The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Family & Education - Liz Light­foot

Q It’s hard to be­lieve but my 14-year-old son is tak­ing a na­tional cur­ricu­lum SATS pa­per on Shake­speare’s ‘Much Ado About Noth­ing’ in less than two weeks and he still hasn’t read it. His English teacher has given the class only three pages of ex­tracts, on which he says the ques­tions will be based, and some sam­ple ques­tions. I want my son to have at least seen the play. Can you rec­om­mend a video or DVD? AIt

is all too be­liev­able, I’m afraid. There will be many teenagers an­swer­ing the com­pul­sory Shake­speare pa­per with­out hav­ing read the whole play they are study­ing, though they might well have seen a film ver­sion of it.

The Qual­i­fi­ca­tions and Cur­ricu­lum Author­ity, which is in charge of the tests, is­sues the ex­tracts on which the ques­tions will be based well in ad­vance. In this case, there will be one of 157 lines and an­other of 123 lines. The author­ity says it does not want the exam to be­come “a test of me­mory and learn­ing by rote”, so the ex­tracts are also sup­plied on the exam pa­per.

To judge by the way the test is con­structed, your son could get top marks with­out both­er­ing to read or watch the whole play, but your de­sire to get him to do so is ad­mirable. He might even en­joy it.

The 1993 film ver­sion of Much Ado About Noth­ing di­rected by Ken­neth Branagh is still avail­able on DVD, but crit­ics say that it is more about Branagh, who also stars as Benedick, than it is about Shake­speare. If you have a com­puter, you can down­load a sound record­ing of a Globe Theatre per­for­mance that was com­mis­sioned by Na­tional Strate­gies, the body that pro­vides cur­ricu­lum sup­port ma­te­rial. The free MP3 au­dio file, which in­cludes in­ter­views with the main char­ac­ters, is avail­able at www.stan­dards.­ondary/ keystage3/sub­jects/english/ shake­speare. QI’m

a sec­ond-year law stu­dent. Have you any idea what I could do with my old text books? AA

char­ity that would love to hear from you is Book Aid In­ter­na­tional (020 7733 3577; It was founded in 1954 by Hermione Count­ess of Ran­furly, the wife of the then Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral of the Ba­hamas, when she no­ticed the des­per­ate short­age of books in lo­cal schools. Now it sup­plies schools and li­braries mainly in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa but also on a smaller scale to Pales­tine and Sri Lanka. The good news is that you don’t have to pack and post the books be­cause the char­ity’s net­work of vol­un­teers will col­lect them. Books have to be in near-new con­di­tion to jus­tify the ship­ping costs. QI’m

re­vis­ing for my AS-lev­els and I have a prob­lem get­ting all the in­for­ma­tion down in the right or­der and mak­ing it read well. I think it’s re­ally go­ing to let me down. Can you rec­om­mend a book or web­site that might help? AYou

may have suf­fered from the vogue in the ed­u­ca­tion world for “scaf­fold­ing”, a frame­work that tells pupils what to put in each para­graph. Teach­ers are en­cour­aged to pro­vide th­ese “writ­ing frames” along­side the es­says they set. It’s fine to be­gin with, but there’s ev­i­dence that some teach­ers con­tinue to use them, leav­ing stu­dents ill-equipped to or­gan­ise their thoughts in the exam hall.

The latest of a num­ber of ex­cel­lent books on the sub­ject is How to Write Es­says by Don Shi­ach (How­to­books). There is also a lot of good ad­vice on the in­ter­net. Try ref­er­ence/studyskills/es­say.htm.

Write to Liz Light­foot, The Daily Tele­graph, 111 Buck­ing­ham Palace Road, Lon­don SW1W 0DT (email liz.light­foot@tele­

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