The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0340  Monday, 24 April 2006

From: 		Al Magary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Saturday, 22 Apr 2006 23:40:30 -0700
Subject: 	High Scores without Shakespeare

Brush up your Shakespeare: for a pass you need to know ... nothing

Julie Henry and Chris Hastings

The Telegraph, April 23, 2006

His work, he once said, would live "so long as men can breathe, or eyes 
can see" - but 14-year-olds sitting the national English test next month 
can now score zero on the Shakespeare section and still achieve a pass.

As a result, experts fear that William Shakespeare, who is believed to 
have been born 442 years ago today, St George's Day, 1564, and whose 
plays have been central to the study of English literature for 
generations, is in danger of being eased out of the curriculum.

Changes made to the examination last year mean that, despite the boast 
of Sonnet 18, the Shakespeare paper - one of three taken by 600,000 
14-year-olds - now barely counts in the overall result.

It is worth only 18 out of a possible 100 marks. Prior to the changes, 
questions on the Bard were worth 38 marks in the English test.

As long as pupils gain around half marks in the other two papers, which 
assess reading and writing, they will reach the pass mark and be awarded 
a level five, the standard expected of their age group.

A break down of statistics from last year's test, obtained by The Sunday 
Telegraph, shows that teenagers scored an average of just six marks out 
of 18 in the Shakespeare paper.

Despite this, 74 per cent reached level five or above. Dismal scores 
were endemic even though pupils are told a year in advance exactly which 
scene they will be questioned on...

The national curriculum stipulates that secondary school pupils must 
study at least two Shakespeare plays, but the amount of time spent 
teaching them is left to teachers' discretion.

In a review of English teaching last year, inspectors criticised staff 
for using short extracts from key works of literature. Only four per 
cent of secondary schools said they went through entire books in English 
lessons, while more than half admitted to teaching bite-sized sections 
rather than whole works.

David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said: "The Government's 
claim that Shakespeare is still at the heart of English teaching is much 
ado about nothing. We need tougher measures to judge performance in 

A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said that in 
previous years, some of the 38 marks in the Shakespeare paper had been 
awarded for writing skills, not knowledge of the play...

[The longer article is at 

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