Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Under the Cranes at LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival

The London School of Economics has two connotations in my head: history and economics teachers at my secondary schools seem to have gone there and came out as rather intense, committed Labour-voting blokes who wanted us all to go there too. That's in the late fifties and early sixties. Then in 1968 there was the great LSE uprising  - part of the worldwide student revolt and I made several pilgrimages to see what was going on and to hear and meet the students - some of whom I still see. In fact, one of the leaders, Martin Tomkinson was on the Piccadilly Line to Turnpike Lane the other night and we were soon going over such matters as the state of world capitalism, Arsene Wenger and the state of Muswell Hill. I'm sure there's a link between all three. And probably Trotsky said something about it in his famous tract 'Whither Arsenal Football Club?'

That's enough of all that.

The point is that 'Under the Cranes' is showing at the LSE Space for Thought literary festival this coming Saturday, March 3rd at 5.00 pm in the Sheikh Zayed Theatre. This is the film that Emma-Louise Williams made based on a play for voices that I wrote about Hackney, migration, 'regeneration' and how people have lived and made their home there.

Here's the link to the LSE site for tickets:

Here's the link to blogspot of the film with reviews and news of the film:

Emma and I will take part in the discussion after the film and I half expect Martin Tomkinson, John Rose, Robin Blackburn, Darshana Bogilal and others to emerge out of the gloom and start speaking about occupations, Stalinism and the Vietnam War. Perhaps there's a play to write about that...hmmmm.

In the meantime, please come to the film. There's wonderful music and great photography. We showed it at Sutton House in Hackney last Saturday and several people said that they thought it was 'beautiful' and were moved by it.

See you there.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Murdoch, me, emails, bears, victims - the truth

" Given that certain emails have now come to light which would seem to contradict some statements I have made earlier and over the previous year, I would now like to take this opportunity to clarify things. Whereas I had said that I was not aware that anyone had tried to hack into the phones of the Bear Hunt Family, this wasn't strictly and entirely true. The only reason why I had suggested that this, was, I think because of immense pressure of work. I utterly deny any suggestion that it was because I was trying to cover anything up.

Could I also take this opportunity to praise the work of Andy Coulson and indeed the Prime Minister, David Cameron who was, in my view, absolutely right to have employed Mr Coulson.  Any suggestion that there was any kind of conspiracy between Mr Coulson, David Cameron, the police and myself is utterly absurd. Errors were made  - of course - but in good faith.

And rest assured, the father, the children and the dog in 'Bear Hunt' will of course be generously recompensed for the distress they have experienced. We fully appreciate that it was hard enough for them travelling through water,mud, snowstorms and the like - and facing up to a bear - as well as the distress (which I am not allowed to refer to) caused by the absence of the family's mother - but for the family then to be exposed to intrusion into their already damaged, corrupt, sordid  and unpleasant little lives, is something more than anyone should have to put up with.

Could I also point out that it is not true that either I or my great friend Andy Coulson has a job with the Metropolitan Police is entirely false. "

Monday, 27 February 2012

Concerning my relationship with Murdoch and bribes

Some of you will know of a book that bears my name, 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt', which is an adaptation of a kind of folk song or chant well-known in American summer camps and amongst Brownies. In the adaptation with my name on, the great artist Helen Oxenbury has shown a family which appears to have no mother present.

I can now say that Rupert Murdoch, or more precisely, certain members of News International who shall remain nameless have indeed approached me several times to ask if I will reveal the whereabouts of the mother. I can also state today that on no occasion was I offered money to reveal this information. It is for this reason that I can also state absolutely and unequivocally that I never accepted money and have on no occasion revealed the information in question and that my ownership of a house in the Caribbean and another in California has nothing whatsoever to do with this.

Rumours have been circulating all day that the police have been involved in some kind of cover-up. Again, I can state that at no stage have the police been in touch with me over this matter and I would of course be extremely surprised if any officer of the Metropolitan Police, one of the best police forces in the world, would in any way stoop so low as to impede the course of justice on this or any other matter.

'Bear Hunt' remains a personal matter between me, the family in question and Helen Oxenbury and I think we should respect the rights of the family on this. I'm very glad to say that Rupert Murdoch himself, an honourable man, has expressed amazement and incredulity that any attempt would ever have been made  - let alone one involving the passing of money - in order to secure information on this matter. Could I also add that I welcome the arrival on the media scene of a new paper, owned by Mr Murdoch to carry on the great traditions of investigation, entertainment and fun.

I am also very glad to see that Mr Michael Gove, a longstanding friend of Mr Murdoch, has offered support to me on this matter, respecting the fact that I have made this statement.

I have a new job

I am now the 'Curator of Stories' at The Story Museum in Oxford.

The museum will open in 2014, by which time, there will be a body of stories, (let's say, 1001) which are in effect, the museum's collection. These will be a core resource for anyone using the museum - whether that's the people who run it, appear there or plan exhibits; or whether that's curious and interested people coming to the museum or the museum's website.

I suppose another way of looking at the job is that it's analogous to a 'dramaturg' - the person who works in a theatre aiding and helping directors and producers to find shows that would be good to put on, to find out new things going on in the theatre which might help or add to the repertoire in some way.

As it happens, my step-mother, Betty Rosen, a great storyteller herself and author of 'And None of it Was Nonsense' and 'Stories and Polishers' - books about telling stories in schools, put my way today the postscript to the first of these books called 'Stories of Stories' by Harold Rosen, my father.

It's just the sort of paper or document that will be my job to circulate around for people to read, discuss, argue with along with my job of digging around in the story mines of the world.

Of course, storytellers and writers do this too and the museum will be opening its doors (as it already has) to many different kinds of tellers, and many different ways of telling stories. What I'll be doing is not intended to cramp anyone's style or contradict what others do. One of the key ways in which this museum will work is through diversity and variation. I'm hoping to contribute to that.

In the meantime, here's a small thought from Walter Benjamin that comes via another of my father's essays, 'The Nurture of Narrative' (from Stories and Meanings, NATE 1985):  Benjamin says, 'A proverb, one might say, is a ruin which stands on the site of an old story and in which a moral twines about a happening like ivy round a wall.'

My father goes on to talk about how any proverb - and a good deal of aphorisms that people come up with - are in effect moments from stories. We could if we wanted to resurrect some kind of story around, say, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth' or 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' or 'A cat may look at a king'.

