you define a noun, or what the transformational rules are for forming the passive voice, or how many allomorphs there are of the plural morpheme?' We believe that the influence linguistics can exercise upon schools lies in this concept of the inseparability of language and the human situation.

11.27 It is this approach which provides the basis for the programme initiated by Professor Halliday in 1964 under the auspices of the Nuffield Foundation. The aim was to relate linguistics and English teaching, and after extensive trials a collection of materials was published as 'Language in Use' (8) in 1971. There are 110 units, each centred upon a particular topic and

*See glossary.


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providing an outline for a sequence of lessons. These topics are grouped under ten themes, which in turn are clustered under three main headings: Language - its nature and function; Language and individual man; Language and social man. Though the units were originally intended for the upper secondary years they are to be found in use throughout the 11-18 age range, and in colleges of education and of further education. The principle of the programme is to some extent like that of geographical and botanical field work, in that it involves studying 'specimens' of language. These might include the form of the language in which a policeman interviews a witness of an accident, or in which headlines are written, or in which the meteorologist gives his forecasts. The pupils will listen to tape recordings, take evidence from a variety of people, study various texts, predict the occurrence of words in certain contexts, and so on. In these and similar analytical activities discussion plays a large part, involving work in groups of varying size. A number of the units include complementary activities in which pupils are asked to use their own language to create examples of the mode or register being studied. For instance, they might produce a letter to a newspaper complaining about the way in which other people use language, or a short sketch depicting two people in a professional relationship to one another, or a written record of a telephone conversation. We visited a lesson where a group of pupils of relatively low ability were completing a programme of work on regional speech; they were 'performing' some very creditable dialogues they had themselves written in a variety of dialects. In another school an English teacher had directed the pupils' attention to a series of separate items in a radio programme. Under his guidance, but without excessive direction, the class of 14-15 year olds were studying the language used by an eyewitness, an aggrieved victim of bureaucracy, and an enthusiast for an unusual hobby. They were then going on to compile their own programme, drawing upon their immediate experience and recent encounters.

11.28 It is, of course, up to the individual teacher to add to the assignments in each unit, or to omit from them what does not suit his purpose. The authors make clear that it is left to the teacher to decide 'how any particular unit might meet the needs of a class ... the actual shaping, pacing, and detailed content of the lesson is left in his hands'. However, there is an inevitable danger that teachers might work mechanically through the units, and this possibility of misuse has attracted criticism. Where it happens - and there is little doubt that it does - both teacher and taught are working on the mistaken principle that language tasks can be fulfilled on a 'made to measure' basis. Language might come to be seen by some pupils as a series of stereotypes which can be produced to a specification. Unimaginatively used, the programme can become divorced from other aspects of English teaching. This has given rise to the further criticism that it does not commit itself to fundamental values; that it remains in essence a training in techniques. There is some justice in these reservations, but the programme makes no bid to provide the total language experience of the pupil in his work in English.

11.29 If used with the same dogged commitment as to a textbook, such materials as 'Language in Use' will not fulfil their best purpose. Mediated by a teacher who can turn practical suggestion into imaginative reality, work of this kind has a valuable contribution to make. We have advocated through-


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out this section that children should progressively gain control over language by using it in response to a variety of demands. They can be helped to do this by studying how it works in various situations, not in any sense of choosing models or opting between stereotypes, but by insight into its richness and infinite possibilities. This will depend upon the teacher's imagination and inventiveness. Above all it will depend upon his knowledge of language and of his equal knowledge of his pupils' individual abilities, needs, and potential.

11.30 Many teachers, however, protest that the greatest constraint upon them in helping children to gain a progressive control over language is the public examination system, because there is so little variety in the demands it makes. This is a complaint of such long standing that it needs some examination itself, especially since there has been more change in the system in the last decade than in the half-century which preceded it.

11.31 Some ten years ago a forthright judgement was delivered on GCE English Language examinations at Ordinary Level:

'We have considered most seriously whether we should advise the cessation of these examinations for educational reasons, as well as for reasons related to the changing demand for qualifications in English Language. We have come very near that conclusion.'
This appeared in 'The Examining of English Language' (9), the eighth and final report of the Secondary Schools Examination Council. The report was occasioned by 'disquiet ... about Ordinary Level Examinations and their effect on the teaching of English'. Despite many changes since 1964 the unease remains, especially as the number of candidates has increased and the system has extended itself, with the introduction of CSE, to take in many pupils who handle words less easily. The arguments about the establishment of a Certificate of Extended Education examination have enlarged the area of disquiet. It is, indeed, impossible to dispel it completely. The schools are aware of the demands of higher education and employers for a 'pass' in English, and as long as the right of entry to succeeding stages of education or to particular kinds of employment is geared to the testing system, it is impossible for teachers to brush aside the particular demands of the English Language paper. For the same reason, the Examining Boards must continue to design papers, frame questions, and decide upon assessment procedures which will appear to offer comparable standards from board to board, from year to year. As long ago as 1921 the Newbolt Committee (10) said bluntly: 'But for good or ill the examination system is with us. Nothing less than the total abolition of the examination system would serve the turn of those who object to examinations in English, and to make such a recommendation, even if we desired to make it, would be entirely futile.'

11.32 The Newbolt Report suggested that examinations should be tests of the power of 'communication' in English rather than tests in grammar, analysis, and spelling. The only compulsory test it was prepared to recommend was one of the ability 'to grasp the meaning of a piece of English of appropriate difficulty'. The Committee also recommended that 'oral examination should be resorted to more frequently' and urged that a reasonable standard of English should be required in all subjects of the curriculum. Two years earlier than the Newbolt Report the Secondary Schools Examination Council had recommended that there should be no


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separate test of formal grammar; awareness of grammar would be shown in candidates' writing. It also asked for more imaginative and fewer abstract essay subjects, but to no avail. The Council's recommendations, then and later, had no more effect than those produced by the Newbolt Committee. The Council had been set up in 1917 to carry out the Board of Education's new responsibility as a Co-ordinating Authority for Secondary School Examinations. Eight Examining Boards were approved, and the patterns of their papers were established by the early twenties; forty years later, in the early sixties, they had changed little. There was a précis, letter writing, paraphrase, analysis and other grammatical exercises, the correction of incorrect sentences, the punctuation of depunctuated passages and, of course, an essay, the titles of which in 1961 were sometimes indistinguishable from those of 1921.

11.33 Thus, when the report 'The Examining of English Language' appeared in 1964 it was after a long period of relatively little change in basic attitudes to testing English. The report set out a number of criticisms, as follows:

the low standard of English among those who passed;
the large numbers entered, and the fact that teaching became a series of practice performances in examination techniques;
the negligible contribution of many of those techniques to the development of writing;
the unreliability of the examinations;
the unsuitability and irrelevance of many essay titles;
marking schemes for continuous writing might encourage teachers to give it less attention in their teaching;
the meagre literary merit of passages set for comprehension, and the trivial questions asked upon them;
the unreality of some of the summarising tasks, such as reduction to 'one third of the original';
questions on the 'correctness' of a particular usage out of context;
grammatical minutiae ('Some of the most eloquently critical of the replies we received from the schools were directed against these questions; we share the view that they are of doubtful utility in any examination of English language and that in their present form they do great harm').
It amounted to a formidable indictment, and in producing it the authors confessed that it was easier to find fault with the existing examinations than to suggest ways of improving them. However, they made the attempt and listed the following suggestions, which were elaborated in detail:
internal examinations with external moderation;
improvements to the existing examinations;
the separation of language and literature;
tests of spoken English.
The speed and eagerness with which the suggestions were seized upon, after such a long spell of torpor, reflected the concern of the teachers and examiners who were making their own reassessment.

11.34 For the Examining Boards had grown restless on their own account, as can be illustrated by the following comment of the Joint Matriculation


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Board made in 1960. 'Comment ... has concentrated mainly on the fact that to accept a pass in English Language at the Ordinary level has proved an unsatisfactory means of ensuring that at entry to a university all students are capable of using the English language with the degree of competence which is essential at that stage. Other universities than the five constituents of the Board are also making the same comment.' After the publication of 'The Examining of English Language' the Board organised what it modestly described as an experiment in school assessing in English Language. The project set out to devise (a) methods by which pupils could be taught without any direct preparation for any O Level examination, (b) means of making school assessments which the Board could endorse as indicating that pupils had achieved not less than an O Level pass standard in their writing and understanding of English. Since its inception the number of schools has increased from 10 to 34. The JMB has also carried out its own enquiry into the reliability of examinations at Ordinary level. Both enquiries had financial support from the Department of Education and Science. We have used these experiments as an illustration because they have been comprehensively documented, but other Boards are conducting or are ready to consider internal examinations which are externally moderated. It is important to add that the Boards have always been willing to consider special syllabuses from schools (and applications from other schools to participate in these syllabuses once approved), but there have never been many applications.

11.35 While the GCE Boards have responded in various positive ways to the criticisms made in the 1964 report, the new CSE Boards have been free, indeed encouraged, to experiment much more widely. In the three years before that report was issued the Secondary School Examinations Council had published four which were concerned primarily with the Certificate of Secondary Education, and with the establishment of new examining bodies for it. The Council's first Examinations Bulletin, The CSE: some suggestions for teachers and examiners, asked the new Examining Boards to consider what English language examinations should be testing, and offered them a statement on English studies in school:

English, well-taught, should train a sixteen year old secondary school pupil to use the language confidently, appropriately and accurately, according to the circumstances in which it is used. He should be able to speak his own mind, to write what he has thought, and to have a care for the correctness of written and spoken English. He should be able to understand what he reads and hears, to master the ideas and restate them in his own way. He should have some understanding of the different uses of language, of the language which relates, describes, evokes, persuades, and is the instrument of the creative imagination.

11.36 All fourteen CSE Boards offer three modes of examination, of which the majority of schools take Mode 1, an external examination on syllabuses prepared by the Boards. The Mode 2 and Mode 3 syllabuses, to different degrees, met the 1964 report point that there should be internal examinations with external moderation. These syllabuses are so numerous and varied as to be impossible to summarise in so short a space. The Mode 1 syllabuses themselves vary a great deal, initially in whether they represent


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English as a unitary study or whether there are separate 'language' and 'literature' syllabuses, candidates being able to offer both. There have been wrangles over the weighting to be given to unitary syllabuses, with no generally satisfactory solution in sight. The considerable developments the various syllabuses reveal may be summarised in this way:

(i) Course Work
All Boards offer opportunities for the presentation of course work, which allows the inclusion of a variety of writing, carried out on a variety of occasions. One Board, in making suggestions for the kinds of work which might be submitted for assessment, has for its eighth example: 'Any other work which in the opinion of the candidates or the teacher might help to establish the candidates' ability in English'. The very bulk of the work thus offered presents formidable problems of assessment and comparability, but the candidate is judged across a range of his writing. In Mode 3 syllabuses the scope is often wider still, extending to drama, film making, tapes, and group work.

(ii) Personal Writing
Syllabuses which prescribe or permit course work allow a proportion of writing which is an entirely personal response to experience, direct or imaginative. Sometimes papers testing 'composition' also make room for such writing.

(iii) Comprehension
In paragraph 11.32 we remarked that the only compulsory test of English language the 1921 Newbolt Committee was prepared to recommend was 'a test of power to grasp the meaning of a piece of English of appropriate difficulty'. This concept survives in all CSE syllabuses, though it is sometimes subsumed in a larger notion of 'response'. What is preserved is an anxiety that pupils should be able to read and understand, not just the 'sense' but also the feeling, tone, and attitude of the language they meet. And the language which stretches, which exercises them most is the language of literature. The choice of material has sometimes led to criticism from teachers that Boards not only provide the wrong texts but also ask the wrong questions. This is undoubtedly true in some instances, but the Boards are alert to the need to select with great care.

(iv) Literature
The Boards have experimented considerably, abandoning set texts, allowing texts to be used in the examination room, and providing a greatly extended list of books from which choice may be made. In particular, much more contemporary writing has been included. Mistakes have been made and some of the books chosen have been juvenile or trivial or not substantial enough for intensive reading. Nor could it be said that the Boards have succeeded universally in setting questions which, as Examinations Bulletin No. 1 (11) put it, 'are not so general as to be vague, or so obvious as to be anticipated by the textbook and the teacher's note'.

11.37 Since 1965 and the first CSE examination, Boards have been trying to meet the criticisms made in the 1964 report and to provide suitable ways of assessing the language competence and performance of children of a particular range of ability. The fundamental importance of some of the


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approaches that have been tried may be judged by their incorporation into feasibility studies for a common examination at 16+. There has not been time to evaluate them in detail, but it is worth mentioning two studies carried out by the National Association for the Teaching of English soon after the inception of CSE These two, 'CSE English: an interim report' (12) and 'Criteria of Success in English' (13) are a little outdated in minor detail, but the analysis made in them is still entirely pertinent. To these might be added the pamphlet 'English Examined: a survey of O Level papers' (14), published at the same time. The three together are a most valuable commentary on the problem of trying to come to terms with the paradox of language in examinations.

11.38 This is a necessarily brief account of the past and present situation of English language examinations, but it will serve to show how thoroughly and over how long a period the subject has been discussed. Our main reason for giving it is that our own views are founded upon those that others have expressed before us, both in recent years and in the distant past. In presenting our conclusion we must begin by affirming our belief that English should be assessed at 16+. The Newbolt Committee's wise remarks on the matter are no less true today than when they were made. The demand made by society and by parents for the evaluation of a pupil's performance is a perfectly reasonable one. What is more, many pupils themselves feel the need for such assessment, a factor that tends to be overlooked. We therefore welcome the extension of opportunities for assessment throughout the ability range and hope they will be made available to increasing numbers of pupils now that the school leaving age has been raised.

11.39 Our selective account of the evolution of examinations in English will have indicated the line of development we favour. English requires a wider and more flexible range of assessment than most other areas of the curriculum. We believe that rigid syllabuses are not the best means of achieving this and that there should be an increase in school-based assessment with external moderation. We hope that this assessment will increasingly reflect the kind of approach to language development which has been advocated in this chapter.

11.40 We have made it a policy in this Report to confine ourselves to discussing English for pupils up to the age of 16. Nevertheless, we must depart from this rule to make an observation on the question of a language examination at the conclusion of a sixth form course. The 1964 Report considered this possibility and recommended against in these words:

'We should not wish to see a separate language subject at advanced level, at least at the present time.'
It did, however, recognise the value of making available a course which would include 'a study of the structure of the language; the different types of English, the position of standard English, dialects and slang; and the relation of language to individual thought and behaviour and also its social implications'. The suggestion was therefore that a linguistic section should be introduced into the existing A Level examination. Since it was clearly out of the question to increase the burden of the syllabus this should take the form of an optional alternative to one of the existing papers. In the ten years since the report was published this development has not taken place. This seems


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to us an unfortunate loss of a valuable opportunity to take advantage of the relevance and interest of language studies for pupils of this age. We believe that the post O Level English syllabus should contain a language element for all pupils who wish to opt for it, and we recommend that 'A' level or whatever examination may replace it, should include a paper on this basis.

ANNEX A

SPELLING

11.41 Some years ago a philologist remarked that if one used all possible combinations the word 'scissors' might be spelt in 596,580 different ways. This was a hypothetical exercise, but a recent researcher (15) took a simpler example, the word 'saucer', and examined how 1,000 ten year old children tackled it. Fewer than half spelt it correctly, and those who wrote it incorrectly gave 209 alternative spellings. And yet according to the norms of the Schonell word recognition test 71 per cent of eight year old children can read the word 'saucer' correctly and without any supporting context. This is one of many indications of a fundamental difficulty: that many who have little trouble with reading may still spell uncertainly when they write.

11.42 Spelling is a complex skill, and one in which many adults and children fail. The reasons are various, and some carry greater weight than others. Poor spellers may have lower verbal intelligence. They may have difficulty in their visual perception of words and then in recalling them through imagery. They may be weak in generalising from the serial probability of letter occurrences. There are other determinants, but research has shown these to be the major ones. It has to be accepted at once that some people will have difficulty with spelling all their lives, but we believe that the teacher can bring about substantial improvement with the majority of children. No doubt the first question to be faced is: does it matter? It is sometimes suggested that spelling is a convention and that if it is of any consequence at all this is slight compared with so many other considerations in the teaching of English. There is no question about its being a convention, but in our view it is a convention that matters. It is of little relevance for today to argue that in 'Faerie Queene' Spenser spelt 'hot' in at least six different ways: or that the Oxford English Dictionary lists 30 versions of 'little' by 16th and 17th century writers.

11.43 In the first place confidence in spelling frees the child to write to fulfil his purpose. In the second place spelling disability is an undoubted handicap in society, however many distinguished exceptions may be paraded to refute the view. But there is probably no need to press this point. Most of the contention surrounding spelling is concerned with timing and method rather than justification. Some teachers feel that so long as children leave school with spelling competence it should receive no special attention at the primary stage. Some believe that it can be acquired incidentally and that systematic teaching is the wrong approach. Few affect a total disregard for it.

11.44 The arguments about spelling go back a long way. Almost a century ago to this very year there was openly expressed anxiety about standards; and certainly around the turn of the century the debate was in progress as to whether spelling should be directly taught or could be breathed in naturally


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if the air was right. One of the first in the field was Rice, whose article 'The Futility of the Spelling Grind' (1897) suggested that spelling received too much prominence in the timetable. He was followed by a succession of researchers who argued from objective data in favour either of a 'taught' or a 'caught' approach. Most of the research conducted in the last half century has been on spelling vocabulary, instruments for measuring spelling ability and for diagnosing errors, and the teaching methods by which children's spelling should be improved. The search to discover what words children should learn began quite early. Originally an arbitrary process, the compiling of lists became more systematic in adopting as a principle the frequency with which words occurred. Some were derived from children's own writing, some from that of adults. Lists have commonly come to be used as a teaching instrument, though many teachers have always relied upon their own observation of children's needs in deciding what words to present to them.

11.45 There is no need to trace the history of these lists, but certain of the more influential developments are worth pausing on. Many of the lists were derived from children's own writing, though a number were based on adult reading matter or correspondence. A major principle of selection is that of frequency of occurrence. For example, in the USA in 1926 Horn combined the results of earlier enquiries with his own word counts. His resulting 'Basic Writing Vocabulary' contained the 10,000 words most likely to be written by adults. In 1944 Thorndike and Lorge, also in the USA, produced 'The Teacher's Word Book', a 30,000 word list again based on adult material. These two major enterprises provided the basis for one of the most popular lists in use in English schools today, though its author, Schonell, also incorporated extensive work of his own on the spelling and written material of English schoolchildren. He set out to distribute the words in his list on the broad principle that 'the child should be taught the word when he wants to write it'. But others suggested that lists could not be made to serve this principle, arguing that they are never able to supply the particular word a person should learn at a particular time. This is, of course, a central issue, and one which has an important bearing on the success of the teacher's efforts.

11.46 Two comparatively recent lists, produced by councils for educational research in Scotland and New Zealand, were planned to constitute teaching aids based on detailed field work. The aim of the Scottish Council for Research in Education was 'to assemble a vocabulary based on familiar situations and bearing a close relationship to the child's own life'. The result was a list derived from a count of the words in 70,000 pieces of writing by 7-12 year old Scottish children on matters of interest to them. The other list was compiled by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. The 2,700 words were examined very carefully by inspectors and teachers in colleges and schools, and intensive checking followed. A feature of this list was that it enabled the child to ascertain the probability of his needing a particular word, and gave him specific guidance on how to learn. This interesting project therefore combined the principle of word count by frequency with a well ordered learning method that depended on the pupil's assessment of his own needs.

11.47 More conventional word lists have been criticised on the ground that


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they encourage ineffectual teaching. It is one thing to practise the spelling of words from a list but quite another to use them in writing. Not all pupils require practice on the same groups of words, and the permanence of the learning is a very uncertain outcome. Children may be able to cope with all the words in a given list after concentrated study, but they may still fail with the same words when they come to use them in writing. The fact is that success is most likely when their spelling is closely associated with the needs and purposes of their own writing. Young children have less difficulty with such words as 'orange', and 'penny' than with equally simple words like 'these' and 'outside' which have less meaning for them in terms of concrete experience. In saying this we are not advocating incidental learning, since we do not believe that all children will acquire spelling ability as an automatic and natural outcome of a healthy language environment. Certainly a child will have an excellent foundation if he is interested in language and curious about its workings, but he needs more than just the right climate.

11.48 Nisbet (16) estimated that the average child 'picks up' the spelling of only one new word out of every 25 he reads. Peters (17) concluded that spelling ability is 'caught', concurrently with other linguistic skills, by certain favoured children, but that less favoured children need to be taught, and taught rationally and systematically. Her results indicated that their attention should constantly be drawn to details of word structure, similarities of letter sequence, and the varying probabilities of such sequences. The importance of a favourable background diminishes in the junior and middle years, but it provides initial skills which help the child to develop good spelling habits. This accords with evidence submitted to the Committee from a number of sources, including workers in EPAs, on the education of disadvantaged children. As one expressed it with particular reference to reading: 'An incidental learning approach is hazardous for all children, but particularly so for those from disadvantaged homes'. Research and opinion does not all run one way, and other experimenters have expressed more optimism about the success of incidental learning. However, our own view of the weight of experimental evidence is that the limitations of this approach can be no less marked than those of the rote memorisation of words bereft of context.

11.49 It is interesting to observe that in our own questionnaire only 10 per cent of the sample of nine year old children spent no time at all on spelling during the week of the survey. 67 per cent spent up to half an hour of class time on it, and 20 per cent more than half an hour. In another section the questionnaire inquired into the general methods in use in the class. The questions were directed to discover whether the children were:

(a) expected to learn spellings from their own or other children's errors and/or lists devised by the teacher,
(b) required to learn spellings from commercially produced lists,
(c) tested to see that they had learned these spellings.
95 per cent of classes employed the first method and 41 per cent the second; in other words many teachers at one time or another use both. 59 per cent of the classes were tested weekly, 33 per cent less frequently, and only 7 per


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cent not at all. The secondary schools were asked how much weekly class time was spent on:

(a) spelling practice from lists,
(b) spelling practice by dictation of passages,
(c) spelling practice arising from written work,
(d) spelling tests.
The first two of these methods were little represented. During the survey week only 8 per cent of the twelve year olds and 3 per cent of the fourteen year olds had had spelling practice from lists. 13 per cent of the former had had spelling practice arising from their written work, and the same number had been given a spelling test. Among the fourth year pupils the corresponding figures were 9 per cent and 7 per cent. In the context of writing, teachers were asked about their practice in correcting errors. Only a handful of teachers said they did not correct any at all. The majority corrected some, while 24 per cent of the twelve year olds and 31 per cent of the fourteen year olds had all their errors corrected. 59 per cent of the younger and 41 per cent of the older pupils were required to write out the corrected spellings, and most were expected then to learn them. It is evident from these figures that many teachers are concerned about standards of spelling and that the errors the children actually make come in for a good deal of attention.

ANNEX B

HANDWRITING

11.50 The Ministry of Education pamphlet 'Primary Education', published in 1959, said:

'It is a heartening thought that, in an age when so little of craftsmanship is expected of anyone, and when it is easy to say that few people care about quality and standards of work, very many are deeply concerned to give handwriting once more its proper dignity as the most universal of all crafts'.

Would this statement hold true today? A view frequently expressed in the evidence was that handwriting is neglected in schools. In our survey we posed a question designed to establish how much time was spent on the activity by six year old and nine year old children. The results could be taken to suggest that there is some substance in the complaint, for as many as 12 per cent of the six year olds in our sample spent no time at all upon it, and among the nine year olds the figure was as high as 20 per cent. On the other hand, the results could be interpreted positively to suggest that most teachers still regard it as important, for the majority practice at both age-levels was to devote anything up to half an hour a week of class time to it.

11.51 The ability to write easily, quickly, and legibly affects the quality of a child's written output, for difficulty with handwriting can hamper his flow of thoughts and limit his fluency. If a child is left to develop his handwriting without instruction he is unlikely to develop a running hand which is simultaneously legible, fast-flowing, and individual and becomes effortless to produce. We therefore believe that the teacher should devote time to teaching it and to giving the children ample practice. The first requirement is that the school should decide which style of handwriting is to be adopted and should as far as possible do so in consultation with the schools to which the children


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will pass. We realise the difficulties of such consultation in some circumstances and have acknowledged them in Chapter 14. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that many children are confused by having to learn different models as they go from one school to the next. Liaison is not a simple matter when an infant school sends children to more than one junior school, but the remarks in paragraph 14.6 about continuity in the teaching of reading apply equally in this case.

11.52 We do not propose to enter into the question of which model is best, for this must be a decision for the schools themselves. There are, however, certain basic principles which need to be taken into account when the matter is being discussed. One question on which opposing views are often expressed is that of the kind of handwriting with which children should begin in the infant school. Some teachers believe that a print script should be used and that this should be as near in appearance as possible to the typeface of the child's first books, so that he will have fewer characters to learn. There is certainly economy in using the same alphabet for both reading and writing, but the opponents of print script contend that it ignores a fundamental requirement of handwriting - a continuous, linear, rhythmic movement. They observe that many children do not find it easy to change later to a cursive script, since there are no indications in the lower case letters of print script to suggest how they might eventually be joined. Conversely, they point out, a modified cursive or italic script makes possible a much smoother evolution to a running hand.

11.53 Whichever form is adopted there are certain conditions of general relevance, obvious enough in themselves to the experienced teacher but by no means fulfilled in every infant classroom. For example, the paper on which the children are to write should always be unlined and of a sufficient size to be unrestricting, and there should be plenty of suitable tools: soft pencils, crayons, and felt tips, large enough in the barrel for small hands to manage them lightly and easily without strain. The correct hold should be encouraged from the outset, and the child helped to achieve the right sitting posture and relaxation of the muscles. He should also be shown how to form the letter shapes in the right way. For most children an upward stroke of the pencil seems to be the most natural movement, but if a child is allowed to form the habit of beginning letters from their bases the result will be a hampering movement which makes more difficult the development of a fast running hand. Brushwork and pattern making and various well tried kinaesthetic and tactile methods can reinforce the teaching of the initial downward movement and help a flowing technique to become established. If faulty techniques take root they are extremely difficult to correct, so the child has to be encouraged to persevere in what so often seems to him to be an awkward way to hold a pencil or a slow and unnatural way of forming letters. This points to the need for individual and small group teaching and for plenty of short, frequent practice, never of a length that leads to boredom or cramped fingers. In our view this instruction should not be intruded while children are actually at work in their own personal writing, for it is likely to interrupt their flow of thought. From the beginning there should be the proper kind of support and help for left-handed children, and when they come to use pens they should be given nibs specially suited to their needs.


[page 186]

11.54 As a child becomes more adept he should be encouraged to develop speed, for the laboured copying of individual letters will not lead to fluency. The need for regular practice continues throughout the early and middle years, particularly during the transition to a full cursive hand and when pens are introduced. Linking minuscules is a case in point, for ligaturing needs to be practised in a way that will ensure increase of speed and continuity of movement. It is best to classify the letters according to the method of joining, using the commoner letter pairs or letter groups, e.g. e d, ing, e a, o o. From these the child can progress to letter groups with a variety of ligatures, again in common use, such as tion, ous, ttle, ough. Practice with these not only helps to develop speed but has the advantage of reinforcing common spelling patterns. In the course of all this children should also be made aware of the rhythmical stresses of writing patterns and the affinity of letter forms which lead to a harmony of style.

11.55 We believe that the appearance of written work and the way it is set out deserves specific attention. Children should grow up accustomed to taking care in the way they present their work and to regarding its appearance as an important aspect of the whole production. This means that when their handwriting is being developed there needs to be attention not only to the shape of individual letters and words but to the spacing of words and lines, the relative heights of letters, the paragraph indentations, the form and style of headings, and the width and depth of surrounds. Practice in these matters should not take the form of drill, in which the child copies material of no other value. It should derive from activities where the task carries a purpose for the child, for instance in compiling a bound collection of his own writings or making fair copies of work which has involved personal investigation. The teacher will have many opportunities to organise situations which call for a high standard of presentation. Some of the more obvious are displays of work for other classes and for parents, and exchanges of work with other schools. Good handwriting is an important aspect of presentation and is an asset both in school and in later life, but we have tried to suggest that it is also an aid to the flow of thought during the process of writing. We believe that by the end of the middle years a pupil should have acquired his own personal style which is swift, economical of effort, relaxed, fluent, legible, and attractive.

REFERENCES

1. The Development of Writing Abilities 11-18 Writing Research Unit: Schools Council: 1974.

2. Op. cit.

3. For the origin of this distinction see DW Harding The Role of the Onlooker Scrutiny, VI (3): 1937.

4. RJ Harris An Experimental Inquiry into the Functions and Value of Formal Grammar in the Teaching of English reported in Braddock, Lloyd Jones, and Schoer Research in Written Composition NCTE: 1963.

5. A Study of the Teaching of English in Selected British Secondary Schools US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare: 1968.

6. Children's Language Development University of Nottingham: 1973.

7. N Postman English Journal November 1967.

8. P Doughty, J Pearce, G Thornton Language in Use Edward Arnold: 1971.

9. The Examining of English Language HMSO: 1964.


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10. The Teaching of English in England (The Newbolt Report) HMSO: 1921.

11. Schools Council Examinations Bulletin No. 1 - The Certificate of Secondary Education HMSO: 1963.

12. CSE English: An Interim Report NATE Bulletin Vol. 1, No. 3: 1964.

13. Criteria of Success in English A critical survey of CSE English syllabuses and specimen papers. NATE: 1965.

14. English Examined A Survey of O Level Papers. NATE.

15. ML Peters Success in Spelling Cambridge Institute of Education: 1970.

16. SD Nisbet Non-dictated Spelling Tests British Journal of Educational Psychology: IX, 1939.

17. ML Peters op. cit.





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CHAPTER 12

Language Across the Curriculum

12.1 In the two preceding chapters we have made several references to the role of language in other areas of the curriculum than English. It became clear to us in the early days of the inquiry that we could not do justice to the first term of reference if we did not direct our remarks to all teachers, whatever their subject. Indeed, we believe that the suggestions made in these chapters for improving the teaching of language could result in more effective teaching of subjects that lie right outside the terms of reference. For a proper appreciation of this concept the three chapters should be read as one. In this chapter we state a generalised case for the development of a school policy which might give effect to it.

