The benefit accrued through formal grammar being cemented as a cornerstone within primary learning cannot be underestimated. It is imperative that we seek to protect its place within the school curriculum, amidst an ever-whopping tidal wave of ungrammatical influence from mobile telephone users, colloquial speak and the social media glitterati. Whilst the last of this triumvirate has achieved much in fuelling mass communication amongst peoples, I am merely advocating the need to maintain a level of recognition towards the importance of good grammar, clear and concise sentence structures and not being consumed within a vacuous melee of verbal detritus.
Good grammar offers language users control of expression and communication in everyday life. Possessing a firm grasp of words and how they are most coherently deployed, helps speakers and writers to convey their emotions and purpose in a more effectual manner. Poor grammar can have the unfortunate effect of making someone appear like a toddler getting agitated because they cannot express their thoughts. In contrast, grammatical precision and decent written communication skills evoke a strong sense of professionalism. In taking presumptuous artistic licence with Sir Clement Attlee’s famous assertion, it could be argued that you can get away more easily by spouting a mildly cretinous idea whilst employing appropriate grammar than you can saying something perfectly sensible in essence, yet grammatically incorrect. The errors distract from the intent.
Good grammar can be linked to future achievement. The inclusion of grammar testing within school SATs exams as well as the Kent Test, is both worthwhile and admirable. It affirms the importance of grammar to the nation’s young from an early age. Sharing thoughts with one another is a vital aspect of learning and the clarity of message gained though grammatical correctness can help children to better understand and learn from their peers. If not taught, nor a recognition of its significance made apparent, linguistic rules will simply become a product of everyday conversation where mistakes are rife.
Whilst the Kent Test’s involvement of grammar within the English part of the eleven plus is pleasing to see, it is perhaps somewhat odd that they reduce writing to secondary consideration. The multiple choice comprehension and spelling, punctuation and grammar sections provide the basis for a child’s English mark; however, the creative writing part of the test goes un-assessed and only used in what are termed ‘borderline cases’. I am not sure that the time taken to mark such an amount of work is a plausible or morally justifiable excuse when making such an important decision about a child’s future education.
Creative writing is immensely useful in developing a child’s imagination and lateral thought process. It allows new solutions and ideas to be unearthed, as well as facilitating the fluidity of the brain. The written word is a wonderful way for children to express themselves as an individual. It must be communicated to children that they hold considerable power in being able to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. The freedom they possess to choose whatever language they so wish in order to captivate an audience is something that should fascinate them and thus stimulate intellectual and creative development. Rather than the English assessment for the Kent Test being exclusively tied to a multiple choice exam, it would be great to see a coming together of the core fundamentals that form a solid foundation of good English: spelling, punctuation, grammar, tools of analysis and creative exuberance.
Correct grammar is something that should never be trivialised. I hope that schools and national testing boards keep the momentum going in promoting this key message to children.