In fact, apart from anything else, it's quite good fun to do so!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Here is the first draft of a bibliography

Marjorie Lorch, Birkbeck, University of London, has compiled this bibliography of Harold Rosen's work. I know that there are some early articles from, say,  'Education Tomorrow',  that aren't here yet and I will add those. However, if you know of any piece that isn't on this list could you please send the reference to me at

Likewise, if you could date any of the unclassified material at the end, that would be good too.

Rosen, H. (1958). What shall I set? Use of English, 10(2), 90-97.
Rosen, H. (1960). Englisches Lehrbuch. T. 1, Erweiterte Oberschule. Berlin; Leipzig: Volk u. Wissen.
Britton, J. N., Rosen, H., Martin, N., & Schools Council.Schools, C. (1966). Multiple marking of English compositions : an account of an experiment. London: H.M.S.O.
Rosen, H. (1966). The language of textbooks. In (Vol. Hanbook for english teachers 2 talking and writing, pp. 100-). London: Institute of Education 1966
Methuan, 1867.
Barnes, D. R., Britton, J. M., Rosen, H., & English, L. A. f. t. T. o. (1969). Language, the learner and the school. [Harmondsworth]: Penguin.
Rosen, H. An investigation of the effects of differentiated writing assignments on the performance in English composition of a selected group of 15/16 year old pupils. Unpublished Thesis (PhD) University of London 1969.
Rosen, H. (1970). The Professional Education of the Teacher of English. Engl in Educ, 4(2), 58-72.
Barnes, D., Britton, J., Rosen, H., & London Association for the Teaching of, E. (1971). Language, the learner and the school : a research report (Revised ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Rosen, H. (1971). Messages and Message-makers. English in Education, 5(2), 85-98.
Open University, E. C. T., Esland, G., Rosen, H., Barnes, D., & Dale, R. (1972). Pedagogy and the teacher's presentation of self : Commitment to school [sound recording]. [Milton Keynes]: Open University.
Rosen, H., & Ruskin College . History, w. (1972). Language and class : a critical look at the theories of Basil Bernstein: Bristol, Falling Wall Press Ltd.
Tisher, R. P. (1972). Review: [untitled]. International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft / Revue Internationale de l'Education, 18(4), 572-574.
Rosen, C., Rosen, H., & Schools, C. (1973). The language of primary school children. Harmondsworth [etc.]: Penguin Education for the Schools Council.
Rosen, H. (1973). The language of textbooks. In J. Britton (Ed.), Handbook for English teachers (pp. xvi,157p.). London [etc.]: Methuen.
Rosen, H. (1973). The primary school context. [Bletchley]: Open University.
Scott, J. L. (1973). Review: [untitled]. The English Journal, 62(6), 934-935.
Fagan, W. (1974). Review: [untitled]. The Reading Teacher, 27(6), 629-630.
Rosen, C., & Rosen, H. (1974). Talking. Urban Review, 7(1), 16-27.
Rosen, H. (1974). Language and class workshop. London: H. Rosen.
Rosen, H. (1974). Language and class : a critical look at the theories of Basil Bernstein (3d ed.). Bristol: Falling Wall Press Ltd.
Rosen, H. (1974). Speaking from experience. Times Educational Supplement (London), 3067, 19.
Rosen, H. (1974). Importance of Language. Notes From Workshop Center for Open Education, 3(4), 2-8.
Britton, J., Burgess, T., Martin, N., McLeod, A., & Rosen, H. (1975). The development of writing abilities (11-18). London: Macmillan.
Rosen, H. (1975). Out There or Where the Masons Went. Theory into Practice, 14(5), 338-342.
Rosen, H. (1976). The Power of Common Talk. Times Educational Supplement (London), 3209, 28-29.
Rosen, H., & University of London. Institute of, E. (1976). Talkshop : a selection of tape transcripts. London: University of London.
Lee, V., & Rosen, H. (1977). Black English in Britain. [Milton Keynes]: Open University.
Pikulski, J. J. (1977). Review: [untitled]. The Reading Teacher, 30(5), 565-566.
Rosen, H., & University of London. Institute of, E. (1977). Talkshop 2 : a selection of tape transcripts, poems, prose, and graphics. London: University of London.
Barnes, D. R., Britton, J. M., Rosen, H., & London Association for the Teaching of, E. (1978). Language, the learner and the school. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Hoffman, M., Perera, K., Seely, J., Rosen, H., Torbe, M., & Open University. Language Development Course, T. (1979). The language curriculum. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Open, U., Perera, K., Rosen, H., & Seely, J. (1979). The language curriculum: supplementary readings for Block 6. eynes: Open University Press.
Rosen, H., Burgess, T., & University of London. Institute of Education. Department of, E. (1979). Linguistic diversity in London schools.
Warnock, J. (1979). Review: Brittonism. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 9(1), 7-16.
Rosen, H. (1980). The Dramatic Mode. In P. Salmon (Ed.), Coming to Know (pp. 152-168). London: Routledge.
Rosen, H., & Burgess, T. (1980). Languages and dialects of London school children : an investigation. London: Ward Lock.
Open University, E. C. T., Rosen, H., Esland, G., & Lee, V. (1981). Language in use.
Rosen, H. (1981). Neither Bleak House nor Liberty Hall : English in the curriculum. London: University of London Institute of Education.
Rosen, H. (1981). The development of social views of language.
Rosen, H. (1981). Linguistics and the teaching of a mother tongue. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the  5th Congress of AILA. .
Rosen, H., Esland, G., & Lee, V. J. (1981). Social aspects of language. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Rosen, H., & Gulliksen, Ø. (1981). Morsmålsdidaktiske essays. Oslo: Novus.
Schools Council. Language for Learning, P., Bleach, J., Levine, J., Rosen, H., & Schools Council. Programme 3: Developing the Curriculum for a Changing, W. (1981). Investigating talk : guidelines for teachers groups. London: University of London, Institute of Education.
Schools Council. Language for Learning Project, C., Rosen, H., Bleach, J., & Language in Inner City, S. (1981). Report of conference on investigating talk. London: Language for Learning Project.
Coates, R., Rosen, H., Sandos, C., & Pateman, T. (1982). Languages for life. [Brighton]: Education Area, University of Sussex.
Rosen, H. (1982). The pupil in school language networks. Paper presented at the British Association of Applied Linguistics. from
Rosen, H., & University of London. Institute of Education. (1982). The language monitors : a critique of the APU'S primary survey report Language performance in schools. London: Institute of Education, University of London.
Rosen, H., & National Association for the Teaching of, E. (1984). Stories and meanings. Sheffield: National Association for the Teaching of English.
Rosen, H., Spencer, M. M., Miller, J., & Alvarado, M. (1984). Changing English : essays for Harold Rosen. London: Heinemann Educational Books for the Institute of Education, University of London.
Rosen, H., Economic, & Social Research, C. (1985). Parental help with reading in schools.
H. Stories and meanings: Sheffield : National Association for the Teaching of English, 1985(1987).
Rosen, H. (1986). Stories and meanings. [Sheffield] (49 Broomgrove Rd., Sheffield S10 2NA): National Association for the Teaching of English.Rosen, 
Rosen, H. (1986). The Importance of Story. Language Arts, 63(3), 226-237.
Rosen, H., & National Association for the Teaching of, E. (1987). Stories and meanings. Sheffield: National Association for the Teaching of English.
Jones, M. A., West, A., & Great Britain. Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of English, L. (1988). Learning me your language : perspectives on the teaching of English. London: Mary Glasgow.
Rosen, H. (1988). Struck by a particular gap.
Rosen, H. (1988). The Irrepressible Genre. In M. MACLURE, PHILLIPS, T., and WILKINSON, A. (Ed.), Oracy Matters. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Rosen, H. (1988). The autobiographical impulse. In D. Tannen (Ed.), Linguistics in Context: Connecting observation and understanding (pp. 69-88). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Rosen, H. (1991). The Nationalisation of English. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 104-117.
Rosen, H. (1993). Troublesome boy. London: English & Media Centre.
Rosen, H. (1993). Stories and meanings. Sheffield: National Association for the Teaching of English.
Rosen, H. (1996). Autobiographical Memory. Changing English, 3(1), 21-34.
Rosen, H. (1998). Speaking from memory : the study of autobiographical discourse. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.
Rosen, H. (1998). Speaking from memory : a guide to autobiographical acts and practices. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.
Rosen, H. (1998). A Necessary Myth: Cable Street revisited. Changing English, 5(1), 27-34.
Rosen, H. (1999). Are you still circumcised? : East End memories. Nottingham: Five Leaves.
Rosen, H. (1999). Narrative in Intercultural Education. Intercultural Education, 10(3), 343-353.
Rosen, H. (1999). Narrative in Intercultural Education. European journal of intercultural studies., 10, 343-354.
Rosen, H. (2000). REVIEWS: - Speaking from Memory: The Study of Autobiographical Discourse. Oral history., 28(2), 103.
Rosen, H. (2003). Four Recent Poems. Changing English, 10(2), 155-158.
Rosen, H. (2004). Maginot Line. Changing English, 11(2), 243-245.
Rosen, H. (2004). Choose your frog. Nottingham: Five Leaves.

