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Against the proposed Y6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Tests - your views needed!

(149 Posts)
KarenInglis Sun 16-Dec-12 19:01:11

All - please read this open letter to the Times Educational Supplement from Alan Peat about the proposed grammar, punctuation and spelling tests for Y6 children. I don't know Alan - this just happened to pass my Twitter feed. But I am glad that I read it.

My children are all grown up now but as an author and being passionate about encouraging reading and writing I think what he has to say needs a very close look.

If you agree with what he has to say please do tweet/FB etc using the hashtag he has supplied. He is clearly trying to raise the profile of his piece to ensure that it will be picked up by the TES.

Best wishes,


learnandsay Sun 16-Dec-12 21:04:39

Well, yes, I can!

mrz Sun 16-Dec-12 21:07:48

Perhaps I ought to be more obvious

learnandsay Sun 16-Dec-12 21:13:27

Doing just fine, you are.

Actually this form of grammatical testing could lead to all pupils being able to write dialogue for Star Wars.

cece Sun 16-Dec-12 21:15:16

The thing is they haven't even told teachers how the writing assessment is going to be moderated this year. They haven't told us how all the different elements/test scores will add up to make an overall English level.

The SPAG and spelling will make up to 70 points. The reading test has always been out of 50. Last year a score was assigned to each level of writing and then this was added to the reading and spelling test scores. But we have no idea yet how that is going to work this year.

Mashabell Sun 16-Dec-12 21:15:57

have to
are also modal verbs
and knowing this is useful when learning other languages but totally pointless in English, because English has very few grammar rules.

Alan Peat probably does know grammar terminology really well, but it does not prevent him from being an exceedingly boring writer, although I do agree that the proposed test is stupid. I agree with his conclusion:

...if teachers really are ‘trusted’, then they should, democratically, be allowed to vote either for or against it. The collective response of this body of professionals should then form the basis of a real dialogue regarding what should occur and how to progress in a pedagogically sound manner.

learnandsay Sun 16-Dec-12 21:21:40

masha, so glad to see you posting like a normal person and not one of those damn lists. Thank you for that contribution. It was interesting.

partystress Sun 16-Dec-12 21:24:22

I am teaching Y6 this year. My English set is 80% children who have English as their second or third language; the vast majority have no reading materials at home, other than those we send home. I feel a complete fraud spending time teaching these children the technical vocabulary of English grammar. They have absolutely no need to know the terms subordinate clause or modal verb or prepositional phrase. That is not me being patronising or elitist, or trying to deny them something that is offered to children at private schools or from previous generations. It is simply unnecessary not just for everyday life, but also for high level communication. The tragedy is that, unless I want to risk my school's existence as a non-academy school, I have to get most of these children through this ridiculous test and so I am teaching boring, useless, technical grammar when I could be helping them improve skills that would be vastly more useful.

scrappydappydoo Sun 16-Dec-12 21:26:13

whoah whoah - more tests????? - when did this come in??
So this is on top of SATS?? Good grief - my oldest dd is in year 2 and has done the first year of the phonics tests, she'll be doing year 2 SATS and now MORE tests??? wanders off muttering....

(sorry for hijacking thread)

learnandsay Sun 16-Dec-12 21:29:47

partystress, you can slip things into the lesson and draw attention to them without making the whole lesson a boring grammar lecture.

mrz Sun 16-Dec-12 21:30:37

scrappydappydoo the SPAG test is replacing the Y6 writing tests (so you've got 4 years to brush up on your subjunctives and imperatives)

partystress Sun 16-Dec-12 21:33:54

I don't make whole lessons boring grammar lectures. We play lots of games and weave grammar into other activities. However, to get children to the level of knowledge they will need in one year (this year group being the first, with less than a year's notice), takes a proportion of lesson time that I really resent because I would rather spend it on something useful.