12.2 It has been claimed that at no time in the life of an average person does he successfully achieve a more complex learning task than when he learns to speak, a task which is substantially completed before he is five years old. It has also been suggested that during the period from early infancy to five years old a child makes more rapid progress in learning about his environment than in any subsequent five year span. The two processes cannot be independent. The effort a child needs to apply in learning language must derive from the satisfaction of evolving from helplessness to self-possession. Conversely, that very evolution must owe a great deal to the developing power of language as its instrument. What we advocate here is no more than that this interlocking of the means and the end should be maintained, if possible, throughout the years of schooling. To achieve this we must convince the teacher of history or of science, for example, that he has to understand the process by which his pupils take possession of the historical or scientific information that is offered them; and that such an understanding involves his paying particular attention to the part language plays in learning. The pupils' engagement with the subject may rely upon a linguistic process that his teaching procedures actually discourage.

12.3 The primary school teacher responsible for the whole or most of the schoolwork of his class already has it in his power to establish a language policy across the curriculum. Whether or not he is taking that opportunity will depend upon the extent to which the various uses of language permeate all the other learning activities, or to which, on the other hand, language learning is regarded as a separate activity. The distinction is a crucial one, and a great deal follows from it. For language to play its full role as a means of learning, the teacher must create in the classroom an environment which encourages a wide range of language uses. The effectiveness of this context for the purpose can be judged by the answers to a number of questions. For example, how often does a child share his personal interests and learning discoveries with others in the class? How far is the teacher able to enter such conversations without robbing the children of verbal initiative? Are the children accustomed to read to one another what they have written, and just as readily listen? Are they accustomed to solving co-operatively in talk the practical problems that arise when they work together? How much opportunity is there for the kind of talk by which children make sense in their own


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terms of the information offered by teacher or by book? What varieties of writing - story, personal record, comment, report, speculation, etc - are produced in the course of a day? Over a longer span, what varieties occur in the output of a single child? These are straws in the wind. What they indicate is the degree to which learning and the acquisition of language are interlocked. We have argued elsewhere, and particularly in connection with reading, the need for a consensus among the staff of a primary school on matters of language learning. The individual teacher is in a position to devise a language policy across the various aspects of the curriculum, but there remains the need for a general policy to give expression to the aim and ensure consistency throughout the years of primary schooling.

12.4 By his training and experience, the primary school teacher is likely to conceive of his task in terms of integrated rather than subject-oriented work. In the secondary school, however, it is traditional practice to move more or less directly into a programme of specialist teaching and a subject timetable. Clearly it is here that the proposals to be made in this chapter principally apply. A primary school teacher may happen to be unaware of new conceptions of the role of language, but he would not generally regard them as matters outside his concern. However, they are certainly regarded in this way by secondary school teachers of most subjects. The move from an integrated to a specialist curriculum constitutes in itself a considerably increased demand upon the linguistic powers of the pupil, but the most obvious demand, that for a wider and more specialised vocabulary, is not the principal difficulty. In general, a curriculum subject, philosophically speaking, is a distinctive mode of analysis. While many teachers recognise that their aim is to initiate a student in a particular mode of analysis, they rarely recognise the linguistic implications of doing so. They do not recognise, in short, that the mental processes they seek to foster are the outcome of a development that originates in speech. A person's impulse to talk over a problem that his thinking has failed to solve is a natural one; what he is doing is to regress to an earlier, simpler form of problem solving situation. Every teacher has known occasions when a child has solved his difficulties in the act of explaining what they are. Face to face speech is a very direct embodiment of the relationship between the speakers. If the relationship is one that gives the speaker confidence he will be understood, it acts as a powerful incentive to him to complete the train of thought he has begun. It has even been claimed that goodwill is enough in a listener, without understanding.

12.5 When we consider the working day in a secondary school the neglect of pupil talk as a valuable means of learning stands out sharply. To bring about a change will take time and persistence. Where pupil talk has been accorded little status in teaching methods, it is not surprising that when the opportunity does occur it tends to be filled by pointless chatter. But the cycle can be broken, as experience has amply shown. There is no need to repeat here the points we have made earlier in this section about the role of exploratory talk in the classroom. For such talk to nourish, the context must be as informal and relaxed as possible, and this is most likely to occur in small groups and in a well organised and controlled classroom. Once the practice has been established in such groups there is no reason why the exploratory talk should not succeed in due course with the whole class and


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the teacher together. The principle to be recognised, however, is that good 'class discussion' cannot be had simply on demand; it must be built up on work in small groups, and continue to be supported by it.

12.6 If the value of expressive talk is commonly overlooked in many subject areas, expressive writing often finds no place at all. In a recent research study (1) it was found that the teachers of a number of subjects did not encourage such writing, and this can be taken to mean that the children were often being asked to run before they could walk. They were being required to report conclusions in writing, their own or other people's, but not to produce the kind of writing that most effectively helps them to arrive at conclusions. The following passage (2) will illustrate the point. Asked to give an account of how to set up a wormery, a thirteen year old wrote:

'I fetched a bucket of soil and a cup. A jar of sand and some chalk. I fetched a wormery glass which you can see through. I made layers of soil then sand and then powdered chalk. I continued like that. Then I put some water in it. I have marked with biro where the water ran. Then I placed four worms in the wormery. They did not stir when they were on top of the soil but later they will. I put the wormery into a dark cupboard which is closed.'
At thirteen a writer might have been expected to produce a simple and practical statement in the style of a manual of instructions. In this light the comment made by his teacher, 'Not very good', can be said to have been merited. What the pupil wrote, however, was an expressive statement reflecting his personal involvement. It is from such writing that the transactional must grow, and what the pupil wrote may have been appropriate to him at that particular stage.

We believe that expressive writing shares some of the virtues of expressive talk in helping a pupil to find his way into a subject. Moreover, it is an important stage on the way to a range of differentiated kinds of writing. To quote from the language policy document prepared by a secondary school we visited:

'As well as providing opportunities for purposeful oral work within a given context, other subject areas might consider how they can enlist the personal involvement and interest of children in any writing required of them.'
Or as Rosen (3) has put it: 'The demand for transactional writing in school is ceaseless, but expressive language with all its vitality and richness is the only possible soil from which it can grow.'

12.7 There is a sequence of ways, fairly obvious in themselves, in which children gather information. They can be listed in ascending order of difficulty as follows:

finding out from observation and first-hand experience;
finding out from someone who will explain and discuss;
finding out by listening to a spoken monologue, for example a radio talk;
finding out by reading.
These are not, of course, four independent processes; on the contrary, they must be seen as variants of a single activity, likely to be used in close conjunction. Moreover, it must be recognised that the child's speaking and


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writing are essential means by which he appropriates and uses the information he has gathered. This places reading firmly in a context of the use of language. 'Finding out by reading' puts the emphasis where we feel it belongs; the child reads because there is something he wants to find out, and this can be made to apply in any or every lesson on the timetable. This quest for information will call upon and promote the wide range of reading skills discussed in Chapter 8, but the child must be given the right kind of help. Subject teachers need to be aware of the processes involved, able to provide the variety of reading material that is appropriate, and willing to see it as their responsibility to help their pupils meet the reading demands of their subject. The variety of written forms a child encounters in reading will be an influence upon the development of his writing abilities. To restrict the first can result in limiting the second.

12.8 Furthermore, just as different tasks call upon different reading skills so also they demand a variety of modes of recording. Note making and other forms of record keeping associated with a pupil's reading can be valuable ways not simply of learning, but of 'learning to learn'. In the past attempts at teaching the art of learning have too often consisted in a few stereotyped methods of study, so generalised as to be of little value when applied in a real context. Subject teachers who know both the particular demands of their subjects and the individual needs of their pupils have an important contribution to make in this area.

12.9 This brief survey of language across the curriculum would not be complete if we failed to take account of the teacher's own language. There is no doubt that a well-prepared, extensive presentation by the teacher is sometimes the best way of handling a topic, particularly in the introductory stages of a course of study. It is likely to begin with the circulation of some material in the form of evidence, or data upon which conclusions can be based. The teacher marks out an area of concern and allows for a variety of approaches to it, and he does this through open-ended questions which elicit from his pupils the ideas and experiences upon which to work. The presentation is thus newly developed on each successive occasion. What the teacher is shaping by his probing is something to which both he and his pupils contribute. It may at the conclusion be an incomplete and modified version of what he intended, but it will be a truer representation of the understanding the group has reached than could have been derived from any direct exposition. In the course of working upon new concepts the teacher is bound to introduce new terms, but he can make good use of the pupils' own views and experiences to help them assimilate these. It is what the pupils do in following up the presentation that realises its value, and this is best achieved by the teacher's interaction with individuals and small groups. Getting children to talk to them is an art that most teachers acquire without giving the matter any thought. When it becomes evident to a teacher that his professional teaching relationship requires mutuality rather than distance, he is likely to find little difficulty in making the adjustment. The problem is that of reconciling this relationship with his role as a keeper of the peace, for he cannot avoid his responsibility for maintaining in the group an atmosphere in which learning may go on. There exist the two distinct roles of teaching and control, and the constant aim should be to develop the first to a point where it encompasses the second.


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12.10 The notions we have been discussing here are gradually gaining currency, and we are encouraged by what has been achieved in the comparatively short time since their inception. The documentation has grown considerably in the last six years and now covers principles and practice, teaching and organisation. One of the earliest initiatives came from the London Association for the Teaching of English, which organised a series of conferences leading to the publication in 1969 of a discussion document (4), 'A language policy across the curriculum'. A number of schools responded to the suggestions this contained, and there followed valuable contacts with other subject associations, notably the Association of Teachers of Mathematics. The topic was taken up by the National Association for the Teaching of English, which invited teachers of all subjects to its 1971 annual conference (5) and devoted the programme to a series of working groups on various aspects of language across the curriculum. A teacher of mathematics afterwards reported:

'as children talk or write ... in a mathematics lesson, or in the playground when they are sorting out the rules of a game of marbles, they are "doing mathematics". It is not just that language is used in mathematics: rather, it is that the language that is used is the mathematics. It was perhaps on this account that I did not feel myself too much of an eavesdropper when I went to Reading for the NATE conference: the discussions were directly relevant to my own concerns.'
And a teacher of biology:
'How might further developments take place? There was a strong feeling that local follow-up was essential, perhaps in Teachers' Centres. Objectives should be much more restricted, for example "Reading" or "Projects" or "Discussion", and it will be necessary to consider the practical problems of small group work in the classroom. We all felt that other subject Associations should become involved'.
The next major development was a series of Department of Education and Science short courses, beginning in 1972, which brought together on successive occasions heads of schools, advisers, heads of subject departments, and representatives of subject associations. The courses were planned as working parties, and a number of stimulating papers were produced on language across the curriculum. Another focal point for teacher activity has been the Writing Across the Curriculum project (6), at present being conducted for the Schools Council at the University of London Institute of Education. Several local authorities are now co-operating with the project team, and a large number of teachers are making a valuable contribution.

12.11 We have chosen these developments to illustrate the growth of interest in the notion of language across the curriculum, but it cannot be inferred from this that it has taken root in large numbers of schools. Despite such initiatives, and similar ones at local level, there are still comparatively few schools which have introduced it as a policy. This is understandable, for it cannot be pretended that a policy of this kind is easy to establish. The need is not obvious to every teacher, and the head of the school can best influence others if he is himself informed and convinced. This, however, is only the beginning, and the head cannot achieve alone the introduction and maintenance of the policy. We have considered various ways in which it might


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take effect, but to endorse any one would be to produce a prescription that would not suit the circumstances of every school. One possibility is for the responsibility to lie with a senior member of staff, experienced and appropriately qualified, whose status is at least equal to that of the heads of department with whom he will be working so closely. The advantage of such an appointment is that the teacher concerned would be able to concentrate his efforts upon the policy and carry the weight to enable him to persuade and exercise influence. The difficulty might be that it would not be easy to argue for another post to be added to the senior level of the school management structure. In some schools it would be possible for the function to be taken on by a member of the staff already occupying a senior post, for example, a director of studies or curriculum coordinator where he was qualified for the role.

12.12 Whatever form it took it would be important to establish a proper working relationship with the head of English department, whose own contribution to the policy must clearly be a considerable one. It could, of course, be argued that the head of department and his English specialist colleagues are in an ideal position to take on the responsibility themselves, and this is another possibility to be considered. The virtues are obvious, but we have argued elsewhere that English departments - and particularly the teachers in charge of them - are hard-pressed. To expect them to add this important task to their existing commitments would be asking a great deal. Moreover, it is conceivable that in some schools such an arrangement might make it harder for the concept to win acceptance among the staff. One approach might be to place the responsibility with a committee composed of heads of department, with the head teacher and the head of English giving a strong lead. This has the advantage of continuous consultation and collective responsibility, but it could be countered that it takes an individual hand to give real leadership. Clearly a great deal depends upon the circumstances of each school, not least its size and its present administrative structure. We strongly recommend that whatever the means chosen to implement it a policy for language across the curriculum should be adopted by every secondary school. We are convinced that the benefits would be out of all proportion to the effort it would demand, considerable though this would undoubtedly be.

REFERENCES

1. The Development of Writing Abilities 11 to 18 Writing Research Unit. Schools Council: 1974.

2. Reproduced in Language Across The Curriculum English in Education, Vol. 5, No. 2: 1971.

3. D Barnes et al. Language, the Learner, and the School revised edition. Penguin Education: 1971.

4. Reproduced in D Barnes et al.: op. cit.

5. Reported in Language Across the Curriculum: op. cit.

6. See From Information to Understanding University of London Institute of Education: 1973.


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Part Five

Organisation





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CHAPTER 13

The Primary and Middle Years

13.1 The purpose of this chapter is to consider the organisation and staffing within schools as they affect English in general and language development and reading in particular, and to examine the implications of some of the suggestions we have made in earlier chapters and in certain of those which follow. We must, however, begin with a brief survey of pre-school provision, for it is important to recognise that children entering infant school start on a very uneven footing in this respect. In December 1972 proposals (1) were announced for the expansion of nursery education during the next decade. This should make possible a real advance in language development in young children, since it will allow more children to benefit from the kinds of experiences we described in Chapter 5. At present there is an immense range in the pre-school opportunities of young children, and an infinite variety in the extent and quality of the experience they eventually bring to the infant school. Some remain at home throughout the pre-school years with parents, relatives, au pair girls, or child minders, registered or unregistered. Some attend playgroups for up to six hours a week or spend as many as 45 hours a week in day nurseries and centres. Some receive full or part-time education in nursery school or in nursery classes or units attached to primary schools, spending between 15 and 38 hours a week there.

13.2 It is difficult to make even the most general observation that would summarise the circumstances of children who are looked after by unregistered child minders (2). In the nature of things it is hard to arrive with precision at either their numbers or the extent to which they are properly cared for. Nevertheless, there is every indication (3) that they run into many thousands and that the quality of care is often very poor, not simply because of unsatisfactory physical conditions but because of the absence of stimulus and attention to the child's developmental needs. In the case of registered child minders, local authority supervision is more likely to ensure satisfactory physical conditions, but the other aspects of the child's welfare must very often be just as inadequately served. Nearly 300,000 of the country's children attend playgroups. The playgroup movement sets out to create opportunities for socialisation and to provide a secure yet stimulating environment in which children can interact and in which parents can play a significant part. The staffing of the groups varies considerably, some being run entirely by parents, some by parents in association with trained colleagues, others by trained staff only. Equally variable is the quality of the provision, the materials available, and the kind of experience the children encounter. In the best groups the children hear stories, learn songs and rhymes, and are given plenty of opportunity for talk through the stimulus of their play. The day nurseries, both public and private, usually see their main purpose as providing nurture and care for children whose mothers are at work for long hours. However, there has been a growing awareness of the fact that different aspects of the child's development are interrelated. The result has been an increased concern for intellectual growth and the provision of book corners and interest areas in the better nurseries. This awareness is reflected in the training of the nursery nurses, who are encouraged to tell the children stories, help them


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enjoy picture/story books, and get them to talk about their experiences. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of trained nursery nurses and assistants, and the experience of children in public day nurseries is bound to vary a great deal. It is likely to vary even more in private day nurseries, since authorities apply differing standards with regard to training of staff, child/staff ratio etc in their requirements for registration. Lastly, there are the nursery schools and classes, which we have already discussed at length in terms of the important contribution they can make to language development and cognitive growth.

13.3 Within any one of these kinds of experience there is a great range in the nature and quality of language preparation. This fact is sometimes overlooked when comments are made about infant schools. In the best of circumstances their task is a complex one; in areas of social difficulty the shortcomings of language development impose additional and very considerable demands. The very diversity of all this pre-school experience underlines the need for contacts between infant school, nursery school, playgroup, and home, and there is great scope for initiative. For example, where children are already in a playgroup or nursery school the infant teacher can learn much by visiting them there, getting to know their background and inviting the leader or nursery teacher to pay return visits. The pre-school child should be allowed to spend some time in the infant school with his mother in the term before he is due to be admitted. Admissions can be staggered over a period of some weeks, so that the teacher is given the chance to talk to small numbers of parents when they bring their children, and to give more individual attention to the children themselves. Some heads have found it useful to produce an illustrated booklet of suggestions to guide parents in preparing their child, and themselves, for his new experience. Parents should receive invitations to attend meetings of one kind or another in advance of their child's actually starting school. Where possible, facilities for borrowing and buying books should be extended to them, as another means of making them feel part of it at the earliest opportunity. Home-school liaison has already been dealt with at length in its relation to the child's language needs, but it is mentioned in this context to emphasise the value we place on a proper introduction to school life. Continuity and cooperation between home and school and between one stage of education and the next are vitally important to a child's development, linguistic and otherwise.

13.4 In recent years a considerable amount of time has been spent in discussing the internal organisation of schools and the way in which this affects the nature and quality of the teaching. The pattern from which large numbers of schools are held to have departed is that of the 'traditional' primary school, whose work is defined fairly precisely by a set timetable. This involves placing the 'basic skills' in the mornings, with the afternoons set aside for creative activities, history, geography, nature study, and some physical education. More often than not a scheme of work for reading and language sets out the appropriate form and content for each class. The advocates of this form of organisation say that these conditions lead to an assured attention to the 'basic skills', which results in a concern for correctness in written work and for measured progress in reading. They argue that there is a clearly defined purpose which can give teacher and pupil alike a feeling of security and achievement. As short-term objectives are sequentially


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attained there is a recognisable rate of progress, which parents can readily understand. Its critics contend that this kind of organisation limits the opportunities for learning. All too often the practice of reading and writing skills is totally unrelated to the pupils' other experiences and therefore lacks real meaning. Thus it is possible, as in mathematics, for a technique to be acquired without an understanding of what is involved in the process. They also suggest that such an approach implies a set of external standards which are an inadequate way of judging success. Before going on to discuss the implications of all this we are bound to say that extreme attitudes on either side are unhelpful. Moreover they represent a situation which does not exist in schools in any such extreme form. It seems to us unfortunate that public debate has tended in recent years to oversimplify a complex situation and has often been conducted through a series of slogan-like headings: progressive, formal, integration, basics, and several more. The conditions in which children learn most efficiently call for serious study, and in our view it is naive to believe that a particular form of organisation will in itself guarantee them.

13.5 Most primary schools still group children in classes according to the year in which they were born. Some are too small to do that, and their classes therefore have to contain children of different ages. Others produce this effect as a matter of policy, and their classes are then known as 'vertically grouped'. Normally, admission of children to infant schools on a termly basis can mean that some children are moved from one class to the next after only a term or two. There are four principal advantages claimed for vertical grouping: the children can remain with one teacher for a longer time; only a few new children need be taken into the class each term and they can therefore be settled easily; the younger children are encouraged to greater effort by the work of the older; slow learning children do not feel exposed. It is argued that the books and materials necessary to cover the wider age range offer an interest and challenge that is sometimes missing in classes for five year olds. Far from being hampered by the wide range of ability and age within the class the teacher can use it to good effect and give individual attention where it is necessary. There are several variant forms of vertical grouping. Some schools arrange for there to be the full infant age range in each class, while in others the 5s and younger 6s will be in one class, the 7s and older 6s in another. A number of schools regroup children for part of the week, either into or out of vertical groups. The critics of vertical grouping point out that continuity with one teacher is effective only where there is low staff mobility; the children may remain constant, but the teacher could well change frequently. Moreover, continuity can be a marked disadvantage to children if the teacher happens to be weak. A wide spread of ability within a class covering a three year age range demands considerable skill in planning and classroom organisation. It is argued that some teachers may make insufficient demands on the seven year olds or not provide appropriate help and materials for the younger children; or they may tend to overlook the needs of the middle group.

13.6 The infant schools that pioneered deliberate vertical grouping were those which had already introduced different forms of classroom organisation, sometimes summed up in the phrase 'the integrated day'. The variations on this theme are numerous, but the principal is that subject barriers


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are artificial for young children. Timetable constraints are therefore removed and there is greater flexibility for accommodating individual needs and interests. For a substantial part of the day individual children, or small groups, might be variously engaged at any one time in mathematics, painting, craft work, social play, reading, or writing a story or an account of some investigation. During this time the teacher moves among the children, helping, guiding, and teaching on an individual or group basis as the need arises. Balance is achieved by bringing the whole class together at certain times for physical education, making music, discussion, or some similar activity, such as listening to a story. This way of working takes account of differences in development, interest, and attention. Language skills become an integral part of the work, and the contexts for talk, reading, and writing are provided by a variety of experiences which the child finds highly motivating.

13.7 The chief criticism is that where children pursue their own interests almost exclusively they lack direction and due attention to the basic skills. Unless there is a meticulous system of record keeping children can miss out important areas of experience and fail to make progress in certain directions. Some teachers might find it difficult to give sufficient help with reading on an individual or group basis when they are pulled in so many directions. It is the apparent excess of freedom of choice which has led some parents to worry that the basic skills are likely to suffer. The exponents of the integrated day accept that it needs skilful organising, but contend that where this is present the learning opportunities are increased. While a mixture of activities is in progress the teacher can engage one child or a group in the learning of the skill that must next be acquired. Where vertical grouping is in operation the teacher is better able by this means to cope with the wide range of attainment it must be expected to bring.

13.8 It was not possible in our survey to identify with precision the classes that were operating an integrated day in a full or partial sense. We were, however, able to do this for vertical grouping, and one of our objectives was to discover whether a commitment to it resulted in an emphasis on certain practices or in their comparative neglect. For instance it might be expected that teachers of deliberately vertically grouped classes would not set aside any particular part of the day for general attention to basic skills. The policy of setting aside time in this way was certainly common among the classes which were not vertically grouped; for it was adopted by 78 per cent of those containing six year olds. And yet as many as 52 per cent of the deliberately vertically grouped classes retained the same practice. In the case of the classes containing nine year olds there was an even greater incidence of the practice among the deliberately vertically grouped. Indeed, the proportion of classes doing their 'basic work' in the mornings was the same in both categories at 80 per cent. Similarly, it is sometimes suggested that vertical grouping and a disinclination to use phonic methods in the teaching of reading are associated. The following table reveals that although there is not a close correspondence in all methods the assumption about phonic work appears to be mistaken:


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Table 6

WAYS OF TEACHING READING - APPROACHES USED WITH 6 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN VERTICALLY GROUPED AND NON-VERTICALLY GROUPED CLASSES

Deliberately
vertically
grouped
Not
vertically
grouped
Total
Total number of classes322 (23%)781 (55%)1,417
% of classes using:
Look and say979697
Phonic 1989797
Phonic 2687270
Sentence method614851
Pre-reading exercises612135

Another example occurs in the numbers showing the frequency with which teachers hear children read. The percentages, reproduced below, show that there is no great difference between the categories:

Table 7

THE FREQUENCY WITH WHICH TEACHERS HEAR CHILDREN READ - 6 YEAR OLDS AND 9 YEAR OLDS - IN VERTICALLY GROUPED AND NON-VERTICALLY GROUPED CLASSES

Deliberately
vertically
grouped

%
Not
vertically
grouped

%
6 YEAR OLDS
Ablest readers
1. Daily1711
2. 3 or 4 times weekly4335
3. 1 or 2 times weekly3449
4. Less often75
Average readers
1. Daily3124
2. 3 or 4 times weekly5458
3. 1 or 2 times weekly1417
4. Less often--
Poorest readers
1. Daily6870
2. 3 or 4 times weekly2927
3. 1 or 2 times weekly33
4. Less often--


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Deliberately
vertically
grouped

%
Not
vertically
grouped

%
9 YEAR OLDS
Ablest readers
1. Daily11
2. 3 or 4 times weekly34
3. 1 or 2 times weekly3933
4. Less often5761
Average readers
1. Daily22
2. 3 or 4 times weekly1918
3. 1 or 2 times weekly6565
4. Less often1415
Poorest readers
1. Daily4846
2. 3 or 4 times weekly3838
3. 1 or 2 times weekly1314
4. Less often11

13.9 A further aspect of reading in which a comparison might be drawn is that of individual reading practice through graded schemes or other material. An analysis of this activity showed that the teachers of deliberately vertically grouped classes require it of their pupils with the same frequency as their counterparts in the other category.

Table 8

THE FREQUENCY OF READING PRACTICE - 6 YEAR OLD AND 9 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN VERTICALLY GROUPED AND NON-VERTICALLY GROUPED CLASSES

Reading practice, either
from graded schemes
or from other material
Deliberately
vertically
grouped
%
Not
vertically
grouped
%
6 year olds
1. Daily7174
2. 3 or 4 times weekly2322
3. 1 or 2 times weekly33
4. Less often21
9 year olds
1. Daily5958
2. 3 or 4 times weekly2828
3. 1 or 2 times weekly1111
4. Less often12
5. Not applicable11

It is not surprising that the differences revealed by these tables are modest, for the value of such techniques ought to depend on an assessment of the


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needs of individual children, not on the way the children are arranged into classes. If there is any occasion for surprise it is that so many of the deliberately vertically grouped classes should, like those in the other category, attempt to limit work on the basic skills to the morning period.

13.10 It is rightly pointed out that when vertical grouping is in operation the teacher must record with great care the progress and not merely the activities of each individual child. We argue at length in Chapter 17 that this is vitally important whatever the form of organisation. Nevertheless, it would have been disturbing if our survey had revealed less inclination for this practice on the part of teachers of vertically grouped classes. As the following table shows there was again little difference. In the case of the six year olds there were certain advantages in favour of the deliberately vertically grouped; with the nine year olds the position was reversed to a very slight degree:

Table 9

RECORDS OF READING AND WRITING BY 6 YEAR OLD AND 9 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN VERTICALLY GROUPED AND NON-VERTICALLY GROUPED CLASSES

Deliberately
vertically
grouped
%
Not
vertically
grouped
%
Records are kept of:
6 year olds
1. Books read by each child9896
2. The occasions when a child has read to a teacher9495
3. Persistent individual weaknesses that require help from:
i. specialist teachers of reading in the school4340
ii. specialist teachers of reading and/or educational psychologists outside the school3929
4. Assessment of written work6045
Examples of written work are kept from year to year as a progress record5231
Records are kept of:
9 year olds
1. Books read by each child7979
2. The occasions when a child has read to a teacher6971
3. Persistent individual weaknesses that require help from:
i. specialist teachers of reading in the school4352
ii. specialist teachers of reading and/or educational psychologists outside the school3740
4. Assessment of written work6163
Examples of written work are kept from year to year as a progress record4339


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We are not suggesting on the evidence of all the above tables that there is no difference of emphasis at any point between the different forms of organisation. A glance at the other tables in Chapter 25 will show where the variations occur. But we do suggest that it is mistaken to assume that any one form of teaching is tied exclusively to any given approach or provision.

13.11 How a school is organised should be based on a careful consideration of a number of essentials. Foremost among these are the educational needs of the children in question, the strengths and weaknesses of the teachers, and the quality of the other resources, material and human, both inside the school and out. The organisation can be considered successful if it brings together in the most effective way the best available combination of resources, and if it includes elements that allow it to change in the direction of becoming still more effective. It is not good enough simply to have adopted whatever is currently regarded as modish, nor simply to have clung to what was the best that could be managed in the past. As far as local circumstances allow, the organisation of schools and classes should reflect certain important facts, all seemingly obvious in themselves but by no means always taken into account. Children change as they grow older; children of the same age and of the same social background differ widely in their attainment and interests, and the differences between them do not remain constant; children learn best what is useful to them. These facts are sufficiently well argued elsewhere to need no further justification here. Each has a bearing on the direction in which teachers should be attempting to modify their practices.

13.12 Our impression is that changes in organisation within schools in recent years have not generally been matched by changes in classroom practice. We have given the example of the schools where vertically grouped classes had their 'basic work' concentrated on the mornings. We visited some classes using the 'integrated day' form of organisation where the educational environment was less imaginative and demanding than that to be found in many 'traditional' classrooms. For example, when children moved to the 'language bay' they would take an assignment card and work to the instructions it gave. It might contain instructions to write a story; or a short passage with comprehension questions; or even some exercises, cut from a textbook and pasted on to the card. There was no interpenetration of language and the other learning experiences, and often little contact with the teacher. The system gave the appearance of allowing each child to work alone at his own pace. In fact, some of the work was as narrow in scope as the more 'formal' variety it had replaced, and it had the disadvantage of reducing the shared activity which gives opportunity for so much language. The important point is that when a new form of organisation is adopted the work within the classroom should be consonant with it in spirit and intent. This means that a good deal of careful thought should precede any organisational change. There is little to be gained from introducing a new system which merely carries on the practices of the one it has superseded and thus has its possible advantages neutralised. Moreover, new ways of working should not be adopted unless the staff has had a chance to prepare for them, and this has implications for in-service training. The most valuable innovations are likely to be those in which teachers are involved from the outset, and they should always result in an improvement upon previous practice.


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13.13 As children mature they come to rely less on adults and more on themselves and one another. With their growing independence they welcome access to a number of teachers with more specialised knowledge than one class teacher can provide. The development is a gradual one, and is not uniform for all children. The change from one state of experience to the other has usually taken place on transfer from primary to secondary schools, often with an uncompromising abruptness. It is encouraging to see that a number of primary, middle, and secondary schools are nowadays evolving forms of organisation which modify this. We do not believe that there is an organisational solution for primary schools which is distinct from that for secondary schools and remains virtually unchanged throughout the primary years. We prefer to think in terms of a gradual development from the class/teacher situation through cooperative working to a degree of specialism for the older children. In practice this would work as follows. Between the ages of five and nine there would be a firmly based class-teacher relationship, but with a gradual extension of the involvement of other colleagues. There would be some need from a fairly early stage for the class teacher to refer to a colleague for more specialist help, but at this stage such help should be looked upon as supportive; that is to say, it would depend upon the occasion and the needs of individual children. It is likely, with five year olds, to involve only a small part of the school day for any individual child, and none at all for some children. The time required for this kind of supplementary help would gradually increase over the period between five and thirteen years, and it would probably be best arranged by having teachers work as teams. This would mean that teachers and children alike would have access to a member of staff with a particular interest in one aspect of the curriculum and a special contribution to make to it. Some of these contacts would be timetabled and some occur on an occasional basis in response to a particular need. Some would involve the whole class, some a number of children drawn from each class in the group. In certain subjects, such as French, music, and some aspects of physical education, there would be a case for full specialist teaching for the older children, but we,do not envisage English as coming into this category. Since language permeates the curriculum we believe that it should not be abstracted from it in the primary school in the form of a specialist subject. Nevertheless, we emphasise strongly the importance of specialist help along the lines we have described above. The case for a member of staff with special responsibility in English in its widest sense is taken up in paragraph 13.23. It is important that the expert knowledge of such a teacher should be available where this kind of flexible grouping is being considered. Perhaps the most urgent need to enable these organisational patterns to develop is the provision of adequate time for staff consultation. Cooperative efforts, whether to initiate change or to adapt to it, cannot be effective unless there is time set aside for joint planning, for the interchange of discoveries, ideas, and experience, and for the expertise of some teachers to help with the problems of others.