Unclassified by date for the time being:

Rosen, H. Language and literacy in our schools : some appraisals of the Bullock report. [S.l.]: University of London.
Rosen, H. An investigation of the effects of differentiated writing assignments on the performance in English composition of a selected group of 15/16 year old pupils.
Rosen, H. Languages and dialects of London school children : an investigation.
Rosen, H. The language monitors : a critique of the APU's primary survey report Language Performance in Schools.
Rosen, H. Language & literacy in our schools: some appraisals of the Bullock report.
Rosen, H. How many genres in narrative? Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education, 1(1), 179 – 191.
Rosen, H. Narratology and the teacher.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Harold Rosen

Harold Rosen was the father of my brother Brian and me. He was a secondary school teacher and later a professor of English in Education at the Institute of Education.

Here's his wikipedia entry

In a rather sedate way a small group of us (Marjorie Lorch, Simon Gibbons and myself) have been assembling a bibliography of his writings. I'm hoping that this can go up on the blog along with all sorts of other materials.

Here's the blogspot with not a lot on it yet.

(I'll try to diminish my presence on the front page once we get going properly)

'Action Research' - teachers, librarians, children

This term I'm supervising 5 students doing 'Action Research' - looking at themselves, their practice and a 'client group' of children or young people. They spend about 10 weeks developing and running the project, keeping a journal, compiling a portfolio and writing a 5000 word essay. It's one option in a two year MA at Birkbeck, University of London.

The five students are doing a wide range of things: developing cartoon strips in response to seeing 'The Red Balloon'; doing poems, nursery rhymes and songs in two very different 'drop-in' type settings; making and writing books in an after-school club; writing and compiling an online blog as a school lunchtime activity; making appliqué pictures inspired by fairy stories.

As well as planning and running the sessions with the children, they are also reading round the theory and practice of what they're doing, developing questionnaires for the children and keeping up with the journal and portfolio.

I think it's developing into one of the most exciting pieces of in-service teacher or librarian work I've ever been involved in.

Suspend the curriculum; get the parents in.

A cheering account from a teacher yesterday: a school suspends the curriculum for the afternoon. The parents, carers, minders etc are invited in 'to see how and what we teach'. The teachers and headteacher have decided beforehand that the focus is poetry and related art and music. The first time it's 'quite well' attended but the second one succeeds in getting an adult carer for almost every child to come in. What's on offer is an exploration of a poem - in this case 'Overheard on a Saltmarsh'. The teachers read it. There's a 'tree' with all the lines of the poem cut up and distributed on it (a 'poet-tree'?). The child and carer come up and pick a line off the tree and then in their family group they are invited to express this line on paper, with paper, with paint, chalks, glue, folding or whatever (make masks? etc) prior to performing that line to each other at the end of the making and doing session.

The afternoon is massive success. Quite a few fathers come in even though it meant bunking off work. Everyone gets stuck in and have fun. Massive amount of talk, exploration, play and learning going on. Children delighted that their parents are in school making and doing and performing. The feedback is hugely enthusiastic. All kinds of learning modelled here that many of the parents haven't encountered before. They are very keen on doing something like that again. Soon and regularly!

I offer this as an example of great educational practice on all sorts of levels: emotional, social, cognitive, intellectual, linguistic. It also provides a fantastic opportunity to talk with parents about education, reading, writing and many other things. It breaks down barriers between people and done flexibly, it could provide the basis for some ways in which parents can bring their stories and culture into school through making books with the children about their lives and so on.

It comes from a teacher who attended the Poetry Write Now group at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

A worrying case of mistaken identity

See below: this morning's email and below that my reply which I've sent. I'm now thinking that I should have said yes and seen how long I could have pretended to be an expert on the cytoskeleton before someone rumbled me.

