Jane Dowson and Jo Westbrook
This chapter follows on from Chapter 2, 'Battles for English', by an examination of the historical, cultural and political moves from English in the National Curriculum (DFE, 1995) to the present The National Curriculum for England (DfEE/QCA, 1999), and the implications for English teaching to how it works in practice, and in tandem with the National Literacy Strategy.
The 1995 (Dearing) National Curriculum was literally a 'slimmed-down' version of the earlier model but without the helpful non-statutory guidance, and it did not eliminate testing by examination or tiered papers. It is useful to gain an overview of what the 1995 National Curriculum contained, to understand the rationale, structure and content of the present 'Curriculum 2000'. Each Attainment Target of the 1995 Orders covered range, key skills, and standard English and language study with the content described in short prose paragraphs. Speaking and listening focused on formal contexts and skills for oracy, including the subtler skills of recognising ambiguity and differences in tone. Drama had its own subsection but the skills focused on communication and language rather than on the techniques and conventions specific to drama teaching. The requirement for standard English in informal and formal situations, together with the hotch-potch of language development, 'word coinage' and grammar which comprised language study content narrowed down the promising start for En1 Speaking and listening. En2 Reading emphasised the English literary heritage and 'works of high quality by contemporary writers' (DfE, 1995, p. 20) with prescribed reading lists of 'major authors'. Pupils' reading had to include two Shakespeare plays, drama by major playwrights, two works of fiction and poems by four major poets before and after 1900. It did include two lines on texts from 'other cultures and traditions', and small subsections on non-fiction and media texts, the latter of which should also 'be of high quality'. This noun phrase comes up no less than seven times in the reading section, most directly in the key skills where pupils are to be given