13.14 Children of the same age differ in attainment and interests, but these differences do not remain constant over a period of time. The evidence of longitudinal studies is that children develop unevenly, a factor which adds to the demands created by individual differences. These differences call for corresponding variations of treatment, and these in turn suggest work in


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small groups and as individuals, with the teacher taking an active part. Group interaction is highly important in language activity and response to literature, and any decision to produce individual assignments and worksheets should take account of this. Furthermore, opportunities of working together as a class should not be lost. In some classrooms this shared experience has almost entirely disappeared. We talked to teachers who never read a story or a poem to the class or talked to the children collectively. Indeed, some felt that they would be wrong to teach the class or any part of it directly, since this would compromise their commitment to a 'child-centred' programme. In our view this represents a serious narrowing of opportunities. Some of the conventions of language, for example, need to be taught directly; not necessarily to a full class, but taught none the less. The degree of 'structure' and the mode of learning will differ from one time and situation to another, and a teacher's repertoire of methods of organisation should be able to accommodate these various needs.

13.15 We might summarise our position by saying that our view of language learning has certain general implications for class and school organisation. Children learn to master their mother tongue at individual rates and by individual routes. All that goes on in a classroom may directly or indirectly contribute to the process, given an organisation flexible enough to allow this to happen. Independent work, by individuals and by groups, provides the best sustained context for effective instruction by the teacher and should therefore be the principal form of classroom activity. There will be some occasions when the teacher will find it appropriate to teach the whole class, or when the whole class will be watching or listening to something collectively. Where an organisation of this flexible kind is working successfully, frequent and regular timetable breaks are likely to amount to an interruption to learning.

13.16 Many witnesses urged that classes should be smaller, and in the questionnaire we took steps to find out the distribution of class size in our sample. They were as follows:

Table 10

DISTRIBUTION OF CLASS SIZE FOR 6 AND 9 YEAR OLD PUPILS

(Percentages)

Range of class sizesAll
classes
1-1516-2021-2526-3031-3536-4041-45
6 year old
classes
2410254019-100
9 year old
classes
15101936263100
all 6 and 9
year old classes
14102238222100

This table tells its own story, and in our view there are still far too many classes which are larger than they should be. We would be going beyond our brief in recommending any particular level of pupil-teacher ratio. This is an issue which concerns the school situation in general, and not simply that part of it into which we have been inquiring. Nevertheless, the question


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of class size is important to our considerations, and it was certainly regarded as such in the schools we visited. Many teachers told us that with large classes they were unable to give individual attention with sufficient frequency and in sufficient depth. This is of particular importance in the early stages of reading, and unless the teacher can spend time with the individual child the kind of suggestions outlined in Chapter 7 cannot be effected. We recommend as a first step that schools should be staffed in September according to the largest number of children expected during the coming school year. At present many are staffed according to the expected average for the year. Since many schools with infants continue to take children at subsequent points in the year the result is generally a disturbance of the pattern of work. There is often an unsettling rearrangement of children and teachers, which almost invariably hampers progress. Even where the school contrives to avoid this rearrangement the arrival of new children progressively reduces the teacher's freedom to give individual attention. If the school were staffed at the maximum point at the beginning of the school year these disadvantages could be reduced.

13.17 Research evidence conflicts on the question of whether there is a correspondence between class size and standards. There was an interesting observation upon this matter in a large-scale comparative study (4) of reading in a number of countries: 'it does not seem at all odd that no systematic relationship between class size and reading attainments had been found. The variety of experience in the classrooms of different countries is so complex that it would be surprising to find any simple connection of such a kind'. The investigators said this held true despite quite large differences in class size from country to country, e.g. Sweden 25; Denmark 28; Norway 30; Germany 38; France, sometimes over 50. It was suggested, therefore, that other factors 'overwhelm the differential effect of class size within this range of 25 to 50 pupils per teacher'. The NFER publication 'A Pattern of Disadvantage' (5) comments usefully on the difference between teachers' views and research findings: 'The findings (that is on class size and standards of attainment) relate to the measurable outcomes of education rather than to the more diffused concepts of quality in education'; 'The fact that the majority of teachers will reject the evidence relating to class size is perhaps a reflection on the wear and tear they experience in handling large classes day after day'. This is a helpful observation, for it seems to us a matter of common sense that a teacher with a large number of children in his or her daily charge will find the situation more difficult to organise effectively than if the number were smaller. We emphasise the words 'daily charge' and the 'day after day' used in the NFER publication. For there can be no strong grounds for arguing that teaching groups should invariably be confined to a given size. We have no hesitation in saying there should be an improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio, but it is not a simple matter of recommending a straight reduction in average class size. It is a question of relating improved resources to the demands of any given situation in as productive a manner as possible. A straightforward reduction in the number of children per class would be welcomed by teachers; of this there is no doubt. But schools should also be able to organise their classes in such a way that group size is matched to the needs of the work at any particular time. For example, it should be possible for whole classes or groups of classes to be divided, evenly or


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unevenly, from time to time to allow different kinds of activity. In some circumstances this would mean one or more teachers free of a main responsibility for a class, and therefore one or more other teachers temporarily having a larger group of children than usual. This would be one consequence of a flexibility where a group of teachers divide or re-divide the children between them. We believe that most teachers would accept this concept and that what they find most limiting is the constant and unrelieved pressure of working with a large class. In our view most primary schools are reaching a stage in their development where the chance to create very small groups as occasion demands would be more profitable to them than a simple reduction of average class size. The international study (6) cited experience in Denmark, where in recent years some classes have been divided into smaller units for lessons in the native language. The result, according to the Danish contributor to the report, has been that 'division of classes for a few lessons has proved more satisfactory in its results than previous efforts directed at reducing the size of the whole class, for example from 32 to 28'. We believe there can be considerable advantages where teachers work with a group of classes and divide and re-divide them to form clusters of varying abilities, interests, and numbers. There are, however, certain conditions essential to its success. The teachers should be committed to the idea, and the arrangement should not be introduced until they are able and willing to adapt their separate ways of working to the new demands. This implies careful planning and consultation, a clear understanding of the whole programme, and adequate facilities.

13.18 Before continuing the discussion of staffing we might consider briefly the last of these provisos, that of facilities. Later chapters are devoted to resources of various kinds, but we refer here to physical accommodation, for which flexibility of the sort we have been describing poses obvious questions. It would be wrong to assume that nothing can be done unless the spaces are purpose-designed. Some schools have been very successful in introducing patterns of variable grouping in premises offering no special facilities. Teachers have exercised great ingenuity in improvising to make old buildings and old furniture serve modern purposes. It is obvious, though, that where the building does not impose constraints the opportunities are so much the greater, and this has implications for primary school design. The best design recognises that educational methods and patterns of organisation are in a continuous process of evolution. This means that a building should offer its users a range of choices which will enable them to develop their work along a variety of lines. As a recent DES Design Note (7) expresses it: 'The wide range of activities taking place in schools needs to be matched by equally varied facilities. Some activities are compatible, but others conflict and require separation. Each has its own requirements for a suitable teaching environment. Thus it is necessary to provide the right balance of spaces with different environmental conditions'. A concept of this kind will allow for various small groupings, but also for a large number of children to be taught as a class. It will allow for freedom of movement where necessary, but also for reading and writing in the privacy and quiet of the enclosed space. Design should also take account of the involvement of parents and other adults in the daily life of the school, and the Design Note quoted above gives an interesting illustration. In our own recommendations we suggest that young children's language development will be furthered by increased


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opportunities for one to one conversation with adults. We believe that in the design of new nursery and infant schools the brief should include a requirement for several spaces to which an adult could withdraw with an individual child or a small group. When LEAs are considering the most effective use of minor works money for modifications to school buildings, the value of this facility should be taken into account.

13.19 This takes us back to the question of staffing and to our recommendations for the extension of language work with young children. There is no need to repeat them here, but we would draw attention to the staffing implications of the extra demands they would create. For example, where a school is working with parents and accepting secondary school pupils (paragraphs 5.37; 5.11) the pressures on teacher time and attention are increased, and the authority's staffing policy should take account of this. We have suggested (paragraph 5.42) that it would be valuable for some schools to have facilities for visiting parents in their homes. Heads to whom we talked about this possibility preferred that members of their staff should have this opportunity rather than that an educational visitor be appointed for the purpose. The ideal might be an additional teacher whose home liaison role involved her not only in visiting but in working with a class while their teacher was herself visiting. These and associated suggestions in Chapter 5 are particularly relevant to the special needs of schools in inner city areas and other areas of marked social disadvantage. We are in no doubt that such schools require additional help. An examination of the difficulties they face makes it obvious that they need a more favourable staffing situation than schools which do not encounter them. These difficulties have been discussed in detail elsewhere in the Report, notably in Chapters 2 and 18, but we refer again to them here to emphasise the strain to which some schools are subject.

13.20 The National Child Development Study (8) pointed to certain environmental features which could be related to poor performance in reading, e.g. overcrowding and absence of amenities in the home. Family size was another factor, and the difference in reading attainment between first and fourth or later born children was equivalent to 16 months of reading age at the age of seven. The additional effect of two or more younger siblings could mean a loss of a further 7 months' reading age. The relationship between home environment and reading achievement was confirmed in all the developed countries in a recent international study (9). It was found that home and family background provided an appreciably accurate prediction of the reading achievement of individual pupils and of the average achievement of children in a school. Several studies confirm that many backward readers display restlessness, antisocial behaviour, and a rebellious attitude. There is, then, ample evidence of a link between reading failure and socio-economic disadvantage and a relationship with emotional disturbance. The ILEA research department found that among children in Inner London schools there is a markedly higher incidence of emotional disturbance than the national average. The ILEA 1968 Literacy Survey revealed that at the age of eight one in six children was a poor reader compared with one in twelve nationally. The school questionnaire associated with that survey showed that on average 22 per cent of the school roll received special help with reading, mainly in small withdrawal groups. In our national sample


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11 per cent of the twelve year old secondary pupils were in 'remedial' or withdrawal groups for this purpose.

13.21 We visited a number of inner city schools in London and elsewhere in the country whose difficulties derived from the severe social problems of the area. In one such school 47 per cent of the children were having free school dinners, 30 per cent were from one parent families, and the staff judged that 53 per cent came from 'problem families'. 50 per cent of the fourth year juniors were non-readers. Some schools draw almost all their pupils from areas where there is an extremely high incidence of overcrowding, crime, rent arrears, debt, lack of standard housing amenities, people living in one or two rooms, children in care, and referrals to social services departments. We are in no doubt that such schools need additional teachers, but we do not underestimate the difficulty of recruiting them. Some of the schools have an abnormally high rate of staff turnover (10), and we spoke to heads whose staffs had undergone two complete changes of personnel in three years. This mobility is often matched by that of the children themselves, and we visited one school where as many as 32 per cent of the eleven year olds had not started there at seven. Almost as high a proportion would have left the area before completing a secondary school course. In circumstances such as these the picture is one of shifting encounters, against a background which creates a need for sustained relationships and a sense of security. It is clear that steps so far taken, as in EPA areas, have proved to be inadequate, and that this is a serious problem which calls for vigorous action involving more than simply educational agencies. We welcome the action of the Secretary of State in setting up a unit within the Department to study the problems of the disadvantaged, and his approval of an increased allowance to teachers working in stress areas.

13.22 There remains the important question of staff support within the school in language work and the teaching of reading. There is clear evidence that when above-scale payments are being allocated in primary schools English is all too often not even considered. Our own survey showed that of the schools with the power to award above-scale posts only 29 per cent have assigned one to responsibility for advising other teachers in the teaching of English. We feel this situation is unsatisfactory, and that it reflects a mistaken belief that any teacher can cope with all the varied aspects of English without additional training or specialist advice. We believe that every school should have a teacher with this responsibility, and that where authorities and schools have the power to make additional payment for it they should do so.

13.23 We have used the term English in order to emphasise the inclusiveness of the role. Several witnesses suggested that each school should have a teacher responsible for supporting his colleagues in the teaching of reading. This is a recommendation which we readily endorse, but we would broaden it to include the development of language in general. The task would be a demanding one, and a consideration of what it would involve makes it all the more surprising that such an important role is filled in so few schools. In the first place the teacher would act as consultant to his colleagues on matters of reading and language. It would fall to him to assess the results of screening and to discuss with his colleagues the diagnostic procedures


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and special help required by individual children. It is important to emphasise, however, that his concern extends beyond the language and reading needs of the slow learner, and should equally involve those of the able child. He would obviously need to be well informed of current developments and new materials, and this would include a knowledge of children's literature, since one of his responsibilities would be the guidance discussed in Chapter 21. As a teacher with a special contribution to make in a particular area of the curriculum he would play an important part in any regrouping arrangements of the kind described earlier. It would be unprofitable for us to attempt to define too closely the extent of such a teacher's function. To do so would be to risk circumscribing it or extending it beyond the practicable, for a great deal will depend upon the size of the school. For example, in a small school it would be reasonable for the post to include responsibility for library books. In a large school this would clearly need to lie with another member of staff, though both teachers would work in close cooperation. For this recommendation to have the best effect there would have to be adequate preparation. Though there are many teachers in primary schools with a keen interest in language development and reading, there is a limit to the number with a special knowledge of them. This would mean effective in-service training provision for the teachers selected for these posts. It would also mean sustained support from the local authority advisory team, whose role we consider in a later chapter. At present neither of these forms of support is sufficiently well developed in most authorities to perform the task, or, for that matter, the more general one of helping schools to a better understanding of English teaching. We emphasise that all teachers in the primary school must carry equal responsibility for language and that for this reason they should receive support of these two kinds in the teaching of English in all its aspects.

13.24 The importance of good leadership by the head cannot be overstated. This was identified by Morris (11) in her Kent survey as a characteristic of those schools which achieved good reading standards and progress. The heads produced carefully defined goals and the organisation necessary to attain them. They were enthusiastic teachers, involving themselves in the work of the classroom and providing an example to their staff. A similar conclusion emerged from the Cooperative Reading Studies of the US Office of Education, where an important factor in success was found to be 'the amount of interest and attention given to the organisation of the reading programme by the school administration'. Our own visits left us in no doubt that where the head sets a high value on language development an essential precondition for success has been established. This reveals itself in a variety of ways, of which concern to raise every child's level of achievement is the most apparent. There is a positive expectation for every child, and the staff are encouraged to keep careful records of each child's progress. There is a receptivity to new ideas and approaches, which are not adopted uncritically but evaluated carefully. The head discusses them with his staff and puts them into practice only where the conditions are right and an improvement in standards is likely to result. This is an aspect of the notion of the school as its own in-service training unit. Sometimes courses will be held within the school, and whenever a member of staff attends an outside course its benefits are shared with colleagues. The head's own part in this process


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is of vital importance, and his leadership can often find its best expression when he works alongside his colleagues in the classroom. The appointment of a teacher with a responsibility for language and reading would not diminish the importance of this leadership. Indeed, support of this kind would help the head to realise the policy more effectively. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the teacher is the biggest single factor for success in learning to read and use language. The school with high standards of reading is the one where the teachers are knowledgeable about it and are united in ascribing to it a very high priority. A coherent strategy, understood and agreed by the staff, is the best instrument for improving standards of reading and language, and the head's part in the process is central to its success. In small schools, where the head is called upon to take responsibility for a class for a substantial part of the time, there should be some provision to enable him to fulfil this role, including generous secretarial assistance.

REFERENCES

1. Education: A Framework for Expansion HMSO: 1972 and Circular No. 2/73: Department of Education and Science: 1973.

2. S Yudkin 0-5: A report on the Care of Pre-School Children National Society of Children's Nurseries: 1967.

3. The Illegal Child Minders Priority Area Children: 1972.

4. J Downing (ed.) Comparative Reading Macmillan, New York: 1973.

5. D Donnison (ed.) A Pattern of Disadvantage NFER: 1972.

6. J Downing (ed.) op. cit.

7. Design Note 11: Chaucer Infant and Nursery School, Ilkeston, Derbyshire Architects and Building Branch, Department of Education and Science: HMSO: 1973.

8. R Davie, N Butler, and H Goldstein From Birth to Seven Longmans: 1972.

9. RL Thorndike Reading Comprehension Education in Fifteen Countries: International Studies in Evaluation III International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement: 1973.

10. See Report on Education No. 79 Teacher Turnover Department of Education and Science: 1974.

11. JM Morris Standards and Progress in Reading NFER: 1966.


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CHAPTER 14

Continuity Between Schools

INFANT AND FIRST SCHOOL - JUNIOR AND MIDDLE SCHOOL

14.1 Over 40 years ago the Hadow Report (1) urged that there should be no sharp division between infant, junior, and post-primary stages, and that the transition from any given stage to the succeeding one should be as smooth and gradual as possible. The Plowden Report (2) developed the same theme, remarking that though contacts between schools were still inadequately cultivated there was evidence of a real improvement. This improvement has continued, so that at any rate it is uncommon to find a school that does not recognise the importance of the principle. This is particularly true where it concerns transition from infant to junior school, with which we are concerned in this section. It was the experience of our visits that the relationship often does not go far beyond an obvious goodwill and a readiness to cooperate in general terms. However, a number of schools have developed a range of useful joint activities. In the first place they have recognised that at the point of transfer a young child has a particular need of security and reassurance. They have therefore arranged an exchange of teachers so that the first year junior teacher becomes an accustomed figure to the young children who will soon be going up to her; or the children themselves have spent days in small groups in the classroom which will be their home the following term. Correspondingly, a teacher from the infants has spent part of each day in the junior school, keeping contact with those recently transferred and in particular the ones who still need help with reading. Schools occupying the same building have set up common working and quiet areas in corridors or other available spaces. There have been joint assemblies, plays and outings. All these are admirable developments which enable separate schools to achieve the kind of sharing that is available to the 5-11 school. Moreover, they are the translation into action of a philosophy of continuity based on regular inter-staff discussion. We are concerned in these paragraphs with the extent and quality of cooperation as it relates to the development of language and reading skills. This is likely to be most successful where it is an aspect of the kind of linked identity we have described. It must be emphasised, however, that continuity in respect of language and reading development needs to receive detailed attention in its own right.

14.2 The first essential is a thorough knowledge of the other school's approaches and methods. If the infant school has followed the practice of observing and recording the children's language development (see Chapters 5 and 17) the junior school must be aware of what has been achieved. Equally, it would be regrettable if a school were to involve parents in the work of the classroom only for the practice to be brought to a sudden end at the point of transfer. Such sharp severances do occur. We encountered situations where the infant school was committed to i.t.a. and the junior school hostile to it. The latter would have no i.t.a. books in the school, so that when the children arrived they were uncompromisingly presented with traditional orthography whether or not they had managed the transition. This kind of thing is a symptom of a general lack of sympathy between the schools concerned. And a lack of sympathy results from and results in an


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inadequate understanding of the other school's objectives and methods. The teaching of reading offers a good example of this. We talked to some junior school teachers who expected every child to be sent up to them 'able to read', or at any rate regarded any who couldn't as the infant school's failures. A number of the letters we received reflected the same opinion. This is to take a very limited view of reading, not to mention the nature of individual differences in children. Moreover, it overlooks the fact that up to a third of the children may have spent only six terms in the infant school and some will have been in the country for only a few months or even weeks. Reading is the subject of too much recrimination. The idea that reading is a once for all process, learned when young and afterwards possessed as a fixed skill, has the effect that the blame is always passed downwards. In the nature of things the infant school is held ultimately responsible. If reading were seen for what it is - a developmental process of which decoding is only one stage - there would be a better chance of mutual understanding. It is unrealistic to insist that certain objectives are the sole responsibility of the infant school, and that the junior school should be able to plan a programme on an assured base line. The recognition of this is a feature of those schools which have developed a high degree of cooperation. Where they exchange teachers, have a regular programme of meetings, and discuss examples of children's work, they will come to understand and perhaps share one another's approach. They will arrive at a set of realistic objectives which are regarded not as fixed goals for each age group, but rather as a series of 'landmarks' attainable over the years.

14.3 When a group of children move into a junior school or department at the beginning of the school year the range of their capability, performance, experience and circumstances is considerable. In some areas the summer-born will have had the disadvantage of completing only six or seven terms in their first school, while others will have had a full nine terms*. Some children will have passed the entire five or six weeks' holiday without access to a word of print, and their reading ability might well have regressed. Others will have read to their parents every day and had stories read to them, and they will have gained in fluency. Missing the support of the constructive talk of the infant school, some will have had very little sustained two-way conversation in the home. Others will have been encouraged to talk about their experiences and will have had long conversations with their parents. The receiving teacher should be informed of all this. She is likely to know that a child has had less than the full nine terms in his first school. She is less likely to know his experience of language in general and reading in particular within the home. Older brothers and sisters are a guide, and schools grow to know some families extremely well as one child follows another. However, for all its apparent predictive reliability this is a crude indicator. Every child is an individual, and the receiving teacher needs detailed information about the children who come to her. Ideally she will have met and perhaps worked with the child and his teacher frequently over the past year, in his classroom and her own. She will know what her colleague has been doing to develop the child's linguistic repertoire. She will have met the

*In Barker Lunn's study ('Educational Research' Vol. 14 No. 2) 26 per cent of the children were found to have completed nine terms in the infant school, 24 per cent had completed eight terms, 24 per cent seven terms, and 26 per cent six terms.


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parents in the infant school. We accept that what we have described is an ideal and may be rarely attainable in full, particularly where large junior and middle schools draw children from a number of sources. Nevertheless, we believe it can and should be done by all schools to some degree, and the more highly developed the relationship the better. To be effective it requires the commitment of the teachers, above all of the heads, and collaborative planning of the right kind. 14.4 There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge of the children and of the kind of learning situation in which they have been involved. But this should be supported by a full set of records which gives the receiving teacher information in several dimensions. Diagnosis and recording are discussed in Chapter 17, and it is sufficient here to say that the records which accompany a child from the first or infant school are all too often inadequate. Rarely are there indications of a child's specific strengths and weaknesses, recorded in such a way as to help the teacher at the next level to give special attention to them. We have recommended that the teacher in the nursery and infant school should appraise the children's language in order to develop their ability to use more complex forms. It is essential that the information gathered in the course of this appraisal should be passed on to the junior school, which has the responsibility of continuing the process of language development. The same need for precise information applies to progress in reading. It is not sufficient to supply a reading age or indicate the page the child has reached in the book of a particular reading scheme. The nature of a child's reading difficulties should be identified, recorded, and handed on. The results of our survey revealed that a substantial number of junior schools tested the children's reading during their first term in the school. It can be inferred from this that the receiving schools did not feel they had sufficient information about the child and needed to establish his standard of attainment. However, our survey also showed (Table 39) that the majority of schools administer a simple word recognition test, which when used to obtain a reading age will not reveal the child's points of weakness. Moreover, it is clearly better to avoid submitting the child to tests so soon after entry. Records of the kind we are recommending would direct the attention of the child's new teacher to features of his reading which were continuing to give difficulty. They would also be a valuable part of the screening procedure which we go on to recommend, the two essential features of which are close observation in the infant school and in some cases the administration of a test towards the end of the child's first term in the junior school or department (see Chapter 17). The fact that the screening process might extend across the point of transfer is another argument for close collaboration.

14.5 Our survey showed that 39 per cent of the teachers of the six year olds kept examples of children's written work from year to year as a progress record. What the responses could not tell us was whether this accumulation of written work was passed on with the child to his next school. Such a 'profile' would obviously be of great value to the junior school, and we recommend that all schools should consider adopting this practice. Only three or four examples a year need be included; too copious a collection would defeat the purpose. One important benefit would be to help teachers towards realistic expectations. Wiseman (3) and others have pointed out that


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a teacher's expectation of a pupil's performance can have a powerful influence on the quality of that performance. If teachers frequently discuss actual examples of children's work and such folders are compiled then the assessment will be more soundly based.

14.6 Just as some of a child's writing should accompany him, so should his reading material. One outcome of the kind of cooperation we have advocated would be a continuity of approach between the two schools. We have already referred to the kind of acute disjuncture sometimes to be found where a junior school is hostile to the i.t.a. through which the child has begun to learn to read. A less severe and more common practice is to introduce a reading scheme completely different from the one with which the child has been familiar. The security of familiarity is essential to a child who is still having some difficulty with reading, and he will respond better to the spur of new material when he is working from a well-established base. On the other hand, the child who is reading well will welcome the stimulus of a variety of new books, and any continuity of approach should take account of individual need for fresh enterprises. Ideally, the two schools should plan together a joint programme for the development of reading. Elsewhere in the Report we have recommended book-selling activities in school. We hope that where a child has become accustomed to this facility he will not lose it at the next stage. When an infant and junior school occupy the same building they might share book club or book shop facilities. Where this is not the case the schools should discuss ways in which they can cooperate to expand the children's reading opportunities.

JUNIOR AND MIDDLE SCHOOL - SECONDARY SCHOOL

14.7 There has been a gradual increase in the development of liaison between primary, middle, and secondary schools, and some excellent schemes have been evolved. Some secondary schools have appointed a member of staff, usually a teacher of first year pupils, to maintain contact with the contributory schools. In a few instances the secondary school sends the children's first year progress reports to their former school to let their teachers see how they have settled in. Schools on both sides of the point of transfer have organised joint events, and the younger pupils have learned to feel at home in the upper school well before they have come to join it. Members of staff have exchanged visits and in some cases teaching assignments. Activity of this kind is by no means the general rule, but there have been some highly encouraging enterprises.

14.8 There are, of course, many schools where the only intimation of a child's earlier education is what is contained in the authority's record card which precedes or accompanies him. These naturally vary a good deal, but they may contain little more than columns for Reading, Speech, Written English, Number, and Intelligence, with assessment on a five-point lettering scale. At their most elaborate they may contain a wide range of diagnostic information and extensive teacher comment. How much does a C against Speech tell about a child's oral ability? Does such a shadowy assessment incline the receiving school to distrust and therefore disregard it? On the other hand does detailed information set up teacher expectations that may 'type' the child before he appears? Questions of this kind tempt some


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teachers into an unfortunate doubt about the value of transmitted records, and in the absence of inter-school contacts the two phases may work in relative isolation from one another.

14.9 The English teacher may feel that within a comparatively short time he will be able to assess his new pupils on the strength of the work they produce for him. He may therefore ask whether there is much value in his knowing what has happened before they reach him. We have made clear our conviction that there is, and that a knowledge of their language experience in all its forms is essential to him. Where there is a well-organised policy of general liaison at school level this will be easier to acquire, but in our view continuity is so important that links should certainly be established between secondary school English departments and the contributory primary schools.

14.10 Transmitted records are but one aspect of this policy of continuity, and the information they contain should be such as to give genuine guidance to the secondary school English department and to teachers of other subjects. Vagueness of definition is unhelpful and is paradoxically more likely to set up confining expectations than is an extensive array of information. The right degree of detail enables teachers at both levels to meet on commonly understood ground. Subjective assessment is valuable, but it is the more revealing for being supported by objective data and actual evidence of performance. As in the case of infant to junior school transfer we have in mind a profile which would include diagnostic information and examples of written work. The essential thing about diagnostic data is that they should help the receiving teacher to plan his work in respect of the particular pupil. Again a bare reading age is not enough; the teacher in the secondary school should have access to the experience of the child that other teachers have accumulated over the years. Several have worked with him, have had opportunities to identify his difficulties, and know what has succeeded and what has failed. All this valuable information should not be allowed to go to waste.

14.11 In the matter of language continuity there seems to us no substitute for a study of children's actual production. This is why we suggest that the developmental profile should contain examples of pupils' written work to the extent of three to four pieces per year. This cumulative record of language development, supported by teacher comment, would be of considerable practical value to successive teachers. It should be accompanied by an indication of the books the pupil has read and by the results of informal reading inventories (see Chapter 17). We have suggested that an increase in voluntary reading is an important factor in the improvement of reading attainment in the late junior and early secondary years. Obviously, a teacher cannot know everything a child reads, but as comprehensive a picture as possible of his reading habits would be a valuable instrument. At the most obvious level it tells the teacher a great deal about that particular pupil and provides a foundation from which to develop his future reading. It seems to us a haphazard procedure when a secondary school teacher can receive a child without any information on his experience of reading beyond what he can glean from the child himself. We regard it as fundamental that this kind of information should be recorded and should form part of the profile which one teacher passes on to another.


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14.12 Behind the word 'continuity' there lies the implication of a positive attitude to cooperation between the phases. It is our experience that primary and secondary schools often know little of one another's methods and aims. Where they do, there is usually sympathy; where they do not there is the possibility of misunderstanding, prejudice, and an inclination to denigrate. The stereotype is that primary school methods are always to be identified with process, creativity, and self-determination; secondary school methods with content, rigour, and direct instruction. This, it need hardly be said, is far from the truth. We are arguing here not simply for the transmitted knowledge of a particular pupil's capacities and needs but for a mutual understanding of what has been and will be involved in his experience of language. A child can leave the primary school with a well-defined awareness of his teacher's range of response to his writing. Within weeks he is in a school where several teachers are making different kinds of demand on his written language. He does not know their expectations, and indeed he may well be quite unprepared for the linguistic demands made upon him.

14.13 Expectations need to be realistic and they need to be informed by a first-hand study of how children write and talk in response to the needs of a given situation. In Chapter 12 we recommended the development of a language policy across the curriculum in secondary schools. At this point we are suggesting that a valuable first step might be a joint study by primary and secondary teachers of children's written and spoken language. This could be associated with an exchange of teaching assignments. We are aware that this is not as simple as it sounds. One secondary school we encountered received pupils from 40 contributory primary schools. This is untypical, but in much less extreme situations there could still be considerable difficulty in arranging this kind of cooperation. Nevertheless, there seems to us a good case for accepting it as a principle. It is impracticable to expect secondary school teachers to sustain separate discussions with each of a large number of primary schools, still less teach in all of them. But joint conferences are a viable proposition, and the opportunity can be created for various groupings for this purpose.

