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Michael Gove to crack down on poor grammar and spelling

By Jonathan Isaby

Michael Gove serious 2010 This morning's papers contain news of another reason to be delighted with what Michael Gove is doing as Education Secretary.

At the risk of encouraging readers to go out and spot my own errors from over the years, I am delighted to read in the Daily Telegraph that the Education Secretary has plans to re-introduce penalties for pupils displaying poor spelling, punctuation and grammar in exams.

The move - which will see those failing to exhibit high standards of written English again being docked 5% of the available marks across all subjects - is to be included in an array of measures in an education White Paper being published next week.

The Telegraph also highlights the following proposals:

  • A return to traditional A-levels by moving away from bite-sized "modular" courses in some subjects in favour of tests at the end of two years of study.
  • Allowing universities to script A-level exams and syllabuses to ensure sixth-form courses act as a better preparation for a degree.
  • The introduction of an "English Baccalaureate" that rewards pupils for gaining five good GCSEs in English, maths, science, foreign languages and a humanities subject.
  • A ban on schools using vocational courses as "equivalent" qualifications to boost their ranking in GCSE league tables.
  • A review of the National Curriculum to outline the key "bodies of knowledge" that children should master at each stage of their education.
  • A reading test for all six year-olds to identify those struggling the most after a year of school, ensuring they receive extra tuition.

Just last week Elizabeth Truss MP particularly argued in favour of the first two of those points in this Platform piece, but I had not realised that under the last Government, in 2003, the rules ring-fencing 5% of marks for high standards of English had been dropped.

But Michael Gove is rightly adamant that bad English should be penalised:

“Thousands of children – including some of our very brightest – leave school unable to compose a proper sentence, ignorant of basic grammar, incapable of writing a clear and accurate letter. And it’s not surprising when the last government explicitly removed the requirement to award a set number of marks for correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in examinations.

“The basic building blocks of English were demolished by those who should have been giving our children a solid foundation in learning. Under this Government we will insist that our exams, once more, take proper account of the need to spell, punctuate and write a grammatical sentence.”

Amen to that.

> Elsewhere in the Telegraph, it is reported that the White Paper will also give teachers new powers to discipline pupils.


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