Tougher tests needed to encourage better command of English, Gibb says

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has said that tougher tests for primary school children are needed to encourage pupils to utilise a ‘beautiful command of English’.

Gibbs made the comment at an education conference at Brighton College, as he defended the tough news Sats for 11-year-olds, which have been met with considerable opposition from some teachers and parents. Gibb explained that a good command of the English language shouldn’t be the preserve of the middle class.

The Schools Minister claimed that rigorous testing was necessary for children who did not live in homes with access to good literature. The tests would be used to determine the performance levels of children in areas such as spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Gibb said: "Our argument is that if you don't come from a home where your parents speak in a grammatically correct form day in day out, if you don't have a home surrounded by books, where reading isn't a daily occurrence, [children] need that kind of structural instruction and teaching about how sentences should be constructed.

"I think, if you just imagine that, in a few years time, this is firmly embedded in our primary schools, we'll have a generation of pupils leaving primary school with a firm grasp of grammar, a better grasp of grammar than I have. I do keep challenging: are these questions too difficult? Is the curriculum that was published in July 2013, consulted on widely, formally and informally, even before 2013 in 2012 when we first published the first draft, is it too demanding? The answer I got from our advisors is that it's not.

"These are 10 and 11-year-olds who absorb information, they absorb knowledge. If it's taught, the argument is, they can do it and they can answer the questions. The question then is, is it important they're taught this level of grammar in the upper years of primary school? My argument is, yes it is important.

"Because the people who question this sometimes - not you, but others, often journalists - have a beautiful command of English, [they] write beautiful, well constructed, grammatically correct passages."

Gibb also recommended that young graduates should be promoted to become heads of schools to help tackle the recruitment crisis in the education sector.

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