14.14 It is not only at the level of staff contact that possibilities exist for cooperation between primary and secondary schools. There is scope for the kind of activity in which older children work with and for younger ones. This might, for example, take the form of the writing of stories for six or seven year olds by fourth year junior pupils. They would need to talk with the younger children about their interests and their favourite kinds of story as part of the preparation for writing. After drafting the stories they would ask fifth and sixth year secondary pupils to act as editors, and from the resulting discussion the stories would emerge. Their writers would then read them to some of the younger children and listen to others using the stories as part of their own reading material. By applying an informal reading inventory the writers would be able to refashion their stories to adjust readability levels, and this would entail further visits to their editors, with whom all the implications would be discussed. Finally the stories, attractively printed, would take their place among the young children's reading matter. In a project of this kind, which is capable of many variations, children are cooperating at various levels for a real purpose. The junior and secondary


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pupils are involved in discussions about shaping language to do a particular job, and they have to study the needs and interests of young children to do it.

14.15 In their role as providers the older pupils gain at least as much as the ones they are helping, and this is a characteristic of 'cross-age tutoring'. This is an activity which has been employed extensively in the USA and is being tried by some schools in this country, often with the help of Community Service Volunteers. Older pupils give individual tuition to younger ones in their own or another school, deriving help and support from their teachers in sustaining it. This has been found to develop a relationship from which the younger child gains a new kind of support and the older pupil a feeling of responsibility and achievement. The schools which have adopted it do not minimise the difficulties and the obvious need for patience and diplomacy in organising such a scheme. But they are almost always enthusiastic about its benefits, both direct and indirect. Given the right degree of commitment this kind of work can be a profitable form of cooperation between schools.

14.16 It has to be frankly acknowledged that despite advances there are still many schools which have almost no contact with the one that precedes or follows them. In our view effective liaison is a priority need, and if it can include practical activities of the kind we have been describing there will be a considerable gain in the understanding of one another's objectives. We have urged that reading be regarded as a continuously developing skill and that language be extended to meet increasingly complex demands as the child grows older. Neither aim can be achieved without close cooperation and mutual confidence.

REFERENCES

1. Reports of the Consultative Committee HMSO: 1926, 1931, 1933.

2. Children and their Primary Schools HMSO: 1967.

3. S Wiseman The Educational obstacle race: Factors that hinder pupil progress Educational Research, 15, 87-93: 1973.


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CHAPTER 15

The Secondary School

15.1 We suggested earlier that since language pervades the curriculum there is no place for specialisation in English in the primary school. We also suggested that liaison between primary and secondary school should be so close as to allow the child to go on perceiving English as a continuous experience without sharp breaks. Our visits to schools led us to conclude that this is all too rarely achieved. On transfer the majority of children move into a situation where work in English is abruptly separated from all their other activities. In recent years there has been much talk of 'breaking subject barriers' and 'new integrated approaches', particularly with reference to first and second year pupils and those in their last year of statutory schooling. The intention in the case of the former is to reduce the sense of fragmentation in the minds of pupils who have always been accustomed to one teacher for most of the working day. Sometimes the practice is for the form tutor to take them for several subjects, of which English is one. Sometimes the teachers of a number of subjects (e.g. history, geography, religious education, social studies, English) work together as a team and jointly plan the course. This kind of organisation is variously interpreted, and it ranges from a situation where the subjects are linked in a loose interrelationship to one in which they lose definition altogether. Occasionally it is the practice to timetable one or two additional periods of English separately. With the fourth year pupils the purpose of 'integration' is usually to provide courses that school leavers might find relevant and attractive, and this generally means the involvement of several teachers in one or other variation of the pattern just mentioned.

15.2 When such arrangements have been discussed English has almost invariably been one of the subjects assumed to be an obvious participant. Perhaps unexpectedly, therefore, we found that 93 per cent of the twelve year olds in our sample were taught English as a separately timetabled subject. Only 7 per cent experienced it in the context of one or another form of integrated studies. The figures for the fourteen year olds were similar at 94 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. Our sample pupils did not include eleven year olds, and the survey could not therefore identify situations where children were timetabled for integrated studies in their first year before passing to specialist English in their second. However, since only 2 per cent of the schools organised English as part of a 'multi-subject' department it seems likely that most of the eleven year olds went straight into 'specialist' English. It is necessary to qualify the term 'specialist' before we go any further, since it cannot be taken to mean that they necessarily receive their English at the hands of a teacher with qualifications in the subject. Indeed, our survey showed that one third of the teachers teaching some English in secondary schools had no such qualifications, a point to which we return later.

15.3 We must begin our brief evaluation of integration and specialisation by pointing out that we are concerned here only with its effects upon the teaching of English. Our remit does not take us as far as an examination of its value in general terms, though we would suggest that for integration to


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be successful it must take place in the mind of the child and not remain a notion in the mind of the teacher. An arrangement we encountered in our visits to schools was one in which each form tutor takes the pupils for several subjects, including English. Unfortunately, although they may be responsible for four or five subjects many of the teachers do not attempt to 'integrate' them, but teach them as separate entities. Whether or not they are successful depends to a very large extent on the support and guidance they receive from heads of department. A teacher whose training and background is in another subject often lacks any knowledge of children's literature and any acquaintance with current ideas about language development. It is a serious disservice to him and to the pupils to allocate him a course book, a poetry anthology, and some sets of class readers and assume he can take it from there. Only by being drawn into the life and thinking of the English department can he be properly sustained. This exposes a fundamental problem of the arrangement by which the form tutor teaches several subjects, for what applies to English applies equally to the others. A teacher cannot be expected to make himself an integral part of several separate departments without a great deal of help.

15.4 Where integrated studies are taught by a team of teachers from a number of subject areas there are varying degrees of sophistication in the way of working. Perhaps the commonest is where they decide upon a theme which will occupy a given number of weeks and through which the various subject interests will find expression. It is often launched by a 'key lesson', or audio-visual presentation, at which the whole year group is present. In the weeks that follow the pupils work in groups or individually with assignment cards or work sheets, which the teachers have cooperated to prepare. In principle this and similar forms of cooperative arrangement hold much more promise than the one we described above. They must, however, be able to stand up to the same kind of question if the school is to be certain that the teaching of English is not to suffer. The plain truth is that before any school makes a decision on whether English should be integrated in some way or taught separately there are several questions it must ask itself. If English is to be associated with three or four other subjects what is likely to be the effect upon the pupil's experience of oral and written language? Will this experience be restricted or expanded by the demands of the other constituents? Will the teachers be able to create situations in which literature illuminates the other elements in the course and in turn gains a dimension from them? How well equipped are the teachers to handle what becomes an exacting situation? It has been argued against such a form of organisation that it weakens the control of the learning process, that it leaves to chance what could otherwise be guaranteed. It has also been suggested that the experience it embodies lacks depth and any true organic quality. The pupils' writing becomes narrow in range, with the factual predominating and the imaginative finding little place. Literature tends to be either neglected or bent to conform with the dictates of the other components. As one of our witnesses put it, 'There is a danger that the poem or story can be subtly distorted because it is used as an illustration of a pre-announced theme, whereas in reality, if its true nature were attended to, it would have to be recognised as more complex, and indeed multi-thematic rather than mono-thematic. There is a danger also that the poem or story may be used as a starting off


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point for discussion or writing rather than valued as an experience in itself, a situation which may lead to overemphasis on material which is moved through quickly en route to another goal, rather than on material which is dwelt on, savoured, and fully enjoyed'. There is much substance in such objections, and in the even more serious one that the teachers involved may lack any knowledge of English teaching. For example, we visited schools where the first and second years experienced English only in the context of humanities but where the involvement of a teacher of English was quite fortuitous. In one or two such instances the head of English department was outside the arrangement to the point of not knowing what the children were encountering in the way of English during those two years; his responsibility began when the pupils entered the third year. We cannot emphasise too strongly the need for strong specialist representation where English is part of an integrated programme, whatever form this may take.

15.5 But if English can lack identity in such schemes it is not immune from a lack of purpose when taught in its own right. This occurs when it is not backed by a well thought out policy, by a unifying intention which has emerged from a sense of direction worked out in staff discussions. This lack of clearly understood purpose reveals itself in the separate development of the various 'compartments', the writing being unrelated to the talk, the talk to the literature. It is often manifest in the written work, where there is a 'bittiness', a lack of a supporting framework, a sense of the piece existing in a vacuum. We believe, then, that to divide the English programme into a number of compartments, unrelated and separated by timetable boundaries, is a very limiting procedure. At the same time we must acknowledge that the abandonment of this practice, though an immense gain for well-organised and imaginative teachers, has sometimes left others without a sense of direction. In such cases there is a confusion about how a teacher is to devise a sequence of activity that will fulfil his aims and give the pupils a sense of purpose. This is a matter in which the head of department's leadership is of vital importance, and it is one of the main reasons for the prominence we give later in the chapter to the development of an 'instrument of policy'.

15.6 We regard the opposition of specialised English and integrated studies as a false issue, for it is evading the fundamentals to regard them as mutually exclusive. These fundamentals can be reduced quite simply to objective planning. Specialist areas of interest exist whether they remain separate or are 'folded into' others, and the school has to decide what are its objectives for each. What is needed as a basic principle is not that English should necessarily claim for itself 'separate development' but that it should truly inform the other areas of interest. If it becomes part of an integrated scheme it must retain a valid presence, sustained by specialist knowledge and adequate resources. This means that the kind of work described in Chapters 9, 10 and 11 must be represented to the same extent and in the same depth as if English were taught separately. If it is timetabled as a separate subject it must reach out to other areas of interest, drawing upon them for its material through close cooperation with the teachers concerned. Our own view is that there should be other forms of working than two straight alternatives. For example, certain aspects of the work might emerge from the integrated pattern, crystallise outside its context, form the subject of separate study,


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and then be re-immersed. The theme described in paragraph 9.6 is an illustration of this. Without proper planning such a topic would depend upon information books for its associated reading. But if the literature is expertly assembled it can come into its own outside the programme, gaining from the context in which it was first introduced and contributing to it by return.

15.7 We are not prepared to recommend a simple organisational solution which would imply that a given structure will solve the various problems. It is spirit, clear aims, understanding, and planning that achieve the results, and none of these is the automatic by-product of a system of organisation. We believe that talk is more fluent, writing more committed, and reading more avid when English in seen as a complex and organic interaction between them and the whole range of the child's experience. The decision that faces the school is how best to bring this interaction about in the light of its own particular circumstances.

15.8 We gave close consideration to suggestions made to us that reading might be taught by a separate 'specialised' approach. It was argued by some witnesses that since there is a hierarchy of reading skills it is illogical to confine the specialist teaching to those pupils who are still experiencing difficulty with the most fundamental of them. We have considered the merits of this argument in Chapter 8 and do not feel able to support the notion of separate and specialised teaching of reading. However, we believe that if it is not to exist in this form there must be firm measures to ensure that its positive features are available in equivalent strength. This means that every teacher must be able and prepared to teach children to read within his own subject. We have recommended that this should form a part of teacher training, and in the meantime it calls for support within the schools. At present most schools have no policy for developing reading across the curriculum, and English departments do not see it as one of their functions. We believe that the English department should consider the development of reading skills at all levels and in all its aspects as one of its most important responsibilities. As part of the school's policy for language across the curriculum it should offer guidance in the extension of this ability in all the pupil's learning activities. For this purpose it is desirable there should be at least one member of staff with advanced qualifications in reading. The effect of modern approaches in many subjects is to put a higher premium than ever on the ability to read. There is increasing use of assignment cards and work-sheets. All too often these and the tasks they prescribe make no allowance for individual differences in reading ability, and the advice given to subject departments should include a concern for readability levels in the material being used.

15.9 In the section on drama we suggested that secondary schools should ponder in relation to their own circumstances whether it should be taught as part of English or within a separate department. We hinted a third possibility: that both practices might exist in combination. 84 per cent of the secondary schools in our sample taught drama 'as part of the work of the English department'. We have already made clear our views on the value of drama for language development, and where drama is integrated with English the link can be exploited at will by the teacher who is responsible for both. On the other hand complete integration has real practical difficulties, not


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the least of which is that many excellent teachers of English are unqualified by training, experience, or temperament to handle improvised drama. Further, there are good arguments for the separate existence of drama to provide a run of time when its themes and developments can be pursued in their own terms. This is particularly true for the older adolescent years, and in our visits we saw some splendid dramatic work with fourth and fifth year pupils in separate drama options. Ideally, then, we would recommend that in the secondary school drama should be an essential part of work in English while at the same time having scope as an activity in its own right. If constraints of time, staffing, or accommodation rule this out we would urge that there should be compensatory measures. For instance, where drama exists only within the English department one of its members should be appropriately qualified and carry the responsibility of supporting and advising his colleagues. If drama has come to be concentrated within a separate department it is of the utmost importance that the teachers involved in it should work in very close cooperation with the English department. In either case, the teachers responsible should look for opportunities to relate drama to pupils' work in other areas of the curriculum.

15.10 We have been discussing various aspects of the position of English as a specialist area and must now pursue the fundamentals of objectives and planning. First, the question of pupil grouping. It is not part of our brief to assess the respective general merits of various forms of grouping, such as streaming, setting, broad banding, and mixed ability. That issue has, in any case, been exhaustively discussed elsewhere, and our concern here is confined to the implications for English of certain of the variations. Diagram 10 shows the distribution of pupil groupings for the teaching of English in our sample secondary schools. It will be seen that the practice of mixed ability teaching, comparatively uncommon in secondary schools at one time, has become fairly widespread, especially for the twelve year olds. 18 per cent were in groups which drew from the whole of the school's ability range, while another 14 per cent were in groups which excluded only the 'remedial' pupils. Speaking purely for English, most of us have reservations about arrangements by which pupils are streamed or setted according to ability. However careful the process, classifying individuals in this way makes different pupils in the same group seem more similar than they are, and similar pupils in different groups seem more different than they are. Moreover, we believe that even if it were possible to grade children accurately according to language ability it would be to deprive the less able of the stimulus they so badly need. Less commonly acknowledged, but equally important, is the fact that it would steadily deprive the more able of opportunities to communicate with the linguistically less accomplished. Of course, the actual effect in the classroom of mixed ability grouping varies widely according to the spectrum of ability within the school's intake. Such a group in an inner city area is very different from one in a suburban area. A good deal also depends on the size of the group (for example, there is a great difference between a mixed ability class of 20 pupils and one of 30) and on such factors as accommodation and the pastoral organisation of the school.


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Diagram 10

METHODS OF GROUPING FOR THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH IN THE SAMPLE SECONDARY SCHOOLS - 12 AND 14 YEAR OLDS

15.11 Before a school decides to adopt this kind of grouping for the teaching of English there are a number of questions it has to ask itself, of which the following are merely examples. How can the children with serious reading difficulties be given the kind of individual help they require within a class totally mixed in ability? Is it proposed to withdraw them for at least part of the time, or alternatively to have additional teachers in the classroom to give support? Is there a risk that the small group interaction so valuable in English will be lost in favour of almost continuous individual activity? How can the shared study of pieces of writing, and particularly full length works, be managed with so wide a range of ability? The first and second of these questions are of particular importance, and mixed ability grouping should certainly not be introduced until the school has worked out detailed plans in response to it. Indeed, we are bound to express our own reservations about the kind of grouping which goes so far as to include children who are experiencing difficulties of this kind. The third question is


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fundamental to an understanding of the complex organisation required if this kind of grouping is to be successful. In some of the mixed ability classes we visited the children were being taught as if they were a homogeneous group, much of their experience being direct class teaching aimed at the middle of the range. In others the work was so finely individualised that the class rarely came together for a collective experience. Between these extremes were examples of imaginative planning to give the pupils a variety of learning experiences. The plain truth is that mixed ability teaching requires sound classroom control of the pupils, and considerable skill in teaching and the organisation of learning resources. The above questions raise issues about which misgivings were expressed in the evidence we received. These can be seen in the words of a witness who in principle was warmly in favour of mixed ability teaching:

'The full nature of the problem may perhaps be brought home by a reminder that in a first year secondary school class containing the full range of ability, the English teacher may encounter an extraordinarily wide spread in reading age (e.g. from seven to fourteen), and an accompanying wide divergence in maturity of reading interest and taste ... What may tend to happen is a concentration, sometimes unnoticed, on these areas of English teaching (talk, dramatisation, writing) in which divergence of reading level is minimised, and in which, therefore, the mixed ability class can be held together as a cohesive unit, within which groups are at any rate doing related things, even if not necessarily doing the same things at the same time'. 'What often seems to go unrecognised ... is the really massive and massively varied provision of books which is absolutely essential if the class library is genuinely to meet the needs of a secondary class of fully mixed ability'.

15.12 Observations of this kind are useful reminders that the complexities inherent in mixed ability teaching are considerable. They do not alter the views of those of us who are convinced that where it is practicable this is the form of grouping which offers most hope for English teaching, but they do reinforce our common belief that it requires a great deal of thought and planning. There should be carefully judged opportunities for learning as a class, and a flexible pattern of group and individual work. For this, thematic work is a valuable unifying device, but it should be so conceived as to avoid the limitations we described in paragraph 9.16. We were fortunate to see some excellent examples of mixed ability teaching in our visits to schools, and they all had one feature in common. They had the unanimous support of the teachers involved, who had all been consulted before the system was introduced and then drawn into the planning. We must repeat the observation we made in the corresponding chapter on the primary school: innovations of any kind are of real value only if teachers are able to assimilate them properly and use them to improve upon their previous practice.

15.13 As we have said, the more complex the teaching arrangements the more is demanded of the teachers in terms of skill, organising ability, and knowledge of resources. This takes us to the question of the supply of qualified English teachers, a matter to which we made brief reference earlier in the chapter. English teaching has been fortunate in the quality of the people taking it up since the war. It has attracted men and women of ability and energy with a wide range of interests and a commitment to young people


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and social improvements. Nevertheless, the staffing situation is not a happy one, and in our enquiries we found that schools were experiencing many difficulties. For one thing there is too great a mobility of teachers, a problem which English shares with other subjects. 11 per cent of our sample were in their first year of teaching, and 24 per cent in their first year in their present school. This has disquieting implications for continuity of teaching and the development of English department policy. In our opinion, English is a field which has a particular need of continuity, since so much depends upon the teacher's observation and nurture of his pupil's language growth. Measured against this need the turnover figures give cause for concern. Furthermore, just under one tenth of the teachers of English in our sample were part-time. There is no doubt of the value of their contribution, but we think it unsatisfactory that so substantial a proportion of the teachers responsible for English should not be in school for the full week. Not only is this kind of arrangement another source of discontinuity but it adds to the problems of a head of English who is trying to develop within the department a policy of continuing dialogue and collective planning.

15.14 We approach with some diffidence the analysis of formal qualifications among teachers of English, as we are aware of the excellent work done by many who do not possess them. Moreover, we are equally aware that the supposedly appropriate qualifications are not always suitable for the task. These reservations made, we find the distribution of qualifications in Table 11 considerably disturbing.

Table 11

METHODS OF GROUPING FOR THE TEACHING OF ENGLISH IN THE SAMPLE SECONDARY SCHOOLS - 12 AND 14 YEAR OLDS

Number%
(a) An honours degree in English with a postgraduate certificate in Education47914.1
(b) A degree in which English is one of the subjects, with a postgraduate certificate in Education3109.1
(c) Followed a main or advanced course in English (leading to a teaching certificate or BEd) at College of Education or Education Department of a Polytechnic, for teaching in:
(i) secondary schools 74521.9
(ii) junior/secondary schools3319.7
(iii) junior schools702.1
(d) An honours degree in English1053.1
(e) A degree in which English is one of the subjects1073.1
(f) A main or advanced qualification in drama1374.0
(g) None of the above1,11332.8
Total Teachers3,397100


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The final figure is the most striking; a third of those involved in English teaching have no discernible qualification for the role*. Of course, many of these may well be teaching English to only one or two classes, spending most of their time in some other subject. But this in itself is a significant feature and another disquieting aspect of the situation. Of the teachers engaged in English, only 37 per cent spent all their time on it. 25 per cent were teaching it more than half their time, and 38 per cent less than half:

Diagram 11

PROPORTIONS OF THE TIME SPENT BY TEACHERS IN ENGLISH TEACHING, BY TYPE OF SCHOOL

(An expansion of this distribution, giving a more detailed breakdown of the data by size and type of school, is to be found in Table 70, Chapter 25). There can be no other secondary school subject which is staffed by such a large proportion of people without appropriate qualifications. Nor can there

*It should be noted that this was the figure supplied by heads to indicate the qualifications of all the teachers in their schools who were teaching English. In the class section of the questionnaire we directed the question specifically to the teachers taking English with the sample twelve and fourteen year old pupils. Details of their replies are given in Tables 77 and 78.


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be any subject which 'borrows' so many teachers from other areas of the curriculum and assumes they can fill the role with little or no preparation. Where the English teaching is shared among many the problems of coordination can become acute, and several heads of department told us that they found it difficult to develop a coherent policy and keep it refreshed by discussion.

15.15 Considerations of this kind depend in large measure on the degree of priority accorded to English by the head of the school, and its status is reflected in the construction of the timetable. For example, the disposition of total time affects the length of the English sessions, their placing across the week, and whether or not the English of a group of classes is 'blocked', i.e. taught simultaneously. There is a wide variation from school to school in the extent to which the English department is consulted on those three questions, and in the extent to which its wishes can be met. Nevertheless, the impression we carried away from our visits and our discussions with teachers was that English very often has a lower priority than other subjects. It is expected to make fewer and simpler timetable demands, and those demands it does make are less often met. Any firm request from any subject for a particular use of time is a constraint upon the timetable. One example is a generous allocation of double periods; another is the 'blocking' to which we referred above. The latter is a difficult requirement to meet too often in a timetable, as it demands that a number of teachers must all be available at the same time. In most schools the number of such 'vertical locks' the timetable can carry is acutely limited, and English faces the problem that many other subjects have traditionally become accepted as having greater claim on this and similar timetable constraints. French and mathematics, for instance, usually demand setting and thus frequently exhaust the school's blocking capacity, while science and craft make heavy claims on double periods. Some subjects need to be taught in specially equipped rooms, and they inevitably take an early place in the timetabler's thoughts.

15.16 All these factors, singly or in combination, often put English at a disadvantage when the timetable is being constructed. One or two illustrations will be sufficient to show how this can work in practice. We visited one large school which worked an eight period day. Whereas every other subject had double periods, mathematics requested single periods and setting. To permit this, English was always timetabled in singles and paired with mathematics to make 'false doubles'. Thus, English always preceded or followed a lesson change, and though it felt the need for double periods as acutely as the other subject did for singles it never had a longer spell of time than 35 minutes. (Almost 40 per cent of the twelve year olds in our survey sample had none of their lessons in periods of more than an hour). A similar conflict of interests was seen in another school, where staff availability was a problem when the fourth year 'GCE band' was being setted. The outcome of the situation was that the four English sets were constituted according to the pupils' ability in mathematics. We found it a common practice for English to be used to fill in the single periods left over at odd times of the week. In a


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number of schools which allocated English five periods it was said to be 'not possible' for one class to have all five with the same teacher. Indeed, we found one school in which a few classes had three teachers each for their English. It must be added at once that we met heads who went to very great trouble to accord to English the same timetabling advantages as any other subject. Nevertheless, our general impression was that in too many schools English was used by the timetabler as the lubricant that allowed other subjects to slip into their favoured place. We strongly urge that English should be given a high priority when heads are devising their staffing and timetabling policy.

15.17 For the reasons we have given, and others we shall go on to adduce, the role of the head of the school in the teaching of English has never been so important. One measure of it is the support he gives to his head of English department, and this includes securing him time for the thought and planning the task demands. In recent years the role of the head of department has grown in complexity. Not only has the subject increased in scope and widely diversified, but greater flexibility has been required of it to meet individual needs and interests. This demands of the head of department a much wider knowledge of available books and materials and of developments in teaching methods. In effect his responsibility extends from the management of resources to a concern for the in-service training needs of the department. His relationship with his colleagues is the key to the success of English teaching in the school. As one witness put it, 'I see the role of head of department as concerned first of all with teachers. Unless he can lead his department so that it is a unity I don't think one can progress very far'.

15.18 Our visits left us in no doubt how demanding a job this is, especially in large schools. The problems we have been describing were common to very many of the heads of English we met. They were experiencing considerable pressures, and they had insufficient time and help available to them. Despite this, the majority were managing remarkably well and were succeeding in developing a strong team approach. These included teachers who had had to cope with the sudden expansion of their department as a small school became a large one on reorganisation. Inevitably, however, this situation produced problems to which some were not so readily able to adjust. Accustomed to working with two or three colleagues and with children from a restricted ability range, they found themselves with problems on a daunting scale. The pupils were now drawn from almost the entire ability range, and the staff of the department became a heterogeneous collection of teachers with widely differing views on how English should be taught. Equally under pressure were some heads of departments who had been virtually catapulted into promotion after only a short period of teaching. Their intelligence, energy, and ambitions for their subject often outstripped their experience, resources, and strength. This situation has resulted in some areas from the extreme difficulty of finding heads of English department. Candidates with reasonable experience and qualifications are in very short supply for a number of reasons. Apart from the more general one of a shortage


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of qualified teachers of English, these have included a variety of attractions into other fields. For one thing there is a well-documented tendency for arts teachers in general, and English teachers in particular, to be drawn to middle and senior pastoral posts. As one writer (1) expresses it: 'Scientists feel that they have more to lose by moving into the pastoral area, whereas arts teachers, in moving in that direction, feel that they are extending interests and skills that have been important to them in their teaching function'. Other reasons that have been put to us are the growing opportunities for the teaching of English as a second language, the attraction of posts in further education, and the increased appeal among English graduates of teaching in primary schools.

15.19 Advisers, heads, and LEA officers in various parts of the country, but above all in inner-city areas, told us of their difficulty in appointing heads of English departments. Some said it was not uncommon to have to advertise three or four times for one good candidate. Another factor which is operating is the effect of the 1971 Burnham salary structure, which has been to narrow the differentials. The highest post (Scale 5) that can be awarded to a head of department can be acquired in, for instance, a grammar school of 600 or a comprehensive school of 1,000. Beyond that the financial reward remains the same, however large the school, except in the few cases where a small 'senior teacher' allowance is allocated. This is, of course, a problem common to all subjects, but it seems to have been felt particularly acutely by English, which shares with mathematics the largest teacher period loading in the school. In large schools of up to 2,000 the number of teachers involved in the teaching of English is often very considerable. It has to be acknowledged that experienced heads of department in medium-sized schools are often deterred from taking on the additional responsibility in larger schools by the absence of any further salary gain. We are not in a position to recommend that English be singled out for special treatment in the form of an increased differential. On the other hand, to make a recommendation that would include all subject departments would take us beyond our terms of reference. Nevertheless, we feel it necessary to draw attention in urgent terms to the general problem of appointing heads of English department in some areas and to the particular one facing large schools. Quite apart from the matter of financial reward there are various steps that could be taken to ease the difficulty for heads of English department who are subject to considerable pressure. The staffing ratio of the department should be improved to allow more time for consultation and planning. There should be a generous allocation of above-scale posts to allow the head of department to delegate effectively, and he should be given secretarial and ancillary help. We are aware of the many and various staffing demands that heads have to reconcile, but we urge that they give sympathetic consideration to the first two of these suggestions. The fulfilment of the third, to which we now turn, lies with the local authority.

15.20 In our discussions with heads of English department, clerical help emerged as one of the needs they felt most keenly; and yet only 8 per cent of the schools in our sample had any such help for the exclusive use of their


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English department. In our view the improvement likely to result from this relatively modest addition to the resources would be out of all proportion to the cost. We offer the analogy of the assistants available to science departments, and frequently to art and craft departments. It has long been accepted, for instance, that in the science laboratory ancillary help is required with the organisation of 'the teaching materials'. The same is no less necessary for English, the 'materials' of which are duplicated sheets, press clippings, files, photographs, and so on. A simple distinction can be made between two kinds of ancillary help. Firstly, there is the preparation of teaching material - typing, duplicating, mounting illustrations, and other aspects of reprographic work. Into this category also comes the preparation of audio-visual material - recordings, slides, overhead projector transparencies, etc. Secondly, there is the handling of existing or purchased material: ordering, receiving, accessing, issuing, stock checking, and progress chasing. This is an exacting enough job for printed books, but it becomes much greater when there is a continuing demand for ephemeral or occasional material. An English department requires help of both kinds, the first of which might well be offered centrally through a school resource centre. The advantage of this arrangement would be that it meets the need of a reprographic unit to have a constant 'through-put'. The management of audio-visual resources is discussed in a subsequent chapter, but we would emphasise here that whatever form the provision takes the needs of English must be met with no less readiness than if the department managed its own. We strongly recommend that every English department should have internal ancillary help of the second kind. The extent of the provision would depend on the degree of central help available for the preparation of materials, for if this were not available the department's own ancillary assistance would need to be increased. Assuming the existence of such central support we believe that a minimum of 20 hours' 'internal' assistance a week should be authorised for every five forms of entry in an 11-18 school, and pro rata.

15.21 Another important influence on the achievements of an English department is accommodation. One of the side-effects of the notion that 'Every teacher is a teacher of English' has been its extension to 'Any room is suitable for English'. Many heads to whom we spoke recognised the fallacy of this assumption and took great pains to avoid it when drawing up the room timetable. In some schools, however, it was obvious that English was deemed to have no requirements that could not be answered by any classroom that happened to be free. One timetable we studied placed a first year teacher in six different rooms for his English teaching. An even more extreme case was that of a large comprehensive school where one of the teachers taught 37 periods out of 40 in 13 different rooms. Not only was he constantly moving about the school, but he did not even have the same room for one class throughout the week. These are instances of inadequate concern for the needs of English teaching and of subsequent unsatisfactory timetabling. We have deliberately chosen them as extreme examples, and we do not, of course, assert that such practice is widespread. The survey provided us with an opportunity to discover the pattern across our sample of schools, and the result was as follows:


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Table 12

ALLOCATION OF ROOMS FOR ENGLISH
IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Teachers taking English:
Mostly in
the same
room
In class
bases (i.e.
where pupils
are static
and teachers
mobile
No
regular
base
Type of school:%%%
Modern75.117.87.1
Grammar32.956.410.7
Comprehensive61.427.411.2
All other53.330.416.3
Average for all schools in the survey63.127.39.6

It is quite clear from this table that a substantial proportion of English teachers - over one third - are itinerant within the school, carrying their books about with them from one lesson to another. Even where they have the use of a regular room for their English lessons, this is by no means necessarily one designated as an English room. Thus, many teachers are unable to establish an environment in which they can exhibit work, put up illustrations and posters, mount displays and models etc. We regard this as unsatisfactory, and believe that all English teachers should have the stability that is so essential to the kind of work we envisage. We acknowledge that some schools make it a policy to keep pupils of the most recent intake in one room to give them the security of a home base. This is clearly a case in which there would have to be compromise to the principle we are suggesting, and there will be others like it. Nevertheless, we believe it important to establish the principle that the English department should have accommodation of its own which the teachers working within it share, and which can afford every member with a full programme of English a teaching base of his own.

