Higher Education

Top Headmistresses: Traditional lessons ‘dumbed down’

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A leading headmistress says the teaching of traditional subjects such as English, history, geography and science is being 'dumbed down' as schools attempt to make lessons more relevant to enhance the economy. Bernice McCabe, head of fee-paying North London Collegiate School, says teachers increasingly devote time to ensuring students understand how to apply skills to real life situations rather than making classes academically challenging. In a speech today, she says questions about a rail timetable were inserted into an AS-level English paper to improve students' practical grasp of language.

It comes as the Government's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority prepares to introduce a new English GCSE which allows students to study travel brochures and biographies rather than novels to develop 'understanding of language use in the real world.' McCabe said that enthusiastic subject teachers were being 'thwarted by the pervasive philosophy that the over-riding purpose of education is to enhance the competitiveness of the nation.' Critics claim the new 'wellbeing' benchmarks would distract schools from teaching.

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