A good friend teaches new teachers in England. She was herself a distinuguished, imaginative teacher for many years. In response to a post on Facebook that I made about the impenetrable language of the new and ever-more restrictive framework for the assessment of children in primary schools, she posted some deeply depressing comments about the state of schooling now. It is a state which Rosemary Sutcliff, a story-teller par excellence, would deplore. Unable to understand some of the expected standards, I had asked if I should return to primary school. She posted:
Under no circumstance return to primary school, unless it is to tell stories, read stories, share songs and poems, listen to what children have to say, share books and the pleasure of reading, write together and enjoy each other’s writing. Slowly, slowly, without respite, successive governments are stealing childhood, ignoring any sensible understanding of language or of culture or, indeed, of what it might be to be human. I feel overwhelmed by the great crimes that are being committed against children.
Our students make a close analysis of one child’s language use and learning in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each successive year, the crimes are greater. Fewer children are given space to write and understand what writing might be, even fewer children understand the pleasures of reading though they can decode with fluency.
One thing that we are doing here is to run teachers’ writing groups and here change and growth and great pleasure can occur.