Last week I received this response to my article for Creative Teaching and Learning from *Professor Michael Bassey
Professor Bassey is Emeritus Professor of Education at Nottingham Trent University. He has been President of the British Educational Research Association, and from 2001 an Academician of the Academy of Social Science. He is the author of many publications on education and the environment.
I have just read through Mary Mason’s fascinating article, ‘Death of a Great Idea’. The ‘idea’ was not one that I was familiar with, but the argument she presents and the school evidence, seems to me convincing.
I think her comments on English teachers are intriguing – and, again, ring true. Excellent at presenting the canon of literature, empathetic to pupils because of the ‘exposure of feelings’ that good literature may stimulate, significant in the humane running of a school, but ‘brainwashed’ from a scientific approach to language. In consequence often not giving kids from homes of (shall we call it) ‘intellectual poverty’ the opportunity to cope with the language that would help them.
I’ve worked through a few of the samples on the website and get the feel of what the Wigan Language Project was about. It makes a lot of sense.
The chart in Mary’s paper of GCSE results from 1988 to 1994 certainly suggests that the project was very successful during the period of implementation at Shevington School. Curiously the retirement of the supportive head and the arrival of one who closed down the project gives strong support to the argument that it was the project that was responsible for the enhanced results from1990 to 1993 rather than some other, unknown factor.
In a rational world the Wigan authority would have recognised the merit of the work and encouraged a number of its schools to try out the approach – and carefully monitored progress. As Mary indicates, the problem might have been that English teachers didn’t approve! But the Education Reform Act of 1988 was already restricting the opportunities for local authorities to take initiatives. With the development of LMS they had less funds for new ideas. It was good that you were able to follow it up at UCE and sad that it was abandoned for shortage of funds. Too little education planning is, or has been, evidence based.
In some ways it is almost as though the English teachers who rejected her ideas needed the project themselves to enable them to recognise its potential!