Even the Best Pupils Give Up on Grammar; Examiners Despair over Plunging Standards in GCSE English

Daily Mail (London), September 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Even the Best Pupils Give Up on Grammar; Examiners Despair over Plunging Standards in GCSE English


Byline: SARAH HARRIS

BASIC punctuation and accurate spelling have been abandoned by even the brightest GCSE English students, a series of reports revealed yesterday.

Examiners warned about the 'endemic omission of the apostrophe' in teenagers' work, along with deteriorating handwriting and routine use of text message-style language.

They claimed punctuation seems to be disappearing altogether and full stops followed by capital letters are 'no longer a convention observed by most of this age group'.

One marker even asked: 'How long will it be before the apostrophe is deemed unnecessary through lack of use?' After yet another rise in GCSE pass rates and the number of A* grades this year, the examiners' reports from Edexcel and the Oxford and Cambridge RSA exam boards will renew concerns about grade inflation.

Overall, A and A* grades rose by 0.7 points to 19.1 per cent of the total taken this summer - the joint second largest rise in top grades since the A* was introduced in 1994. It meant that pupils were scoring A and A* in one in five GCSEs - up from one in ten in 1988.

However, the criticism of this year's GCSE English exams raises serious doubts about basic standards.

Oxford and Cambridge examiners oversaw the marking of about 71,000 English GCSE scripts this summer.

They complained about the rising use of text speak, a 'colloquial style' using words such as mates and kids, and increasing inaccuracy in candidates' basic writing skills.

Less able students could barely construct the 'most basic, simple sentences'. The Oxford and Cambridge report said: 'Spelling maintained its generally poor level of accuracy, but punctuation seems to be disappearing altogether.

'Apostrophes are sprinkled across the page at random; there is rampant confusion of upper and lower cases and full stops followed by capital letters are, it seems, no longer a convention observed by most of this age group.'

Edexcel's reports were even more scathing. Examiners marked 31,000 English entries and 25,002 for English literature GCSE this year.

Senior markers claimed that 'a number of common errors were in evidence, including the misuse of the comma, the effect of "texting" and the failure to use capital letters and paragraphs'. It adds: 'Grammatical, orthographical (correct spelling) and stylistic accuracy and appropriateness remain matters of concern. …

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