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COX REPORT. A report entitled English for Ages 5 to 16, published in 1989 in the UK for the Department of Education and Science on the teaching of English to pupils in England and Wales (but not Scotland and Northern Ireland) between the ages of 5 and 16, as part of the new National Curriculum. The committee which drafted the report was chaired by Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University, who had been a member of the committee that produced the KINGMAN REPORT (1988). However, whereas the Kingman Inquiry had to recommend a general model of the English language for teaching purposes, Cox was required to focus on how the teaching would be done. The Cox Report's recommendations reflected a compromise between concerns raised by the Kingman Inquiry regarding teaching a knowledge of language and the liberal consensus of many teachers of English. The recommendations were adjusted to the rigid format of the assessment model required by legislation relating to the National Curriculum established in 1987.

The report emphasized the subtlety of the process by which children acquire language and encouraged the use of English for a diversity of purposes. The role of wide reading and the centrality of LITERATURE in language development were also emphasized. At the same time, the report encouraged a sympathetic response to users of other languages in British society, but the successive levels of attainment proposed for the assessment of children's achievements reflected a monocultural rather than a multicultural view of English, with an expectation that the highest attainment would only be achieved by those using it for higher education, public speaking, or similar activities. The proposals were nonetheless widely reported as too liberal for the Secretary of State for Education. The National Curriculum Council, which was responsible for producing the version of the report to be used in schools (subject to parliamentary approval), attempted to add GRAMMAR in several places and make LITERACY more important than oracy, especially at the higher levels of schooling. Successive Secretaries of State also made pronouncements about the importance of SPELLING (associated with the view that READING should be taught primarily by the PHONIC method) in the assessment of all school subjects.

Because of concern about the level of knowledge of language on the part of teachers (who, at the secondary level, had mostly qualified with degrees in literature), the Cox recommendations were followed by a government-funded in-service training project known as Language in the National Curriculum or LINC, directed by Professor Ronald Carter of Nottingham University. However, the materials, due to be published by HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationery Office), were withdrawn in 1991 by ministerial order, and copyright was withheld for their commercial publication. Although precise reasons for these actions were not given, in the general view of the press they were a response to attempts by the writers to be sociopolitical about language and ‘downgrade’ STANDARD ENGLISH in relation to the use of DIALECT. The writers also rejected phonics as a technique for teaching spelling. In the opinion of many observers, the disagreements between Conservative politicians on the one hand and linguists and educationists on the other had resulted in an act of direct official censorship. See MULTICULTURALISM.

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COX REPORT

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