"...hmmm well the nucleus is erm....yes, cytoplasm....quite...and...yes, very cytoplasmic....actually my favourites are the'em to bits...very mitochondrial they are..."

Perhaps not.

Subject: Letter from the 2nd Annual World Congress of Molecular & Cell Biology (CMCB-2012)
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2012 13:22:24 +0800

2nd Annual World Congress of Molecular & Cell Biology (CMCB-2012)

ime: May 18-20, 2012      Place: Beijing, China

Dear Dr. Michael Rosen,

How are you? Wish you have a fruitful new year of 2012 in advance!

This is J**** D***, the Program Coordinator of the 2nd Annual World Congress of Molecular & Cell Biology (CMCB-2012)I am writing the letter to make sure if you have received my letter previously, it is about the conference: CMCB-2012 which will be held during May 18-20, 2012 in Beijing, China.

Maybe there some problems with my mailbox and I haven't received your kindly reply. And would you like to attend this conference as a Speaker of Section A3: Cytoskeleton.


Hello J*** D*
Really nice to hear from you but my subject is not molecular and cell biology. I'm a writer of children's books and I teach children's literature at Birkbeck, University of London. I did once study biology but I've forgotten it all. I'm very sorry.

very best

Settling with NewsInternational: a celeb speaks.

"As you will know, there has been an ongoing case concerning myself, phone-tapping and the News of the World. You will also know that my position on this has always been that justice must be done. Phone-tapping or hacking is illegal and if it can be proved that my phone was hacked into, then we must, must, must,always, always,always see the law do its job. Right to the very end. It's only then that we find out all the facts.

I would also like to point out to you, the enormous pain and anguish this has caused me, my family, my lovers, my friends, my acquaintances, my fans and pretty well everyone on the planet. At no stage did I seek or want the kind of publicity which sought to expose me as someone who as a child had cheated with cigarette cards. I am not here either admitting or denying that I ever did such a thing. However, any kind of knowledge concerning a game I played with my friend Wilf in 1956 could only have been ascertained from a private phone call I had with my brother in 2006. And there, as far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed. Until I write my memoir. Which is called: 'Taking on News International'.

Finally, News International have agreed to pay me the sum of 67 million pounds in compensation for the pain, anguish and distress this has caused me. But I am not - as some have said - dropping the case because I've been given the money. I'm not in this for the money. I could give that 67 million to charity. I could. But I'm not. But that's got nothing to do with it. The point is: neither I nor News International want to spend months in court arguing over cigarette cards. And, as it happens, 67 million smackeroonies is seriously tasty wonga."

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Apostrophes in Earl's Court and Barons Court.

The wikipedia entry on Earl's Court Station is fun for students of the apostrophe.

Here it is:

"Since the early 1950s, the station name has been spelled with an apostrophe on the tube map although the name of the local area is generally spelled without. Prior to the 1950s tube and rail maps show the station name without the apostrophe and on the station buildings the name has variously appeared with and without the apostrophe. The name of the local area has always been shown with an apostrophe on Ordnance Survey maps, and also by A-Z, but other mapmakers do not use one.
There is an acknowledged reason why the apostrophe is used for Earl's Court station but not for the nearby Barons CourtWilliam Palliser developed the Barons Court estate. A book in the Society of Genealogists, annotated in pencil by R. Burnet Morris who knew Sir William personally, provides a history of the area. Morris declared Barons Court was named "after Sir William's Irish Estates," Baronscourt. As a result, unlike its neighbouring station, Earl's Court is written with an apostrophe."
End of wikipedia paragraph

Notes from me: 
1. Ordnance Survey use an apostrophe, 'other mapmakers' don't! (ie mapmakers have no rule on the matter, of if they do, they don't know the f. what it is.)
2.Prior to the 1950s - no apostrophe! (ie history is not on the side of those who imagine that people used to get apostrophes right but when civilisation started going down the pan in the 1960s, it was a matter of greengrocers starting to get them wrong. )
3. On the station buildings the name has variously appeared with and without the apostrophe! (ie we can't rely on official signs for rules on which way the apostrophe should be used.)
4. The Barons Court Estate should, according to this, have been the Baronscourt Estate. But it isn't! So, it's neither correct or incorrect to write Barons Court Station. It's just any old ordinary bit of varying editing. 
5. The mix of inconsistency, anxiety and arbitrariness make for a lethal cocktail when it comes to usage. People thrash about looking for rules and precedence on the use of the apostrophe but in many circumstances - as here - they're not to be found. 
6. On that basis, it's my view that I don't think the apostrophe will last more than about 30 years. 


An exciting new test: The DfE speaks:

"I have been receiving some complaints concerning the excellent Phonics test which, thanks to me, all Year 1 children will be taking June.

The test works like this: first of all the children read some real words. They're not in sentences because that would be cheating. They're just words on a page. Phonics words. What I mean by that is words that are regular. By regular I don't mean small - like coffee cups. I mean that they are spelled like they are said. Unlike, er...'said' which looks as if it should be said 'sayed'. Which actually is the way some people say 'said'. Look, this is really quite easy and obvious.

Er...where was I? Yes, the test. So, there'll be words. Not sentences. Sentences complicate things because children start guessing words by where they are in the sentences. And by what the sentence means. And 'meaning' as we call it, really has very little to do with reading. Or words. Meaning gets in the way of reading. We need the children to read. Not mean. There's far too many children going about trying to make words mean things. As you'll see, we need words that don't mean anything. I'm coming to that in a moment.

Now where was I? Yes, the test. So, one part of the text will be phonics words. Not Red Words. Some of you won't know what Red Words are. Red Words, by the way, are not Read Words. That would be different. And not phonic. Red  Words (not Read Words) are Tricky Words. These are in the Phonics books which every school must buy. (See me later for a list of recommended publishers. Only the ones we recommend are good. We know the people who write them and we recommend them so that the people we know get millions of pounds. This government is very pro-business.)

Now where was I? Yes,the test. Some words are Tricky. We call them 'Tricky'. Words like 'was' . 'Was' is tricky because it's said 'wozz' but written 'was'. So children just have to learn it. Look at it. Learn it. There's not enough of that sort of thing going on in schools. Far too many children don't look, and don't learn. They play and they talk. That's where the trouble starts. Later they become drug addicts and criminals.

Now where was I? Yes, the test. Tricky words are very tricky. And the best way to learn them is not phonically. I know phonics solves everything. But not tricky words. I'll leave tricky words for the time being because they are in fact very tricky. Or Red.

