Monday 2 July 2012

Urgent: open letter to Gove re new test

In the previous four posts I've a) laid out my criticisms of specific features of the government's sample test in spelling, punctuation and grammar which is online at the DfE website here:

and b) a short example of the kind of an alternative approach to the grammar of sentences and grammar. I would like to add others, particularly in relation to children editing each other's work prior to being 'published' as eg blogs, booklets, school website material, letters home to parents.

However, there is something urgent and fundamental that needs to be sorted out here and this is, in effect, an open letter coming from the teaching unions, the teachers' professional bodies (UKLA, NATE, LATE, CLPE, NAPE) and the university departments researching children's writing. Can I suggest that a formal, public open letter is written to Michael Gove along these lines?

1. Behind the sample tests in spelling, punctuation and grammar lies a requirement by teachers to teach many hours of a particular kind of work. With the examples given, there is a clear view that punctuation and grammar are about specific fixed rules on such features as semi-colons, pronoun 'declensions' and tenses. 

2. The language in use in entirely acceptable cases does not operate like this. There is much more flexibility and variation on many language features than is on show in this test. It is a misleading and inaccurate view of language to be given to children and teachers to suggest there is only one right and wrong answer on such matters. We should not be putting in front of children what is basically an untruth about language.

3. This test is directed at 10 and 11 year olds. Where is the evidence which shows that a percentage of children of that age can grasp the use and understanding of the features of grammar and punctuation being tested here? What percentage? 

4. Where is the evidence which shows that spending the required amount of time to grasp the use and understanding of these features enables children of this age to write better?