Mrz, I am new to year 6; do you mean that this is the only writing SAT that they will be doing??
I agree with PartyStress; in the 6-7 months we have to prepare them for this test, there is little time for fun and games; drilling on technical terms seems the only possible method. I job share in y5/6. I do one day a week and have to cover the new grammar and spelling test, problem solving in maths, music, PSCHE and French. By my calculation, I have something close to 12-14 hours to get them to learn all these terms.
::Memo to HT -Cancel Chritmas party, carol concert and play times until May June.::

mrz Sun 16-Dec-12 21:51:40

Unless you think they are level 6 they won't be doing a writing test just the SPAG (2 papers one spelling the other punctuation, grammar and vocabulary). You will give a level based on your assessment of their work over the year which may or may not be externally moderated. There was talk of a handwriting test but looks like we've escaped for now.

mrz Sun 16-Dec-12 21:53:10

I think the fact that the samples were only ready last week speaks volumes

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sun 16-Dec-12 21:55:15

I have a Linguistics degree and don't recognise all these terms - or not in relation to the posted lists, in any case.

Assessing whether a child moving from primary to secondary school has a range of more advanced grammar capability, or is on "this happened, then this happened, then this happened", is worthwhile. Giving names to those constructions so a tested child can mentally tick them off ("right, there's a modal, now how can I shoehorn in some dependent clauses?") is less useful.

mrz Sun 16-Dec-12 22:21:36

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus the test doesn't require them to use the constructions, just to identify them.

HoratiaLovesBabyJesus Sun 16-Dec-12 22:52:26

That's even dumber then.

mrz Mon 17-Dec-12 07:32:50

I think most people would agree that it is more important to teach children how to use grammar correctly than to know the technical terms.

learnandsay Mon 17-Dec-12 09:15:54

It's also important to teach some examples of how not to use grammar. The most teeth-jarring example that I can think of being the double negative. My dad always used to say if you don't want nothing then you do want something. And then he'd give us what we didn't want. Double negatives died out fairly early on in our house.

Ruprekt Mon 17-Dec-12 17:02:41

Can anyone link to the Daily Mail article that Gove was in this week about the Grammar SATS.

I was talking to DS's teacher about it today and he asked me to send him a link.


Ruprekt Mon 17-Dec-12 17:35:16


Elibean Mon 17-Dec-12 17:36:22

Well, I couldn't quite find the time or energy to read Alan P's entire article. But I certainly agree with the gist hmm

mrz Mon 17-Dec-12 19:07:51

xmastime Mon 17-Dec-12 19:29:47

Hmmmm - just had a good look through the tests and I'm still on the fence

For the majority of the level 3-5 test the children only need to know: verb, adverb, noun, adjective, connective. Even the question that asks for the correct pronoun can be answered without not knowing what a pronoun is (as all the answers are pronouns!)

The punctuation questions are all pretty basic and straight forward.
The vocabulary questions also make sense and seem pretty simple.

It tells the children what a prefix is – therefore doesn’t expect them to know the term.

I guess it depends on the mark thresholds, but looking through it I have a good idea in my head which questions they are expecting level 3, 4 and 5 children to be able to cope with.

I teach year 6 who come to me with an average 3c/b at the beginning of the year and the test doesn’t fill me with as much dread as I thought it would. I think that they will cope well with the level 3 / 4 questions.

A lot of the examples that people are giving above (particulary Mrz – sorry!) are from the level 6 test. I do not agree with these tests and will not be teaching level 6 material when my class are working towards level 4 and 5 (Would be happy to do so for individual children who were secure in level 5 at the beginning of yr 6 but alas, I’ve never taught one yet!)

I do agree that children don’t need to know the technical terms to be good, confident writers but I also think that most of the test can be completed with a very limited knowledge of the technical words.

xmastime Mon 17-Dec-12 19:40:19

Can someone please point out in the test where 10 and 11 year olds need to know the technical term for and identify fronted adverbials and modal nouns?

10 and 11 yr olds should achieve level 4. I get so angry when parents come to parents evening and tell their child off in front of me because they are not a level 5. I tell those parents that their child is doing extemely well and that I'm very proud of their achievement. Shame on those parents. Yet here are teachers giving across those ideas.

An the fact that the writing will be teacher assessed from the children's achievements across the year - erm... isn't that what many teachers have been calling for???

Again, I don't know if I fully agree with these tests but I feel that a lot of misleading information is being put across here to those not in teaching.

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