I’m a grammar pedant – but these tests for primary kids are a nonsensical waste of time

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.

conjunc That was when I lost it with the Government’s new English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests for Year Six children.


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.


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