15.22 Our visits convinced us that where a teacher was assured of this stability he had a much better chance of creating the right atmosphere and fulfilling his plans. One of our teacher witnesses urged that 'English should be taught exclusively in rooms resourced, looked after and seen to be the responsibility of the English department'. We support this principle, while acknowledging that some schools will find advantages in a degree of shared accommodation not only within a department but between subjects. As a basic tenet we strongly recommend that when rooms are being allocated the needs of English should receive the same consideration as those of any other subject. We apply the same recommendation to the planning of new accommodation, to the implications of which we now turn.

15.23 By comparison with some other subjects the space, furniture, and equipment required for activities in English might appear at first sight to present few problems. But a closer examination makes it clear that the


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demands on space are not at all simple and that though the special requirements are less obvious they are no less real. We talked to many English teachers and studied expressions of opinion from several other sources, and though they differed in emphasis and detail they all centred upon the need for better space provision. This is where our own priority lies. In our visits to schools rarely did we see pupils with the space to spread their papers, or the degree of 'psychological insulation' for individual reading and writing that adults would expect for themselves. Group work requires the space to allow tables and chairs to be rearranged into clusters. Discussion operates best when the pupils are sitting round a group of tables or in a horseshoe of chairs. These examples alone - and they are chosen as the most obvious - indicate how important to English teaching is generous space. The first essential is for the flexibility which allows the teachers a number of options. It should be possible for a teacher to spend a major part of his time in his own base. It should also be possible for a group of teachers to share a cluster of spaces which are adapted to the needs of varying activities and varying numbers of pupils. In most existing buildings this would be hard to achieve without structural alteration, but we found several schools which were attempting to group their English rooms to create a suite. It is a commendable measure which makes possible cooperative activity, the easy sharing of equipment and facilities, and ready access to what might be called the department's headquarters.

15.24 If the grouping of English rooms is considered in relation to other subject groupings the possibilities of shared facilities are increased. It is in such circumstances that we see the place for a projection theatre capable of seating a hundred or so children. This should be fitted with soundproof projector booth, wired-in good quality speakers, and a large permanent screen. Another facility of value to the English department, on the same shared basis, is a sound recording studio. High quality recording is difficult in even the best equipped classroom, for this is an activity that requires 'laboratory' conditions if it is to do justice to some aspects of the oral language work it is designed to serve. Drama in a secondary school can operate in a variety of forms and at a variety of levels. The fundamental need is for the kind of space a teacher can use for informal work and improvisation, and since this often develops naturally from other activities it must be a space immediately to hand. In addition there should be a larger and more elaborately equipped area which is shared with other subjects. Elsewhere in the Report we have advocated the use of film and videotape in such circumstances as to make them a part of the normal texture of lessons. If this is to happen it must be possible to bring the equipment into the room easily and without fuss, and if necessary at short notice. This becomes a much simpler matter if the English rooms are en suite, with the equipment shared between them, and ideally, certain of the rooms should have the equipment built in. This recommendation is not in conflict with our expectation that shared accommodation might include the use of a projection theatre. There is a good case for a school to be equipped with a facility of this kind and for English teachers to have access to it, particularly when they want to show a full-length film. But there is also a case for independent facilities if videotape and film, notably in the form of short extracts, are to be used as part of the normal lesson situation in the way we have suggested in Chapter 22.


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15.25 We believe one of the most pressing needs of English teachers is a departmental centre to house the ancillary help we have recommended and the teaching material the department assembles or produces. Many English departments have serious problems of storage and retrieval for even their most modest requirements, let alone the more elaborate resources we should like to see developed. We have already pointed out that in addition to books much use is made by many teachers of press clippings, photographs, printed extracts, and all manner of ephemeral material. Moreover, the books themselves are moved about more freely than in the past, when it was common for a teacher to be issued with a course book and one or two other full sets, which he might keep for a term or even a year. What is required is a departmental centre which houses stock and catalogues of material and has the facilities for the ancillary helper to maintain them. Correspondingly, every English teaching room should have ample storage space. In our visits we found that many teachers were handicapped by the lack of it, and makeshift arrangements were quite common. In one school a teacher had to store his books in a small cloakroom under the stairs; in another they were kept in cupboards some distance from the classrooms. And surprisingly, in several of the schools we visited the classrooms did not even have open bookshelves. We regard this whole question of storage and retrieval as an important factor in the teaching of English, for the facilities with which we saw many teachers having to manage were dispiriting and restricting. Much the same can be said of furniture and fittings, which were often of a kind that frustrated attempts to work in new ways.

15.26 We do not underestimate the financial problems of equipping English departments in the ways we have suggested. A realistic view makes it obvious that sweeping changes and improvements cannot be effected overnight. Nevertheless, we do believe that where building improvements are being planned or new projects designed opportunities such as those we have described should not be missed. We are anxious not to prescribe accommodation requirements in such detail as to limit discussion, and for this reason we have resisted the temptation to reproduce plans in this chapter. We have confined ourselves to what we consider certain fundamental requirements, which we hope local authorities will accept as essential provision. We strongly recommend that when new buildings or extensions are being designed there should be full consultation between architects, the authority's English advisory staff, and teachers. Some of the best design currently to be found has resulted from this kind of professional cooperation.

15.27 We have been discussing ways in which English teachers can be helped by organisational and other means to develop their work, and we return now to the operation of the department itself. Before considering the articulation of the department's policy we must say something about the question of classroom control. In our visits we were acutely aware that some teachers were experiencing considerable problems, and there is evidence to suggest that such problems are far from uncommon. The general causes obviously lie beyond our brief, but we have formed the opinion that in the wrong circumstances some English teaching methods can actually contribute to these difficulties, since they put an additional strain on teachers who are weak in their control. If we are to be realistic we must draw attention to


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these disciplinary problems, for obviously the subtle aims we have outlined in the Report cannot be achieved unless there is peace in the classroom. We believe that English departments should consider the control implications of their approaches and should not commit themselves to ways of working which will be impracticable in the circumstances and likely to aggravate the difficulties.

15.28 In this chapter we have laid emphasis on the need for consultation between the teachers of English and for effective leadership by the head of department. How is the agreed policy to be articulated? Our visits left us with the impression that the 'syllabus' or 'scheme of work' has lost favour with many teachers of English. The passing of a certain kind of syllabus will certainly not be lamented. We refer to the document that spelt out in close detail every step each teacher was to take, to the extent that if he followed it he would have virtually no freedom of thought or action. It prescribed which points of grammar he was to teach, and in what order, and which books he might read with the children. Such schemes of work were often unworkable if the English teaching was to contain any life and variety. Not surprisingly they were allowed to gather dust, and in many schools were never replaced. Some able young teachers, reacting against syllabuses that were clearly inadequate, have opposed the notion of any kind of written document. We are bound to say from our experience that their sense of freedom has often proved illusory, as it has led to much fragmented teaching. This has been the case even in some departments with a tradition of discussion between its members. Indeed, informal exchange, though immensely valuable, can carry the risk of masking lack of coherence. In one school it was only in the course of our conversation that one teacher revealed to another that he had been using a certain kind of exercise for some time. In another school a teacher said of work with a third year class: 'I'm mostly living from hand to mouth, hoping that something one week will trigger off something for the next'. He admitted that his choice of work was neither planned nor a studied response to the interests of the class, but was determined largely by impulse. This kind of directionless drift is clearly related to questions of leadership, consultation, and joint planning within the department, but the absence of a working document is an aspect of these.

15.29 If the experience of English in the years of secondary education is to be coherent it must be more than a series of chance encounters. If there is no agreed statement of purpose, every teacher is on his own. Several of our witnesses pressed the importance of some form of documentation, but they differed in their interpretation of the idea. One believed that among other things it should record 'specific departmental policies such as hearing the children read aloud, the availability of homework for inspection, and the amount of writing that should be produced over a period of time'. For another it was 'essentially a "position paper", outlining the philosophy and aims, so that the collective wisdom of the team is recorded for mutual benefit and that of newcomers'. A third preferred to see it as 'basically related to classroom practice, and not to theory; to short-term aims, rather than long-term aim'. A number drew attention to its value for the school in which there were many new young teachers or a large and disparate group of teachers who 'took some English'.


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15.30 We believe with our witnesses that every English department should produce a document making clear its purposes and the means it proposes to fulfil them. We have already argued that the head of department should create a climate in which there is continuing professional discussion among his colleagues. He should encourage them to share with him the responsibility for keeping up with new developments and knowledge, for a dialogue which fashions the English teaching in a school needs to be an informed dialogue. We believe that the thinking that emerges from it should take shape in a manifesto, reflecting the spirit and purpose of the department and responsive to the continuing exchange of views within it. We suggest that the term 'instrument of policy' would represent this more accurately than 'syllabus' or 'scheme of work'. We envisage it as a cumulative and slowly changing document, from which loose-leaf sections are withdrawn for revision as the department's ideas evolve. Its first purpose is to support the English teacher in the classroom, but those who devise it should also bear in mind its importance for the head and other colleagues in the school, for new teachers, students on teaching practice and their tutors, and for outside advisers. The document should contain a clear account of the aims and purposes of the department and of the balance of activities designed to fulfil them, and it might include an anthology of teaching ideas, an outline of any specific points which the department has agreed should be taught, the administrative procedure for stock, pupil records etc, and lists of books and other material available. Such a document would help teachers give shape, coherence and sequence to the work they devise for the pupils.

15.31 Much of what has been suggested in this chapter depends for its success on the head's vision and commitment. We are in no doubt of the great importance to the school as a whole of his attitude to English. If heads are in a position to help create a strong English department they are also uniquely placed to encourage the development of a language policy across the curriculum, the case for which is argued in Part Four. Such a policy means in effect that every teacher in the school should accept it as part of his responsibility to develop the pupils' reading, writing, and speaking ability in and through the subject or activity for which he is responsible. It also means that he should have an awareness of his own use of language and understand how the nature of the verbal exchange between himself and his pupils can affect the quality of the learning.

If the success of language and reading in the primary school depends upon the orientation of the whole school, the success of the secondary school can be said to depend very considerably on the level of achievement in reading and language. Unless the pupil can read, write and talk competently he cannot benefit from the range of learning which the secondary school provides. The responsibility for language growth in adolescents extends beyond the English department and becomes an important part of 'school management'. Our recommendations must therefore be addressed to heads as much as to English teachers, for we believe the time has come to raise language to a high priority in the complex life of the secondary school.

REFERENCES

1. E Richardson The Teacher, The School, and the Task of Management Heinemann Educational Books: 1973.


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CHAPTER 16

LEA Advisory Services

16.1 Local authority advisory* services and their role in support of the school are an appropriate conclusion to this part of the Report. The first thing that needs to be said is that in national terms this support is inadequate in extent. In November 1971 the Arbitration Tribunal deciding the Soulbury Salary Scales for Inspectors and Advisers asked local authorities for information about the numbers of posts in all subjects. 130 of the 147 LEAs in England gave the following details of the numbers in their employ at that time.

Table 13

LEA ADVISORY SERVICES IN ENGLAND: DISTRIBUTION OF ADVISORY POSTS BY SUBJECT

AdvisersAssistant
Advisers
Physical Education17678
Music9716
Home Economics6014
Handicraft37-
Science34-
Art33-
Drama33-
Mathematics30-
Modern Languages25-
English18-

The Education Committees Year Book (1) of 1973/74 shows 22 authorities as having English advisers, though four of these are listed as English with Modern Languages, English and Drama, English and allied subjects, and General and English. In addition, six authorities have advisers for Humanities which presumably includes responsibility for English. To these can be added some general inspectors and advisers who maintain an interest in English, but the figures for these are not known since this information is naturally not included. There has thus been a slight growth since 1971, but the fact clearly remains that there are far too few advisers with an interest in English and a recognised responsibility for supporting the schools in this area of their work. In view of the central importance of English in the whole educational process we find this situation a matter for great concern. We strongly recommend that local authorities should give urgent consideration to appointing advisers with this specific responsibility where they do not already exist. 16.2 We argued in the last chapter that English has been given too low a priority in staffing and resources in many schools. To the reason already suggested another should be added. English has not had the benefit of the impetus that a strong advisory team can give to a subject. This impetus

*Various authorities use different forms of designation. Some distinguish between 'inspectors' and 'advisers'; some use the term 'adviser' for all such posts, and the word 'organiser' is sometimes to be found. For the purposes of this chapter we have chosen to use the term 'adviser' throughout.


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expresses itself in terms of additional resources, increased local development work, and expanded in-service training, to mention but a few. We are not suggesting that in authorities without an English adviser other subjects are deliberately advanced at its expense. It is rather that the subject's needs are not articulated; in consequence they are often underestimated because it is assumed that they are not so great as those for which a strong case is made in other subjects. Moreover, it is the practice of some authorities to allocate money to an adviser to enable him to encourage development work in his subject or provide additional equipment. English has all too often missed this advantage. If advances are to be made in the teaching of English in all its aspects the need for this specialist support must be recognised. It seems to us deplorable that an area of the curriculum so complex in its demands should be so poorly represented in LEA advisory services. The figures quoted above speak for themselves.

16.3 It is important at this point to define the kind of advisory support we think necessary. In using the term 'English' here we envisage an area of responsibility which extends from language and reading in the early years to English studies at the highest level of the secondary school. This at once raises questions. Is it feasible, or for that matter desirable, for one person to have responsibility for advising across such a wide spectrum? What is the position of the general primary adviser who already has a keen and active interest in reading? Let it be said at once that the general advisers in many authorities have done exceptionally good work in promoting reading and language work in primary schools. Without their continued involvement the co-operative or 'team' concept we are proposing could not operate. This in itself provides the answer to the first question. It is clearly both unrealistic and limiting to think in terms of one person taking sole responsibility for all English advisory work throughout an authority's schools. The 'team' should involve a number of people able to make contributions from a variety of points of strength. It should have a specialist English adviser, and should draw for its membership from the general primary and secondary advisers, advisory teachers on secondment from schools, and specialists in reading, learning difficulties, drama and 'immigrant' language teaching.

16.4 In appointing their general primary advisers some authorities try to ensure a coverage of those aspects of the curriculum not accounted for by the specialists in music, physical education etc. Thus, in addition to their general assignments some advisers will promote the interests of mathematics across all the primary schools, while others will take a particular interest in environmental studies or in English in at least some of its aspects. There is, of course, wide variation in the depth of knowledge general advisers bring to this side of their work. Some of those with a particular concern for English have developed a special interest in children's talking and writing, while others have a detailed knowledge of books for children. Many primary advisers, whatever their other curricular emphases, have had experience in the teaching of reading and maintain their interest in it. Moreover, since language pervades the curriculum they are concerned with children's ability to handle it in various contexts. It is clear, therefore, that the involvement of the general primary adviser in the work of the English advisory team is vitally important.

16.5 It might be argued that since there is clearly so much experience and


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interest already available in the person of the general adviser the need for a specialist is reduced. Indeed, it is doubtless this view that has influenced so many authorities to rely upon their non-specialists. We regard this argument as untenable for a number of reasons. Apart from the fact that it takes no account of the needs of the secondary school it demands more of the general primary advisers than they can reasonably be expected to give. Their duties are numerous and wide-ranging and often involve administrative work. In the schools themselves they are concerned with educational progress in its widest sense, and the amount of time they can give to children's literature or the growth of language, for example, is limited. This is true of those general advisers with a special interest in English; it is even more true of their colleagues. Furthermore, though their combined knowledge is valuable it will not necessarily include an expert understanding of children's language development. When one considers the secondary school the case is even stronger. General advisers for secondary education come from a wide variety of subject fields. An unpublished survey carried out by NATE suggests that in only a relatively small number of cases do their general duties include a particular interest in English. Moreover, the general adviser for secondary schools is quite likely to have even less time to devote to any particular subject. It seems to us unsatisfactory for a local authority to depend upon such a person on the strength of his personal interest in the subject rather than appoint a full-time adviser.

16.6 If English in all its aspects cannot be left to the general adviser it is equally true that it cannot be left solely to the specialist. English advisers already in post have for the most part displayed great adaptability. Their own background is generally that of the secondary school, but they have become increasingly interested in language development in general. Nevertheless, few would feel confident that they could cover alone all aspects of their field from early reading to A Level literature. However committed to professional renewal they could not maintain a knowledge of every element at the same high level. It is for this reason that we advocate the notion of co-operative action, where the specialist English adviser is supported by the experience and knowledge of his general colleagues and by a number of advisory teachers. We envisage the advisory teachers as being drawn from among those whose appointment we recommended in paragraph 13.23 and from English teachers in secondary schools. They would be seconded for a period of 2-3 years, and one of their most valuable functions would be to work alongside teachers in their classrooms. They would help in providing in-service training and stimulating local development work. There are, of course, advisory teachers already employed in some authorities, though not necessarily in the field with which we are concerned here. In some cases they work in co-operation with advisers, but in others they are a substitute for them. We regard this second course as unsatisfactory. A specialist adviser is essential to the kind of co-operative activity we are recommending.

16.7 It was suggested to us in evidence that authorities with large numbers of children from families of overseas origin should have appropriate specialist advisers. We have described in Chapter 20 the language problems of these children, who represent in some areas a considerable proportion of the school population. It seems to us essential that schools in these areas should


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have the support of an adviser with special knowledge of the needs of Caribbean dialect speaking pupils and of teaching English as a second language. It would be unreasonable to expect the English adviser to command this kind of knowledge, and a specialist appointment would be necessary. At the same time it would be unfortunate if the 'immigrant specialist' were to work in relative isolation. It is as important at the advisory level as in the school that the work of the specialist should be related closely to the curriculum at all points. We therefore recommend that where an authority appoints an adviser with such responsibilities he should work with the advisory team responsible for all aspects of English. As an expert in language in general as well as in specialised terms he would have a valuable part to play in its work.

16.8 There is scarcely need to list the possible activities of the 'team', since the compass of these is contained in the pages of this Report. At the most fundamental level its role would be to support teachers throughout the age range, keeping them informed of new developments, disseminating good practice, and providing in-service training. In co-operation with the warden(s) of teachers' centre(s) it would encourage teachers in such activities as the development of new materials and the study of children's spoken and written language. Where the authority provides an independent language centre the English adviser might have overall responsibility for it and for links with the teachers' centre(s). Equally, where a language centre is in a college of education the team should have a close working relationship with the staff of the college. One of the advisory team's most valuable services would be to support teachers in their induction year in co-operation with professional tutors.

16.9 The following is a sample of the activities in which the team would be involved. It has been selected from the Report in such a way as to indicate the wide range of concerns that would be brought - for the first time in most authorities - into the same field of vision:

(i) Language development in the early years, and support for the kind of initiatives recommended in Chapter 5.

(ii) Involvement in the screening procedure advocated in Chapter 17. This system would be the product of co-operation between the English advisory team, the Schools Psychological Service, and the schools themselves. The advisers and the educational psychologists would be jointly concerned with guidance to the schools on professional observation to be made during the infant years, administration of the test in the junior school, and follow-up support for the teachers at both stages. We have emphasised that a screening system is of value only if it results in appropriate help for every child who needs it. This would be the most important element of the joint responsibility.

(iii) Support for schools in improving the teaching of reading and the evaluation of new materials. This would extend beyond early reading and include the development of higher order skills in primary and secondary schools and reading within the 'content areas'.

(iv) Advice on books of various kinds and in particular recently published children's literature. Co-operation with the various agencies, e.g. the School Library Service, in exhibitions and the kinds of activity recommended in Chapter 21.


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(v) Encouraging the adoption of a 'language across the curriculum' policy in secondary schools. This would entail consultation with general secondary advisers and advisers in other subjects, whose co-operation would be to the mutual advantage of all involved.

(vi) Responding to requests for advice from secondary school English departments on the devising of syllabuses in CSE and other examinations in which they may be approved.

(vii) Providing professional advice when new buildings and extensions are being planned. The team should be consulted on accommodation needs of the kind discussed at various points in the Report.

This list is merely a sample of the responsibility that would fall to an English advisory team. In effect the Report itself represents the extent of its range of work.

16.10 The notion of co-operative activity needs to be properly interpreted if it is to be recognised as a workable proposition. It is obvious from an examination of its area of work that the various members will have widely different contributions to make. We see the team as a group of people brought together for a particular purpose but working in a variety of ways to achieve it. Some have major responsibilities which lie outside it, but their involvement is essential to its success. We believe that English in all its aspects, different as they may seem, should be recognised as a unity, and that the various contributions should come together in this way to give it expression as such.

REFERENCES

1. Education Committees Year Book 1973-74 Councils and Educational Press Ltd.





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Part Six

Reading and Language Difficulties





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CHAPTER 17

Screening, Diagnosis and Recording

SCREENING

17.1 Schools have long played a part in preventive and curative medicine for children by means of the School Health Service. We believe it is now time to introduce a far more systematic procedure for the prevention and cure of educational difficulties. Early detection of educational failure is of the greatest importance in the development of each child, since once he has begun to falter and is allowed to continue struggling unaided, he is less and less likely to make sound progress. We have therefore considered carefully the proposal made to us by many witnesses that every LEA might institute a screening programme.

17.2 It is first necessary to define the issue clearly to avoid confusion in the use of terms. In the written evidence the term 'at risk' was applied equally to young children who were likely to fail and to older children who were already encountering failure. 'Screening' is a concept drawn from the field of medicine, where large-scale X-ray tests for chest conditions are a familiar form of it. Screening of pre-school children at intervals between birth and entry to school has been the practice in many local authorities for a number of years. It has consisted of physical examination and developmental tests, intended to identify as soon as possible any organic disorder or any delay in acquiring important sensory-motor skills. Translated into educational terms, screening implies the application of one or more procedures to a defined population of pupils, usually a whole age group, which would identify pupils likely to experience learning problems. This information would alert teachers to preventive action and indicate the need for further investigation in specific cases. Defined in this way screening is a process which would be applied at the beginning of the child's school life, before his growing involvement with the process of learning to read gives him an experience of failure. In other words, it identifies the child 'at risk' in the sense that though failure is to some extent predictable in his case he has not yet encountered it. Equally, screening can be applied at a later age, say after two years of schooling, where it would be designed to give information about the reading disabilities children had already begun to reveal. Both concepts were represented in the views of witnesses with whom we discussed the subject. There was a division of opinion among them as to the most appropriate age at which to introduce screening, and this is an issue to which we have given close consideration.

17.3 However, before arriving at any conclusions about the detailed operation of screening procedures we invited 145 LEAs in England to tell us how they identified their children likely to experience reading and language difficulties. The results of this inquiry*, which was carried out before the reorganisation of local government, are given at the end of the chapter. The 93 replies ranged from accounts of relatively informal and subjective

*(1) An account of the results of the inquiry appears as Annex A.
(2) Included as Annex B are descriptions of the screening practice of three local authorities whose contrasting systems we present as examples.


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procedures to data from fully standardised tests administered with statistical support. In some cases the tests were supplemented by carefully designed checklists on which the teacher recorded her observations over a period of time. Equally varied was the extent to which these surveys did in fact function as effective identification measures. Some identified the schools with particular problems, but not the individual child who was failing. They were therefore unable to yield the information which would lead to individual attention, and could not, by our definition, be called screening. Others were so organised that they enabled additional help to be concentrated on the children shown to need it. It is our central contention in this chapter that the provision of special help should be an automatic sequel to a screening and diagnostic programme, and that it should be given immediately to every child shown to be in need of it. Indeed, we believe it essential that a plan for subsequent action should be worked out in detail before any policy of screening is adopted.

17.4 Some teachers and researchers have raised two main objections to screening. Firstly they believe that its results are in danger of shaping or reinforcing the teacher's expectations of the pupil. Secondly they feel it is wrong to set out predictions at a time when deficiencies are capable of spontaneous remission. Their argument is that many children at risk at age five would, with normal primary teaching, be making satisfactory progress at seven. These are points of view to be respected. It would be quite wrong to involve children in self-fulfilling prophecies, and we agree that there is a good deal of work to be done on the question of teacher expectation. Nevertheless, we believe that the risks associated with the predictive aspects of screening are not so great as those created by missing a child in need of special help. There is ample evidence that children in poor socio-economic circumstances are more likely to experience difficulty in learning to read than those more fortunately placed. For a variety of reasons, some immigrant children are at risk. So are children with a family history of delay in learning to read or in speaking. Indeed, any child who has shown significant delay in talking can be regarded as at risk in terms of reading and language development. Other relevant factors of a medical or neuro-developmental kind are disturbances in auditory and visual perception, certain speech defects, fluctuations in mood, and poorly coordinated movement. In short, there are many known indicators of a likelihood of difficulty in learning to read, and we believe that evidence of this kind is too valuable to neglect.

17.5 This takes us to the question of the age at which screening procedures should be administered, and to the nature of those procedures. A useful starting point for our discussions of this was the recommendation of the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee (1):

'Teachers will notice any indications of reading disability during the first years at school, but at some stage a systematic screening of all children will be necessary. The end of the infant school will be a good time for this: at the age of 7-8 children should be sufficiently advanced in their reading for meaningful results to be obtained from the screening process; and it would be a suitably early age to begin remedial treatment for disabilities which are revealed. Screening should be the responsibility of teachers, who should, however, collaborate with educational psychologists in devising means to identify those children with severe reading difficulties'.

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17.6 From our survey of LEAs it became clear that by far the most popular times for carrying out some kind of assessment, whether or not it could be called screening, were the first term and the second year of the junior school. Witnesses with whom we discussed the question were divided in their opinions, some preferring screening to start in the infant school, others favouring a delay until the age of seven or eight. The arguments in favour of beginning in the infant school are (a) structured observation can be used which directs teachers' attention to the learning characteristics of the individual child; (b) severe problems can be identified in time for treatment to begin before failure becomes cumulative. The recording process it involves will lead to greater continuity of appropriate teaching from the succession of infant teachers who come into contact with the child. Those who favour the later age contend that children are in danger of being 'labelled' too early. They feel, moreover, that the channelling of teachers' observation could result in the infant school narrowing its aims. It might direct its teaching towards improving the children's performance on the criteria involved in the screening. This point was not accepted by teachers who had experience of operating screening procedures which involved 'channelled' observation. They reported that the checklists offered a useful framework for their normal assessment of children, and that this was in no way distorted by them. Nor, they felt, were their aims and teaching methods adversely influenced. The chief argument advanced against the later age for screening is that the child who has failed to learn to read by the age of eight has a rapidly diminishing chance of ever succeeding. The earlier the identification, the sooner the special help can be given and the more likely a successful outcome.

17.7 There are certain other factors to be considered when decisions are being reached on the most appropriate age for screening. Any testing of all children at the end of the infant school would normally be carried out by teachers whose responsibility for teaching them would shortly cease. If, on the other hand, it were to take place early in the junior school the teachers administering it would be those who would go on to devise the necessary help. It would be quite wrong to face children with a test situation at the beginning of their life in a new school, when they have to adjust to new teachers, new companions, and new surroundings after a long summer holiday. A date towards the middle of the first term would be a good compromise. A month or so usually gives the children time to settle down, and the second term would be to delay too long the appropriate measures to be taken when the analysis of the results was complete. Our own view, therefore, is that if tests are used they should be introduced not earlier than the middle of the first term of the junior school and not later than the beginning of the second term.

17.8 We believe the most important part of the procedure is careful observation and recording. Of course, every good infant teacher sees this as a vital part of her normal work. She is continually observing her pupils and noting their difficulties, and she is often responsible for the first step in referring children to the educational psychologist, the school health service doctor, the speech therapist, or the social worker. The question is whether such practice should be systematised, so that a checklist ensuring consistency of observation is completed by every teacher and becomes part of the


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screening profile. An instance is to be seen in the first of the illustrations in Annex B, where teachers, administrators, advisers, and educational psychologists cooperated to produce such a checklist. It has proved useful in giving teachers a common and agreed framework for their assessment of children's development. It has also been a support to young and inexperienced teachers, of whom there are many in this area of high staff turnover.

17.9 In our view there is a strong case for systematic observation as a first stage of the screening process from the time the child enters school. In recommending the principle we would add that if checklists are to be introduced they should be developed in full consultation with the teachers who are to use them. This will involve a good deal of preparatory activity on the part of teachers, advisers, and educational psychologists. The agreed structure should emerge from a programme of meetings and study groups and should be supported by in-service training at both general and school level. We do not underestimate the scale of effort this will require on the part of the authority, but we feel it is fully justified in its benefits. We have been impressed by the results where the educational psychologists have seen themselves as closely associated with the teachers in their work.

17.10 As a foundation for its careful observation the infant school should start with the advantage of information from the pre-school stage. Some parents are prompt to supply information on such matters as delayed speech and defective hearing, but others are either unaware that there is an abnormality or for one reason or another do not let the school know. For this reason it is important that the teacher should be informed in confidence of the results of the child's medical examination, whether this is carried out just before or just after admission. The school doctor and the health visitor are valuable sources of information to the school, and the latter is particularly well placed to note evidence of speech delay (2). We welcome the recognition now being given to educational implications in school entrant medical examinations and to the need for improved communications between school doctors and teachers. Equally important is the information that can come from the educational welfare officer, the social worker, and the speech therapist (3).

17.11 The results of the systematic observation in the infant school should be recorded in such a way that the development of the child 'at risk' can be closely followed. The Sheldon Committee Report (4) encouraged arrangements for the medical screening of young children, and recommended that local health authorities should maintain a register of children found to be developmentally at risk. In this way the children could be kept under special observation until the presence of any disorder or delay were proved or disproved. By analogy it is pertinent to consider whether there would be an advantage in recommending that LEAs should keep a register of children at risk in educational terms. The experience of local health authorities who have used 'at risk registers' has not proved entirely satisfactory. As the authors of 'From Birth to Seven' (5) point out: 'The Registers have tended to become too large for practical use and substantial numbers of handicaps have been missed in low risk children who were not on the register'. This seems to us a serious limitation, and there is every reason to believe that the same criticism would apply to registers used as a sole means of identifying children who might need special help with reading and language. The essential is that


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no child who is for any reason missed should continue to be missed. More reliable and productive would be a detailed profile of every child's strengths and weaknesses, and this should be used to plan an appropriate learning programme. All this implies the closest cooperation between the schools, the School Psychological Service, and the LEA Advisory Service, with information where appropriate from the School Health Service.

