Tag Archives: News Education

The Importance of English…

Should Spelling & Grammar Count in Exams? was an article posted by Judy Friedberg Wednesday 6 October 2010 at guardian.co.uk.
The basis of the article was comments made by Michael Gove at the Tory conference about the need for a focus on the use of spelling and grammar in exams.

His call for rigorous attention to spelling and grammar received little attention. What he wanted, he said, was for exams to “take proper account of the need to spell, punctuate and write a grammatical sentence.”

Did he mean just English exams? Or was he really saying that all exams – history, geography, art – will have a certain number of marks allocated to the use of conventional spelling and grammar? It certainly looked like it.

He began this section of his speech like this: “It is every child’s right to be taught how to communicate clearly. Thousands of children – including some of our very brightest – leave school unable to compose a proper sentence, ignorant of basic grammar, incapable of writing a clear and accurate letter.

The article prompted 146 comments and was retweeted and shared on facebook inspiring a range of discussions about the importance of spelling, punctuation and grammar in all exams, not just English. Part of the discussion focussed on the use of spell check in ICT packages, does it make students lazy when completing assignments? I have had assignments handed in by students where they have spell checked the document however it was the ‘American’ version and I’ve had to endure ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’, which when the assignments are based on the Key Stage 3 science unit on Light! A concern I have is that when challenged some of the students weren’t even aware of the difference!
One comment from ‘Gweldig’ explains

The use of online learning systems in schools is part of this debate, these systems were encouraged by the last government as part of a digital revolution, this isn’t to say ICT is bad, it is a work and life skill, but perhaps we need to refine how these systems are used in the classroom to avoid the loss of more traditional written skills.

On a less positive note, I must like many I suppose, admit I wordprocess everything now and have less confidence in my spelling, but then again I’m part of a generation who studied using a pen and paper, so it’s hard to judge how essential or non essential these skills are today.

So should students be taught the difference between the spell checker for different languages and will that solve the problem? Of course not, the problem is much deeper surely?

‘Soundguy800’ provided the view:

Of course it is a good idea. An educated person should be able to write, spell punctuate and use decent grammar. The mystery to me was when did this stop happening? And who thought it was a good idea?

I am currently helping a student heading for a First in a ‘vocational’ degree. Yes she knows her stuff, but she can’t write. This is not her fault; she is a product of the education she received, but it means there is a glass ceiling beyond which she can never go unless she belatedly studies English. She has been let down by a system which sets its expectations at too low a level.

‘JudyFriedburg’ makes the point:

Of course spelling, punctuation and grammar should be TAUGHT at school. The question is: if a child who is dyslexic or from a non-English family writes ‘anarky’ instead of ‘anarchy’ in a history exam, should he be penalised?

Personally, I believe that students should develop the use of English as a necessary ‘life skill’, in order to apply for jobs, complete reports, fill in forms and so on. Students without a good grasp of written English are likely to struggle in the ‘real world’, where CVs and job application forms can be disregarded based on the quality of the English used. I once set up a poll on my LinkedIn profile and asked people to comment on what they most looked for in applicants. There was a choice of 5 options, ranging from good timekeeping through to good qualification grades and the most popular reply was ‘good use of English’. I admit that the poll was limited and  wasn’t completed by recruiters from huge numbers of companies but it does illustrate the point.

As a Science teacher, I want students to be able to spell key scientific words and that aspect is mostly assessed in exams, with additional marks being assigned for SPG (spelling, punctuation & grammar).  This is necessary when students are aiming at the higher grades as they have to be able to put forward clear and concise arguments about key scientific developments or theories. I assume that the situation is similar for other subjects, however doesn’t the issue go beyond exams?

One in six primary school pupils not fulfilling potential in maths and English a report by Rachel Williams posted on Thursday 7  October 2010 at guardian.co.uk

Schools minister says figures show many children are not making expected progress.  One in six pupils are failing to make the expected progress in English or maths by the time they leave primary school, the government revealed today.

Statistics from this year’s Sats released by the Department for Education show that 61,500 children – about 16% – did not go up the expected two levels on the assessment scale in English between the ages of seven and 11. The figure was 66,000 (17%) for maths.

The schools minister, Nick Gibb, said it was a “real concern” that so many were failing to keep up in the basics.

So ‘who’s to blame’? The fact is that the work done in schools needs to be supported in the home to ensure students make progress. A simple way of looking at things perhaps ~ what about the students who don’t have that level of support in the home, for whatever reason? What can be done? What should be done?

“Thousands of children are condemned to struggle at secondary school and beyond unless they get the fundamentals of reading, writing and maths right at an early age,” Gibb said. “We also need to ensure that those who are doing well when they are seven are stretched to their full potential.”

So some children are starting a marathon, already several miles behind the starting line and although most schools do their best to provide support to enable the child to make further progress, is it fair to expect the ‘catch up’ to take place over five years with all the other demands that the students and schools will face during this time?

Should a child who has used creativity and innovation to get through school without the real ability to use English properly be penalised during the job application process? Surely employers can see through the levels of ‘artistic description’ to see what truly lies beneath and make the decision based on the skills of the job applicant and the type of job?

What are your thoughts? – please use the comments box below….