Primary teachers are to be given grammar lessons

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The Independent Online

Primary school teachers will be given lessons to improve their grammar in a new national programme designed to raise the standard of children's writing.

Primary school teachers will be given lessons to improve their grammar in a new national programme designed to raise the standard of children's writing.

From this September, all 25,000 teachers of children in year 5 (aged nine and 10), as well as some teachers of 11-year-olds, will receive training. Ministers decided to back the programme after half of boys and one-third of girls failed to reach the expected standard in writing in last year's national tests for 11-year-olds. They did much better in reading.

Teachers will not only learn about nouns, prepositions, subjects, objects and subordinate clauses, but also be shown how sentences can be changed to improve pupils' writing styles.

English teachers said yesterday that grammar teaching was not the best way to help children learn to write creatively and well.

Ministers insisted that they had no intention of forcing teachers to return to the old-fashioned grammar lessons and parsing, which were common in the Fifties.

About 400 literacy consultants will offer training and the National Centre for Literacy and Numeracy has produced training materials called Grammar in Writing to help teachers to learn how language works. The materials will include a glossary of grammatical terms ranging from the common (alliteration) to the outlandish (kenning - a compound expression used in late English or Norse poetry that avoids using the normal name of something, for example, "ankle-biter" or "fur pillow" for dog.)

Laura Huxford, the centre's director of training, said: "Most people under the age of 35 have had very little grammatical instruction in schools. Teachers of this age are acutely aware of this. It is important to get past the notion of some teachers that grammar is not for them or that it is too difficult or that they don't believe in it."

The teachers' course will emphasise that there is no contradiction between grammar and creativity.

John Stannard, the director of the national literacy project, said: "This isn't a return to the sort of grammar I was taught in the Forties and Fifties or about teaching teachers isolated skills such as parts of speech. There will be a strong emphasis on the parts of speech but this is very muchrelated to the place of grammar in writing and exploring different grammatical choices in writing."

Bethan Marshall of the National Association for the Teaching of English said: "Children don't learn to write better by teaching them the names of parts of speech. They improve their writing by practising. You learn to play the piano by practising and bring in the bits of theory much later on.

"I am not sure that having a whole load of grammatical terminology is going to help them to write better. Research shows no correlation between teaching people grammar and improving their ability to write."

Teachers will also be encouraged to do more "shared writing" with children by standing at the front of the whole class and helping them to produce a piece of prose.