Now the test also has some other kinds of words. These aren't words. They're just words that look like words. Words like 'blurg'. or 'Skonk'. If you're a reader, you'll read those. If you're not a reader you won't. Now some people have said that some little children taking the test will think that if there's a word they can read but doesn't make sense, they'll try to make it make sense.  Now that really doesn't make sense. Well at least not to me it doesn't.

So, a child who can read, might see 'blurg' and because it doesn't make sense, they'll try to turn it into a word that does....'blurt' or 'blurb' or something. Then they'll be wrong and score badly. You know what we say to this? Tough. (which incidentally is a 'tricky word' or a Red Word. It just depends which of the phonics schemes you buy thanks to us and our recommendations. Though it won't be us thanking you, it'll be the people who make the books. Jolly good for business. Jolly good for Britain. Well, not Britain actually, because this only applies to England. Which isn't Britain. Which is a shame I always think. It would be better if Wales and Scotland were England.).

But the good news is that we've been listening to what teachers have been telling us about this. So do you know what we're doing? We've hired an artist who imagines what a 'blurg' might look like and he draws a 'blurg'. There it is on the page next to the word 'blurg'. A bit like a Flannimal. Now isn't that fun?Now the child looks at 'blurg' and says to him or herself...'Ho ho ho, that must be a blurg'. Problem solved.

This is the sort of thing we do at the Department for Education. We hire people to do pictures of blurgs.

So, look, press on. The phonics test is very good. Any school that fails the phonics test will have to become an Academy. Which is a very tricky word indeed. "

Friday, 10 February 2012

Universities of the future: the minister speaks.

The University of Brighton awarded me an honorary degree today and I was dead chuffed to receive it. It came via the education department who have a great record. It was a wonderful occasion, and I felt all glowy. Looking at the graduating students' faces as they came up on to the stage and again at their families afterwards was a very warming thing to do on a very cold day. So, thank you University of Brighton. Thank you very much.

While I was sitting on the stage hearing the degrees that the graduates had studied for, I found myself thinking about the hypocritical stance adopted by education ministers and the right wing press in relation to degrees. They have orchestrated a sneering chorus mocking 'mickey mouse' degrees, hoping to recruit that section of the professional caste who are proud of their more academic degrees. But it's a lying recruitment speech they give, because the other part of their outlook is functionalist. It puts a price on everything, so that if, let's say, someone is studying catering management at university, their functionalist side would think this is good, it's 'upskilling' so that Britain can compete in the world market. So they try to ride both horses at the same time - traditionalist and functionalist. And then they think they sound convincing!

So I started composing an imaginary speech - the one that no minister would dare give - at a degree ceremony like the one I was at today.

 "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Minister!"

"Distinguished guests, Vice-Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen - all things considered, I'm very pleased to be here today at this second-rate university. I would have preferred to have been at an Oxbridge ceremony, but it seems as if they're freezing me out at the moment.

No matter. Well, not very much. No really. I'm not that bothered. Not at all.

Education is at the heart of everything. Oh yes. And so am I. Looking through this university's booklet for today, I'm delighted to see that some of the students are graduating from here with real degrees, like Geography and Law and English Literature. I'm interested in gold standards. That's what universities are for. Gold standard even though there are only two gold standard universities. So degrees like Geography make sense. They're gold standard subjects. But really - should universities be places where people footle their time away doing 'Cultural History, Memory and Identity'. What's that? Making photo albums or something?

And what's this? Hospitality Management? What's the point of that? If people want to run a cafe don't they just go into their father's business? That's how we do it in this country, don't we?

Now, I can see that the hall is full of parents and family of these unfortunate students. I suppose you were rather hoping that I would have encouraging words to say to you about your offspring's long years of work, your sacrifices to get them to where they are today.

Well, I'm not.

I'll leave that to the bleeding heart liberals who skulk about the corridors of universities like this. But it's not always going to be like this. We're going to weed them out. Believe me. What with our innovative and exciting policy on university fees, and and our necessary but clever cuts in budgets, we're going to get universities back to being the elite institutions they once were.

After all, in today's climate, we can't afford higher education for everyone who might benefit from it.  Not any more. The truth is that the nation is becoming over-educated. What is the point of someone doing a degree when the job they end up with is stacking shelves in Sainsbury's?

Yes, yes, yes, a minister standing where I'm standing now ten, twenty or thirty years ago wouldn't be saying this. He would be saying, learn, educate yourselves, expanding world economy, unlimited human potential, blah blah blah.

I'm not. I'm saying, forget all that. What we need now is some serious downgrading of people's hopes and aspirations. Especially if those people are poor. Maybe there are some poor people in the room. Well done. You got in before it got really tough. Next year, we're hoping there will be fewer of your type here and the year after, even fewer.

So, thank you for inviting me. If anyone knows someone at an Oxbridge college, I'm wondering if I could get on to this thingummyjig where Tory ministers become bosses of Oxbridge colleges. No? Well, I wouldn't expect anyone here would. Huh?

And what's this? A masters in nephrology? What's nephrology for goodness sake? Oh, it's something to do with medicine, is it? Fair enough. If the graduate of that particular malarky has got any sense, he won't hang about in the NHS. Set up a Nephrology company, sonnyjim and sell it back to the NHS at twice the price.

That's the way to do it."

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The new head of Ofsted shares his most recent ideas.

"In my new post as Educational Commander-in-chief with brass buttons on, I am sounding a warning to anyone who thinks that 'good' is good enough. It's not. Good is not good. And the trouble today with teachers is that they think that work is just one big holiday. It isn't even a small holiday. That's told them.

And another thing. Schools. I'm bringing in a new policy: it's called 'we're not good enough'. At the beginning of every day I want teachers to get in a ring in the staff room and chant 'We're not good enough'. There are far too many teachers who think that they're good. They're not. That's my message and I should know. I turned a school around. It used to be bad. Now it's good. Not 'good' in the new sense. Which means 'not good'. But in the old sense when good meant good. Parents know what I'm talking about and they like it. Hello all parents. You like me, don't you?

I'm talking so please stand up when I'm talking. Teaching and learning. That's what we have to do. And there's not enough of it. People keep making excuses. They say, 'The dog ate my teacher so what's the point?' There - that's the excuse culture.

And another thing. Some headteachers are good. That's the very new good. Not like the other good which wasn't good. Well if these big-headed good headteachers think they're so hard, then they can go into some really bad schools - which is actually most schools - get in there and start making these bad schools, good in the new sense, meaning good. Not bad.

