The Mail is reporting that teachers are having to go back to the classroom to learn basic English grammar because so many of them lack the skills to teach primary school pupils taking rigorous new tests next summer.
A special course has been developed by a leading university to bolster teachers’ grasp of the subject as so few were properly taught grammar when they themselves were at school.
Many are now having to prepare nearly 200,000 primary school leavers for English tests to be based on the demanding national curriculum introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove.
More than half of undergraduates, many of whom will train as teachers, have such a poor grasp of grammar that they cannot recognise that ‘and’ is a conjunction, identify ‘in’ as a preposition, or describe ‘technical’ as an adjective.
A grammar test conducted at a dozen universities, which was set at the level expected of 11-year-olds, found that some students taking challenging degree courses even struggled to distinguish between verbs and nouns.
Government adviser Richard Hudson, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at University College London, who carried out the research in 2009, said: ‘A typical primary school teacher hasn’t done any grammar. Most schools abandoned teaching it completely in the 1960s.’
…But the Government’s new tests have come under fire from children’s author Philip Pullman, a former teacher.
He said: ‘I think this is a brutal piece of stupidity, that you can make people good at language by telling them the names of things.’
Is the Mail right about teachers needing coaching to be able to prepare their students for the new tests?
If so I’m not surprised as I was never taught the various names for different aspects of grammar at school (and have never really learnt them since either).
Ultimately, however, does that matter, or does Philip Pullman get it right in suggesting that learning the names of things doesn’t make you any better at language?
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