Wrong Prescription for Teaching English | Letters

Thanks for the heartwarming article by Michael Morpurgo (“My spelling isn’t so good”, May 18). When I started teaching English in 1971, we had no restrictions on how to do it, so it was fun, creative and challenging. The rot began to set in with Kenneth Baker’s National Normative Curriculum in 1989, prompting me to quit teaching English in the classroom. I pity those left behind, forced to follow Michael Gove’s worst impositions on our young learners. Morpurgo’s analysis reminds me of a criticism of this approach to testing: “You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it.”
Alasdair Donaldson
Maidenhead, Berkshire

Michael Morpurgo is perfect. Our nine-year-old granddaughter is expected to know grammatical terms that I never encountered in high school in the 1960s. If the Conservatives have an education policy, it is to replace it in the public schools by simple instruction. Another example: in primary school in the 1950s, there was division; for our kids in the 70s and 80s, it was sharing, which made so much more sense; now, for our grandchildren, it’s back to division. What does this say about our society?
Joy Webb
Penistone, South Yorkshire

Passing grades (Rebranding maths as numeracy? It does’t add up, May 19), by advocating for better numeracy, perpetuate a common confusion between math and arithmetic. The latter relates to addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. – all essential for numeracy. Mathematics is about the abstract science of numbers and requires some effort to master. As someone who did well in math but failed in O-level arithmetic, I can attest that the latter is not necessary to excel in the former. It’s not unlike good writers who can’t spell.
Ian Watson
Glasgow

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