Some people say to me that if these good heads are spending all their time away from their good schools, trying to make bad schools good, won't the good schools they came from originally start to be less good?

Wrong. Stand up when you're listening to me.

And another thing: structure. Structure is important because the children we teach don't have structure. They don't even know how to do anything till they get to my school. We show them how to stand up. Then they know.

We're dealing with entrenched attitudes here. Not any more. Not now I'm here. Do you remember Chris Woodhead? Sissy. He's not hard like me. If there was a teacher in here now, I'd put him between my finger and thumb and snap him in two. Then you'd see something, I can tell you.

Right, Samantha will take you round my schoo - oh she's not at the school anymore. Complicated story but we felt that it would better suit her temperament   if she wasn't here anymore. This has absolutely nothing to do with test and exam scores. "

My poems seen 3 million times. Blimey.

I'm not sure that I can fully grasp this, but the little counter in the top right hand corner of this page:

tells me that the videos of me performing my poems that I put up on my website have been seen 3 million times.  They reached that figure today.

In theory that could be anything from one person alone seeing them 3 million times in four years or it could be 3 million people watching them once. I guess it's something like both of those - but in between - perhaps a couple of hundred thousand people watching them several times over.

Seems amazing. Exorbitant even.

If you're in some way responsible - thanks for coming by. Yes. Thanks.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Freelance. Freelancer. Freelancing.

Freelance life rotates around the axis of the 'commission' and/or 'contract'. This is in effect the legal statement of your position in relation to whatever it is you do. So you might grovel to get a commission, you might be approached and offered a commission. You might ask for a contract, someone might offer you a contract, you might seek to change your contract. Everything rotates around it.

Bizarre goings on around this centre-point include failing to deliver the commission (naughty), having the commission delayed by the commissioner (it's not happening after all, we couldn't get the funding), the empty commission (yes, you're commissioned but we can't pay you), and the unfulfilled offer (we love what you do, please do it. Four years later, you're still waiting to hear from them), the broken commissioning (yes, it's been great, you've been doing a great job, but we're restructuring and won't be doing it quite that way again) etc etc.

To make this a little more concrete - one or two scenes from commission-land that I amuse myself with. Two women ask to see me from 'the ballet'. (I can't remember which ballet. Not-remembering is a key feature of commission-land. Things blur). They say that they really like my work. They want to work with me. We talk. It goes well. They have ballet legs. This sounds intriguing. They go. I never see them ever again.

A commissioned project is going really well. It involves collaboration. Tremendous excitement builds up. Hundreds of people are involved, cross fertilisation between art-forms takes place. Materials are produced. People of a wide range of abilities produce great work. It is public. It supports work that others do. It enriches. It draws in people of a wide range of creative capacity all overlapping and interfusing. I'm excited by it. So are others. A new management comes in. I go to a meeting. At the meeting the new management appear to not know anything about it even though it seems to be 'on their patch'. I have a strange sense of being at the wrong end of a corridor. Pieces of paper are passing around on the table. I feel that I'm having to justify something that justified itself. The new management say that they are incorporating everything and re-building and re-structuring and re-working and re-configuring. I never hear from them ever again. The project is killed stone dead. No reason ever given.

Similar - much smaller scale but with a national reach. Three of us establish a production that seems to be much appreciated. We are constantly 'upskilling', adapting, improving. It's much scrutinized. Anything deemed to have not-worked is looked at very closely so that that mistake won't be made again. Ihave a sense of a body of expertise building. There is an audience building too because the expectation is there. Regularity and certainty are important too. New management comes in. One person. He says that it's not suitable. Not the right thing. He doesn't want it. Plonk. It's gone.One stroke. No comeback. A few months later - plonk - he's gone. Out of sight. Gone. A few  years later I'm on the tube, looking up at the lights, staring at the reflections in the window, enjoying the way I appear to be travelling outside the train, suspended outside the window. Hello,says someone. Hello, I say. He says his name. Ah, it's the manager who closed it down. The same bloke. He seems to think that I'll be pleased to see him. What a strange idea. I say hello to him as if through cold tea. He is a pleased man. We part. I never see him again.

This is the city. In the city, more and more people rotate round the commission. We work in spurts. We wait. We try to set things up. Sometimes others set things up and call. Hi. Sometimes things just collapse. Sometimes you do a runner. You can't face it. Sometimes Mr NewBroom comes in and knows better and the village is flooded with his bullshit. You are afloat in curiousville. What's going on, you say. Dunno. Hi. Hi. How you doing? Great. Good. Coffee? Great. Have you ever? Yeah. Mmm. Good.

I had a dream today that I would play Falstaff. Or Toby Belch. Or Justice Shallow....'We have heard the chimes at midnight, Sir John....' It would be amateur.  Utterly, utterly amateur. A way of not rotating. Be a weevil, weevilling away inside Toby Belch. A plague upon these pickled herring. Tilly-vally lady. People would hate me because whenever they tried to talk to me, I would say, tilly-vally lady.

Neville Lawrence and Esther Brunstein

Here's my memory of meetings with Neville Lawrence and Esther Brunstein - which is an intro to an interview with Holocaust survivor Esther Brunstein in this week's Socialist Worker.

In the 1990s Esther was a strong supporter of the Anti Nazi League—one of the organisations that later launched Unite Against Fascism.

She campaigned to close down the headquarters of the British National Party headquarters in southeast London. She frequently spoke in schools, colleges and for trade unions, and at demonstrations.

Through all this Esther met Neville Lawrence, whose son Stephen Lawrence had been murdered by a racist gang. Michael Rosen remembers seeing them speak together:

'It doesn’t matter how often we say to each other that the struggles for freedom, justice and equality bring remarkable people to the fore—or indeed produce them. It is always a moving and uplifting moment to be in a room alongside such people.

From very different times and circumstances, Esther Brunstein and Neville Lawrence spoke together at meetings for the Anti Nazi League in the 1990s. I was lucky and proud to be there on several occasions.

They were both people who had felt the terror of persecution and murder at the hands of those who think that killing innocent people is a solution. You could see it on Esther and Neville’s faces, in the tone of their voices, and in the way they looked at the people listening.

Here were two witnesses of the abyss who, even in their strength and courage to resist, expressed a sense of sadness and bewilderment that human beings could be so cruel.

With Esther, we had a living link to events that mostly come to us through books, TV and film. She was presenting us with scenes of mass murder that had once stretched out in front of her, and we knew she was looking at us with the same eyes that had seen such things.

