The ability to write is privatised

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The Independent Online
THE Department for Education has decided that the officials charged with improving literacy in schools need help with their own prose.

The Plain English Campaign has been called in to remove jargon from leaflets which attempt to explain education policy - including the Government's insistence that pupils should speak and write 'standard English' - to teachers and parents.

The Department for Education has already paid the campaign pounds 15,000 to check a number of leaflets for parents on such subjects as opting out and testing. Ofsted, the department responsible for school inspection, has spent pounds 5,000 to have some reports improved.

An Ofsted spokesman, himself struggling a little with the English language, said: 'I suspect that it is all a little bit part of being seen to be doing the right thing, Citizen's Charter- wise. I won't say Her Majesty's Inspectors aren't perfectly capable of writing clearly, but their reports were often a little bit jargon-laden in the past.'

The campaign, which was founded in 1979, recommended shorter sentences, better layout and more use of active rather than passive verbs.

Several departments - including the Department of the Environment and the Lord Chancellor's Department - have called on the Plain English Campaign for help. The Inland Revenue has also used the campaign's services.

For pounds 500 the campaign will inspect documents and award their authors the right to display its 'Crystal Mark', denoting a high standard of clarity. However, the education department confesses that it has not applied for the accolade. 'We probably wouldn't have qualified because we changed some things back,' said an official. 'Sometimes you do have to have a certain amount of jargon.'