17.12 Central to the whole procedure is the notion that the information can be applied to the child's needs however frequently he changes school. It is sometimes suggested that in areas where there is little or no social disadvantage there is no need to screen. This is a questionable argument, but in any case it presupposes a situation of general stability, with teacher and family mobility low. Nowadays, such stability is less and less common, and schools in many relatively affluent areas experience constant changes of both teachers and families. It is a recurring emphasis of this chapter that the detailed recording of a child's performance is essential, with the results of screening an important foundation for it. In poorer areas, where there is likely to be a higher proportion of children 'at risk', the argument applies with still greater force. In localities where housing problems, uncongenial surroundings and poor school buildings contribute to a high teacher turnover, the new and inexperienced teacher must be alerted to the needs of individual children. Here too there is a high rate of family mobility, if for a different set of reasons. This is well illustrated by the fact that 50 per cent of children move out of Inner London before reaching their 14th birthdays. The case hardly needs pressing that in such circumstances some substantial record of every child should go with him to his next school, a point which is elaborated later in the chapter.

17.13 We confess to some doubts about the setting of a standardised test for all the children in the age group, and these doubts stem from what we regard as two principal difficulties. The first is the nature of the test itself. Those most widely used at present are of the simple word recognition variety. They have the advantage of being easy to administer and of being familiar in the schools. They would serve a screening function to the limited degree that failure to recognise graded words beyond a given point suggests the child has some measure of disability, even though it may prove to be transient. However, such a measure may be quite at odds with the range of skills the infant school has been aiming to develop. In our view, if such tests are used for screening in the first year of the junior school they should take account of the critical processes at work in reading for meaning and not be restricted to word recognition. They should combine simplicity of operation with a recognition of the holistic nature of language learning. Moreover, they should ideally have been developed and evaluated within the last ten years. Such a set of criteria at once limits the choice at present available. Our second reservation relates to the question of how the test results are used. We see no advantage in mass testing and centrally stored data unless the outcome is special and individualised help directed precisely at the children who need it. It can be argued that for that to happen there is no need for a test to be given, without any kind of discrimination, to every child in an authority. The more logical course would be for the teacher's systematised observation to provide first-level identification, followed where necessary by more detailed


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scrutiny. Against this can be placed the argument that universal testing at a given age ensures that no child is overlooked. The plain truth is that everything depends upon the diagnostic skill of the teacher. She is the one in close daily contact with the child and is best placed to relate his reading development to his intellectual endowment, his linguistic competence, and his home circumstances. Compared with an assessment of this kind, the results of other measures to detect failure in reading are bound to be crude. If we were satisfied that every teacher was equipped with this professional skill we should consider the mass test of very doubtful value. If we were convinced that the observation and recording throughout an Authority's schools was comprehensive and consistent we should consider the mass test altogether superfluous. In our view the best system of screening is one of systematic observation and recording, with selective testing of those pupils about whom detailed and specific information is required. However, we are emphatic that a system of observation, recording and selective testing must have well-developed support services and in-service training of high quality. Until these conditions operate the testing of the whole age group, despite its limitations, has to be seen as the most practical course. Indeed, we accept that for some local authorities it is an essential part of their procedure, particularly in the present circumstances of high teacher mobility and a large proportion of children likely to reveal learning difficulties.

17.14 One further point needs to be made. At present it is common practice to test for the purpose of ascertaining comparative reading levels by schools. A norm-based approach will reveal among other things the great disparities which exist between areas and between schools within those areas. It could therefore be used to help an authority concentrate additional resources where they were most needed. Where tests are used there is everything to be said for employing the results to determine where extra teachers, equipment or money should be allocated to the best effect. Some authorities have already used this device effectively. We emphasise, however, that the first aim of screening must always be to identify the needs of individual children. Undeniably, information to guide policy decisions is important, but nothing should take precedence over this primary objective. It is perhaps wise to reaffirm at this point our belief in the importance of the daily concern of the teacher for the learning experiences of the children in his or her care. What we have described in this section is intended to support good teaching, and if our proposals were implemented in such a way as to interfere with it we should consider this a backward step.

DIAGNOSIS AND RECORDING

17.15 We see the screening procedure as only the first stage in what should be a continuous process of diagnosis. Whatever the level of a child's reading ability, at whatever age, a scrutiny of the way in which he is functioning will enable the teacher to design reading experiences which will take his skill further. It is clear from the letters we received and from our conversations in schools that teachers take very seriously their responsibility for detecting children's reading difficulties. Many witnesses suggested that teachers should be equipped with new tests, simple of administration, to help them in this task. On the other hand, we talked to teachers who had grown accustomed to the idea that testing was the province of the educational psychologist.


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Some were suspicious of testing, believing that it occupied valuable time which would be better spent in teaching. We shall take up later the question of the relationship between teacher and educational psychologist, but would like to dispose of the other argument at this early point. Testing should never be carried out without a real purpose. If it is done simply to complete a column beside a child's name then the critic is right; the time would have been better spent in teaching. A basic principle can be stated: testing should always lead to more efficient teaching, which it is designed to serve. It should be seen as an essential dimension of the process of teaching reading, not a parasitic growth upon it. In these paragraphs we consider the ways in which teachers can strengthen their teaching by the use of diagnostic instruments, and these are not confined to tests.

17.16 What steps do teachers take at present to test their children's reading, and what do they do with the information? No fair generalisation can be made, but there are several pointers. Our survey confirmed existing research findings that the most widely used test in schools is the Schonell Graded Word Reading Test. Table 39 indicates the numbers of schools using certain tests, and it will be seen that this particular one was used by 73 per cent of 936 primary schools. The Burt and Holborn tests, also of the word recognition type, were next in popularity, though even when added together they did not equal Schonell in prevalence. It is interesting to note that the largest schools were more inclined to use certain of the less common tests than were the smallest. The Neale Analysis, for example, was in use in 23 per cent of the schools with over 350 on roll, as against 9 per cent in those with fewer than 71. There have been suggestions that teachers are not sufficiently informed about the range of tests available. This table would seem to give some support to this view, since tests other than Schonell, Burt, and Holborn ranked low in frequency, and the first of these was in use in no fewer than 84 per cent of the largest schools in the sample. On the other hand, it is equally fair to infer that they are the most widely used because teachers find them the most helpful. There is no questioning the usefulness of a word recognition test for certain purposes, but so heavy a reliance on this form does suggest a narrow view of testing. In our opinion it is essential that before any test is applied it should be assessed for its appropriateness for given purposes. For example, the skills required to identify words in isolation are different from those required in making constructive use of context. A child's score on a word recognition test is a helpful piece of information about his level of achievement in one particular skill. But it will not provide any information about the words with which he is having difficulty in his current reading. Nor will it give an accurate picture of his ability to discriminate between particular sounds, or to link sounds with letters, or to understand phonic rules. It can be inferred from the child's performance in the test that he has this or that degree of ability to discriminate visually between word shapes, and very likely between letter shapes. But in itself that is insufficient information. A low score is a helpful indicator that a weakness exists and that the child needs help, but in order to decide what specific help is needed the teacher needs more precise information.

17.17 In another section of the questionnaire teachers were asked whether they tested the child before he moved from one book to the next. 88 per cent of the infant teachers and 77 per cent of the junior teachers said


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they did. It is likely that the manner of testing here was closely related to the intention, and that it took the form of hearing the child read. Ability to cope with one book would thus be the criterion for being allowed to progress to a more difficult one. There is independent evidence to show that this is in fact the most prevalent method employed by teachers, particularly those in infant schools. Where a graded reading scheme is in use the system has the virtue of simplicity and logic. But for purposes of diagnosis it is, of course, of little value simply to record the titles or numbers of books a child has read. All this tells the teacher in effect is that the child is or is not able to cope with a certain book at a particular level in a particular scheme. Different reading schemes may have at any given level different words in a different quantity arranged in a different complexity of sentence structure. In short, the teacher is not able to generalise from this relatively crude measure about the child's reading ability, still less identify his weakness. However, there is one great virtue in this method of assessing a child's progress; it means that the teacher regularly hears him read aloud. This is one of the most valuable techniques at the teacher's disposal, but the indications are that its diagnostic possibilities are largely unrealised. In research carried out in infant schools Goodacre (6) found that when listening to children read only one in five teachers recorded particular errors and only one in ten a knowledge of letter 'sounds'.

17.18 There is no doubt of the importance attached in schools to the practice of hearing children read. In our survey we asked how often during a week children of different ability read to the teacher. The results were as follows:

Table 14

NUMBER OF OCCASIONS ON WHICH 6 AND 9 YEAR OLDS READ TO THE TEACHER IN A WEEK, BY READING ABILITY OF THE PUPILS

(Percentages)

Daily3 or 4
times
1 or 2
times
Less
Often
6 year olds:
The ablest reader1736416
An average reader315415-
The poorest reader72262-
9 year olds:
The ablest reader143559
An average reader3196414
The poorest reader4838131

These figures reveal many points of interest, the most obvious of which is that teachers extensively use the process of hearing children read as a means of giving practice to those who seem most in need of it and of monitoring their progress. Since so much time is devoted to this important activity the best possible use should be made of it, and this means that it should be an essential part of the diagnostic process. Our observations showed that this is rarely the case. Most teachers, in striving for fluency, set a premium on a quick, confident, and unhesitating delivery of the words. This might well discourage a child from dealing adequately with points of difficulty, and the


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tendency will be reinforced if the teacher is given to excessive prompting. The technique of hearing children read is at its most effective when errors are seen as miscues which provide a 'continuous window into the reading process'. We have discussed in Part Three the notion of reading as a process of producing the most reliable prediction with the minimum cues available. We are suggesting here that the teacher should be aware when the child is reading of why he is making particular errors. She can then base her teaching on her understanding of the kinds of context cues to which the child is not making an adequate response. The teacher's observation and interpretation are extremely important instruments of diagnosis, but they depend upon a thorough knowledge of what reading is and the sub-skills it involves. We made this same point when discussing language development in the early years. Expert observation by the teacher cannot be valued too highly. It is a major teaching skill, and one upon which all effective diagnosis is founded.

17.19 If a teacher is to plan individual instruction to meet specific needs her first task is to assess the attainment level of every child and provide each with reading material of the right level of readability. This sounds obvious, but it is not common to find the process carried out with the necessary precision. A simple and effective means of approaching the task of matching child and material is the use of informal reading inventories, which are in effect structured observations of reading performance. These consist of passages selected by the teacher from the child's everyday reading material. As the child reads aloud the teacher notes his errors systematically and may ask him questions to assess his understanding of the passage when he has read it again silently. By this means the teacher is able to assess the child's reading ability in relation to a task whose difficulty level he has already established. He is then able to refer him to the right kind of material for further reading. These inventories have a distinct advantage over standardised tests in this situation. They appraise the child's level of ability in a particular task without reference to the performance of others. Norms are unimportant when a teacher is setting out to design a reading programme tailor-made for an individual. The informal reading inventory described below enables the teacher to determine at which of three important levels the child is operating with any given piece of material. This method was developed in the USA, and we do not suggest that the error rates as given here will necessarily apply in the English classroom. They are reproduced to illustrate the principle, which we think a valuable one. At the independent level, the child is able to read aloud in a natural and easy manner, without help from the teacher and with 99 per cent accuracy in word recognition. If the child makes more than one error in a hundred running words or has less than a 90 per cent* comprehension of the passage he is not reading at this level. The teacher can then determine whether he is at the instructional level with this particular material. This involves 95 per cent word recognition, the child making no more than 5 errors in a hundred running words, and he should be able to give a satisfactory answer to 75 per cent of the questions asked by the teacher. At this standard of performance the child can be expected to reach independent level on that material in response to appropriate teaching. Below

*It will be obvious that the percentages are arbitrary figures which lack the objectivity of those applied to the word recognition rate. They are an indication to the teacher of the extent of correct answers the child gives to questions she considers it reasonable to ask.


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it he can be said to be operating at the frustration level, and the material is too difficult for him. This is indicated by a word recognition rate of 90 per cent or less (10 or more errors in 100 running words) and a comprehension ability of 50 per cent or below. There will also be revealing behavioural characteristics, such as lack of vocal expression and inaccurate observation of punctuation.

17.20 The informal reading inventory has the advantage that it can be produced from any reading material the teacher chooses, and we would expect that she would be advised in this by the teacher with special responsibility for language and reading. It allows her to prescribe for each child reading material appropriate to his needs. She may decide, for example, to reinforce his confidence by providing reading material for him at his independent level, or she may decide he is ready for something more challenging at the instructional level. She will certainly steer him away from reading at his frustration level, except when he is highly motivated to look at a particular passage for some reason of his own. By using the informal reading inventory the teacher is able to gauge exactly the kind of material which will yield further diagnostic information. A child faced with material at the frustration level will be likely to add or omit words, mispronounce, substitute or silently wait to be told. We have suggested that efficient reading consists not in scrutinising each letter and each word, but in using all the available context cues in the most economical and productive manner. When a child makes a 'miscue' the teacher should record it as such and ask herself why he made that particular one. Research has suggested that 4 out of 5 errors are in the nature of substitutions, the others being mainly omissions or insertions. Both proficient and weak readers conform to this pattern at their respective frustration levels, but the former more often suggest a word that is graphically similar. One study showed that about a quarter of their substitutions deviated from the word in the text by only one letter. Thus the more able reader may read 'man' for 'men', but the weaker may read 'man' for 'monkey'. By recording and analysing the miscues the teacher can detect specific weaknesses in a child's word attack, e.g. in the use of context, or in medial sounds. If the teacher is skilled in interpreting the errors an informal reading inventory is in effect a changing battery of test materials which provides her with a comprehensive record; It has the peculiar strength of making the testing process a learning situation for both teacher and child. Moreover it can be used not only to detect and remedy the poor reader's deficiencies, but to help the capable reader to read better. We have been able here to describe the device only briefly and at its simplest level; but it can, of course, be used in varied and sophisticated forms to develop higher reading strategies in children who are fluent readers. Diagnosis and teaching thus become a single process.

17.21 Diagnosis by structured observation requires thoughtful recording if it is to be turned to advantage, and we regard recording as an essential element in the actual teaching process. The record must show which, particular reading skills need most attention if progress is to be ensured; and therefore the precise steps that must be taken to supply it. Our survey showed that records which might be put to this use were to be found in only a minority of schools. Only 37 per cent of the teachers of six year olds and 46 per cent of those of nine year olds said they kept records of persistent individual weak-


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nesses that might require additional help within the school. The figures relating to outside help were even lower at 32 per cent and 38 per cent respectively. However able the teacher, we do not believe that appropriate measures can be developed to meet varying individual needs unless the characteristics of these are sequentially noted. Recording can take many forms, from the keeping of fairly simple notes to elaborate inventories with spaces to check off sub-skills. We are referring here not to the checklist an authority may devise as a standard element of its screening system, but to that which a school may use for its own teaching purposes. Opinions are divided on the respective merits of simple and detailed checklists. Of the one it is said that it has the virtue of being attractively easy to use but the defect of being a relatively blunt instrument; of the other that it is a very precise tool but too time-consuming. This must be a matter for individual choice which will depend in large measure on the extent of the teacher's experience in assessing reading ability. Inventories of skills, e.g. the blending of sounds, will be of considerable help to teachers who want a ready made system of visual checking. Others may prefer to indicate errors on a duplicate copy or an acetate sheet in accordance with an agreed code, e.g. the circling of omissions and the underlining of mispronunciations, showing whether the child uses initial-sound or shape-of-word clues. The important thing is that the recording should be in a form which is helpful to other teachers and can be interpreted expertly and used constructively to advance the child's reading competence. This applies at all levels of ability, and structured observation should be equally at the service of the good reader whose skills can be taken further. A good system of recording will reflect the teacher's planning for each child's reading development. In a classroom organised on 'informal' lines, with a good deal of individual work in progress, effective recording of the kind we have been discussing is of the greatest importance. As pupils grow older there should be increasing opportunities for self-appraisal. Some pupils can be encouraged to develop a responsibility for their own progress, recording their strengths and difficulties, and using the record as an aid towards the growth of higher level skills.

17.22 So far we have been discussing diagnosis in terms of structured observation, which is the first stage in the process. For some children it will be the only stage, since in the hands of the experienced teacher it provides in itself a series of insights sufficient to ensure their progress along a line of potential development. There will be many children, however, whose weaknesses as revealed by this method will call for deeper investigation through the application of tests. There are in existence several diagnostic tests which teachers can use to follow up the initial identification they made through their controlled observation. Some witnesses suggested that there was an acute need for more of these. We recommend that new diagnostic tests (7) should be devised and that these should combine the maximum of practical information with ease of administration. In saying this we would emphasise that the availability of new tests is not a solution in itself. We have already referred to survey results which showed what little use is made of tests other than a very small number of well known ones. None of these tests is designed for diagnosis in the terms we are discussing here. The indications are that many schools are not aware of the variety of diagnostic instruments at present available, or at least are unfamiliar with their use. This has important


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advisory and in-service training implications, for the ability to diagnose should be part of the professional competence of every primary school teacher. He should have access to a range of tests which he can draw upon where necessary to supplement his own observational procedures.

17.23 The third stage in the diagnostic process is referral to the school doctor and the educational psychologist, and this will involve an even smaller number of children. The relationship between teacher, educational psychologist, and doctor should be such as to encourage a team approach. In the case of most children the teacher will be able to diagnose at a level which will reveal to him the best means of helping the child. But there will be cases where he will find it appropriate to involve other members of the team. Where a child fails to respond to help this should be done without delay, so that further investigations can be carried out and the parent brought into consultation. The first step is to enquire of the school doctor whether there are any medical factors that may be relevant to the child's difficulty in learning to read. This will give the doctor the opportunity to re-examine the child, and the medical information should then be made available to the teacher and to the educational psychologist who will investigate the child's learning difficulties. It may also be helpful in appropriate situations to refer to the educational welfare officer and social worker. It was suggested to us in evidence that at present too many children are referred to the school psychological service with reading problems. It was also pointed out that if psychologists were more readily available for consultation in schools there would be fewer referrals necessary. Our case is that with proper training the teacher should be able to make finer judgements in this matter of bringing in his colleagues, whose participation in the school setting is important. He should be able to perceive that a difficulty revealed by diagnostic test requires further investigation of a kind that lies with them. All too commonly the contacts between teacher and educational psychologist are few, and in the past there has been a tradition of quite distinct functions. It is more profitable to think in terms of different emphases rather than different roles, and in some authorities this concept is taking encouraging shape. This is particularly true where a large-scale venture such as the introduction of a screening programme gives rise to joint planning.

17.24 We believe that educational psychologists have an important part to play in in-service training, notably in helping teachers to a more detailed knowledge of diagnostic techniques. The provision of courses and information for teaching was the subject of a survey (8) carried out in 1973. Authorities were asked whether their Schools Psychological Service or Remedial Education Service had provided during the last year any courses in which the uses and limitations of reading tests formed a significant part. Of the 159 responding only 27 per cent had arranged more than two such courses, and 39 per cent had not provided any at all. At the other end of the range 2 per cent had organised over 30. 33 per cent produced pamphlets or other materials giving information about reading tests, and these ranged from single sheets to 30-page booklets. Only one pamphlet contained a description of informal reading inventories, though it is not known to what extent the use of these was featured in the courses. The survey revealed that 36 per cent of authorities had not provided either courses or pamphlets during the year in question. It would be unjust


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and incorrect to infer from these results that some Schools Psychological Services and Remedial Education Services do not supply teachers with any information at all about tests. Much useful help in this respect is given in the everyday work of the services, especially when the test results of particular children are being discussed. Moreover, there are other bodies, such as University Departments and Schools of Education, which arrange courses and supply information. Nevertheless, we believe that there is scope for a considerable expansion of in-service training activity in which educational psychologists and teachers are jointly involved. This is not simply a question of the one arranging courses of lectures for the other. It should entail a great deal of practical work and follow-up within schools. Much of this might well be based on actual case studies and evaluation of special teaching programmes designed by teachers and psychologists working together. There is undoubtedly a considerable demand from teachers for in-service training in the field of diagnosis, and it is hoped that the new authorities will find it possible to effect an expansion to meet it.

17.25 Finally, we would again emphasise that the aim of diagnosis is to improve the teaching in relation to the needs of the individual child. An effective system of diagnosis and recording should be an important source of intelligence to head and staff, helping in decisions about individual teaching programmes and the materials and books needed to support them.

ANNEX A:

RESULTS OF AN INQUIRY INTO ASSESSMENT PROCEDURES APPLIED BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES

17.26 Authorities were asked to supply information about any surveys into reading they had carried out during the last three years. They were also asked to give details of any arrangements for identifying at an early age children likely to have reading and language difficulties. 93 of the 146 authorities responded, 56 of them County Boroughs and 37 County Councils. The information they submitted was extremely varied. It ranged from highly detailed statistical analyses to brief general comments. There was an equally wide variation in the methods employed. On the one hand there was the periodical survey, sophisticated in design and employing several different techniques; on the other there was no testing at all, but a policy of general consultation between schools and other agencies, especially the Schools Psychological Service. The variety was also evident in the extent to which specialist help was available to the child experiencing reading difficulties. There was often a relationship between the extent and quality of this help and the criteria applied to discover which children were in need of it.

17.27 Of the 93 authorities which responded, 50 provided empirical data based on objective assessments, i.e. tests given to groups of pupils. A minority had carried out surveys on a regular basis for a number of years, but most had conducted a single survey or one or two pilot studies in individual schools. Some authorities placed the emphasis on directing help to the individual child in need, while others combined this with identifying schools to which extra resources should be allocated. A few were concerned to monitor local standards across the years. The figures reproduced below show that the number of surveys has increased during the period to which our inquiry referred. As the authorities were approached during 1973 the figure for that year is not complete:

1970: 18    1971: 25    1972: 37    1973: 26


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In some cases testing was carried out at two or occasionally three stages during a child's schooling, but the most usual practice was for it to occur once early in the primary school. Several authorities had changed the age for testing within the last three years.

Table 15

ASSESSMENT OF READING ABILITY BY LEAS - AGE AT WHICH PUPILS WERE TESTED AND NUMBER OF INSTANCES

Age at which pupils were tested:Number of
instances
7+ last year in infant school8
7+ first term of junior school28
8+ second year in junior school16
9+ third year in junior school3
10+ first term of fourth year in junior school2
11+ last term of fourth year in junior school10
12+ last year of middle school1
14+ third year of secondary school1
15+ fourth year of secondary school1

17.28 There was wide variety in the tests used; no fewer than 21 different kinds. Several authorities used the same ones on successive occasions; a few employed different tests according to age group in any one year. The following table shows the incidence of use of the various tests:

Table 16

ASSESSMENT OF READING ABILITY BY LEAS - VARIETIES OF TESTS AND INCIDENCE OF USE

TestsIncidence
of tests
(a) Individual:
Schonell Graded Word Reading Test11
Burt (Vernon) Revised Word Reading Test6
Holborn Sentence Reading Test6
Standard Reading Tests (Daniels and Diack)3
Vernon Word Reading Test1
(b) Group:
Young Group Reading Test11
Southgate Group Reading Test7
Wide Span Reading Test2
Carver2
Spooncer2
English Picture Vocabulary Test2
Renfrew Picture Action Test1
Gates McGintie (New NFER British Standardisation)1
Litsart (Purpose designed test, produced by an LEA)1
NFER Reading Test A1
NFER Reading Test B.D.3
NFER Reading Test S.R.A.1
NFER Reading Test A.D.1
NFER Reading Test D.E.1
NFER Reading Test N.S.451


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The individual tests were usually administered by classroom teachers as part of the general assessment of children's progress. In such cases the survey consisted of a request to the schools for the data to be passed to the authority by a specified date. The assessment itself was therefore not necessarily carried out on any particular date or even at roughly the same time in different schools.

17.29 A particularly interesting feature of the inquiry was the variation it revealed in the criteria used for determining reading disability. These are shown below in three basic categories, within each of which different criteria were applied:

(a) Reading disability determined by a discrepancy between reading age and chronological age. The following shows the variety of yardsticks used by different authorities:

(i) Reading age of 12.5 at chronological age of 15
(ii) Reading age of 9.5 at time of 11+ survey
(iii) Reading age of 9.0 at chronological age of 11.06 (4 LEAs)
(iv) Reading age of 8.6 at chronological age of 11.04
(v) Reading age of 8.4 at time of 9+ survey
(vi) Reading age of 8.0 at chronological age of 8.9
(vii) Reading age of 6.0 at time of 8+ survey (7 LEAs)
(viii) Reading age of 6.6 at chronological age of 7.7
(ix) Reading age of 6.0 at chronological age of 7.06
(x) Reading age of 6.9 at chronological age of 7.4
(xi) Reading age of 6.0 at chronological age of 7.3 (3 LEAs)
(xii) Reading age of 6.8 at chronological age of 7.2
Note: Three authorities simply stated a one year discrepancy at whatever age the test might be applied, while two others left the discrepancy unspecified.

(b) Reading disability determined by standardised score, incorporating age allowance:

(i) Less than 90 on the English Picture Vocabulary Test
(ii) Less than 85 on the Young Group Reading Test (2 LEAs)
(iii) Less than 85 on the NFER S.R.A.
(iv) Less than 85 on the Wide Span Reading Test
(v) Less than 80 on the NFER B.D.
(vi) Less than 80 on the NFER S.R.A.
(vii) Less than 80 on the Young Group Reading Test (4 LEAs)
(viii) Less than 80 on the Gates McGintie
(ix) Less than 71 on the Young Group Reading Test
(c) Other criteria quoted by authorities were:
(i) inability to read 10 words at 7+ and 20 words at 8 + on the Schonell Graded Word Reading Test
(ii) 'below chronological age'
(iii) 'non-readers'
17.30 As might be expected, the variety of criteria resulted in different proportions of children regarded as displaying reading disability. These are shown in the following table, where the figures to the right of the percentage column indicate the number of times each percentage was reported.


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Table 17

ASSESSMENT OF READING ABILITY BY LEAS - PERCENTAGES OF CHILDREN ASSESSED AS HAVING READING DIFFICULTIES

Percentage of children assessed
as having reading difficulties
Age at Testing
78910111415
under 5 per cent4--121-
6 - 10 per cent12-2131-
11 - 15 per cent82--6--
16 - 20 per cent53--2--
21 - 25 per cent83----1
26 - 30 per cent22-----
31 per cent and over 4---1--
Number of LEAs testing4310221421

These figures reflect the wide variation in choice of criteria as well as the actual proportions of children with reading difficulties. For seven year olds the range is from 'non-readers' (approximately 2 per cent of children, reported twice) to 'below chronological age' (approximately 42 per cent of children, reported once). When the extremes are disregarded it would seem that at this age between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of children are identified as needing special help; by the age of eleven the proportion has reduced to between 7 per cent and 15 per cent.

17.31 Nine of the authorities added that it was also their practice to ascertain the extent of higher standards of reading performance. Six of them used the criterion of reading age, and the proportions of children whose reading age was two years in advance of their chronological age ranged from 5 per cent to 57 per cent. The remainder used the standardised score, taking one standard deviation above the mean as the criterion, i.e. scores of 116 or over. The proportions here ranged from 9 per cent to 20 per cent.

17.32 There was little reference to the effect upon reading age norms of the rise in standards between 1948 and 1968. For example, 'the norm' for children of 7.5 in 1950, defined in terms of the number of words read aloud from a word recognition test, would differ from the 'norm' for children of the same age in 1970. Nor was there reference to the gradual ageing of certain tests, or the steady decline of the reading age concept in favour of the standardised score on a test designed for the age group in question. In some authorities regular testing had been the practice over the last few years, involving the same standardised test, the same mean age of pupils, and the same criteria for interpreting scores. There is no doubt that this consistency rewarded them with superior information for judging the movement of standards and allocating additional resources. Where conditions of administration varied the information carried far less conviction, principally because a history of local norms had not been founded.

17.33 We have said little about the descriptive accounts which were not based on a testing programme. They consisted largely of general statements about the administrative provision for 'remedial' teaching. There was


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frank acknowledgement that the subjective judgement at work could result in variable standards. On the other hand several authorities felt that the liaison they had developed was adequate to the task and that a survey involving testing would add little useful information. It is clear that there is widespread concern among authorities to help children with learning difficulties and to strengthen those schools where they are in the greatest number. It is equally clear that the methods used to identify these children vary widely in the degree of precision they attain.

ANNEX B:

DESCRIPTIONS OF THREE DIFFERENT FORMS OF SCREENING PROCEDURE

17.34 On analysing the replies to our inquiry about screening procedures we invited three authorities to describe in greater detail the methods they had developed. The following are the accounts provided by these authorities:

Example 1: AN OUTER SUBURBAN AREA

As a result of concern about the teaching of reading a working group was established to enquire into the feasibility and timing of a form of standardised testing to reveal children 'at risk' in language development. The group consisted of the authority's inspectors, educational psychologists, and representative primary school heads.

There followed a decision to assess each child early in his life in the infant school in order to avert the depressing experience of cumulative failure which some children face. The working party's first task was to decide on the kind of instrument to be used. Their criteria were: (a) that it should be short and easy to score, (b) that it should give an accurate general picture of each child's abilities and skills, particularly those involved in the reading process, and (c) that it should be sensitive enough to distinguish between slow-learning children and those whose progress gave no cause for concern. The discussion resulted in the design of a checklist to provide a series of structured observations by the teacher. The objects of this checklist were to assess each child's readiness to begin reading, to identify possible areas of learning difficulty, and to provide appropriate help promptly for teacher and child. The working party allowed for the uneven nature of the maturational process. The checklist is made up of a list of 19 simple questions on the child's development in the four main areas most important to the learning process, namely: (a) speech and communication, (b) perceptual-motor, (c) emotional-social and (d) the child's response to learning situations. The teacher gives a 'yes' or 'no' answer to each question, and space is provided for further comment. At various points during the infant years the teacher will again mark up the checklist, thus producing a continuous record of the child's early progress. This material is regarded as an early stage in the process of identifying children 'at risk'. Subsequent stages in the screening procedure are as follows:

(i) Assessment at the end of infant schooling; one further entry is made on the checklist before the child transfers to the junior school. In addition each child attempts the first two pages of the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability.
(ii) At the end of the second year in the juniors the children take the Young Group Reading Test.

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(iii) Final testing in the primary school: in the last term of the fourth year all children who have appeared 'at risk' in earlier tests are re-tested on the complete Neale Analysis to determine a reading age, which is entered on each child's record card.

