GCSE to penalise poor grammar

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The Independent Online

Sticklers for grammar and punctuation have won a major victory in their campaign against poor spelling and lack of syntax, a battle that has been described as the pedants' revolt.

In future, no pupil will be able to obtain a C-grade pass or higher in GCSE without passing a test in functional skills - such as the proper use of quotation marks and the apostrophe. Nor will they be able to get a similar pass in maths without being able to do their sums.

Officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, are consulting over a new test, to be introduced nationwide in 2009, in the basic rules of written English. They have not decided whether it should be a separate test, or embedded within the GCSE English exam.

Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, backs the idea, but said that he did not think a separate test was necessary. "Why couldn't they just dock sufficient marks from the main paper if pupils were poor at spelling and punctuation?" he said.

Bethan Marshall, a lecturer in English education at King's College London, said that it would be wrong to penalise bright pupils because of a mistake with an apostrophe.