With Neville, I had the feeling that he was someone who had to fight with himself to face every day. And in the minutes he spoke to us there were perhaps a few moments of relief from the loss and grief of what had happened to his son.

The fact that they were witnesses, the fact that they had chosen to come to speak to people discussing and planning how to defeat the threat of racism would have been more than enough.

But in different ways they each wanted to look beyond the immediate circumstances of their own pain.

Esther pointed us at how the lie that fascists hadn’t tried to eliminate the Jews of Europe was one of the ways in which today’s fascists could present themselves as respectable.

Neville took us beyond the racism of Stephen Lawrence’s attackers to the racism in this country’s justice system that had given the murderers time to quite literally clean up.

In speaking like that, together, at the same meeting, Esther Brunstein and Neville Lawrence showed us the only force that can stop racism and fascism—unity across peoples, across cultures, across all the barriers that racists put up between us. '

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

The Murdoch File: Police Mystery. Or not.

Yes, we've finally homed in on one of the great mysteries of our time: why is it that the police didn't investigate the phone-hacking, why didn't they warn people that their phones were being hacked?

Here's MP Chris Bryant on the matter:

'Mr Bryant said it was "still a complete mystery to me why the police failed properly to investigate the News of the World in 2006, why they failed to examine the material they had garnered from Mr Mulcaire, why they continued to tell parliament that they had contacted all the victims when they hadn't, why they refused to show me the material that related to me and why they refused to reopen the investigation even when there was clear evidence that the original investigation had only scratched the surface of the criminality at News International."'

Now, it's possible that when Chris Bryant is saying that it's 'complete mystery' to him, he means that it wasn't a complete mystery to him. In fact, he knows exactly why it all happened. The other possibility is that he's a middle of the road Labour guy who quite genuinely can't figure out that the police service's job in this case was to service the Murdoch press.

The fact is that it's not a mystery at all. It's the system. The only thing that makes this affair look different is that they got caught. Are we really supposed to believe that this sort of thing hasn't been going on for decades?

There was a corridor between the top of the Murdoch empire, the top of government and the top of the police force. They all scratched each other's backs, secured each other's positions, passed oodles of cash to each other, installed 'trusties' in each other's pockets and persecuted anyone who raised a word against any of this.

Quite how Cameron stays clean in this isn't clear as he helped set up the biggest inside job of all - appointing Andy 'I didn't know anything, really I didn't' Coulson to help him slash millions off people's standard of living.

There's a lot about all this that makes me sick but I have a special vom-bag for when I think about how the Murdoch press has specialised in creating public enemies, people they identify as being morally unacceptable. But who are the people who do the finger-pointing? What kinds of lives do they lead that entitles them to do the finger-pointing? Quite clearly, droves of them were illegal snoopers and police bribers.

I hate the idea that we live in a culture that allows secretive, almost anonymous, people to act as our morality police. And now it turns out that the whole apparatus was criminal and corrupt as well.

It's great that we're living for a few months with the whole thing exposed but it won't be long before the covers are put back on and another police-government-press complex will be re-established and someone like Cameron can give a speech about the uniquely wonderful thing about the British is our sense of fairplay, our free press, our independent judiciary and the best police force in the world.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Imagine you could imagine

The Imagine Festival takes place at London's South Bank over half-term and the week after. There are 53 events and I would guess that at least one of them would interest a child you know.

Hope you can get there, and if you fancy listening to the utterly implastopherous Philip Ardagh, Louise Rennison and Liz Pichon then come and take a dekko, butchers or gander at ours.

Here's the website:

Learning 'written-ese'

One of the peculiarities of the spoken language is that it's very rarely studied. To study it, you have to listen to recordings of it, look at videos of it, look at transcripts of it. When you do that you start to see that it has its own 'grammar' or 'syntax'. That's to say it sticks together in its own ways.

(I say 'it does' this or 'it does' that. This is rubbish, really. 'It' is spoken. Whatever 'it' does, 'it' does because thinking human beings do 'it'. Excuse my language!)

One of the key ways spoken language sticks together is through what it leaves out. If you look at a transcript of two people talking together, you'll quickly see that we spend a lot of time, 'not finishing'. In fact we're doing as much 'finishing' as the context requires, but we say 'not finishing' because of expectations of what is a sentence, what is a paragraph.

In conversation we follow patterns of taking turns, interrupting, not interrupting.

We have a complex system of referring backwards and forwards to actions, events, things, people, feelings that both parties know or think they know.

(The previous is not meant to refer to the kind of spoken-writing that you hear on radio and TV, where people read informal written 'talks' off autocues and scripts.)

When we write, it's as if we're writing in another dialect. So, if you take a section of written text, you might well find that you can read all of it, understand every word (word by word) of it, but you know that it isn't something you'd ever say in conversation. You might say it in a 'talk' but not when chatting. So, it's part of 'English' (in my case) but not the same part as spoken English.

Quite at random, I've opened a letter tucked into my diary. Here's the last sentence:

'As discussed with Katy, please can you email me your foreword of approximately 1000 words by Monday 9 January'.

It's written in 'written-ese'. The phrases 'as discussed with' , 'please can you', 'of approximately' 'by Monday 9 January' are all 'written-ese' usages - as I suggested in a kind of dialect of English, just as we might say that 'me gwan' or 'he disnae' or examples of dialects of the family of English usages.

So, from the point of view of a child in a school, we are asking them to learn a dialect other than the one they speak - or indeed that we speak. The difference between us and them, though, is that we've had long immersion in 'written-ese'. We can even speak it!

I'm not going to go off on one about phonics here - so let's leave them to one side for a moment. What I will say is that no matter how well or not that a person can sound out a word, that person will still have to learn the 'wording' of written-ese. Otherwise, all you can do is read words, one after another without knowing what it all means, rather as I can with a bit of complex French.

What follows from this is that one of the most important things we can do with people learning 'written-ese' is to enable them to hear many, many times a day what 'written-ese' sounds like, as well as many, many times to see different kinds of written-ese all around them, especially written-ese that they've written, especially written-ese they've written which represented something that they actually said.

I realise this last contradicts, in part, what I'm saying. The child says something, and someone (themselves or someone else) scribes what they say. What this 'says' is that the magic of writing is that it can record and preserve the things we say - and think. After all, as a child, why - unless you've shown them - would a child know that you can write down the things you say? All the books and stories and texts around them are full of stuff that you, the child, don't say!

