Mind Your Language; Grammar Guide to Raise Standards in Our Primaries

Article excerpt

Byline: LAURA CLARK

PRIMARY school children are to spend more time on spelling, punctuation and essay writing in an assault on poor grammar, it emerged yesterday.

Education Secretary David Blunkett will tomorrow unveil a campaign to boost youngsters' writing skills which are lagging far behind their reading abilities.

He is expected to name 38 'beacon' schools across the country which are judged by inspectors to be teaching writing well.

They will be given [pounds sterling]35,000 each to help them pass on the secrets of their success, for example, by hosting workshops for teachers at other schools nearby.

A 216-page guide is being issued to staff giving advice on teaching grammar and showing what pupils should learn in each year.

Teachers will also receive a video to help them and will go on one- day training courses on writing skills.

The guide places 'emphasis on punctuation, on spelling, on getting right the things that make it possible for people to express themselves clearly', Mr Blunkett told BBC1's On the Record programme yesterday.

He acknowledged that writing skills 'have a very long way to go', adding: 'We believe unless you get the grounding, you can't express yourself properly.' The guide was prompted by the discovery by Ofsted inspectors of serious failings in primary teachers' knowledge of grammar.

In the Sixties and Seventies, when trendy theories on education prevailed, formal grammar was not taught at schools and teacher training colleges also dismissed it.

The guide will also try to boost creative skills, for instance encouraging children to use interesting and powerful words that improve the impact of their writing.

Ofsted chief Chris Woodhead's report on the second year of the National Literacy Strategy is also being unveiled tomorrow.

The daily English lessons introduced as part of the initiative have been hailed as helping to raise standards.

Test results show that in 1998, 65 per cent of 11 year olds reached the required standard in English but the figure went up to 75 per cent this year.

However, the results also show that writing improved at only three per cent, a far slower rate than reading. …