Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Just Say No: Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Just Say No: Comment

Article excerpt

There is a memorable scene in The Singing Detective in which the hero, played by Michael Gambon, who is lying in hospital with a debilitating skin disease, is about to have cream rubbed into his loins.

He needs to think fast about something to prevent him from being aroused. He's a man desperately seeking distraction: "A Welsh male-voice choir, wage rates in Peru, Elvis' birthday ... "

I'm doing something vaguely similar in seeking respite from ranting on about the summer's GCSE fiasco. Instead I'm toying - like a child faced with a plate full of shrivelled broccoli - with chewing over something different but equally unappetising.

Rather than rail against a recent examination disaster, let's look at the next one: the Year 6 grammar test.

First, I agree with our secretary of state and his former schools minister that grammar matters. In fact, if Michael Gove thinks grammar is important then Nick Gibb thought it was very important indeed. They are right. With the self-righteous and grizzled assurance of 28 years as an English teacher, I would advise everyone to use grammar when speaking and writing.

We know that children's literacy improves through a rich diet of language in the classroom, building, we would hope, on a rich diet of language at home. A child brought up on books and conversations with adults has the best start in life and the best chance of success at 18.

Even we plebs recognise what Cicero taught us: "A home without books is a body without soul."

A huge job is to be done in raising literacy levels urgently, and building grammatical confidence will be a part of that. …

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