So if we're constructing a bridge (that's probably the wrong metaphor - I can see a lot wrong with it, even as I'm writing) - between the spoken and the written so that the children can learn 'written-ese' then we need to think of many 'hybrid' activities where the spoken and the written are amalgamated eg

writing things you say, speech bubbles, monologue and dialogue poems, writing playlets and sketches

reading outloud - hearing and doing it yourself - many, many times

performing written texts - poems and plays and scripts

creating school radio with scripts

choosing poems and pieces to learn off by heart

videoing performances

team-writing where one person speaks, the other writes - ideal when you're making magazines together.

Who owns literacy?

Imagine you're a four year old and you arrive at school. It's clear you have come to a place which is doing something with language that you don't do: there are signs up all over the place, there are books in classrooms, writing all over the walls of classrooms and in the hall and older children seem to be able to do this writing thing - though mostly it looks different from the printed signs and books.

So you don't own any literacy but the school appears to not only own it, but to a certain extent to be in charge of it. Authority figures change the signs, they ask children to write more of it. There are special places - controlled by the authority figures - where their writing is put. Books come into the school, apparently also controlled by the authority figures.

All this is the state of normality.

However, one of the things we keep saying about literacy is that it's important for children to take control of it, to feel it's theirs, to feel that they can use it and do what they want with it, that they can access it in order to access important things.

The point here is that literacy is culturally and politically mediated. Or to be more precise: all literacy is culturally and politically mediated - to such an extent that literacy ends up being divided and sub-divided into differentially controlled and mediated literacies. So, to take two extreme examples: the literacy of the legal profession and the literacy of popular music. The first is owned and controlled by the legal profession and even though I am a highly literate person there are a many documents and processes that I don't understand and can't access in the usual ways I do this: opening a document, reading it, re-reading it,  even using a dictionary doesn't always help. With popular music, there are many parts of it I do get but others I don't. Sometimes this is individual words, other times it's what's being referred to, other times it's the whole wording of a song that I don't hear.  Again, the usual tools for accessing stuff I don't understand are no use to me. I have to go and ask someone who is immersed in that literacy to find out more.

So let's go back to school and see what's happening to the literacy - or literacies - in a school, but this time take up the position of a classroom teacher. In relation to the pupils, the teacher appears to be in charge of literacy, controlling it - owning it even - but out of sight, the reality is different. Most of what a teacher does in terms of literacy is what he or she has been asked to do, via documents and instructions and text books and the like. This then translates into lessons, homework, tasks, wall displays, letters home and so on.

So, to take an example, I go into a lot of classrooms where there is a 'word wall'. Teachers have been encouraged to 'enrich' the children's 'vocabulary' by putting up useful or good or 'wow' words on the wall that children can use in their writing. There are several problems with this: 1. We don't write with vocabulary. We write with longer sequences of text, embodied in the phrases, sentences, scenes, tropes, plotlines, genres of writing. All words have a context and the meaning of a word is only realised in the context of the words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, plotlines  and genre that surround it. Sticking words up on the wall, in fact pretty well guarantees that such words don't 'stick'! because they are context-less. 2. In truth there is no such thing as a 'wow' word. All words are wow words. They all do stuff. The only thing that makes a word more or less wow than another is the context of that word - the scene it's in, the sounds or meanings of the words around it.

In the context of this discussion about who owns literacy, then clearly the word wall is an example of saying to children, someone cleverer 'out there' owns literacy and here's a bit of it, you can use in  your writing. It's a gift from the owners and controllers.

This can't be reversed entirely. But if you're interested in nibbling away at the edges of this power structure then you reverse roles. You invite the children to make their own word wall and you make clear that this can include a wide range of words, phrases, passages, quotes, eavesdroppings that the children have heard, seen, read. You do your best to get every child to contribute.

Then this child-centred word wall - full of sayings, lines from songs, overheard mistakes, jokes, titles, bits of TV shows, catchphrases or whatever - becomes a source for writing, or playing with in whatever way seems appropriate.

So, in this particular case, literacy is being culturally mediated in a different way. A small amount of the ownership and control has tipped in the direction of the pupil.

Now, if you go around a school looking at the literacy (ies) on display or in process (eg through the pupils' writing) and ask, who owns and controls this stuff? How is this stuff being culturally mediated? What signs are being given off by how this stuff is being displayed or distributed? - you come up with some interesting discoveries. For example, how much of the available literacy on show or in process has come about because of what pupils have chosen, has come about because one or more children have decided that this is what should be on display or in process? And what kind of signs does this power-relationship give off?

I would suggest that very, very little of it is owned, controlled or mediated by pupils. Sometimes it is. And it could be. There can, for example, be systems by which pupils choose books for the library, edit class, school magazines and website, edit 'word walls', choose books and displays for the classroom, poems to put up on the wall, poems to read out in school, books to recommend to other children to read, topics to write about, topics to debate. You can - as many schools do - encourage children to have writing journals that aren't marked and you can encourage the children all the time to make books and get these books into classes and libraries. In this sense, the teacher is an 'enabler' rather than a 'deliverer' of literacy. So, using someone like Paul Johnson's excellent books about 'how to make a book' you can give children ideas and technology in how to make a book. Same goes for enabling the children to have blog magazines or blog stories or blog anythings . It took me less than five minutes to set up this blog, but that's a literacy we would want children to learn how to use, enjoy and benefit from?

Just to repeat - none of the above is an attack or criticism of teachers. As I've tried to say, teachers work within the rules and conventions of literacy that are passed down through the power structure of schooling: Government, Dept for Education, inspectors, exams, local authorities, advisers, headteachers and into classrooms. Daily, I hear stories from classroom teachers about how their view on trying to enable children to take control of literacy is more often than not undermined or overruled by demands that this or that literacy activity or scheme (top-down in 99% of cases) is implemented immediately.

The irony is that most of the tasks in top-down literacy activities eg comprehension, grammar and punctuation exercises, spelling tests - can be enacted within the editing processes of producing text for other people to read. That's as it is with real production of texts in the real world. So, if you're producing a pupil-based word-wall, a blog, a book, a magazine or whatever, these texts have to be edited. You can rotate editing jobs in such a way as to involve children who find that task difficult but team them up with children who find it easier. Texts can circulate prior to 'production' around a group or a class until they're right. That way 'correctness' is also owned and controlled by the pupils. They're getting it right for a purpose - that a wider audience might want to read it and will find it easier to read in edited form.

Even punctuation, spelling and 'grammar' are culturally mediated and we want pupils to own that stuff too. That's how to do it.