Teachers mark down grammar questions

English teachers and government advisers are at odds over new sample grammar tests for 14-year-olds to be piloted in schools next term.

Teachers say the sample tests, which have been seen by The Independent, will harm pupils' grasp of grammar and unleash a debate among experts about what constitutes correct grammar.

The controversial tests have been commissioned by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which advises the Government on exams.

Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, ordered the introduction of new tests earlier this year. She said that she wanted to address the concerns of universities and employers about the state of school leavers' grammar, spelling and punctuation.

English teachers argue that grammar should be taught and assessed through writing rather than through short, timed grammar tests with brief answers. They say samples suggest that the new tests will be even worse than they feared.

Next term, tests in grammar, spelling and punctuation will be piloted in 2 per cent of schools and all schools will be able to volunteer to take them next May. From 1998 they will be compulsory for all 14-year- olds alongside existing national tests in English, maths and science.

The sample test asks pupils to identify spelling rules by giving a plural of words such as cactus. Another of the questions asks the pupils to list the four main verbs in a sentence.

Teachers argue that it is misleading to suggest that there is a spelling pattern which means the plural of words such as cactus is invariably formed by replacing "us" with "i". Even if one would mark cactuses as wrong, they ask, should one say syllabuses or syllabi, focuses or foci?

They also criticize a question which asks candidates to underline four main verbs in the following sentence: "The monument is very special for me because it is where I spent most of my days as a little child playing with my friend and where I used to go with my parents for strolls." This is problematic, they say, because many people would argue that a sentence can have only one main verb.

Gabrielle Cliff Hodges, acting chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: "There are differences of opinion about grammar. Is there is a model of grammar on which these tests will be based?"

Teachers needed a much clearer idea, she said, of what was being proposed and of the terminology being used.

Teachers are also concerned that a number of questions give pupils a passage of incorrect English to write correctly. For instance, they are asked to correct passages such as: "They argue that animals what are kept in unnatural conditions are all miserable. They give an example of one of the worser things being tigers trapped in small bare cages with no space to turn round in."

Anne Barnes, general secretary of the National Association for the Teaching of English, said: "Anyone who has taught English knows that you try to avoid putting three ways of spelling their on the blackboard. If you do, they never sort out the correct one.

"Here you are presenting children with something in print that is wrong but the authority of print makes it seem right."

The School Curriculum and Assessment Authority had no comment to make.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions