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Tests turn students off literature - UK laureate

AN uninspiring regime of testings and targets in primary schools is damaging education and turning a generation of children off reading, Britain's laureate for children said.

Michael Rosen is an enthusiastic exponent of reading to children of all ages, but the laureate said the British government's obsession with measuring educational success using standardized tests known as SATs and league tables for schools has left little room for meaningful engagement with books.

"What's happened since they invented SATs ... is they've taken literature out of the curriculum and in its place put worksheets which don't look at whole books, they just look at passages," Rosen said.

SATs are tests taken by 7 and 11 year olds in Britain based on a government-approved national curriculum. They are used to help calculate a school's performance and its ranking in league tables.

Speaking over lunch at a cafe near London's South Bank after recording a literature program for BBC radio, Rosen said SATs tests have sharply narrowed horizons in the classroom.

"It has been disastrous because instead of kids finding out why books are fun and enjoyable and interesting, instead they've just had these little slabs of text thrown at them, and the questions are the most boring, irrelevant questions."

SATs for 14-year olds were scrapped last year and Rosen thinks that a threat from Britain's teaching unions to refuse to administer the tests, may succeed in ending the whole system.

Rosen said the government believes that it can measure the outcome of every learning experience.

"The whole point about literature is that it doesn't have learning outcomes. It has feelings, it has weighings-up, it has wonderings. This is why it's so important and powerful," he said.

Rosen, a hugely engaging and hilarious performer of poetry, who has written or edited well over 100 books, ends his two-year stint as laureate next month.

As laureate he has performed in front of well over 34,000 children and more than 8,500 teachers, librarians and student teachers, the Booktrust charity has calculated.


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