Copies of the checklist and all reading ages are sent to a central point and are analysed by the LEA computer. First results indicate that there is correlation between the checklist and the child's reading age.

The success of such a scheme depends upon the skill and commitment of those who operate it. In each infant and junior school the authority has appointed one teacher with a special allowance for taking responsibility for screening in the school. These teachers are in contact with centralised resources and training plans, and they are involved in in-service training on screening and diagnostic testing. They provide a focal point for other members of staff, particularly probationary teachers, and they give advice to ensure that the statistical data provided by the screening procedures is used to the best effect by their colleagues. Some have taken on additional and related responsibilities. For example, they advise on book purchase or organise the timetables of part-time teachers. Several have become increasingly interested in language development throughout the school.

The inspectors and educational psychologists have provided in-service training courses to take advantage of these developing interests. For teachers new to screening, the authority provides a series of practical pamphlets, and they have the sustained support of the Primary and English inspectors. A Language Centre has been established as an additional resource. Teachers are welcomed there to visit the standing exhibition of language development materials and equipment, talk over problems with the specialists, prepare their own materials, and hold discussion groups.

17.35 Example 2: A SOUTHERN COUNTY AREA

The authority introduced screening for the following reasons:

(i) to identify the children needing special help in learning to read;
(ii) to allocate extra teachers where they were most needed;
(iii) to indicate the extent of in-service teacher training need in this aspect of the curriculum;
(iv) to ensure appropriate help for children experiencing learning difficulties - help either through remedial teaching in normal school or through special school attendance.
Every year the staff of the psychological service carries out a two-part survey of reading problems in primary schools throughout the county. At the beginning of each spring term primary school heads are asked to list those children in the 7/8+ age group whose reading ages fall two years or more below their chronological ages, and to identify those children due to move up to middle or secondary schools who might benefit more from transfer to special schools. The 7/8+ age group children experiencing reading difficulties are listed on criteria provided by individual word recognition tests rather than by group tests administered to the whole age range. It is acknowledged within the authority that this procedure has the disadvantage that some children may be missed, as class teachers are being asked to use subjective judgements in selecting anticipated slow learners for reading


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testing. On the other hand, one of the factors influencing the decision in favour of the individual test was that it provides the teacher with a face to face experience of each child's problems.

The second part of the survey is that heads are asked to arrange for administration of the Non-Readers' Intelligence Test (constructed and standardised by Dennis Young, and published by University of London Press) to those children listed as slow learners. This group test is designed to measure verbal intelligence independently of reading skills, so that children experiencing specific reading difficulties will not be handicapped by these when completing it. The aim of this screening test is to distinguish between those slow readers who can probably be helped best by periodic remedial teaching in normal schools and those whose general intellectual handicaps may be such that they will be helped most appropriately through full-time special schooling. Children obtaining low scores on the group intelligence test are assessed developmentally by educational psychologists, who discuss the children's special needs with parents and teachers. After staffing increases in the psychological service it has been found in recent years that the majority of children scoring low on the group intelligence test have already been the subjects of consultation between head teachers and psychologists; consequently this second screen is now regarded as serving no more than a 'mopping up' purpose, and may be discontinued in the future.

Survey returns provide the basis for consultation between remedial advisory teachers, educational psychologists, advisers and education officers, and are taken into account in education officers' allocations of teaching time for the following school year. In some cases, time is allocated specifically for remedial work; in others remedial teaching time is incorporated into a general allocation. Whether or not they receive specific remedial teaching allocations, most heads manage to timetable work in small groups for children in need of special help. These groups are often conducted by qualified married women who have returned to teaching part-time. At the beginning of 1974, with the county school population at approximately 81,000, specific remedial teaching allocation for primary schools was about the equivalent of 30 full-time teachers.

Although word recognition tests are judged to be useful in identifying slow learners they are of little value in providing teachers with practical guidance on teaching methods appropriate for particular children. An important feature of arrangements for helping children with reading difficulties has been the provision of regular in-service training sessions. Through these courses, conducted mainly by the county's two remedial advisory teachers, teachers have been helped to make use of tests designed to diagnose children's reading difficulties and to link their findings with appropriate teaching methods. To complement these courses, educational psychologists and remedial advisory teachers have together produced a series of booklets detailing examples of diagnostic and teaching techniques.

17.36 Example 3: AN INNER CITY AREA

The authority has an extensive remedial service, provided partly in special centres and classes, partly by allocating extra teachers to individual schools, and partly through peripatetic teachers. Over the past two years the school


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psychological service has provided a series of in-service training workshop courses in the assessment and 'remediation' of specific reading difficulties.

The extensive study of case histories in these courses underlined the great importance of the initial identification of children in need of special help. An equally important factor was the increasing responsibility taken by the remedial teachers for initial assessment and advisory work in schools. If the special services are to be used with maximum efficiency and if help is to be given at the appropriate time it is essential that such children be identified early by means of a systematic screening procedure.

One of the educational psychologists introduced a screening instrument to identify children with learning problems. Its purposes may be defined as follows:

1. To provide a profile of the individual child's abilities as a guide to his educational needs.

2. To provide a continuous monitoring of pupil standards - possibly at three different age levels, e.g. final year of infant school; mid-junior; and first year secondary level.

3. To provide a basis of comparison when evaluating various educational methods.

4. To identify those children who may be 'at risk' in the learning situation and those requiring further diagnostic investigation or an adaptation of educational programmes.

5. To provide some standardised information about general levels of competence. Such information might help teachers, particularly subject specialists, to start with realistic expectations about pupils' levels of performance and so avoid presenting of oral and written material beyond their level of comprehension.

The authority's psychological service has been giving attention to developing the screening procedure for children in the final year of the infant school. It was decided that the screening instrument should give a measure of the child's reading attainment and word-attack skills, together with some information on aspects of perceptual, cognitive and language skills and of personality attributes relevant to the learning process. Such an instrument needs to be reliable and yet economical in terms both of cost and teacher time. Members of the psychological service and specialist teachers therefore began to build up a series of tests and assessment procedures, some already published, some purpose-designed, which a teacher could use within the classroom situation. A small-scale pilot study was carried out on some 250 six to eight year old children. The outcome of this study was a body of information on each child's functioning in such areas as motor coordination, eye-motor control, visual and auditory discrimination and memory, active and passive vocabulary, comprehension and attainment in spelling, and reading and phonic skills, together with some indication of relevant environmental and motivational factors. The data were analysed, and a purpose-designed screening instrument compiled which could be used with children in their final year in infants' school. This was applied initially in one division early in 1974. The instrument consists of a pupil's workbook containing a variety of exercises which can be completed by the children as a group activity


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in the classroom. The work-book is contained in a pupil's folder on which the teacher completes a short pupil-behaviour questionnaire and records such relevant data as the child's vision, hearing, speech, laterality, attendance, and number of schools attended. The teacher's handbook contains instructions for administering and scoring the workbook exercises.

It is intended to run in-service training courses and to produce a videotape programme on the administration of the screening procedure. These will be followed up by further teachers' courses and by published handbooks on planning educational programmes relevant to the needs of the pupils. The psychologists and the remedial teachers working with them will carry out further investigations of children identified as 'at risk' by the initial screening. These children may require remedial help within the school or at local remedial centres. Profiles will be provided of pupils' areas of strength and weakness at an early age, and teaching programmes within the school will be adapted accordingly. It is hoped that these measures will prevent the development of some types of early learning difficulty. This will allow specialist services to concentrate on pupils with severe problems which fall outside the scope of ordinary classroom programmes.

REFERENCES

1. Children with Specific Reading Difficulties. HMSO 1973.

2. See The Role of the Health Visitor in Relation to Speech Development The College of Speech Therapists.

3. See Speech Therapy Services HMSO: 1972.

4. Child Welfare Centres: a report of the sub-committee of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee of the Central Health Services Council HMSO: 1967.

5. R Davie, N Butler, and H Goldstein From Birth to Seven A report of the National Child Development Study. Longmans: 1972.

6. E Goodacre Hearing Children Read Centre for the Teaching of Reading: Reading University School of Education: 1972.

7. An up to date review of diagnostic tests currently available in this country and the USA is to be found in Reading Tests and Assessment Techniques PD Pumfrey. ULP: 1974.

8. PD Pumfrey The contribution of LEA Schools' Psychological Services and Remedial Education Services to the provision of courses on, and pamphlets concerning, the uses and limitations of reading tests: a survey of current practice in England and Wales University of Manchester: 1973.


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CHAPTER 18

Children with Reading Difficulties

18.1 In this chapter we have drawn together some of the issues relating to children in ordinary schools who are experiencing failure with reading. It will be obvious, however, that their difficulties and the provision they need are by no means confined to this part of the Report. In all we have so far said about language and reading there is the insistence, in some places explicit and everywhere implicit, that careful attention should be given to those children who show signs of experiencing particular difficulty. Indeed, the entire sections on language and reading in the early years should be read in association with this chapter. Equally, we have the needs of these children very much in mind in the parts of the Report where we discuss organisation, resources and teacher training.

18.2 Children with reading difficulties are usually described as 'retarded' or 'backward', and the term 'slow learner' is sometimes used as a substitute for the second. A backward reader is generally regarded as one who is below the average for his age (1). Thus, if a ten year old child has a reading age (2) of 9.0 he is backward by twelve months. The notion can also be expressed in terms of a reading quotient. The 1950 Ministry of Education pamphlet gave the critical quotient as 80; below this a child could be considered a backward reader. He may be working to the limit of his capacity and yet register this low score. The retarded reader, on the other hand, is defined as one whose attainments are low in relation to his intelligence. His achievements are not being judged against those of his contemporaries but in relation to his own mental capacity. By these terms some children are backward, some are retarded, and some are both. Thus, the last-named will be achieving below the norm for their age and also below the average for children of similarly low ability.

18.3 This is a necessarily brief account of what is in fact a complicated issue, but it serves to provide a background for what we consider an important qualification of the notion of 'failure'. There is first of all the failure which is legitimate in the sense that the child can see that success is possible but is eluding him. Provided he can be helped to identify and then overcome the causes of his failure the experience is a valid one, for in these terms failure becomes acceptable and manageable. The second sense in which the word can be used is where the child is faced with objectives which are at the time completely beyond his powers. He is unable to understand the causes of his failure, which is inevitable and inescapable. The child's awareness of failure of this kind can have serious consequences in terms of personal feelings, attitudes, expectations and achievement. A very real possibility is that the backward child can also become a retarded one in circumstances where unrealistic achievements are being expected of him. The notion of failure, however defined, should be approached with circumspection. Defeatism on the part of parents or teacher will soon spread to the children themselves. It is more constructive to think and plan in terms of greater progress for all children. The pupil formerly considered as 'failing' will then be seen as one who is making slow progress and who can be helped to improved achievement if certain positive measures are taken.


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18.4 It is clear that there are many children leaving infant school who are still finding great difficulty in learning to read and are likely to continue to need special help in the junior school, particularly those summer-born children who may have had only two years of early schooling. While we acknowledge that children vary in the ages at which they are ready for the more formal aspects of learning to read, we do not accept that this stage of readiness should be seen merely as an aspect of maturation, to be patiently awaited. Carefully planned activities will give the child the preparation he needs for the more formal beginnings of reading and writing. We are convinced that a more systematic approach to such preparation would reduce the number of children with reading problems in the junior school. Delay in making even a modest beginning in reading beyond the age of seven puts the child at educational risk, not merely because a great deal of later learning depends on the ability to read, but because the poor reader is less likely to receive skilled attention the older he becomes. A survey (3) carried out by the Inner London Education Authority into the literacy of 31,308 children revealed that 63 per cent of the junior schools had no full-time teacher who 'had received specific/detailed training (i.e. more than a few general lectures) to teach reading at training college or specialist course'. Indeed, fewer than one in eight of the full-time teachers in junior schools had been trained to teach reading. It is significant that in the National Child Development Study a follow-up of eleven year olds surveyed four years earlier revealed that the majority of those who were retarded at seven had fallen behind even further. It is equally clear that the number of children continuing to need help in their secondary school is also considerable. In replying to our questionnaire 13 per cent of secondary schools judged that at least a quarter of their pupils aged twelve required 'special provision' on account of reading and language difficulties. In 10 per cent of the schools the same number of pupils were held to be in similar need at age fourteen. Children in the Isle of Wight (4) who had reading difficulties at the end of their junior school subsequently continued to experience difficulty; the group as a whole made only 10 months' progress in reading during the 28 month period of the follow-up. A further examination of the group at the age of fourteen showed that the majority of children found to have severe reading difficulties in their primary schools continued to lag far behind in reading as they approached the end of their statutory school life.

18.5 The causes of reading failure are no less complex today than they were when Sir Cyril Burt examined London children some 50 years ago. In many cases the cause may be found in the circumstances of a child's upbringing, which restrict his experiences and provide little or no encouragement for him to learn. Children who come from homes where conversation is limited and books unknown are likely to be slower in their linguistic growth and to find greater difficulty in learning to read than those who come from more favoured backgrounds. Some children have limited natural ability, or a sensory defect, particularly hearing, which adversely affects their capacity to develop language. Children of limited mental ability reach their developmental milestones, including those of speech and language, more slowly than normal children. In the Isle of Wight survey it was found that 23.4 per cent of the 'intellectually retarded' children spoke their first words at 25 months of age or later, compared with 2.3 per cent of the normal population. Some


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children may be anxious or depressed, so that they cannot apply their minds to learning; they may have lost confidence in themselves and in their capacity to learn because they have already failed in school. Lastly, there is a rather smaller group of children who experience a difficulty in learning to read that cannot be accounted for by limited ability or by emotional or extraneous factors. The term 'dyslexic' is commonly applied to these children. We believe that this term serves little useful purpose other than to draw attention to the fact that the problem of these children can be chronic and severe. It is not susceptible to precise operational definition; nor does it indicate any clearly defined course of treatment. Most of the children, however, do find difficulties in auditory and visual discrimination and in associating visual symbols with the sounds they represent, and it has been suggested that these difficulties are caused by delayed maturation of the coordinating processes of the nervous system. A more helpful term to describe the situation of these children is 'specific reading retardation'. This has been defined as 'a syndrome characterised by severe reading difficulties which are not accountable for in terms of low intelligence and which are not explicable merely in terms of the lower end of a normal distribution of reading skills' (5). Given a skilled analysis of the nature of their difficulties, followed by intensive help and support, most of these pupils eventually learn to read, though their spelling may remain idiosyncratic throughout their lives. Arrangements for making this help available to them are discussed in para 18.18.

18.6 The level of a child's intellectual capacity inevitably affects his ability to acquire linguistic skills. But it must be remembered that intelligence itself is a developmental concept, and disadvantaged children brought up in circumstances which fail to nourish intellect can make considerable gains if placed in a favourable learning environment. It has been claimed (6) that increments are possible not merely during the early years but at any time during the years of a child's development. For a teacher to know that a certain slow reader is of high intelligence may usefully lead him to expect and encourage a higher attainment in the child. In contrast, the knowledge that a child is of below average intelligence may lead to an acceptance of below average reading standards. Yet many such children do become better than average readers, and one of the factors at work may well be positive expectations on the part of the teacher. The relationship between reading success and intelligence can be more easily identified with averages than with individual children. One would be justified in expecting that a group of children whose average intelligence quotient was higher than that of another group would have higher average reading scores. But in the first group there would almost certainly be some poor readers, while in the second there would be children with reading attainments above the level their intelligence might have suggested. The divergences in each case would represent the other factors in operation, for example, motivation, parental interest, perseverance, and the presence or absence of appropriate teaching. As a group of psychologists expressed it in a paper submitted in evidence: 'If children are apparently unable to learn, we should assume that we have not as yet found the right way to teach them'. Slow progress in reading is undoubtedly characteristic of children with limited natural endowments, and to expect their reading progress to be at the same rate as that of their more able peers would be


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unrealistic. However, with good teaching they should be able to make steady, continuous progress throughout their school lives.

18.7 The close association between retardation in reading and emotional disorders has been frequently noted, and has been referred to in much of the evidence we have received. It has been pointed out (7) that 'over-reacting' types of behaviour disturbance become increasingly severe up to the age of nine - i.e. during a critical period for the acquisition of reading and writing skills. Boys retarded in reading are more than twice as likely as other children to show anxiety or lack of concentration, and are three times as likely to experience irrational fears and anxieties; poor readers as a whole are almost four times as likely to show signs of maladjustment in school as children whose performance in reading is normal. In the Isle of Wight study a third of the children retarded in reading exhibited antisocial behaviour; similarly, of the group of children identified as antisocial over a third were at least 28 months retarded in their reading. Though the exact nature of the association between reading failure and emotional disorder is unclear, the association is so marked that 'one might suppose that the relation is in most cases reciprocal. From the teachers' point of view, this suggests that emotional or behavioural disturbance is at any age a danger signal that learning failure may follow; similarly, failure to learn, for whatever reason, is a cue for action before it has emotional consequences of a lasting and compounding sort' (8).

18.8 It is now over half a century since Burt observed that backwardness and poverty were closely interrelated. A few years ago, when Wiseman carried out his survey for the Plowden Committee (9), the association was found to be with psychological poverty - lack of books, low parental interest, and a linguistic expectation at variance with the language used in the school. Recent investigations carried out by a number of LEAs in underprivileged industrial areas in the North West revealed a disturbingly high incidence of reading retardation at the age of eight. In some of the schools serving these areas almost a quarter of the age group had 'low reading ability'; in a few schools in rehousing areas, where parental interest was minimal and vandalism rife, the number of children with 'very limited' reading ability rose to 40 per cent, and the number of non-readers to as many as one in five. We have discussed in Chapter 2 some of the recent studies that have confirmed the relationship between low attainment and home circumstances. One of these was the first report of the National Child Development Study, which showed that at seven years of age 'the chances of an unskilled manual worker's child being a poor reader are six times greater than those of a professional worker's child ...; the chances of a Social Class V child being a non-reader are 15 times greater than those of a Social Class I child'. Put in more general terms, 'the difference between children from Social Classes I and II and those from Social Class V is equivalent to nearly 17 months of reading age'. Even more startling is the evidence that has recently become available from the follow-up study of the same group of children four years later, which shows that their retardation at age eleven, so far from being alleviated, has actually increased: 'the differences between Social Classes I and II and V was about 27 months compared to about 17 months at the age of seven'. This evidence is in accord with the findings of earlier surveys such as those of Douglas (10) and others, whose later work indicates that retardation


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of this kind often persists until the end of a child's school days. There can therefore be no doubt that active intervention is needed at an early age to compensate as far as possible for the cumulative effects of social handicap.

18.9 Among the factors which contribute to retardation in reading the local authorities and the schools themselves have not escaped criticism. Present facilities for helping children with difficulties in reading and in the use of language have been described as 'sorely inadequate' by some of our witnesses. We believe there to be some truth in this assertion, supported as it is by the findings of a number of surveys and investigations. There are undoubted differences in standards of reading and language in schools serving very similar residential areas, as the Newsom Report showed (11), and startling improvements in reading levels have been claimed as a result of a determined effort to improve standards. Some local authorities have augmented the resources of those schools with the largest numbers of poor readers, and by so doing have helped them to bring about significant improvements. On the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that there are many schools where these children are exposed to the unsettling effect of rapid teacher turnover or are taught by inexperienced teachers.

18.10 The arrangements for providing 'remedial education' vary greatly: from remedial classes or withdrawal groups within an individual school to peripatetic advisory services, area classes, or specialised help in remedial centres. How effective are these measures? This would seem at first sight to be a relatively easy question to answer, but the results of efforts to do so over a number of years have proved controversial, not least on account of the many different types of provision and approach, and the varied criteria for selecting the children to be given help. It might be expected that some broad consensus of opinion would emerge to indicate whether or not 'remedial' treatment is likely to be successful; but the evidence from research is neither unanimous nor particularly encouraging. One of the earliest studies (12) proved promising: children who had hitherto made little or no progress in reading began to do so when given remedial teaching. The average gain during the six monthly period was 1.9 years for the 64 children for whom there were complete results. Collins (13), in a now well known monograph, reviewed the progress of groups of children who had received such education at the Remedial Education Centre at Birmingham University Institute of Education. He, too, found that the immediate effects of remedial treatment appeared to have been beneficial; the children who completed the course made an average gain of two years reading age in one year one month, and the behaviour difficulties of rather more than half of them improved. But a subsequent experiment gave rise to doubts. Two groups of children were given remedial education, one in the Remedial Centre and one elsewhere, and the results were compared with those of a control group who received only normal teaching in their ordinary class. In the short term, gains of the remedial groups were shown to be limited: 'only in the mechanical aspects of word recognition were treated children markedly different from controls'. Even more significant was the finding that 'the long term effects of treatment were negligible'. Later studies (14) have tended to confirm these results: children who received remedial education showed considerable short-term gains, particularly in the more mechanical aspects of reading such as word recognition, but this progress was not sustained.


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18.11 In seeking to discover the reasons for these seemingly depressing results, those responsible for the studies have drawn attention to the difficulties of making a just evaluation of measures which vary so greatly in approach and resources. Remedial education can consist of an hour or two a week in a centre or clinic or a daily period in school. It can be closely related to the rest of the child's work in school or it can be entirely dissociated from it, even to the extent of using a different orthography. It can range from unskilled treatment, based on inadequate understanding of individual differences, to expert help from a teacher with specialised training and long experience. We believe the discouraging findings reported by most research workers should not lead to a conviction that all such measures are bound to be ineffective. The success of these measures in some schools is there to be seen, as we noted earlier. When attention is focused upon children who do learn to read it is apparent that many successful readers overcome difficulties which have been considered important as causes of failure. Put another way, although a number of children in difficulty do have below average test intelligence, some degree of hearing impairment, or indeterminate laterality, the same may be said of large numbers of successful readers. There are, however, certain factors which are essential if success is to be broad and lasting.

18.12 (1) The particular nature of each child's difficulties must be seen in relation to his whole linguistic development. There is no mystique about remedial education, nor are its methods intrinsically different from those employed by successful teachers anywhere. The essence of remedial work is that the teacher is able to give additional time and resources to adapting these methods to the individual child's needs and difficulties.

(2) Fundamental is the teacher's ability to create warm and sympathetic individual relationships with the pupils, so that they are encouraged to learn through the stimulus of success. Again, it is not a question of devising special 'remedial methods', but of applying good teaching in such a way that failure is replaced by a sense of achievement, with all that this means for a child's confidence and self respect. This is particularly important with young and immature children, who are the most easily discouraged by failure; for them it is more than ever important not only that they achieve a high rate of success, but that this is reinforced by the constant encouragement and approval of the teacher. From this it should be evident that remedial work is not work for the inexperienced or indifferent teacher, but for the one who combines a high level of teaching skill with an understanding of the children's emotional and developmental needs.

(3) Remedial help in learning to read should wherever possible be closely related to the rest of a child's learning. Children who are in need of special help sometimes have their weaknesses exposed by the very efforts designed to remedy them, particularly if these result in fewer opportunities to achieve success in other activities, such as art, crafts, drama, and music. This can be particularly true of older children for whom a monotonous and prolonged emphasis on remedial work in the basic skills occupies a major part of the time. Where this is at the expense of other parts of the curriculum which may offer them greater chances of success the policy can be self-defeating.


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(4) There should be every effort to involve parents and help them to understand the nature of their children's difficulties. Evidence from the Educational Priority experiment (15) and from schools themselves shows that lack of interest on the part of the parents can be too readily assumed. The more the interest of parents can be aroused, the more they are likely to play a constructive part in helping their children at home. This is a matter we have dealt with at length in Chapter 5 and referred to elsewhere in the Report.

18.13 After stating these general principles we can look more closely at the organisation of additional remedial help in the school. In the primary school patterns of organisation within the classroom can go far to reduce the likelihood of failure. Opportunities for co-operative and individual work allow the varying requirements of children to be fulfilled. But there inevitably comes a time when one teacher, however skilled, cannot alone provide for the wide range of individual needs, including those of children whose difficulties call for additional help if they are not to fall still further behind. In some primary schools, where the ratio of staff to children is particularly favourable, the responsibility for giving help to these children may lie with every teacher. This arrangement certainly avoids the danger of dissociating reading from the rest of the child's learning, but it may deny him the special help he needs unless all the teachers are equally capable of providing it. The most common arrangement is for children in need of additional help to be taken separately by another teacher, sometimes by the head. Our survey revealed that 69 per cent of the teachers taking 'remedial' or withdrawal groups in the primary schools were part-timers. Part-time teachers used for this purpose include peripatetic remedial teachers, highly skilled in the teaching of reading and with additional training to equip them for the task. However, the indications are that there are many part-time teachers who have no recent experience of teaching reading and no in-service training to prepare them. There were 22,762 pupils in the 3,816 groups in our sample, which means an average of six pupils per group, and of the 'remedial' six and nine year olds 75 per cent were in groups of up to ten. In our visits to schools we talked to several class teachers who found this kind of arrangement unsatisfactory. Some would rather the part-time teacher were used to release them to give extra help to the children in need of it. Others believed that the part-timer should work alongside the regular teacher, who knows the child's background and can ensure that special help with reading is not divorced from the rest of his work. These are approaches with which more schools might experiment, bearing in mind the essential condition that the teachers concerned should find it a congenial way of working. This is not to say that one system should simply be substituted for another. In some circumstances there may well be much in favour of the part-time or peripatetic teacher withdrawing individuals or small groups on occasions. What we are suggesting is a flexibility which permits a variety of practice. At present the part-time teacher and the class teacher often work independently, and few schools have a member of staff with special responsibility for coordinating the work and advising.

18.14 This question of the relationship between remedial help and the general curriculum is of the greatest importance. Children who are taught in special groups are sometimes returned to general class work without the level


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of reading competence they need to enable them to make independent progress. Through lack of support they fail to continue the rate of progress they had made in the remedial group. Closer liaison between remedial teachers and class teacher is essential if the progress is to be maintained. There is, however, much more to it than that. We have argued elsewhere in the Report that in the primary school every teacher should consciously plan a reading programme which is designed to cater for the various levels of ability within the class. In our view this should be a school's explicit policy whether or not it decides to give additional special help by a withdrawal system. When a child comes to spend all his time with his class he should have the right kind of reading programme to take him on from that point.

18.15 In secondary schools the problem is more complex. Where there is a specialist organisation, or where grouping by ability is not favoured, it is unrealistic to expect every teacher to find the time or to possess the necessary knowledge and experience to help pupils who are retarded in language and reading. In about two thirds of the schools which replied to our questionnaire children were withdrawn from their regular class group either regularly or occasionally for additional help in reading; in the remaining cases help was given in special classes or 'remedial departments'. The first of these practices has the disadvantage that the remedial reading tuition is separated from the remainder of the pupil's learning. On the other hand it has the virtue of allowing the pupil to take his place with his peers for the greater part of the week. This kind of arrangement seems to us to be particularly suitable for those whose reading is at a lower level than that of their general ability to learn and who are likely to profit from this specific and intensive tuition. With these pupils the separation can work effectively, but we recommend that the tuition should be related to the rest of the pupil's learning where possible. We came across one way of doing this in what the school called a 'support option', where an extraction system was being used in close co-operation with the main teaching. Fourth and fifth year pupils with reading difficulties followed the normal option timetable but took one subject fewer than their peers. In the time thus released they attended small group sessions for 'support'. The teacher responsible for this had the task of helping the pupils prepare for their work in various subjects, looking over chapters of textbooks and helping them with their writing. One pupil who was to take part in a play reading later in the day was being helped with his part by the support teacher. We should like to see more initiatives of this kind, which we believe have considerable promise. It has also been suggested (16) that if retarded readers are able to receive counselling they regain confidence and show an increased capacity to learn. This may consist of nothing more than regular informal conversation with sympathetic adults, not necessarily teachers. We feel that more use could be made of this kind of voluntary help, provided that control remains in the hands of the teachers. The second practice, namely the allocation of pupils to special classes or 'remedial' departments, allows the teaching of reading to be integrated with the special curriculum that has been devised for the group of slow learners, making it possible to give both specific and incidental attention to reading and language development. We do not favour this practice when it results in the pupils being separated for most of the week, but it does seem a practicable arrangement for some pupils for part of it, say between one and two-thirds of the


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time. These classes are frequently called 'remedial' but are better thought of as slow learners' groups. There should be close co-operation between the teachers in charge of them and their colleagues with whom the pupils spend the remainder of the time. Consultation and exchange of information can ensure that the work and methods in all areas of the curriculum are suited to the pupils' particular needs. A third form of provision, though far less common, is for remedial specialists to join the pupils in their normal specialist lessons, such as history and geography. They act as tutors and counsellors in close association with the subject teacher to enable each pupil to keep up with and take a full part in the class work. This is another initiative which we believe should receive every encouragement and which more schools might consider.

18.16 Given the widely differing circumstances of secondary schools, we do not believe it possible to prescribe a particular pattern of organisation as the best, but we are convinced that whatever pattern is adopted it will prove successful only if it is based upon the principles we have already set out. Thus, additional teaching assistance should always be related to a child's interests and as far as possible to the rest of his learning. It should not isolate him unnecessarily from his class or group, nor prevent him from taking part in those aspects of the curriculum which he finds particularly satisfying and enjoyable. Additional teaching resources and other supportive services (such as the school psychological service) should be made available in sufficient strength to enable the great majority of such children to receive help within, or at least in close association with, their normal learning situation.

18.17 In many secondary schools, work with 'slow learners' seems unhappily to rank low in the list of priorities. These children commonly attract less than their fair share of resources, and their educational needs appear to be inadequately recognised. Their real need is a curriculum designed as much to develop their strengths and extend their interests as to remedy their weaknesses. It is not always easy to distinguish the needs of individual children, but failure to differentiate between their educational requirements is the source of much bewilderment, frustration and misdirected effort. It is no part of our brief to consider in any detail the total curricular needs of slow learners, which are at present the subject of detailed investigation elsewhere. Nevertheless, we are convinced that their learning must be based on what seems to them interesting and real, and must provide them with opportunities to achieve 'something in their school lives which they can look on with pride and which they ... know others can look on with respect' (17). Otherwise, there will be little on which to base realistic and effective language work and reading. It is important that general responsibility for these children should lie with a senior member of staff who is able to coordinate all the school's resources on their behalf. Where the school has a remedial department its head should have the status to enable him to carry out this role. Where a different form of organisation exists the teacher responsible should have comparable authority. Whoever exercises this responsibility should work in close consultation with the heads of other departments.

