The Prime Minister is the latest politician to publicly fail to answer grammar questions designed for 11 year-olds.
Speaking in Parliament for Prime Minsiter’s Questions, Green MP Caroline Lucas asked David Cameron to define a “modal verb”, one of many similar literacy questions likely to appear in this year’s national curriculum tests in primary schools.
“For the benefit of the house and for ten and eleven year olds up and down the country, will the Prime Minister explain what the past progressive tense is, will he differentiate between a subordinating conjunctive and a co-ordinating conjunctive, and finally will he set out his definition please of a modal verb?” Ms Lucas asked.
The question was met with jeers in Westminster as Mr Cameron failed to give an answer.
“The whole point of these questions is to make sure our children are better educated than we are,” he said, “and that’s why - with three children at state schools going off to do these tests - I’m absolutely delighted they’re going to be.”
The comments came in response to an on-going debate over controversial new examinations set for Year 2 and Year 6 pupils this year. The SATs have been introduced to six and seven year-olds for the first time and are deemed “unnecessarily complex” by parents and teachers for both year groups.
On Tuesday, thousands of parents across England took their children out of school for the day in protest over the new tests and changes to the school curriculum.
Campaigners from the Let Our Kids Be Kids group argue that the “Ofsted driven, dull, dry curriculum” has led to increased amounts of pressure on children as young as six, and have called for a nationwide boycott of the exams.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb also failed to answer a SAT-level grammar question on Tuesday during an appearance on BBC Radio 4 programme the World At One.
Mr Gibb was asked by presenter Martha Kearney to identify whether the word “after” was a preposition or a subordinating conjunction in the sentence: “I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner”.
The minister insisted the word was used as a preposition, despite Ms Kearney correcting him that it was in fact a subordinating conjunction.
“This isn't about me. This is about ensuring that future generations of children - unlike me incidentally, who was not taught grammar at primary school - we need to make sure that future generations are taught grammar properly.“
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