I like to think of myself as a fairly unreconstructed grammar pedant.
Ok, so I’m learning to let some stuff go. I no longer visibly bristle when I hear the phrase train station and I’ve even been known to turn a blind eye to an over which should be a more than.
But I make no apologies for ensuring that any journalists I train and any students I teach know their theres from their they’res, their compliments from their complements, their everydays from their every days – and the right way to use an apostrophe.
It’s all part of presenting a confident and professional face to the world, as well as learning to love a wonderful language.
So you’d think I’d be all in favour of children learning the way that words work at primary school.
And so I am, up to a point.
And that point is some way before any mention of the phrase subordinating conjunction.
That was when I lost it with the Government’s new English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests for Year Six children.
Just another brick in the wall! We don’t need no thought control – Steve Bell on primary school testing – cartoon https://t.co/al7bGQR97e
— Bernard Henderson (@IotaSuety) May 9, 2016
On one paper I attempted down the pub overseen by a teacher friend, there were around 35 questions.
I, as someone with an English degree who teaches writing now, and who has spent 30 years slinging together well-honed sentences, had not a clue about two of them.
In the end, I highlighted eight questions that I regarded as essential if we’re preparing 11-year-olds for the outside world.
That’s less than a quarter of the nonsense that busy teachers are being forced to cram into the heads of confused children.
What a complete waste of everyone’s time, effort and emotion.
What a perfect example of Conservative ministers’ skewed, soulless, Gradgrind approach to the education and encouragement of young minds.
One of the questions asks pupils to identify a command.
Well, here’s one. Stop. Stop this nonsense now.