18.18 It will be apparent from what we have said above that we find ourselves


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in agreement with the view expressed by the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee (18) that the great majority of children with reading difficulties should be given the help they need in their own schools. However, as we have remarked, there are some children who experience a difficulty in learning to read that cannot be accounted for by limited ability or by emotional or extraneous factors, i.e. the children often referred to as 'dyslexic'. These pupils are likely to need more intensive treatment than the ordinary school can provide, and this may best be given in a remedial centre or reading clinic, a facility which should be available in every authority. They should be able to offer, or at least should have access to, a comprehensive diagnostic service, calling as necessary upon the skills of doctor and psychologist to complement the skills of an experienced staff of teachers. Ideally, they should not only provide skilled diagnosis, assessment and treatment for the comparatively small number of children with severe difficulties who attend them, but should also offer an advisory service for teachers in the schools. Their staff would be closely involved in the operation and follow-up of the screening procedure and in the provision of courses of the kind mentioned in the last chapter. They could also play a valuable role in evaluating books and other materials for backward readers, in disseminating information, and in making their experience available to teachers generally. In all these activities they would work closely with the adviser with special responsibility for children experiencing learning difficulties, and through him would be supported by the English advisory group advocated in Chapter 16. We regard the support of a specialist adviser as essential, and recommend that every authority should make such an appointment where one does not exist.

18.19 In conclusion we feel it important to single out again for emphasis the fact that the majority of the pupils who leave school with an inadequate command of reading come from areas of social and economic depression. The problem is more than one of teaching reading, and a combined effort by the social services, teachers and administrators is required over the whole period of a child's school life. One thing emerges clearly; the longer reading failure is allowed to persist the more difficult it is to overcome. Preventive measures are likely to be far more productive than remedial ones. It is essential to prevent early failure from becoming a source of emotional disorder for the pupil. Whatever the causes of failure may be, the chances of future improvement are impaired when a pupil becomes nervous, dispirited, over-anxious or alienated. It would be unrealistic to expect that conditions for learning will ever be ideal and there will always be children who for various reasons fall behind. But a very great deal can be done to prevent reading disability by raising the quality of teaching generally and by giving skilled individual help before a sense of failure has led the child to lose confidence. As Sir Cyril Burt once observed: 'Never let the child lose heart - for once he has lost heart he has lost everything'.

REFERENCES

1. This concept appears simple but can be misleading if taken at face value. It has rightly been pointed out that 18 months' backwardness at the age of eight is more serious than 18 months' backwardness at fourteen. There has also been criticism of the practice of assessing achievement by comparing children with others of the same age. For example, 'Comparing a child's


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attainment with that of his contemporaries implies that potentially every pupil can reach a level of educational achievement commensurate with his chronological age. But this is not the case. Since about ten per cent of children are intellectually dull, they cannot by definition achieve the same standard as the majority of their contemporaries'. (ML Kellmer Pringle The backward child: dull or retarded Times Educational Supplement: 12 October 1956).

2. See References to Chapter 2 for discussion of the notion of reading age.

3. Literacy Survey Inner London Education Authority: 1968.

4. M Rutter, J Tizard, K Whitmore Education, Health, and Behaviour Longman: 1970.

5. M Rutter and W Yule Specific Reading Retardation in The Review of Special Education ed. L Mann and D Sabatino. Buttonwood Farms Inc: 1973.

6. ADB Clarke and AM Clarke Consistency and Variability in the Growth of Human Characteristics in Advances in Educational Psychology ed. WD Wall and VP Varma. ULP: 1972.

7. DH Scott, NC Marston, SJ Bouchard Behaviour Disturbance in Children University of Guelph: 1970.

8. WD Wall The Problem Child in School in London Educational Review Vol. 2, No. 2.

9. Children and their Primary Schools Vol. 2 Research and Surveys. HMSO: 1967.

10. JWB Douglas The Home and the School MacGibbon and Kee: 1964.

11. Half Our Future Report of the Central Advisory Council. HMSO: 1963.

12. LB Birch The Remedial Treatment of Reading Disability Educational Review: 1948.

13. JE Collins The Effects of Remedial Education Oliver and Boyd: 1961.

14. A Cashdan and PD Pumfrey Some Effects of the Remedial Teaching of Reading Educational Research; 11, 2: 1969.
A Cashdan, PD Pumfrey, and EA Lunzer Children Receiving Remedial Teaching in Reading Educational Research; 13, 2: 1971.

15. E Midwinter Setting up the Triangle Times Educational Supplement: 27 June 1973.

16. D Lawrence Counselling of Retarded Readers by Non-Professionals Educational Research, 15: 1972.

17. Enquiry No. 1 Schools Council. HMSO: 1968.

18. Children with Specific Reading Difficulties HMSO: 1972.


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CHAPTER 19

Adult Literacy

'The result was that she could not read ... She lived in fear that the truth might emerge, and conducted all transactions with wariness and distance ... She carried her head above her tragedy, and her secret was her own.'

Ivy Compton-Burnett: 'Manservant and Maidservant'.

19.1 It is a disturbing fact that if a young person leaves school unable to read effectively he is quite likely to receive no further help for the rest of his life. For most adolescents the statutory leaving age marks the point at which in practice their literacy ceases to be a public responsibility and becomes purely their own. In the nature of things they are not well equipped to take on this responsibility, and even if they were they could not always count on finding adequate support. In the first year or so of their working life many young people may not find their lack of reading and writing ability a serious handicap. They are often in jobs which make no demands upon it, and in their private life they contrive to manage without it. But that does not mean it is matter of no concern to them. They often feel a sense of inadequacy, which reveals itself in pretended indifference or in attitudes of hostility. They adjust to their deficiency by a narrowing of their world to exclude print, but before long they find that this kind of rejection will not keep the problem at a distance. The need to be able to read and write intrudes increasingly upon their lives. Even if their job remains undemanding they may feel more and more exposed in their personal lives. Modern society assumes an ability to handle print, and the adult who does not possess it can feel vulnerable and alienated. Some young people never overcome their feelings of hostility, but many who would be glad to receive help have no idea where to go, or lack the confidence to take the first step.

19.2 There are three main tasks to be faced. The first is to remove the apathy, guilt, or hostility and convince the adolescent and adult that he need not resign himself to failure. The second is to make known to him where the right support can be found. These both imply the need for a counselling situation, since the contacts have to be more personal than can usually be afforded in normal enrolment for adult education. The third task is to provide this support on a much more comprehensive scale than is at present available.

19.3 It has to be acknowledged that when an adolescent leaves school with a long experience of failure the urge to put it permanently behind him can be very powerful. He is likely to have withdrawn in spirit while he is still there, but the act of leaving has a special significance. It marks the end of a way of life which, whatever its other compensations, has become associated with low self-esteem. This is a time, then, when he is least likely to want to return to a teaching situation, especially if the feeling of freedom is still relatively uncomplicated by serious embarrassments. For some this is the beginning of a long alienation from the idea of verbal learning, with a steadily diminishing prospect of ever returning to it. They will be conscious of the stigma, but will adjust to their deficiency through a life-style that entails as little exposure to it as possible. Others will be made aware of it more quickly, more painfully,


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and more often. Some of them will want to make good their loss, and succeed where they once repeatedly failed.

19.4 In a survey conducted by the National Association for Remedial Education (NARE) (1) an attempt was made to find the specific causes impelling people to seek help. Most of the men gave reasons associated with their jobs. They found that their deficiency robbed them of promotion prospects or exposed them to constant embarrassment where any kind of documentation was involved. One voluntary scheme told us that men applying for tuition gave such reasons as 'I've turned down promotion to foreman because I can't cope with the reports', 'When I go for a job and they give me a form I just walk out', 'The wife has to do my time-sheet'. The NARE survey showed women to be chiefly concerned with 'self-improvement', and they made frequent reference to the prospects of finding and keeping a boyfriend. Married members of both sexes are sometimes distressed at the difficulties to be faced when their children come to start school. The kind of remark they make is eloquent of their disturbance of mind: 'The kids keep asking questions, and I can't read to them', 'My child must never know'.

19.5 Evidence such as this, and the experience of the voluntary schemes, suggests that there are strong motives driving non-reading adults to remedy their disability. What is not known is the proportion who do anything about it. Recent research (2) conducted at Reading University showed that since 1950 adult literacy programmes in England have provided at least 30,700 adults with instruction for a period of 6 months or one school term. The figure for 1972 alone was at least 5,170. This is almost a sixth of the total, and it indicates that there has been a considerable increase in the number enrolling for instruction. The growth of opportunities has been particularly rapid since 1967, and indeed 38 programmes began during 1973 alone. These are encouraging developments, but there are no exact figures to reveal what proportion of the total need is being met. It is impossible to say with complete accuracy how many adult illiterates and semi-literates there are, but we have examined some of the indications in paragraphs 2.2 and 2.4. One thing is certain: the 5,170 or so receiving instruction in 1972 were only a fraction of those who stand in need of help at one level or another. The Russell Report (3) acknowledged the importance of improved provision in its comment that adult education included a concern for basic literacy. 'First there is the improvement of general education from the point where initial schooling ceased. For some this may go back to basic education of an elementary kind, including functional literacy and numeracy'. Another expression of the growing concern is the interest aroused by the initiative of the British Association of Settlements (4), which has rightly pressed for adult illiteracy to be made an immediate objective for action.

19.6 As a source of help the school often finds itself in an anomalous position. At the point of leaving, these young people are not always likely to heed advice on how to keep up the process of learning, which to them means failing. Nevertheless there is evidence that some schools do successfully guide their pupils to post-school opportunities, and more could be done in this respect. The evidence of our own visits to schools suggests that large numbers of pupils with very low reading ability leave without any kind of guidance. While realising the difficulties we think this an unfortunate


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omission. If a young person reaches the end of his statutory school life unable to read the education system has failed him in one vital respect, and that should not be the end of the matter. Every step should be taken to provide continuity, and with its knowledge of the pupil's learning difficulties the school has the first responsibility.

19.7 The indications are that most of those receiving instruction are persuaded to it by relatives and friends, who are often guided by Adult Education publicity material. Press, radio, and television play a substantial part by drawing attention periodically to the problems and the available solutions, and it would be valuable if references could be worked into popular programmes with large audiences. Local radio and the Public Library Service could be useful sources of immediate guidance, and specific publicity could be regularly featured in local newspapers. The local authority should inform employers and the various social agencies of opportunities. The latter are particularly well placed to give advice, since their role and contacts put them in a good position to recognise adults with reading and writing difficulties. They include the Social Service Departments, Youth Service Departments, probation officers, and officers of the LEA Careers Service and of the Employment Service. All have an important part to play in helping the adult illiterate. To fulfil this properly they need to be able to guide him to an efficient referral point, where counselling is available and where he can be introduced to the kind of tuition best designed to suit his needs. All this suggests carefully organised coordination on a scale not at present available.

19.8 We have remarked on the expansion of facilities for adult literacy instruction. The questions to be asked are: are there enough of them, and are they effective? The answer to the first can only be that provision nationally still falls far short of what it should be. There must be many young people, particularly in small towns and rural areas, who are without ready access to facilities. The majority of local education authorities offer, or are prepared to offer on demand, some form of instruction to adult illiterates. Most of the provision is in classes in evening institutions and adult education centres or in colleges of further education. Occasionally they are based on schools, and a few authorities offer individual help on a one to one basis. There is a relatively small number of voluntary schemes, of which the Cambridge House Literacy Scheme in Camberwell was the influential pioneer. They have established the value of a one to one approach with adults and are exercising increasing influence over general thinking about ways of dealing with adult illiteracy. In February 1973 prisons and borstals accounted for 116 programmes between them, and the Army School of Preliminary Education provides a very thorough course for entrants in need. Of the programmes described in the Reading University research report 40 per cent averaged two hours' instruction per week, and 36 per cent between three and six hours'. As might be expected, certain of the prisons and borstals were able to exceed this amount. One possibility which has not yet been sufficiently explored is that of using the work situation as a place where literacy improvement could be achieved. Part-time day education is a device which could be particularly effective with young employees. Certainly there is scope for greater involvement on the part of employers, unions and the industrial training agencies.


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19.9 We are not able to comment on the quality and effectiveness of the courses, which lie outside our terms of reference. However, we are in no doubt that very great credit is due to the organisers of many of these programmes, official and voluntary, and to the teachers involved in them. Of course, facilities and circumstances vary enormously from one situation to another. Many pupils are taught in groups of up to fifteen, though a considerable number of programmes keep the size to a maximum of five. A minority manage to achieve individual tuition, and this is usually the aim of private schemes. In the USA adult literacy programmes operating on the group principle have been found to achieve disappointing results. The Committee on Reading of the National Academy of Education reported that pupils make very slow progress and frequently drop out before the goals have been reached. The failure of the courses has been attributed to a shortage of well-trained instructors, ineffective teaching techniques, inappropriate teaching materials, and difficulty in 'protecting the privacy and dignity of the learner'. One cannot infer from this that similar problems in this country would necessarily produce the same incidence of failure. But these difficulties also exist in the English situation, and it would be surprising if they did not substantially reduce the likelihood of success, particularly where they occur in combination. Some experienced witnesses were severely critical of the pattern of much group instruction. They identified the shortcomings as absence of proper training for instructors, lack of cohesion in the teaching groups, and a high rate of student turnover. The instructors, they said, were often drawn from local primary schools and had no experience of working with adults. Adolescents and adults, differing widely in age, appearance and intelligence, and each with his own individual problem, were all in the same room with the same tutor. Class registers at the end of any session showed that a large number of students attended irregularly and dropped out before the end of the course. This picture is not necessarily representative, but one or more of these shortcomings must be true of many adult literacy courses.

19.10 The 'basic' class is faced with three built-in difficulties. The problems of the non-reader are deeply personal, and for a variety of obvious reasons the group experience is often quite unsuitable for him, at least in the early stages. His teacher, however competent, is accustomed to a different learning context, and cannot without further training be expected to be expert in the special needs of the adult or post-school adolescent. Finally, the class is likely to be held in a school building, the ambience and associations of which are scarcely right for a fresh start. Despite these limiting conditions a great deal of devoted work is done, but it is reasonable to ask whether it is fair to teacher or taught that they should continue to be restricted by them.

19.11 We believe that individuals taking the first step towards renewing their contact with education should be able to expect privacy. Enough has been said of the vulnerability felt by many of them to make it obvious that the first impression may determine the success or failure of their whole venture. Individual tuition will result not only in a better adjustment to the learning process but in a positive attitude to the task. The right kind of personal relationship will give the student the support he needs to persevere. Research (5) has indicated that with schoolchildren a sympathetic individual relationship can in itself result in improved performance, even where no


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actual tuition is involved. It cannot be emphasised too strongly and too often that what the failing reader most needs, whatever his age, is the encouragement which will change his image of himself. With adults this has a much better chance of occurring in a one to one situation than in a group, where there may be other students who come with higher standards or make faster progress. It is, of course, simpler to recommend individual tuition than to create the number of tutors needed to make it available. The various voluntary schemes are making an excellent contribution, but they are still few in number and are to be found only in certain centres of population. Some authorities have already given a good lead by making grants to them, and some provide individual tuition themselves. We believe that more should do both and that they should help organisations into existence where local people show an interest in forming one. These schemes are an example of the community service at its best, and whenever a new one is founded it attracts a large number of offers from people who are willing to act as tutors. While it is encouraging that such schemes are supported by voluntary financial contributions, we do not believe that this source alone is sufficient to provide a sound foundation. Too often the organisations are forced to expend excessive amounts of time and energy in fund raising. Moreover, it is vitally important that once tuition has been started there should be no possibility of its being discontinued for lack of financial support. We therefore believe that local authorities should provide generous grants to these schemes and should help them maintain and extend their activities.

19.12 Local authority provision and voluntary private schemes hold the key between them. In their cooperation lies the opportunity for help on a new scale, with an extension of individual support and better counselling services. The major contribution will continue to rest with the local authority, and the new authorities will have the opportunity to take stock and assess what can be done to improve provision. We have already talked of the need to coordinate information services. The authority must reach out to more people, telling them what kind of help is available. An expansion in publicity would inevitably result in the need for more staff. The work of one of the private schemes received a good deal of attention in the Press, on radio, on television and in a large circulation women's magazine. There was an immediate and large increase in the number of self-referrals, and this response has been maintained ever since. One brief item on adult illiteracy in a BBC regional programme resulted in 300 enquiries in a single local authority. A local authority stepping up its 'open' publicity and at the same time making the various social agencies more aware would need to prepare for the resulting pressure on its facilities. Any further enterprise by the broadcasting organisations to provide televised courses, such as the series recently introduced by the BBC, would be almost certain to create a follow-up demand with similar effect. There would already be need for a considerable expansion of resources if a policy were adopted for a degree of individual tuition. We accept that an authority could not provide a private tutor for every student. Nevertheless, flexibility of staffing would allow private tuition where it was most needed or as an introduction for all students. There should be links between trained volunteers and trained teachers, and a mixture of one to one tuition and group work. In short, there should be a range of individual and group provision at different levels to meet different needs. Ideally, the personal


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relationship once formed should be maintained, and whatever grouping arrangements might later supervene the student should have the continuing support of this contact with his tutor-counsellor. Some authorities might have difficulty in providing accommodation other than in schools, but as far as possible it should be in surroundings which do not carry the disadvantage of earlier associations (6). The voluntary schemes work on the home learning principle, and go to some lengths to match tutor and student. This seems to us an excellent principle, since it presupposes a careful study of each entrant's individual needs. A reading age is simply not enough, for the student's condition involves far more than a given level of mechanical ability, and the approach and methods should be matched to his previous experience and present needs.

19.13 Some of the volunteer tutors in the private schemes are trained teachers, but the majority are from other and various walks of life, in the main unconnected with education. Most receive some training for the work, but the organisers say there is often a problem in finding experienced people to teach the tutors and to give them follow-up advisory support. There is no doubt that the ability to make the right relationship is the most important quality a tutor can possess. Nevertheless, he will operate more effectively and his own confidence will be the greater if he receives a good grounding in the skills of teaching reading. Not all trained teachers will have had the advantage of this, and even where they have they will need some help in adjusting their approaches to the situation of the adult or post-school adolescent. The local authority should make provision in its in-service training programme for all who are acting as tutors in adult literacy work.

19.14 Members of immigrant groups, usually men and boys, add considerably to the numbers of those requiring help with literacy. Many of them are non-native speakers of English who have acquired a fluency in speech - often at work - but have never learnt to read or write the language. Some of these may be illiterate even in their mother tongue and need help at the most fundamental level. Others come to literacy classes when they should properly be attending language classes, for they have very little knowledge indeed of spoken English. Then there is the adult of Caribbean origin, who may speak a form of English heavily influenced by the grammar and lexis of his own dialect. With the probable exception of the first group to be mentioned it is hard to see how the varying needs of these different kinds of illiterates can be met within a class of native speakers. They require tutors who have an understanding of the language difficulties of members of the different immigrant groups. These tutors should maintain close contact with those responsible for other types of language instruction at adult education level. Several voluntary schemes exist which deal exclusively with home tutoring for immigrant families; these are supported in some cases by the LEA and in others by such organisations as the local Community Relations Council. We urge that this support should be strengthened.

19.15 One of the most pressing needs of people involved in adult literacy work, under whatever auspices, is more suitable teaching materials. Many would like to make greater use of audio-visual aids, and all would welcome a wider range of reading material appropriate to the interests and needs of adult students. These do not exist in anything like the quantity that is necessary,


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but an expansion in provision is likely to lead to a correspondingly greater interest on the part of publishers. There is also a need for conferences for tutors at regional level. The Advisory Councils for Further Education could play a significant part in the development of such work. The effectiveness of the various forms of provision and of methods and materials should be evaluated, and the results widely disseminated. There is at present a lack of adequate centrally collected information on adult illiteracy. Our own information was gathered from a variety of sources, both individual and institutional, and we believe that provision should be made nationally to develop and evaluate materials and resources, give advice, and organise seminars and conferences. We recommend that the Secretary of State should consider ways in which these functions might be carried out most effectively.

19.16 Adult illiterates are not necessarily the best placed to say what caused them to fail at school. Understandably, they sometimes rationalise or seek reasons which put them in the best light. On the other hand they may denigrate themselves to avoid criticism. Nevertheless, the reasons they do present are instructive and they tend to follow a common pattern. Principal among them are illness during childhood, problems of hearing and sight not diagnosed early enough, frequent absence from school including truancy, repeated change of school, family disharmony or break-up, and poor teaching. Many of them reveal a long history of poor motivation, and from their stories it is clear that neither their parents nor their teachers were able to get over to them the value and rewards of learning to read: 'I didn't do anything at school. I just sat'. 'We did the same useless things, year after year'. A surprising number do not know whether their brothers and sisters are literate, and many maintain that their parents are not aware they have left school unable to read properly. In their homes the subject is simply never discussed. Those who have recently left school are often critical of the 'remedial' teaching they received, saying that it was skimped and that the teacher was not trained for the work. Whatever the bias of the respondents these causes are all real enough. In the long term the solution to the problem of adult illiteracy lies in preventive measures, and these paragraphs should therefore be read in company with what we have said about children with reading and language difficulties. But we again emphasise that the young person who leaves school with these difficulties unresolved should not be left to his own devices. The day of his leaving school should not be a dividing line beyond which further help is a matter of chance.

REFERENCES AND NOTES

1. Adult Illiteracy National Association for Remedial Education: 1972.

2. Survey of Provision for Adult Illiteracy in England RM Haviland: Centre for the Teaching of Reading, Reading University School of Education: 1973.

3. Adult Education: A Plan for Development HMSO: 1973.

4. See, for example, A Right to Read: Action for a Literate Britain British Association of Settlements: 1974.

5. D Lawrence The Effects of Counselling on Retarded Readers Educational Research, Vol. 13, No. 2: 1971.

6. In the USA the Right to Read Effort has recommended that public libraries should accommodate adult literacy work, and that where these are not available community centres, community schools, churches and office buildings should be used.


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CHAPTER 20

Children from Families of Overseas Origin

20.1 Since the mid-1950s schools in most large cities in England have received children whose parents are of overseas origin. The majority of these are children from the West Indies, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, whose parents have come to seek work in Britain. Others are children of Italian, Spanish and Cypriot workers. In addition there is a scatter of Chinese children whose parents are engaged in the catering industry. There are considerable numbers of Asians from East Africa, including the refugees expelled from Uganda in the last two years. Some of the families have now been settled in Britain a decade or more, and their youngest members have been born in this country. The great majority of the children, born here or brought from overseas, have a big adjustment to make when entering school. For most of them this adjustment includes a linguistic factor, either that of learning English as a new language, or of learning Standard English as a new dialect. The children's linguistic adjustment relates in many ways to their educational progress, and it is to this issue that we turn in this chapter.

20.2 It is, of course, helpful to have some idea of the number of children of families of overseas origin at school in Britain, though there is considerable difficulty in arriving at useful statistics. In 1973, by the DES definition (1) then existing, there were 284,754 'immigrant children' in maintained primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, comprising 3.3 per cent of the total school population. More significantly, since immigrant populations are concentrated largely upon Greater London and industrial cities in the Midlands and North, individual local education authorities can have as high a proportion of immigrant children on roll as 27 per cent. Raw statistics such as these help to show why such a large measure of attention has to be paid in some areas, much more than in others, to the educational needs of the children labelled 'immigrant'. Obviously what is needed is as sharp a measure as possible of these special educational needs. An immigrant child does not present problems to a school simply because he is an immigrant child. Centrally collected figures cannot, for instance, indicate exactly the numbers of children with linguistic needs nor give any measure of these needs. The only people who can do this satisfactorily are the people on the spot, the teachers in the schools and the local education authorities. A few authorities have already had considerable practice in making such assessments. Bradford is notable in having carried out for several years an annual survey of immigrant children in its schools, distinguishing between their different ethnic origins, identifying their levels of proficiency in English, and making flexible educational arrangements accordingly. We recommend that all authorities with immigrant children should make similar surveys regularly, in order to achieve a greater refinement in their educational arrangements. Now that the NFER's English language tests (2) are available, it should be possible to give an accurate assessment of proficiency in understanding, speaking, reading and writing English on the part of children for whom it is not their native language. It is clear from the available reports that comparatively little provision is made in some areas, that the education of children of overseas parentage is given a low priority, and that many of the


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existing arrangements do little more than meet the initial language and adjustment needs of new arrivals. It is, of course, at that point that the need for intervention is most sharply felt in the schools, but the adjustment of immigrant children to their new environment and to learning elementary English is only the beginning of what for most is a long process. It is a process that consists primarily of learning to live in or between two cultures, and of learning to handle two languages or dialects.

20.3 The term 'immigrant' is sometimes used in a very general sense, often to mean anyone of overseas parentage, or with a black skin. It is not uncommon to meet teachers and members of the public to whom all Asian immigrants are the same, irrespective of their country of origin, and for whom there is no difference between India and the West Indies. It goes without saying that teachers and others should have an informed and sympathetic understanding of the children's different origins, the cultures of their homes, and the very real link between some of their countries and Britain. No one should accept a stereotype of 'the immigrant child', but should acknowledge the very great differences there are between children who fall into this general category. There are differences not only of language and culture, but in the manner in which families succeed or fail in settling here, and in providing a secure home for the children. Many immigrant children come from stable supportive families in which the relative affluence of the parents is evident; others face grave problems of insecurity and hardship, and in many respects resemble some of the indigenous families in the same inner city area.

20.4 In urging a greater measure of attention to the education of immigrant children, we want to emphasise the long-term nature of the issues involved. The inflow of newcomers and their families has slowed down considerably in the 1970s, but the needs of the children who are already here are continuing ones. They cannot be dealt with briefly and then forgotten. Although there has been little sustained research describing the comparative performance of children of minority groups at school in Britain, there is enough to show a disturbingly low pattern of attainment. The Community Relations Commission underlined this in its evidence to the Committee, and in its report to the Home Secretary, (3) as did ILEA in the details provided of the 1968 Literacy Survey in its schools. This survey included a census of the reading attainment of eight year old children in ILEA primary schools, and it is worth remarking that in 1972 23.3 per cent of the immigrant children in school in England and Wales were concentrated in ILEA. The evidence as we received it made no distinction between children of West Indian and Asian origin, and it is clear that there are special reasons for the failings of both groups. The figures are disturbing in showing the markedly lower reading standards of immigrants. A high proportion come into the category of poor readers: 28.5 per cent as compared with 14.8 per cent of non-immigrants. Conversely there is a low proportion in the category of good readers: 3.5 per cent as compared with 11.4 per cent non-immigrants. An unpublished analysis of all ILEA pupils transferring to secondary schools (quoted in the Community Relations Commission report referred to above) indicates that of immigrant children who have received their full education in this country, those of Asian origin are in fact performing at a level comparable with the indigenous population. Pupils of West Indian origin, on the


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other hand, are performing well below average. The EPA study in Birmingham was another source of disturbing results, and a good deal of publicity has been given to the high proportion of West Indian children in ESN schools in London. This is partly attributable to their poor performance in primary schools, particularly in the skills of reading and writing. Further evidence, relating to the nation at large, comes from the NFER studies, which show the generally low placement of West Indian pupils in streamed schools (lower than that of Indian and Pakistani pupils), and a low transfer rate to selective schools: 4 per cent for West Indians, 9 per cent for Indians, 9 per cent for Pakistanis, 25 per cent for non-immigrants. In common with the Asians the majority of West Indian pupils staying on for fifth and sixth form courses tend to take either low-level examinations or no examinations at all; only a small proportion of West Indian pupils take A Levels, a disturbing fact again in view of the long-term needs of the community.

20.5 Immigrant children's attainment in tests and at school in general is related not only to language but to several other issues, particularly those of cultural identity and cultural knowledge. No child should be expected to cast off the language and culture of the home as he crosses the school threshold, nor to live and act as though school and home represent two totally separate and different cultures which have to be kept firmly apart. The curriculum should reflect many elements of that part of his life which a child lives outside school. Some schools and authorities are already dealing wisely and boldly with these matters, and there are interesting examples in the recent Schools Council Working Paper, Multiracial education: need and innovation. (4) But many more schools in multiracial areas turn a blind eye to the fact that the community they serve has radically altered over the last ten years and is now one in which new cultures are represented. We see implications here for the education of all children, not just those of families of overseas origin. One aspect of the question which we believe merits urgent attention is the nature of the reading material that is used in schools. In their verbal representation of society, and in their visual content, books do a great deal to shape children's attitudes. We would urge that teachers and librarians should have this in mind when selecting books for schools. If the school serves a multiracial society, does it have books about the homelands of its immigrant families, about their religions and cultures and their experiences in this country? The Library Association catalogue (5) of books for the multiracial classroom makes some useful suggestions of titles. Even more important, has the school removed from its shelves books which have a strong ethnocentric bias and contain outdated or insulting views of people of other cultures? These questions are relevant across the entire age range. The reading material used in infant schools should be truthful and unsentimental in its visual and verbal content. Equally, the social studies texts in the secondary school should place in fair perspective the events and movements in history which have affected the peoples from whom the immigrant families spring. A survey (6) of children's books revealed much inaccurate, thoughtless and downright offensive writing about people from other countries. We strongly recommend the report of this survey, published by The Institute of Race Relations, to all who have responsibility for book selection in multiracial schools. Similar surveys could be carried out by groups of teachers, who would be providing a useful practical service while developing their own


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sensitivity to the issues involved. These and related questions should also enter the initial training of teachers, for whether or not they go to teach in schools with immigrant children it is right that they should have this kind of awareness. This is an appropriate point to record our conclusion that there are not enough books available which represent children of overseas backgrounds in the ways we have been describing. We address this observation to publishers, whose contribution in this whole area is potentially very considerable.

20.6 In discussing the language needs of immigrant children it is important to distinguish between two broad groups. The first consists of families from the Caribbean, whose mother tongue is English - even if in several respects it differs from the kind of English spoken in England. The second group is made up of those whose mother tongue is a totally different language and who speak little or no English on arrival. We will consider these in turn. The 1972 DES statistics revealed that there were 101,898 children of West Indian origin (including Guyana) in the schools. Other evidence suggests that about half of these were from Jamaica, the remainder from the smaller islands in the group. For most of them the language of childhood and of the home is an English-based Creole, a variety or dialect of English. Jamaican Creole has been extensively studied and described over the last 20 years. It is recognised by linguists as being a well-developed language, with a sound system, grammar and vocabulary of its own, and capable - like other varieties of English - of being used expressively and richly. However, the West Indian situation is very complex, since in most schools in the islands a standard form of English, very close to Standard English in England, is the medium for formal education and is the language the children are expected to read and write. There are already, then, linguistic difficulties for pupils and teachers alike in the schools of Jamaica and other Caribbean islands; and there are difficulties, if of a rather different order, for the West Indian children at school in Britain. For most of them the language of infancy and of the home will almost certainly be a form of dialect, though some members of the family will be able to switch to a more standard dialect for certain purposes. Th