The Common English Forum
The English Association
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH
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Response to the consultation on the reform of Key Stage 4 subject content and assessment objectives in English Language and English Literature

As well as the responses of the individual bodies who make up the Common English Forum, the Forum also responded as a body to the consultation

(i)                 We are particularly concerned at the exclusion of a literary element from the English Language programme. We feel very strongly that there should be a literary component in the core English subject. As it is likely that not all students will take English Literature, we believe that the absence of a literary component in English Language would constitute a significant educational deprivation and thus severely limit the opportunity for students to study English at higher levels in both school and university.
(ii)               We are also concerned about the absence of opportunity for the study of digital texts, particularly in view of the redefined scope of the ICT (now Computing ) programme of study with its emphasis on the cross-curricular importance of ‘digital literacy’.
(iii)             We are concerned about the marginalisation of Speaking and Listening and its being separately reported rather than contributing to a candidate’s final grade in the subject.
(iv)              We find that there is an artificial distinction between ‘reading comprehension’ and ‘reading critically’.
(i)                 We believe that the Arnoldian and Leavisite terms in which Literature is defined are not appropriate to the 21st century, nor are they in line with the way in which the subject is viewed in the universities
(ii)               The canon of texts for study seems Anglocentric. We would hope that Welsh, Irish, Scottish, American or Caribbean literature would be included. We would find such an omission incongruous in view of the inclusion of ‘Seminal World Literature’ at Key Stage 3.
(iii)             We see no reason why 20th century fiction and drama should be available only as alternatives to each other.
(iv)              We are concerned in general about the prescriptiveness of the English Literature programme, and see no reason, for example, why the Romantic poets should be compulsorily studied. This inclusion seems somewhat arbitrary, in view of the wide range of poetry of all periods which is available.
(v)                 It is inappropriate that, in an English Literature programme, there should be a 30%
 weighting for writing and feel there is a vagueness about what the relevant Assessment Objectives would actually be assessing.
The proposed examination of both programmes by exclusively linear means will prove highly unsatisfactory in practice. In English Language the absence of internal assessment means that certain important skills and areas of knowledge cannot be assessed at all. In English Literature we think that the final assessment is likely to be reductive and unreliable and that it will fail to provide opportunities for extended writing and for wider reading. It is also worth noting that the IGSE continues to permit an element of teacher-assessment.

Response to the consultation on National Curriculum Reform

As well as the responses of the individual bodies who make up the Common English Forum, the Forum also responded as a body to the consultation

APRIL 2013

The following comments are the result of recent and ongoing discussions within THE COMMON ENGLISH FORUM, a body which represents all the subject associations which have a professional interest and expertise in the teaching of English at all levels within the educational system. (The associations represented are: The English Association, The National Association for the Teaching of English, The English and Media Centre, The United Kingdom Literacy Association, The Institute of English Studies, The Council for College and University English, The Higher Education Academy, The Association of Advisers in English).

There are many points in the consultation document which we welcome. In particular: the encouragement to individual teachers to shape their own curriculum within the guidelines suggested; the centrality of reading, writing, and speaking; the encouragement of a love of reading, wide reading, and reading for pleasure on the part of students, and the emphasis on looking at whole texts; the acknowledgement of the importance of the analytical study of language. However, we do share a number of concerns about particular issues, which we feel the consultation document fails to address appropriately. These are as follows:

  • Spoken English is too narrowly defined, and there is too great an emphasis on formal presentations and insufficient acknowledgement of the importance of speaking as a means of exploring ideas and supporting learning. We are also concerned about the absence of reference to listening: speaking and listening are coordinated activities and we would not wish to see their importance within the subject diminished. We think that the term ‘standard’ English is in need of definition and refinement if it is to be used in any future documentation.
  • We are also concerned about what seems to be the marginalisation of drama within the subject. Drama is more than merely a matter of role play or reading aloud and is an important medium through which students can explore and understand literary texts, both play-texts and others.
  • We think that the subject of English is often too narrowly defined and based on a model which does not reflect the world of the early twenty-first century. In particular we are extremely concerned at the absence of any reference to digital, media, multi-modal texts, or film. The emphasis on the importance of letter-writing, for example, seems not to take into account the changing and developing modes of written communication.
  • Similarly, whilst we are happy that students should have acquaintance with ‘our rich and varied literary heritage’, we are concerned at the absence of any reference to other cultures and their traditions, and the consequent marginalisation of multicultural or multilingual texts.
  • We think that is important that the teaching of grammar should take place in an appropriate context, which is to say that it should be integrated with the programmes of study in reading and writing, and not be taught simply as sets of rules which have little bearing on the way in which language is actually used. We would point out that the DfE’s own published research supports our preferred model of grammar teaching. We feel that the same approach should be adopted to the teaching of spelling.
  • The current proposals have considerable implications for teacher training. If the new curriculum is to be successfully delivered, it requires a committed and well-informed teaching force. We would urge that before the new Curriculum is implemented, the CPD requirements of those who will be teaching it will be acknowledged and supported.



Meetings and Events

Common English Forum and meeting with Department for Education

The next meeting of the Forum will be on 25 July 2013 at 1.30 at the Department for Education's offices in London.
5 July 2013
The most recent meeting of the Forum was on 6 March 2013 and was held at the Department for Education's offices in London.

6 March 2013