Sunday, 27 March 2016

For parents and teachers wanting to oppose the Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar tests.

Nick Gibb has been on talking about how they've brought grammar back into schools. Please feel free to use any or all of the below as part of any campaign to oppose the Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar tests. 
1. Grammar was hardly taught in state primary schools in the 1950s. it was saved till secondary schools and then it was mostly in grammar schools,and top stream in secondary modern schools i.e. for about one third of all pupils, max.The most that was taught in primary schools, when I was at school, was noun, verb, adjective, adverb - not even subject, verb, object. I publicly call on him to show otherwise, by referring to the 11plus exams of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s.
2. The grammar that was taught in grammar schools in the 1950s and early 60s was discontinued because after 25 years of O-level exams no evidence was found that teaching that kind of grammar was helping school students to write better. The evidence for this was in the O-level exam results themselves where no correlations were found between the 'grammar question' and the 'composition' question.
3. The grammar that Nick Gibb et al have introduced into schools is not there because anyone can or has shown that it improves children's writing. All it can ever show is that pupils incorporate elements of the grammar into their writing in formulaic, mechanical ways e.g. by random and artificial insertion of 'fronted adverbials', 'embedded relative clauses' and 'expanded noun phrases'.
4. The grammar they have introduced was only introduced because the Bew Report of 2011 said that it produced right/wrong answers in test situations. This is not true. It doesn't, as evidenced by the number of questions that produce several possible answers.
5. This kind of grammar is not directly related to how children and adults are using words and language as a whole. A good deal of it is made up of artificial sentences which children have to use to spot parts of speech. There is an alternative to this. It involves observing real language in use, how writers and speakers are using it to communicate and express themselves. It then can involve a combination of imitation, adaptation, invention and a limited amount of naming of parts.
6. Several of the categories in this government-directed grammar are heavily disputed by grammarians. It's dishonest to pretend to children and teachers that they are not. It is also dishonest to pretend to children, parents and teachers that there are people who produce a fault-free way of speaking and writing. We all make errors and slips. We vary from each other in how we speak and write. That is because language is one kind of human behaviour so there is no reason to expect that it will be any more uniform than our clothes or our ways of dancing.
7. Our children are being put under stress to get difficult, abstract concepts learned off for these tests. It is very doubtful that many of them will understand the concepts being taught. This is evidenced by the fact that people who write the test papers and the homework booklets themselves don't appear to understand all the concepts involved. Part of the problem here is that the concepts themselves are nowhere near as watertight as it is claimed. `Language is far from suitable as a site for coming up with yes/no, right/wrong categories. Most linguists know this.
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