Thursday, August 10, 2006


There is "no danger" that schools in England will be forced to ditch classic novels to make way for modern works, the education secretary has insisted. Alan Johnson was seeking to end speculation that some "great" books would disappear from reading lists. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is reviewing the modern authors recommended to schools. But Mr Johnson said writers such as Charles Dickens and George Eliot would continue to be studied. These were "a crucial part of our national heritage", he added.

Mr Johnson said: "We must encourage children to read English classics which have stood the test of time and for which there should always be time to test. "Young people need to also read books by dynamic modern authors which fire their imagination, inform their love of language and extend their knowledge."

The QCA is looking at reading lists as part of a wider review of the curriculum for 11 to 14-year-olds and is due to report back to ministers at the end of September.

Mr Johnson said the most important thing was for teachers to instil a love of reading which could benefit young people throughout their life. "Greater flexibility will allow teachers to use their professional judgement to tailor their teaching and open up the rich world of English literature for every pupil to treasure." He said he was currently reading Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure as well as Jeff Brown's Flat Stanley with his son and added: "Harold MacMillan said reading Jane Austen helped him relax when he was prime minister - so it can even be therapeutic for those who lead stressful lives too."

Shadow minister for schools, Nick Gibb, said he welcomed the government's comments. He said: "It is important that the classic texts, including Shakespeare and Jane Austen, are studied by our children before the end of compulsory education. "For many children exposure to the great classics of English literature occurs only at school. "Any move by the QCA or others to limit this opportunity would have been a huge mistake and would have added to the general concern that our education system is being dumbed down."



University students from ethnic minorities in Scotland find it hard to mix with others, a study has found. The research carried out by the universities of Stirling and St Andrews said institutions could do more to get students to socialise. The study also revealed that ethnic minorities youngsters in Scotland feel more Scottish than white young people.

The work, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, involved youngsters sharing their experiences. The report, entitled Young people's experience of transitions: A study of minority ethnic and white young people, was compiled by Dr Clare Cassidy and Dr Rory O'Connor of the universities of St Andrews and Stirling respectively.

They interviewed two groups of 15 to 18 year olds, once when they were still at school and then a year later when they had left. Dr Cassidy said relatively little was known about how children from ethnic minorities in Scotland made the transition from school pupil to adult.

Those taking part in the study were asked for their views on education, home and family life, social networks, access to information, ethnicity, identity and aspirations. The researchers found that the majority of youngsters from ethnic minority backgrounds entering higher education were keen to pursue a career in medical sciences. Their decisions were more likely to be influenced by family or community expectations, the study said.

Young Pakistanis were the least likely to move away from home to study and were more likely to complain about distractions during their studies. Dr Cassidy said: "For some participants, the drinking alcohol, pub and club culture of university life conflicted with their cultural and religious beliefs. "As a result they found the transition to the social side of university more of a challenge than did their white counterparts. "This raises questions as to whether universities should be providing ways of socialising and support suitable for the particular needs of young people from minority ethnic groups."

Dr Cassidy said the findings suggested a need to gain a better understanding of both structural and psychological factors which may contribute to a lack of ethnic mixing in higher education.


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